Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 1: Story - The Life of Muhammad

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story so you will be comfortable presenting it.
  • On the map or globe, locate places you will point out as you tell the youth the story: the city of Mecca; the countries of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Spain, and France.

Description of Activity

Participants hear and discuss the story of the life of Muhammad, final prophet of Islam.

Tell or read the story "Life of Muhammad." Ask participants for their initial reactions: What did they think of the story?

This is the birth story of Islam in its present form. Muslims consider Islam to be as old as Adam and Eve, and recognize many prophets, including Jesus. However, for Muslims, Muhammad was the last, and he delivered the word of God as written in the Holy Qur'an, never to be changed or added to.

Ask participants if they see parallels between Jesus' life and Muhammad's. Some parallels are: Both lived in working class households, both learned a trade, both lived quietly until they were middle-aged (for their time), then left their trade to embark on work that would change the world. Do youth see others? What differences do participants see? Muhammad was a messenger, while Jesus is represented in Christianity as being an embodiment of God. Muhammad had a wife who was critical to his success; Jesus never married. Muhammad named Islam and aggressively spread it, creating an empire during his lifetime. Jesus lived humbly, never created or named a religion during his life, and preached to all who wanted to listen but never accepted leadership positions. Muhammad lived 22 years after beginning his ministry; Jesus preached only three years before his execution. After noting these similarities and differences, continue discussion with these questions:

  • Do you consider Jesus or Muhammad more successful? How are you gauging success?
  • What do you think of the assertion that Muhammad is the final messenger, delivering God's word just as other prophets before him, including Jesus? Do prophets and sages you are familiar with seem to be delivering the same messages, just in different times and places?
  • Would Muhammad's presenting his message as the last and final truth, not ever to change, have been something people in that time and place would like to hear? How would the idea of permanence have struck them?
  • Islam came with strict rules dictating how to live daily. Why would people have been ready to accept these rules? Do you think they understood compliance with these rules as a loss of freedom? If so, what was the tradeoff-what would they gain?
  • Muhammad told people that Allah would condemn them to eternal hell if they did not follow the rules-if they sinned. If we accept that this element contributed to Islam's success, along with many others, what might be the appeal of an afterlife, where misdeeds were punished and good ones rewarded for eternity?
  • Does it seem from your explorations in religion so far that simplicity and clarity of the message contribute to a religion's appeal? If so, what implications might this have for Unitarian Universalism? What is our simple message?