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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.

The origins of the theological positions of the Khawarij, Shia, and Murji’a in the 2nd centuries can be traced directly to their political outlooks that led up to it. The subsequent development of the Mu’tazila as a fully realised theological school, and the attempted imposition of the Mu’tazili doctrine by the Caliph Ma’mun, elicited a response from the Muslim community that can be seen as the origins of the theological schools of orthodoxy found in Sunni Islam.

History of Early Muslim Sects provides students with a profound understanding of the historical, theological and political developments of the Muslim community that led to formation of the early Muslim sects.


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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