Ummah (Arabic: أمة [ˈʊm.mæ]) is an
Arabic word meaning
"community". It is distinguished from Shaʻb (شعب [ʃæʕb]) which
means a nation with common ancestry or geography. Thus, it can be said
to be a supra-national community with a common history.
It is a synonym for ummat al-Islām (أمة الإسلام, 'the
Islamic community'), and it is commonly used to mean the collective
community of Islamic peoples. In the
Quran the ummah typically refers
to a single group that shares common religious beliefs, specifically
those that are the objects of a divine plan of salvation. In the
context of pan-
Islamism and politics, the word ummah can be used to
mean the concept of a
Commonwealth of the Believers (أمة
المؤمنين ummat al-muʼminīn).
1 General usage
2 Islamic usage and origin
3 Emergence of the Ummah
4 Usage of
Ummah in the Qur'an
6.1 Constitution of Medina
7 Back to Mecca
8 See also
10 External links
Ummah (pl. umam) means
Nation in Arabic. For example the
Arabic term for the United Nations in
Arabic is الأمم
المتحدة Al-Umam Al-Mutahedah, and the term الأمة
Ummah Al-Arabeyah is used to refer to "The Arabic
Ummah differs from the concept of a country or people. In it
is greater context it is used to describe a larger group of people.
For example, in
Arabic the world شعب Sha'ab ("people") would be
used to describe the citizens of Turkey. However, the term
used to describe the Turkic
Nation as a whole, which includes Turkey,
Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and other countries and ethnic
groups in Central Asia.
Islamic usage and origin
Ummah Wāhidah in the
Quran (أمة واحدة, "One
Nation") refers to all the Islamic world as it existed at the time.
Quran says: "You [Muslims] are the best nation brought out for
Mankind, commanding what is righteous (معروف Ma'rūf, lit.
"recognized [as good]") and forbidding what is wrong (منكر Munkar,
lit. "recognized [as evil]")" [3:110].
The usage is further clarified by the Constitution of Medina, an early
document said to have been negotiated by
Muhammad in CE 622 with the
leading clans of Medina, which explicitly refers to Jewish, Christians
and pagan citizens of
Medina as members of the Ummah.
Emergence of the Ummah
At the time of Muhammad, before the conception of the ummah, Arab
communities were typically governed by kinship. In other words, the
political ideology of the Arabs centered around tribal affiliations
and blood-relational ties. In the midst of a tribal society, the
Islam emerged and along with it the concept of the ummah.
The ummah emerged according to the idea that a messenger or prophet
has been sent to a community. But unlike earlier messengers who had
been sent to various communities in the past (as can be found among
the Prophets in the Old Testament),
Muhammad had been given the task
to develop a universal ummah and not only for the Arabs. Muhammad's
purpose as messenger to them was to transmit a divine message, and
lead the Islamic community to salvation. Since
Muhammad is the
messenger for the ummah, it indicates there is a divine message, which
further implies that God is directing the life affairs of the
ummah. Accordingly, the purpose of the ummah was to be based on
religion, following the commands of God, rather than kinship.
Ummah in the Qur'an
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Criticism of Islamism
Islam and other religions
There are a total of sixty-two instances that the term ummah is
mentioned in the Qur'an. The use of ummah in the
always refers to ethical, linguistic, or religious bodies of people
who are subject to the divine plan of salvation. The meaning of
the term ummah in the
Qur'an appears to transform throughout the
chronology of the Qur'an. When it is first used in the
Qur'an it is
hardly distinguishable from the term qawm which can be translated to
Qur'an recognizes that each ummah has a messenger
that has been sent to relay a divine message to the community and that
all ummahs await God's ultimate judgment. Although the meaning
of the ummah begins simply with a general application of the word, it
gradually develops to reference a general religious community and then
evolves to specifically refer to the Muslim community. Before it
refers exclusively to Muslims, the ummah encompasses Jewish and
Christian communities as one with the Muslims and refers to them as
the People of the Book. This is supplemented by the
Constitution of Medina which declares all members of the ummah,
regardless of religion, to be of ‘one ummah.' In these passages
of the Qur'an, ummah may be referring to a unity of mankind through
the shared beliefs of the monotheistic religions. However, Denny
points out that the most recent ummah that receives a messenger from
God is the Arab ummah. As the Muslims became stronger during their
residence in Medina, the Arab ummah narrowed into an ummah exclusively
for Muslims. This is evidenced by the resacralization of the Kaaba
and Muhammad's command to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, along with the
redirection of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca. The period in which
the term ummah is used most often is within the Third Meccan Period
followed by the Medinian period. The extensive use of the term
during these two time periods indicates that
Muhammad was beginning to
arrive at the concept of the ummah to specify the genuine Muslim
community. Furthermore, the early Meccan passages generally equate
ummah as religion, whereas in the Medinan period the passages of the
Qur'an refer more specifically to the relation of the ummah and
religion. The final passage that refers to ummah in the Qur'an
refers to the Muslims as the "best community" and accordingly led to
ummah as an exclusive reference to Islam.
A verse in the
Qur'an also mentions the ummah, in the context of all
of the messengers, that this ummah (nation) of theirs is one ummah and
that God is their Lord entirely.
"O messengers, eat from the good foods and work righteousness. Indeed,
I, of what you do, am Knowing. And indeed this, your ummah (nation),
is one ummah (nation), and I am your Lord, so fear Me." [Qur'an, Surah
Al-Mu'minun (The believers) (23:51-52)] 
Initially it did not appear that the new Muslim community would oppose
the tribes that already existed in Mecca. The first Muslims did
not need to make a break with traditional Quraysh customs since the
vision for the new community included moral norms that were not
unfamiliar to the tribal society of Mecca. However, what
distinguished this community from the tribes was its focus of the
place of those morals within a person's life.
Muhammad and the first converts to
Islam were forced to leave
Mecca, the community was welcomed in
Medina by the Ansar, a group of
Pagans who had converted to Islam. Despite
Medina already being
occupied by numerous Jewish and polytheistic tribes, the arrival of
Muhammad and his followers provoked no opposition from Medina's
residents. Upon arriving in Medina,
Muhammad established the
Constitution of Medina with the various tribal leaders in order to
form the Meccan immigrants and the Medinan residents into a single
community, the ummah. Rather than limiting members of the ummah to a
single tribe or religious affiliation as had been the case when the
ummah first developed in Mecca, the
Constitution of Medina ensured
that the ummah was composed of a variety of people and beliefs
essentially making it to be supra-tribal. Islamic historian,
Tabari, suggested that Muhammad's initial intentions upon arriving in
Medina was to establish a mosque, however this is unlikely  Tabari
also claimed that
Muhammad observed the first Friday prayer in
Medina. It occurred on Friday because Friday served as a market
Medina to enable Jews to observe the sabbath. Membership to
the ummah was not restricted to adhering to the Muslim faith but
rather encompassed all of the tribes as long as they vowed to
Muhammad as the community and political figure of
Constitution of Medina declared that the Jewish
tribes and the Muslims from
Medina formed 'one ummah.'  It is
possible that the Medinan ummah was purely secular (compared to the
later transformation of the ummah in Mecca) due to its variety of
beliefs and practices of its members. The purpose of the
Constitution of Medina was to uphold political obligations and social
relations between the various tribes. The community members in
Medina, although not derived from the same faith, were committed to
each other through a desire to defend the common good of the
community. In other words, the community was united according to
preserve its shared interests. The people of other religious
beliefs, particularly those that are considered to be "People of the
Book" were granted the special protection of God through the dhimmah
contract. These other religious groups were guaranteed security by
Muhammad because of their common religious history as being
the "People of the Book." The dhimmah served as a sort of alliance
between Muslims and non-Muslims. In the earlier treaties of the
dhimmah, both groups were viewed as equal in status and both were
obligated to help the other. However, in later treaties, after Islam
had gained more power throughout Arabia, the dhimmah was perceived as
the fulfilment of the religious duties of Muslims along with the
payment of zakat. With the new contract of dhimmah, non-Muslims'
protection by God and
Muhammad became dependent on their payment.
Constitution of Medina
Constitution of Medina is a document created by
regulate social and political life in Medina. It deals with
various tribal issues such as the organization and leadership of the
participating tribal groups, warfare, blood money, ransom of captives,
and war expenditures. It is at the beginning of the document that
the Muslims from the Quraysh (those from Mecca) and the Muslims from
Yathrib (those from Medina) are declared to be an ummah or one
community. The word ummah appears again when the document refers
to the treaty of the Jews and states that the Yahūd Banī ' Awf, or
Jews, are an ummah that exists alongside the ummah of the Muslims or
may be included in the same ummah as the Muslims. The document
does state that the Jews who join the Muslims will receive aid and
equal rights. In addition, the Jews will be guaranteed security
from the Muslims, and are granted to maintain their own religion just
as the Muslims will maintain theirs. This implies that the ummah
is not strictly a religious community in Medina. The Constitution
Medina lists the various Medinan tribes derived from the Aws and
Khazraj as well as the several Jewish tribes that are granted to keep
their tribal organization and leadership. The document also
reveals that each group, the Muslims and the Jews, is responsible for
its own finances except during time of war, when the two are able to
Back to Mecca
After the Muslim takeover of Mecca, membership in the ummah required a
commitment to Islam. This happened as a result of
to distinguish itself not just from Paganism but also Judaism and
Christianity by emphasizing a model of community based on
Abraham. The membership of the ummah was now based on two main
principles; the first is to worship God alone and secondly, in order
to worship God properly one must be in a guided community.
The essentials of the new society were the new relations between human
beings and God and between human beings and one another. The society
was held together by the Prophet. Feuding among Muslim clans was
forbidden. Muhammad's community was designed to transform the
world itself through action in the world.
Constitution of Medina
Divisions of the world in Islam
Islamic missionary activity
List of countries by Muslim population
Muslim population growth
Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
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The definition of 'Ummah' is the unity of the Muslims
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