RELS 206 has not been developed with the purpose of trying to defend or criticize Islam, nor is it meant to convince you of the validity of certain religious beliefs at the expense of others. The academic study of religion is in part about placing religious traditions in their proper socio-historical and economic contexts so we can better understand the growth and internal diversity of religious systems over a lengthy period of time. Doing so enables the individual to develop a real sensitivity to and understanding of the beliefs of religious practitioners without losing the analytical and critical methodology upon which the study of religion is built. The goal of Religious Studies 206, then, is to provide you with a strong, basic knowledge about Islam that will help you understand the historical, ritual, theological, and political manifestations of Islam and the diversity of voices and opinions within this religious tradition.