Santa Clara University



See also Shiite Islam and Sunni Islam.

1. Brief Introduction
2. Religion and Politics Sections
3. A Short Introductory Course
4. Other Resource Materials
5. Recent Articles

1. Brief Introduction:

Muslims profess that “there is no God but God, and Mohammed is God’s Messenger.” God’s essence is Oneness [tawhid].  And Mohammed is not just any prophet, but “the seal of the prophets.” This profession is the shahadah, the first pillar of Islam. The second through fifth pillars are prayer [salat], the fasting of Ramadan [siyam], almsgiving [zakat] and the pilgrimage to Mecca [Hajj] for those who are able to do so. Islam reveres many of the same prophets as Jews and Christians, and traces its religious lineage back to Abraham through his first son Ishmael. Islam began in the first years of the seventh century C.E. when the Arabian trader Mohammed received a series of revelations. These revelations, which became the Qur’an, caused tension with the polytheistic townspeople of Mecca, so the prophet led his followers out of Mecca to the oasis of Madina in 622 C.E.  This event was the beginning of the umma, the Muslim community. Eight years later, after a significant military struggle, Mecca surrendered to Mohammed.

Islam expanded rapidly, and it split almost immediately into Sunnis (sunna [custom]) and Shiites (shi’at ‘ali [party of Ali]) over the issue of succession to the Prophet. The former supported an election among advisers and community leaders, while the latter supported family leadership, specifically the leadership of Ali, Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law. Sunnis called their leaders caliphs (political guides) and Shiites called theirs Imams (righteous leaders). While Ali did become both the fourth caliph and the first Imam, the Sunnis eventually won out and became the majority group. Their strongest empires were the ‘Abbasid and the Ottomans. The Shiites became strong in Iran and produced the Safavid Empire, rival of the Ottomans. The split still has strong political implications in mixed countries like Iraq and Lebanon. Sufi Islam, a more mystical tradition, rose in protest to the growing worldliness of empires like the ‘Abbasid. Sufis sought God in the depths of their being. The Mogul Emperor Akbar’s predilection for Sufism fit well his religious toleration.

2. Religion and Politics Sections:

“Religions of the Book: Historical Revelation, Scripture, Law, and Worldview” (pp. 92-95)

“The Expansion of Islam” (pp. 101-05)

“India and Pakistan: Religious and Secular Nationalism After Fifty Years” (pp. 203-08)

“The Bomb and South Asia” (pp. 208-11)

“Afghanistan: Through the Passes Into Central Asia” (pp. 211-15)

“Shiite Politics in Iran: The Ayatollah and the President in the EMC Systems” (pp. 215-21)

“Shiite Islam in the Military System: Nuclear Weapons and the Iraq War” (pp. 221-27)

“VII. The Middle East and North Africa: Jewish and Islamic Politics” (pp. 228-59)

“Global Religious Dialogue and Political-Religious Alliances” (pp. 307-15)

3. A Short Introductory Course:

Nasr, an eminent theologian, presents the religious and spiritual perspectives of Islam in their historical contexts. The young Iranian-American author Aslan offers a very accessible historical and political perspective, without losing the centrality of the religious vision. El Fadl discusses Islam from a theological and legal perspective, focusing on the damaging religious effects of the contemporary puritan approach, e.g., Wahhabism. Diamond, et al., treat the prospects for Islam and Democracy in the Middle East. Hashimi has put together a fine collection of articles on Muslim ethics. An-Na'im aruges for the combination of a secular state and the role of Islam in politics. The Other Resource Materials contain many excellent treatments of specific issues. For contemporary Islamic-Christian dialogue, see the October 11, 2007 letter from 138 Islamic scholars referred to in the section for recent articles.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Heart of Islam: Enduring Values for Humanity (San Francisco: Harper, 2002).

Aslan, Reza. No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. (New York: Random House, 2005).

El Fadl, Abou. The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). This UCLA Law professor and lifelong student of Islamic Law divides contemporary Islamic thought into "moderate" and "puritan," then discusses what unites and divides the two currents. The last seven chapters discuss the differences in God and the Purpose of Creation; the Nature of Law and Morality; Approaches to History and Modernity; Democracy and Human Rights; Interacting with Non-Muslims and Salvation; Jihad, Warfare, and Terrorism; and the Nature and Role of Women. This is a fine introduction to theological and ideological differences in contemporary Islam. 

Diamond, Larry, Plattner, Marc F., and Brumberg, Daniel. Islam and Democracy in the Middle East (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2003). This is a very interesting collection to read in the light of later events in Iraq.

Hashmi, Sohail H., ed. Islamic Political Ethics: Civil Society, Pluralism, and Conflict. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). Contributors: Dale F. Eickelman, Hasan Hanafi, Sohail H. Hashimi, Farhad Kazemi, John Kelsay, Muhammad Khalid Masud, Jack Miles, Sulayman Nyang, Bassam Tibi, M. Raquibuz Zaman. Essays on principal ethical issues.

An-Na'im, Abdullahi Ahmed.  Islam and the Secular State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008). "My purpose is to affirm that the secular state, as defined in this book, is more consistent with the inherent nature of Shari'a and the history of Islamic societies than are false and counterproductive assertions of a so-called Islamic state or the alleged enforcement of Shari'a as state law. . . .the influence of religion in the public domain is open to negotiation and contingent upon the free exercise of the human agency of all citizens, believers and unbelievers alike." (p. 269) The author thus combines a secular state with Islam in politics, under the guardianship of constitutionalism, human rights, citizenship, and civic reason.

4. Other Resource Materials:

An-Na’im, Abdullahi Ahmed. Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law. (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990). Forward by John Voll. Neither secular nor fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law based on the prophet’s preaching in Mecca. Follows the teachings of Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, founder of the Sudanese Republican Brotherhood.

Anderson, Lisa, “Obligation and Accountability: Islamic Politics in North Africa,” Daedalus 120 (Summer 1991): 93-112.

Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. (New York: Random House, Inc., 2000).

Baker, Raymond William, “Afraid for Islam: Egypt’s Muslim Centrists between Pharaohs and Fundamentalists,” in Daedalus (1991).

Boroumand, Ladan, and Boroumand, Roya, “Terror, Islam, and Democracy,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 228-44.

Barrett, Paul M. American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006. 

Bouta, Tsjeard, Kadayifci-Orellana, S. Ayse, and Abu-Nimer, Mohammed. Faith-Based Peace-Building: Mapping and analysis of Christian, Muslim, and Multi-faith Actors (The Hague: Netherlands Institute of International Relations, 2005).

Brass, Paul R. The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2005.

Buruma, Ian. Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance (New York: Penguin, 2006). Fine treatment of Islam and Dutch society.

Cady, Linell E.., and Simon, Sheldon, eds. Religion and Conflict in South and Southeast Asia: Disrupting Violence (London: Routledge, 2006).

Cesari, Jocelyne, and McLoughlin, Seán, eds. European Muslims and the Secular State (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005).

Cohen, Stephen P. The Idea of Pakistan (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2004).

Eickelman, Dale F., and Anderson, Jon W., eds. New Media in the Muslim World, 2nd ed. (Bloomington, IN.: Indiana University Press, 2003).

Eickelman, Dale F. and Piscatori, James. Muslim Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). Concise and comprehensive introduction to the complicated relationships of doctrine and practice. Often provides the Arabic term. Best answer to “Who speaks for Islam?” from data to that time.

Eickelman, Dale F., “Islam and Ethical Pluralism,” Madsen, Richard, and Strong, Tracy B., eds. The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 161-79.

Eickelman, Dale F., “Trans-state Islam and Security,” Rudolph, Susanne Hoeber, and Piscatori, James, Transnational Religion and Fading States (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1997), 27-46.

El-Affendi, Abdelwahab, “The Elusive Reformation,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 212-17.

El Fadl, Abou, “Conflict Resolution as a Normative Value in Islamic Law: Handling Disputes with Non-Muslims,” in Johnston, Douglas, Faith-Based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 178-209.

Esposito, John L., and Voll, John O. Makers of Contemporary Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Esposito, John L. Unholy War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). Islam and violence.

Esposito, John L., and Mogahed, Dalia. Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (New York: Gallup, 2007). Summary of extensive Gallup survey data on Muslims, with very sympathetic introduction of Islam for general American readers. Very good on differences between radical (7% of sample) and moderate Muslim approaches. The difference does not lie in the issues themselves, but in the prioritization, emotional feeling, political views, and stronger alienation of radical opinions.

Etzioni, Amitai. “Mosque and State in Iraq,” Policy Review (October/November 2003): 65-73.

Etzioni, Amitai. "Religion and the State: Why Moderate Religious Teaching Should Be Promoted," Harvard International Review (Spring 2006): 14-17. Etzioni argues that the U.S. should promote moderate Islam, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Feldman, Noah. The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008). Feldman argues that ulama at least partially checked authoritarianism in traditional Arab empires, but that these religious scholars lost their positions of influence during the late Ottoman Empire with the codification of the shari'a. In most current states neither the ulama nor the legislatures can check presidential power, but, following the demise of liberal nationalism and Arab socialism, people retain a hope that Islam can again check authoritarianism, thus leading to Muslim parties as the chief alternative in most states.
Filali-Ansary, Abdou, “The Challenge of Secularism,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 192-96.

Filali-Ansary, Abdou, “Muslims and Democracy,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 153-67.

Filali-Ansary, Abdou, “The Sources of Enlightened Muslim Thought,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 197-211.

Fletcher, Richard. The Cross and the Crescent: Christianity and Islam from Muhammad to the Reformation (London: Penguin Press, 2003).

Fraser, Cary, “In Defense of Allah’s Realm: Religion and Statecraft in Saudi Foreign Policy Strategy,” Transnational Religion and Fading States (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1997), 212-42.

Friedman, Thomas L. From Beirut to Jerusalem, updated with a new chapter. (New York: Anchor Books, 1995).

Gerges, Fawaz A. Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy (New York: Harcourt, 2006).

Gilsenan, Michael. Recognizing Islam: Religion and Society in the Modern Middle East (London: I.B. Taurus, 1990). Anthropological introduction of Arab Islam, comparing “what Islam comes to mean in quite different economic, political, and social structures and relations.” Section on Egyptian Sufi brotherhood.

Goodson, Larry P. Afghanistan’s Endless War: State Failure, Regional Politics, and the Rise of the Taliban. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001).

Haddad, Yvonne Y., Senzai, Farid, and Smith, Jane I., eds. Educating the Muslims of America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Hourani, Albert. A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge: Belnap, 1991). 

Huband, Mark. Warriors of the Prophet: The Struggle for Islam (Boulder: Westview Press, 1999).

Kane, Ousmane, “Muslim Missionaries and African States,”Transnational Religion and Fading States (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1997), 47-62.

Kepel, Gilles. The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004).

Khan, Saad S. Reasserting International Islam: A Focus on the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Other Islamic Institutions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Kubba, Laith, “Faith and Modernity,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 223-7.

Küng, Hans, “Islam” in Tracing the Way: Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions (New York: Continuum, 2002), 234-66.

Kurzman, Charles, ed. Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

Lawrence, Bruce B. Shattering the Myth: Islam Beyond Violence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).

Lawrence, Bruce B. Defenders of God: the Fundamentalist Revolt in the Modern Age (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1989).

Lewis, Bernard. The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. (New York: Touchstone, 1995). From before Christianity to present.

Lewis, Bernard. What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

Lewis, Bernard, “A Historical Overview,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 168-79.

Lynch, Marc. Voices of the New Arab Public: Iraq, Al Jazeera, and the Middle East Today (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

Mamdani, Mahmood., “Whither Political Islam?” Foreign Affairs (January/February 2005).

Maréchal, Brigitee, Allievi, Stefano, Dassetto, Felice, and Nielsen, Jørgen, ed. Muslims in the Enlarged Europe (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill, 2003).

Marsden, Peter. The Taliban: War, Religion, and the New Order in Afghanistan (London: Zed Books Ltd., 1998).

Masmoudi, Radwan A., “The Silenced Majority,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 218-22.

Masud, Muhammad Khalid, “The Scope of Pluralism in Islamic Moral Traditions,” Madsen, Richard, and Strong, Tracy B., eds. The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 180-94.

Milton-Edwards, Beverley. Islam and Violence in the Modern Era (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2006).

Mottahedeh, Roy P. “The Clash of Civilizations: An Islamicist’s Critique,” Harvard Middle Eastern and Islamic Review 2 (1995), 1: 1-26.

Murden, Simon W. Islam, the Middle East and the New Global Hegemony. (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002).

Muslim World Journal of Human Rights. See review of journal by Berkeley Electronic Press at Fine scholarly editorial board.

Nasr, Seyyed Vali Reza. The Islamic Leviathan: Islam and the Making of State Power. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).

Nasr, Vali. The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006).

Pinault, David. “Indonesia’s Buddhist Heritage,” America 89 (November 24, 2003).

Qutb, Sayyid. Milestones (Indianapolis: American Trust, 1990).

Ramadan, Tariq. In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons From the Life of Muhammad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). Ramadan aims to show the compatibility of Islam and democracy. Review by Stéphanie Giry in New York Times, April 1, 2007.

Ramadan, Tariq. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

Roy. Olivier. Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (London: Hurst, 2004).

Roy, Olivier. La laicité face à l’islam (Paris: Stock, 2005).

The Qur'an, a new translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). Very good introduction on translation issues.

Sanneh, Lamin, “Muhammad in Muslim Tradition and Practice: The Crucible of Faith and the Spheres of Dominion,” in Max L. Stackhouse and Diane B. Obenchain, eds., God and Globalization: Christ and the Dominions of Civilization (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, 2002), 272-308.

Sheikh, Naveed S. The New Politics of Islam: Pan-Islamic Foreign Policy in a World of States (London: Routledge, 2002).

Tamadonfar, Mehran, “Islamism in Contemporary Arab Politics: Lessons in Authoritarianism and Democratization,” in Jelen and Wilcox, Comparative Politics (2002).

Tibi, Bassam. The Challenge of Fundamentalism: Political Islam and the New World Disorder, updated edition. (Berkeley, CA.: University of California Press, 2002).

WWR (Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy). Dynamism in Islamic Activism: Reference Points for Democratization and Human Rights (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006).

Watt, William Montgomery. Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperceptions (London: Routledge, 1991). Focus on early nature of Christianity and Muslim historical perception thereof. Encounter with Greek philosophy, with medieval Europe, and under Muslim rule. The modern encounter.

Wright, Robin, “Two Visions of Reformation,” World Religions and Democracy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 180-91.

Zubaida, Sami. Islam, The People and the State: Essays on Political Ideas and Movements in the Middle East (London and New York: I.B. Tauris & Co., 1993).

WEBSITES: Patricia Cone’s four-part essay on the concept of jihad: What is jihad? Was Islam spread by force? Muslims, morality

The BBC’s site on Islam.

Official Website of the Khalifah Institute, with self-described orientation as “traditional, but moderate.” Described by Dr. Matthew Ciolek (ANU) as “a remarkable and splendidly managed site that is an essential academic resource” with links to many other Islamic websites.

5. Recent Articles:

"In Open Letter, Muslims Seek Cooperation With Christians as a Step Toward Peace," New York Times, October 12, 2007. End of Ramadan letter arranged by Jordan's Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought signed by 138 scholars from forty countries, representing Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, and other traditions, but not Wahhabism. The 29-page letter is titled "A Common Word Between Us and You." ( Extract is available at For Catholic comment, see National Catholic Reporter, November 2, 2007.

"Muslims In Britain Propose Code For Civic Life," New York Times, November 30, 2007. Moderate Islamic leaders representing four major organizations issue draft 10-point "code of conduct" for discussion by British Muslims.

"A Muslim Message of Thanks and of Christmas and New Year Greetings," letter signed by over 100 Muslim leaders as adverisement in New York Times, December 28, 2007.

"Islam," New York Times Book Review, January 6, 2008, special edition on many recent books on Islam.

"Church group responds to Muslims," Asia Focus, February 1, 2008. The Christian Islamic Studies Association (ISA) of India met on January 20 to respond to the above October letter from Muslim clerics and scholars worldwide.

"Addressing Muslims, A Blunt Obama Takes On Mideast Issues," New York Times, June 5, 2009. Extensive coverage of Obama's speech in Cairo and response.

"Crossroads of Islam, Past and Present," New York Times, October 15, 2009. Visit to local religious school, Dar al-Mustafa in Tarim, Yemen, ancient seat of Sufi learning that led to Southeast Asian Islam. Comparison with former Communist government and present Saudi influence.

See also Islam in individual nations.

List of other Religions

November 12, 2009.