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REL 88 — The History of Islam: Origins, Influence, and Expansion

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Jan 17—Mar 6
Time: 5:30—7:00 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 19
Unit: 1
Tuition: $425
Instructor(s): Marwan D. Hanania
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
5:30—7:00 pm (PT)
Jan 17—Mar 6
8 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 19
1 Unit
Marwan D. Hanania
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Islam originated in Mecca and Yathrib (later named Medina) in the Hijaz in the early 7th century CE and, within less than 100 years, spread across the Middle East, North Africa, parts of the Mediterranean, and Spain. Today, nearly one-quarter of the world identifies as Muslim. Despite Islam's prevalence, the foundational ideas and early events in Islamic history are routinely misunderstood and misrepresented, especially in the West. This course will examine Islamic history while emphasizing the diversity of cultural practices and norms governing key Muslim societies and states. We will delve into the formative history of Islam and its theological underpinnings. We will study how the older faiths—Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and various other pre-Islamic traditions—influenced Islam’s emergence. Next, we will explore the Prophet Muhammad’s migration to Medina and return to Mecca and the expansion of the faith under the first four caliphs. Then, we will consider the Sunni/Shi'a split, the development of the Umayyad dynasty, and the apex of Islamic civilization under the Abbasids. We will also examine the decline of classical Islamic empires, the Mongol invasions, the Crusades, and the formation of new dynasties and empires led by the Safavids, Ottomans, and others. Students will gain a rich understanding of the Islamic historical tapestry, its expansive influence and theological nuances, and more.


Marwan D. Hanania has taught at Stanford, Coastal Carolina University, the American University of Sharjah, the University of Nevada, Reno, and San Diego Mesa College. His research interests and areas of focus include the modern Middle East, urban history, refugees and migration, Christian-Muslim relations, the history of Islam, the late Ottoman period, and European empires. He received a PhD in history from Stanford. In addition to teaching with Stanford Continuing Studies, he teaches in the history department at Santa Clara University.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) William H. McNeill (Ed.), Marilyn Robinson Waldman(Ed.) , The Islamic World (ISBN 978-0226561554)
(Required) Reza Aslan, No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (ISBN 978-0812982442)