Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries V
Looking East, Looking West: Europe and Arabia, 1450-1750
July 18-25, 2005
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View lesson power point slides.

Lesson Title: Sacred Space: Religion and Society in the Islamic World

Name: Cynthia Ann Magruder and Paula Russo

Discipline: History and Visual Arts, respectively

School: Mercy High School, Baltimore, MD

Grade Level/Content Focus: Ninth Grade/World Cultures, Social Studies

Time Required for Lesson: Four 75-minute class periods

Maryland Content Standards:

Expectation 3.1:
The student will evaluate the interactions of environmental factors and the location and distribution of human activity.

Indicator 3.1.1: The student will analyze the influence of physical geographic factors to include location, climate, and resources as they relate to settlement patterns.

Expectation 3.2:
The student will examine the role of culture in shaping regional and global interactions

Indicator 3.2.1: The student will analyze the role of social institutions in shaping distinct cultural identities.
Indicator 3.2.2: The student will examine how culture has been transmitted and diffused.
Indicator 3.2.3(a): The student will evaluate the impact of culture on a region, including Islam in the Middle East.

Specific Objectives:
The students will be able to:

• identify and describe seven elements in a mosque;
• identify these elements for any mosque;
• create their own Islamic design; and
• approach an understanding of the core beliefs of Islam and the interaction between faith and community.


• mihrab
• qiblah
• minbar
• minaret
• sabil,
• courtyard
• qur'an
• hijrah
• zakat
• salat
• Ramadan
• muqarnas
• calligraphy
• Makkah
• Abbasid
• Mamluk
• Umayyid
• Ottoman
• Mughal
• Safavid
• Timurid
• arabesque



Bloom, Jonathan. Islamic Arts. London: Phaidon Press, 1997.

Clévenot, Dominique. Splendors of Islam: Architecture, Decoration, and Design. New York:
Vendome Press, 2000.

Lunde, Paul. Islam. London: D.K. Publishers, 2002.

Necipoglu, Gülru. Architecture, Ceremonial, and Power: the Topkapi Palace in the Fifteenth
and Sixteenth Centuries
. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Web Resources:

ArtServe. The Australian National University.

Middle East Photo Archive. University of Chicago Library.

“The Concept of Decoration in Islamic Art.” Islamic Art and Architecture Organization.

“Geometric Patterns and Designs.” Islamic Art and Architecture Organization.

Archnet. MIT School of Architecture and Planning, University of Texas School of Architecture, and Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Mubarak, Ramadhan. “Mosques and Palaces.” Islamic Architecture Organization. Mosques and Palaces.

Portsmouth Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS). “Islamic Geometric Art.”

Other Resources:

For teacher:
• computer
• digital projector
• five circle grid, reproducible
• an assignment sheet that explains the specific requirements of the oral presentation and poster or PowerPoint presentation

For students:
• compass
• paper
• tracing paper
• ruler
• regular and colored pencils
• chisel-tip marker or calligraphy-style marker
• poster-making materials and/or PowerPoint presentation capability

Lesson Abstract:
This lesson forms part of a larger unit on Islam and builds upon the themes of human-environment interaction and cultural diffusion. These themes are introduced at the start of the course. We will continue to explore and elaborate these themes through the remainder of the year in other historical and cultural contexts.

Before they start this lesson, students will have already learned the geography of southwest and central Asia and North Africa, and will have read about the birth of Islam and the history of the Islamic world.

This lesson asks students to identify seven basic elements of mosque architecture, and by doing so, to contextualize their understanding of Islam by integrating the study of the central tenets of the faith with the role that Islam plays in society.

By the end of the unit, each student will have researched a specific mosque and will use the seven thematic elements to structure her own oral presentation to the class.

Lesson Components:



• Show images of buildings, such as St. Peter's, the White House, or a mall. Ask students:

--What happens in these buildings? How do you know? Why do you think the architect designed them in this way?
--Can you guess the building's purpose? How? Can you guess this building's location based on the way it looks? Is this building important? How do you know?

• Tell students they will be looking at Islamic architecture and art to study Islam and the role it plays in Muslim society.
• Tell students that they will be completing a quarter project on a holy site, and give them the assignment sheet that explains the requirements in full.


• Present the PowerPoint demonstration, which introduces the seven elements of a mosque: dome, minaret, minbar, mihrab, courtyard, sabil, and decorative elements.

Guided Practice:

• Tell students they will have an opportunity to create a geometric decorative element using a five circle grid.
• Distribute five-circle grids and colored pencils to students.
• Ask students to find and highlight as many geometric shapes as they can. Instruct students to repeat their favorite shape on the rest of the paper to create their own Islamic design.


Guided Practice:

• Using PowerPoint, present images of mosques from specific regions and/or dynasties. Ask students to locate and name the elements that they see.
• As they identify the elements in a particular group of mosques, point out the distinctive style characteristic of that region or dynasty.
• Distribute “Minaret Types” (from
• Instruct students to read the article and study the drawings.
• Show images of mosques from the same regions or dynasties presented earlier. Ask students to guess the location of the mosque based on the style of the seven elements they see.

Independent Practice:

• Ask students to choose the mosque they would like to research.
• For the remainder of the class, students will use classroom computers to begin their research.


Guided Practice/Independent Practice:

• Students will continue their teacher-facilitated library research.

DAY FOUR: (at least one week later)


• Students will give their project presentations.
• They will be assessed throughout the lesson by their responses to questions, their identification of mosque elements, and by the form and substance of their project presentations.

Project Extension:
Have students make historical maps of the Islamic World. Possible map topics might include:

• The Rise and Spread of Islam, 630 – 750
• The ‘Abbasid Caliphate and the Great Intellects of Muslim Civilization
• The Growth of the Ottoman Empire (including battles and cultural achievements.)
• The Conquests of Salah al-Din and the Crusader States
• The Voyages of Ibn Batuta (with descriptions of his stops and what he learned.)
• An Islamic/Arab view of the world in the style of Islamic maps.

Lesson Extension:
Show students the National Geographic video Inside Mecca. Have students write a reflection about a spiritual journey they may have taken (such as a retreat, prayer day, etc.).

Extensions to Other Units:

Early Middle Ages:

• Map the routes of European – Middle Eastern trade that began with the Crusades.
• In your key, identify the goods that were traded between the East and the West.

High Middle Ages:

• Compare Cathedral and Mosque.
• Take students to a local cathedral. After the visit, give students floor plans of famous cathedrals and ask them to label the elements they recognize.


• Trade
--Provide information on carpets, fabric and pottery and other luxury goods from Afro-Eurasia.
--Show students slides of Renaissance paintings and ask them to find these goods.

• Geography
--Have students make a map that shows the routes on which these luxury goods were traded.

• Art and Culture
--Show Renaissance and Ottoman paintings.
--Ask students to compare and contrast the representation of space and subject matter of the paintings and discuss the possible meanings of the differences.
--Ask students to examine the paintings for evidence of cultural diffusion.

Sponsored by
the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies
and the Maryland State Department of Education