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History of Muslim Sects


Course Overview

The formative period of Islam, from the period following the murder of the third Caliph, ‘Uthman, until approximately the middle of the 4th century AH. was a time of important political and theological groupings. This era was beset with conflicts and controversy, and questions of legitimate leadership that rocked the Muslim community.

In order to understand the theological schools of orthodoxy found in Sunni Islam, it is crucial to have an understanding of the political circumstances which led to the rise of groups such as the Khawarij, Shia, and Murji’a in the 2nd century, the subsequent rise of the Mu’tazila movement, and the various responses to it.


Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • appreciate the diversity of politico-theological opinion in the formative period and its relationship to historical events.
  • understand the development of different Muslim sects and theological schools from a critical historical perspective.
  • analyse the way in which different theological views have influenced each other.
  • gain critical appreciation of theological labels such as Ahl al-Sunna, Shia and Muʿtazila in the light of their genesis.

Course Reviews


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  1. Interesting take on hisotry and muslim sects


    Centuries of early islamic history covered in a few hours in a very concise and organised manner. The controversial issues were also dealt with allowing the student to get a detailed understanding of early islamic history in relation to the different religious sects etc.

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