Centre for Continuing Education

Islam Course: An Introduction

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

The world as we know it today has been shaped by events of the past. Learn about history the smart way with History courses at CCE, The University of Sydney.

This history course provides participants with background knowledge of Islam: its basic history, theology, tenants, sects, Quran and various interpretations, applications and transformations of Islam as religious and political phenomenon in different Middle Eastern societies. The history of Islam is a fascinating story of a new prophecy, nomadic conquest, the rise of the Arab Empire and the fall of the Caliphates. This history course is a captivating discovery of the religious, political and cultural evolution of Islam from the days of the Prophet until the Arab Spring of 2011. Islam has constituted a significant political identity and has played a formidable role in global politics throughout history – discover an in-depth study of the development of political Islam and its role in the current political setting. Learn about various differences between various Islamic identities, Shia and Sunni, Salafist and moderate Islam, its regional variants and importance of those modifications in the past and present Middle Eastern societies.


The learning aims of this history course will be based on analytical and academic research. Analysis of history and current affairs are emphasised to achieve the desired outcomes listed below.


At the completion of this history course participants should be able to:

  1. Explain the religious, social and political grounds of Islam.
  2. Discuss various differences within Islam in order to abandon the viewing of Islamic society as a monolith but as a mixture of societies and cultures.
  3. Evaluate the effects of globalisation, media and modern society on Islam.
  4. Explain the effects of democracy on Islamic societies, the compatibility of Islam and democracy.
  5. Briefly discuss various periods of Islamic history and major transformations in Islamic ideology.
  6. Evaluate the cultural differences in political and religious conquest and evolution of Islam through the Middle East and North Africa.
  7. Outline a solid understanding of Shia-Sunni divide, Quran basics and Sharia.


This history course will cover the following content:

Introduction to historical-religious background of Islam

  • The spread of Islam.
  • General characteristics of Islam.

The Expansion of Islam and the Quranic world view

  • The historiographical controversy about the Quran’s origins.
  • Quran’s role in maintaining a common Arab identity.
  • Sunni and Shia Islam.
  • The Arab conquests and the socio-economic bases of empire.

Islam between culture and politics

  • From Islamic modernism to fundamentalism.
  • Ideological and religious introduction to Islamic fundamentalism.
  • Past and present ideologues of Fundamentalist Islam.
  • Historical and present role of ‘Islamic Caliphate’.
  • Salafist interpretation of Islam.

Islam and globalisation

  • The politicisation of religion as a new global phenomenon.
  • The secular nation-state in the Arabic world.
  • Modernisation of the Islamic societies.
  • Challenge of economic development.

Middle East today: major challenges

  • The Arab Spring.
  • Political Islam.
  • Shia-Sunni divide and confrontation.
  • Civil unrest and violence.

Intended Audience

This history course is suitable for anyone interested in history, politics, society, religion and culture of Middle East. There are not prerequisite for this course, no prior knowledge is required.

Delivery Style

This history course will be delivered as a face-to-face, interactive lecture where questions and open discussions will be encouraged.

Recommended Reading

  • Armstrong, K. (2002). Islam: A Short History, Modern Library.
  • Esposito, J.L. (2002). Unholy war: terror in the name of Islam, New York: Oxford. University Press.
  • Esposito, J.L. (1999). The Oxford History of Islam, New York: Oxford. University Press.
  • Kennedy, H. (2007). The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In, Cambridge, Philadelphia: Da Capo Press.
  • Keppel, G. (2002). Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Lapidus, I.M. (2202). A History of Islamic Societies, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press.
  • Rilgy-Smith, G. (1997). The first crusaders, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Tibi, B. (1998). Globalization, fragmentation, and disorder in Tibi, B. (Ed.), The challenge of fundamentalism in political Islam and new world disorder, U.S.: University of California Press.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Certificate of completion

What others say.

  • This presenter was wonderful and had such knowledge! So professional and perceptive. Great class. I can highly recommend it.

  • The lecturer was clear, concise, knowledgeable and made the course interesting. This has inspired me to read further on the topic. What I have gained from the course exceeded my expectations.

  • A highly informative course and the tutor is first class.