Teaching Islamic History with BBC Active Video

It’s never been more critical to promote learning and understanding about Islamic history. Lack of understanding can lead to stigma and judgement, but if our younger generations can become familiar with Islamic studies and the history of Islam then they can build up knowledge and form their own considered opinions. In doing so, they can play a vital role in challenging stereotypes and educating others.

With a growing focus on world history within the national curriculum, teachers must find ways to make Islamic history relevant and accessible to today’s students. Early Islamic civilisations contributed greatly to world history and it’s essential that this is widely understood to bring current issues into context. This article looks at how BBC Active’s educational videos can bring this fascinating subject alive and help teachers to inform their students about Islamic history in a more interactive way. Teaching that ignites ideas for intelligent discussion and debate will help to develop a generation of students that are inspired by world history and determined to work towards a true multicultural society.

Getting started – teaching Islamic history

Before introducing the subject of Islamic history in school, a useful exercise is to ask students to write down what they already know about Islam. This is an excellent way to assess their current level of understanding and also reveals any myths or stereotypes. As the teacher starts to outline key facts about the history of Islam, students can refer back to their original notes and challenge their own preconceptions.

Another useful tool, as students’ knowledge about the history of Islam develops, is to ask them to find media coverage about Islam, firstly from an Islamic news source and then the same news story from a Western media source. The students should then be encouraged to compare the two to find out if any information is excluded or there is any evidence of bias. As well as learning about the subject matter from the news sources, students can find out more about the power and influence of the media.

How to bring Islamic History alive – BBC Active Video

BBC Active Video for Learning has produced two excellent educational videos to help teachers make the subject of Islamic history engaging and interactive. The series An Islamic History of Europe comprises two 50-minute episodes designed to enhance learning in the classroom. This series challenges the myth that East and West have always been locked in conflict and outlines the hidden story of how Islam has played a key role in Europe’s past.

An Islamic History of Europe – Episode 1 features award-winning BBC reporter Rageh Omaar who is well known for his moving coverage of the Iraq War. Rageh sets out to explore the coast of southern Spain where Muslims first entered the Iberian Peninsula in 711. Rageh then travels on to Cordoba to discover an exceptional city with a fascinating past – it was once ruled by Muslims and was centuries ahead of any other cities in Europe. Pavements were lit by street lamps, a move that was hundreds of years ahead of its time.

This episode also touches on the thirteenth-century Muslim philosopher Averroes who, it emerges, firmly established Paris as the intellectual centre of Europe with his ground-breaking readings which sparked renaissance thinking a phenomenal 300 years before it officially began.

An Islamic History of Europe – Episode 2 sees Rageh delving further into the fascinating influence that Islam has had on Europe’s history. While exploring the royal palaces of the Alhambra, Rageh gains remarkable insight into the extent of the knowledge that Muslims held in architecture, maths and poetry. Rageh examines what happened in 1492 when Spain’s first monarchs came into power and the Muslims’ own kingdom was lost.

These videos are an important tool for teachers to highlight the links between Islamic influences on European history to present day, where it’s poignant to note that many thousands of Muslims are risking their lives to reach the very continent that their ancestors once revolutionised. This will bring Islamic history into the context of present-day current affairs, where the plight of refugees is constantly in the headlines.

Teaching about Islamic history has been cited as a subject of “strategic importance” by former Minister for Higher Education Bill Rammell. Enabling our younger generations to gain a true understanding of the history of Islam will mean that they can relate this to the present day. Knowledge and understanding are the best tools to create a true multicultural society; in a time of heightened fear about terrorism and extremism, high quality teaching about Islamic history has never been more important.

BBC Active Video for Learning provides a wide range of high quality educational videos designed to bring any topic to life. These teaching resources will enhance your next class or lecture and are available in DVD format.