Magazine article Social Studies Review

The Muslim World: Its Time, Continuity and Change

Magazine article Social Studies Review

The Muslim World: Its Time, Continuity and Change

Article excerpt

Iftikhar Ahmad is an associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Long Island University, C. W. Post Campus. Ahmad's research focuses on social studies, citizenship education, and comparative education. His book Citizenship Education: Political Scientists' Struggle for the Social Studies Currculum was published in 2003 by American University and Colleges Press. He has also published in Teachers College Record, Educational Studies, Social Education, Current Issues in Comparative Education and The Social Studies. He is a member of the executive board of the International Assembly of the National Council for the Social Studies.

Key Concepts: prophet, Quraysh, Ka'ba, Mecca, Jibrael, Quran, hijra, Madina, khalifa, khilafat, dynasty, ummah, revelation, Occident, hegemony, modernization, nation-state, colonization, imperialism


At the beginning of the twenty-first century Islam is the second largest and the fastest growing religion in the world. According to one estimate, the current world Muslim population is about 1.2 billion, which suggests that every fifth person in the world is a Muslim (Esposito, 2002). Muslims live in different geographic regions such as North Africa, East Africa, the Middle East, West Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, and North America. In fifty-six countries Muslims have a majority. In some parts of the world, such as Western Europe, Muslims are the largest minority. The Muslim world is heterogeneous with diverse nationalities, ethnicities, traditions, races, languages, and customs. Although all Muslims share the core belief in the oneness of God, the Quran, and Prophet Muhammad, like Christians and Jews, Muslims too have different interpretations of their religion and therefore follow different theological traditions. The political, social, economic, and geographical landscape of the Muslim world is vast and variegated representing a kaleidoscope of historical and cultural experiences. Nonetheless, as a whole the contemporary Muslim world is heir to a highly successful civilization that once was larger and more productive than the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Sassanid empires.

In its golden period the Muslim civilization produced world class philosophers, architects, artists, scientists, physicians, astronomers, and mathematicians whose contributions to human progress and enlightenment have long been recognized (Turner, 1995). Recently, again, the world has been witnessing the resurgence of Islam as a global political force. The new revival of the Muslim civilization in the twenty-first century seems to be an international phenomenon occurring in an age of globalization and high-speed information technology. Unlike the past decades, intercultural communication has now become much faster between the Muslim and non-Muslim world. Porous national borders, a global civil society, and multinational corporations now facilitate travel for citizens of all nations, including citizens of Muslim nations, to emigrate to other societies. Hence the modern age and globalization have brought diverse cultures closer to each other. Muslim societies are no longer exotic or alien lands.

Because Muslim civilization has become an integral part of our global village and of our interdependent world, social, political, and economic events in Muslim societies directly affect the daily life of people in other locales. Similarly, political and economic decisions made by leaders, governments, and even citizens around the world may also affect the Muslim world in different ways. Moreover, large Muslim communities now also live in the West, including the United States. According to one estimate, at least 15 million people in Western Europe adhere to the Muslim faith (Hunter and Serfaty, 2002; Klausen, 2005). Similarly, the Muslim population in the United States is estimated to be between 4 million to 6 million and is growing (Esposito, 2002). …

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