Syllabus for REL-275



An Introduction to Islam (REL-275) is a comprehensive interdisciplinary introduction to Islam. Here we use the word Islam in its broadest sense, at once designating a religion, a civilization, a world culture, a human community, and a political entity. While the emphasis of this course is on the formative and classical phase of Islamic history, the course will move on a very wide canvas, covering the entire period from the rise of Islam in the seventh century down to the present day. The tools of analysis employed will be drawn from a multiplicity of disciplines: particularly from history, sociology, religious studies, and philosophy.

This course has been developed for Thomas Edison State College by S. Nomanul Haq, Ph.D. Professor Haq is on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in Islamic Art and Culture and in Middle Eastern Studies.

The course has six modules:

  1. Constructing the Background, which gives students historical and cultural background for the development and expansion of Islam.
  2. The Prophet Muhammad and the Koran, which summarizes theological aspects of Islam including the importance of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the Koran, the Five Pillars of Islam, and other subjects.
  3. Islamic Law: Concepts of Fiqh and Shari'a, which describes the centrality of law in the Islamic religious system.
  4. Seeking God in the Depth of Being: Sufism, which explains the Islamic spiritual-mystical tradition known as Sufism.
  5. Focus Studies on Islamic Spain and African American Muslims, a module that allows the student to focus on two specific topics in Islam.
  6. Contemporary Islam, an examination of Islam in the world today.


After completing this course, you should be able to:  

  1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the history of Islam.
  2. Describe the basic doctrines of Islamic religion, distinguishing its internal diversities and summarizing its overall unifying elements.
  3. Identify key characteristics of the Koran, the Prophet, and Islamic law.
  4. Explain major elements of Islamic religious practice, rituals, sects, mysticism and popular traditions.
  5. Describe the ethnic, geographical and linguistic spread of Muslims around the globe.
  6. Discuss Islam as a grand world civilization, describing its contributions in the fields of art, architecture, and literature, as well as its role in the Scientific Revolution that culminated in Isaac Newton.
  7. Synthesize the understanding of Islam in order to process, make sense of, and explain the realities of the twenty-first century world of Islam.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbook and reader are available from the College's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

Required Textbook

  1. The Oxford History of Islam, ed. John L. Esposito (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

ISBN-13: 978-0-19-510799-9


  1. Introduction to Islam Reader, ed. S. Nomanul Haq (Trenton: Thomas Edison State College, 2004).

Video Program

  1. "Islam: Empire of Faith," a 3-hour program produced by the Public Broadcasting Service

Note: The video program is being offered via streaming video technology through this course site. The reading and viewing assignment that involves this video includes a link for accessing the video stream.


An Introduction to Islam is a three-credit online course, consisting of six (6) modules. Modules include learning objectives, study materials, and activities.

Module titles are listed below.

  1. Module 1: Constructing the Background

  1. Module 2: The Prophet Muhammad and the Koran

  1. Module 3: Islamic Law: Concepts of Fiqh and Shari'a

  1. Module 4: Seeking God in the Depth of Being: Sufism

  1. Module 5: Focus Studies on Islamic Spain and African American Muslims

  1. Module 6: Contemporary Islam


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in five (5) graded online discussion forums plus an ungraded Introductions Forum in the first module of the course, complete three (3) written assignments and a focus study assignment, and complete a final paper. See below for more details.

Consult the course Calendar for due dates.

Discussion Forums

In addition to an ungraded Introductions Forum, An Introduction to Islam requires you to participate in five (5) graded class discussions.

Communication with the mentor and among fellow students is a critical component of online learning. Participation in online discussions involves two distinct assignments: an initial response to a posted question (discussion thread) and subsequent comments on classmates' responses.

You will be evaluated both on the quality of your responses (i.e., your understanding of readings, and concepts as demonstrated by well-articulated, critical thinking) and quantity of your participation (i.e., the number of times you participate meaningfully in the assigned forums). Responses and comments should be properly proofread and edited, professional, and respectful.

Meaningful participation in online discussions is relevant to the content, adds value, and advances the discussion. Comments such as "I agree" and "ditto" are not considered value-adding participation. Therefore, when you agree or disagree with a classmate, the reading, or your mentor, state and support your agreement or disagreement.

For additional information on online discussions, see ”Online Discussions” in the Online Student Handbook.

Written Assignments

You are required to complete three (3) written assignments and one (1) focus study assignment. The written assignments are on a variety of topics associated with the courses modules. The written assignments appear in Module 1, Module 4, and Module 6. The Focus Study assignments are both found in Module 5; you will read all the material but write just one Focus Study writing assignment.

These written assignments are an important way for you to express yourself verbally during the semester, controlling content and meaning. Due dates for each assignment are listed in the Course Calendar on the course Web site.

Your answers to the assignment questions should be well developed and convey your understanding of the readings and concepts. They should also adequately answer the question. If you need help in writing, take a look at The Writing Center: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Also, formulate responses in your own words. Do not merely copy answers from your reading materials. When quoting or paraphrasing from the text or other sources, be sure to cite the source of information properly according to MLA or APA guidelines (see also Basic Documentation Rules).

A Word on Plagiarism

The College's policy on plagiarism is included in the College Catalog and in the Online Student Handbook. See Academic Integrity for a detailed explanation of this policy.

Final Project

There is no midterm or final proctored examination in this course. A 6- to 8-page paper, described below, acts as your final assessment and is worth 30 percent of your grade. You may begin work on this paper at any time during the course, but you must submit it by the last day of the semester.


Your final paper should be 6 to 8 pages in length. Possible topics are listed on the course site. You will review your reading and your written assignments. Then you will organize your thoughts on one (1) of the listed topics or come up with one of your own. You are free to suggest your own topic, as long as it falls within the scope of the course. If you choose your own topic, it must be approved by your mentor by the end of Module 5 of the course. Note that you are expected to do additional research for your paper, above and beyond the assigned reading. You may have to go to a library or draw material from the Web.


Your final assessment should be well developed and convey your understanding of the readings and concepts. It should also adequately answer the questions you are addressing. Your paper should be organized, coherent, and unified; it should also be free of spelling and grammatical errors. If you need help in writing such a paper, take a look at The Writing Center: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

When quoting or paraphrasing from the text or other sources, be sure to cite the source of information properly according to MLA or APA guidelines (see also Basic Documentation Rules).


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

  1. Online discussions (5)—20 percent
  2. Written assignments (3)—30 percent
  3. Focus study (1)—20 percent
  4. Final project—30 percent

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a nonarea of study course), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings, etc.).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

  1. Read carefully the entire Syllabus, making sure that all aspects of the course are clear to you and that you have all the materials required for the course.

  1. Take the time to read the entire Online Student Handbook. The Handbook answers many questions about how to proceed through the course, how to schedule exams, and how to get the most from your educational experience at Thomas Edison State College.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the learning management systems environment—how to navigate it and what the various course areas contain. If you know what to expect as you navigate the course, you can better pace yourself and complete the work on time.

  1. If you are not familiar with Web-based learning be sure to review the processes for posting responses online and submitting assignments before class begins.

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:

  1. To stay on track throughout the course, begin each week by consulting the course Calendar. The calendar provides an overview of the course and indicates due dates for submitting assignments, posting discussions, and scheduling and taking examinations.

  1. Check Announcements regularly for new course information.


Students at Thomas Edison State College are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State College expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the College insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty takes the following forms:

  1. Cheating
  2. Plagiarizing (including copying and pasting from the Internet without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources)
  3. Fabricating information or citations
  4. Facilitating acts of dishonesty by others
  5. Unauthorized access to examinations or the use of unauthorized materials during exam administration
  6. Submitting the work of another person or work previously used without informing the mentor
  7. Tampering with the academic work of other students

Academic dishonesty will result in disciplinary action and possible dismissal from the College. Students who submit papers that are found to be plagiarized will receive an F on the plagiarized assignment, may receive a grade of F for the course, and may face dismissal from the College.

A student who is charged with academic dishonesty will be given oral or written notice of the charge. If a mentor or College official believes the infraction is serious enough to warrant referral of the case to the academic dean, or if the mentor awards a final grade of F in the course because of the infraction, the student and the mentor will be afforded formal due process.

If a student is found cheating or using unauthorized materials on an examination, he or she will automatically receive a grade of F on that examination. Students who believe they have been falsely accused of academic dishonesty should seek redress through informal discussions with the mentor, through the office of the dean, or through an executive officer of Thomas Edison State College.


Using someone else's work as your own is plagiarism. Although it may seem like simple dishonesty, plagiarism is against the law. Thomas Edison State College takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing will be severely penalized. If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > "Citing Sources.")

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else's. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

Thomas Edison State College. All Rights Reserved.