Course: Introduction to Islam (2020)
Faculty: Nesreen Akhtarkhavari, Necati Alkan
While I didn’t take this college-level course for credit, it helped me to meet my goal of being able to discuss Islam intelligently—both theologically and historically. I discovered numerous details about Muhammad’s life, including His personal relationships, His reputation with the people of Mecca before His revelation, and His struggles to unite the once savage peoples of the Arabian Desert.
I also learned about the history of Islam, ranging from the early Caliphs to the Ottoman Empire to the fragmentation of the Turkish Sultanate to the spread of Islam internationally. Finally, I gained broader understanding of the numerous philosophies of the Sufi mystics and developed more refined views about the schism between the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam.
I had already accepted Islam as one of the revelations of the “One Religion of God,” and had a basic understanding of its origins, principles, and its holy book. However, I now feel more prepared to address popular misconceptions of Islam, the actions of a minority of violent deviants, its victimization by the Judeo-Christian West, and how Islam brought unity and order to the Arabian Peninsula.
I don’t expect to change any prejudiced mind that I may come across, but I do feel more confident that I can base my own arguments upon facts and references vs. rhetoric. My now greater knowledge of history and religious principle will help my interactions with Muslim seekers and, perhaps, give them some comfort that I can speak about their faith without misconceptions and stereotypes. I am working on a Power Point presentation and hope to develop firesides on these topics that are tailored to a mostly non-Bahá’í audience.