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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.

Community group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment; a social unit of human organisms who share common values

A community is a small or large social unit that has something in common, such as norms, religion, values, or identity. Communities often share a sense of place that is situated in a given geographical area or in virtual space through communication platforms. Durable relations that extend beyond immediate genealogical ties also define a sense of community. People tend to define those social ties as important to their identity, practice, and roles in social institutions. Although communities are usually small relative to personal social ties (micro-level), "community" may also refer to large group affiliations, such as national communities, international communities, and virtual communities.


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 people. 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. [1] [2] 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 المؤمنينummat al-muʼminīn).

Pan-Islamism political movement advocating the unity of Muslims under one Islamic state – often a caliphate – or an international organization with Islamic principles

Pan-Islamism is a political ideology advocating the unity of Muslims under one Islamic country or state – often a caliphate – or an international organization with Islamic principles. As a form of internationalism and anti-nationalism, Pan-Islamism differentiates itself from pan-nationalistic ideologies, for example Pan-Arabism, by seeing the ummah as the focus of allegiance and mobilization, excluding ethnicity and race as primary unifying factors. It portrays Islam as being anti-racist and against anything that divides the human race based on ethnicity.

Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic". The noun "commonwealth", meaning "public welfare general good or advantage" dates from the 15th century. Originally a phrase it comes from the old meaning of "wealth", which is "well-being", and is itself a loose translation of the Latin res publica (republic). The term literally meant "common well-being". In the 17th century, the definition of "commonwealth" expanded from its original sense of "public welfare" or "commonweal" to mean "a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state".

General usage

The word 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 العربية Al-Ummah Al-Arabeyah is used to refer to "The Arabic Nation". [3]

A nation is a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, history, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture. A nation is distinct from a people, and is more abstract, and more overtly political, than an ethnic group. It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests.

Arabic Central Semitic language

Arabic is usually classified as a Central Semitic language, and linguists widely agree that the language first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE.. It is now the lingua franca of the Arab world. It is named after the Arabs, a term initially used to describe peoples living in the area bounded by Mesopotamia in the east and the Anti-Lebanon mountains in the west, in northwestern Arabia, and in the Sinai Peninsula. Arabic is classified as a macrolanguage comprising 30 modern varieties, including its standard form, Modern Standard Arabic, which is derived from Classical Arabic.

The Word 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 word شعب Sha'ab ("people") would be used to describe the citizens of Turkey. However, the term Ummah is used to describe the Turkic Nation as a whole, which includes Turkey, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and other countries and ethnic groups in Central Asia.

Turkey Republic in Western Asia

Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. East Thrace, located in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorous strait and the Dardanelles. Turkey is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to its northwest; Georgia to its northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. Istanbul is the largest city, but more central Ankara is the capital. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the country's citizens identify as Turkish. Kurds are the largest minority; the size of the Kurdish population is a subject of dispute with estimates placing the figure at anywhere from 12 to 25 per cent of the population.

Turkmenistan Country in Central Asia

Turkmenistan, formerly known as Turkmenia, officially the Republic of Turkmenistan, is a country in Central Asia, bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north and east, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, and the Caspian Sea to the west. Ashgabat is the capital and largest city. The population of the country is 5.6 million, the lowest of the Central Asian republics and one of the most sparsely populated in Asia.

Kazakhstan transcontinental republic in Asia and Europe

Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is the world's largest landlocked country, and the ninth largest in the world, with an area of 2,724,900 square kilometres (1,052,100 sq mi). It is a transcontinental country largely located in Asia; the most western parts are in Europe. Kazakhstan is the dominant nation of Central Asia economically, generating 60% of the region's GDP, primarily through its oil and gas industry. It also has vast mineral resources.

Islamic usage and origin

The phrase Ummah Wāhidah in the Quran (أمة واحدة, "One Nation") refers to all the Islamic world as it existed at the time. The Quran says: "You [Muslims] are the best nation brought out for Mankind, commanding what is righteous (معروفMa'rūf, lit. "recognized [as good]") and forbidding what is wrong (منكرMunkar, lit. "recognized [as evil]")" [3:110].

Quran The central religious text of Islam

The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God (Allah). It is widely regarded as the finest work in classical Arabic literature. The Quran is divided into chapters, which are subdivided into verses.

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. [4] [5] [6] [7]

The Constitution of Medina, also known as the Charter of Medina, was drawn up on behalf of the Islamic prophet Muhammad shortly after his arrival at Medina in 622 CE, following the Hijra from Mecca.

Muhammad Prophet and founder of Islam

Muhammad was the founder of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet, sent to present and confirm the monotheistic teachings preached previously by Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. He is viewed as the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, though some modern denominations diverge from this belief. Muhammad united Arabia into a single Muslim polity, with the Quran as well as his teachings and practices forming the basis of Islamic religious belief.

Medina City in Al Madinah, Saudi Arabia

Medina, also transliterated as Madīnah, is a city in the Hejazi region of the Arabian Peninsula and administrative headquarters of the Al-Madinah Region of Saudi Arabia. At the city's heart is al-Masjid an-Nabawi, which is the burial place of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and it is one of the two holiest cities in Islam, the other being Mecca.

Emergence of the Ummah

At the time of Muhammad, before the conception of the ummah, Arab communities were typically governed by kinship. [8] In other words, the political ideology of the Arabs centered around tribal affiliations and blood-relational ties. [8] In the midst of a tribal society, the religion of 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. [1] 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 sought to develop a universal ummah and not only for the Arabs. [1] Muhammad saw his purpose as the transmission of a divine message, and the leadership of the Islamic community. [1] Islam sees Muhammad as the messenger to the ummah, transmitting a divine message, and implying that God is directing the life affairs of the ummah. [8] Accordingly, the purpose of the ummah was to be based on religion, following the commands of God, rather than kinship. [8]

Immediately after Muhammad's death in 632, Caliphates were established and the Shia emerged. [9] Caliphates were Islamic states under the leadership of a religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad who also was the leader of the ummah. [10] These polities developed into multi-ethnic trans-national empires. [11] Islam has at times been divided into many branches; however Shi‘ite Islam became the second largest branch.

Usage of Ummah in the Qur'an

There are a total of sixty-two instances that the term ummah is mentioned in the Qur'an. [12] The use of ummah in the Qur'an almost always refers to ethical, linguistic, or religious bodies of people who are subject to the divine plan of salvation. [1] [13] The meaning of the term ummah in the Qur'an appears to transform throughout the chronology of the Qur'an. [12] When it is first used in the Qur'an it is hardly distinguishable from the term qawm which can be translated to 'people'. [14] The 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. [8] [13] 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. [12] 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. [8] [13] This is supplemented by the Constitution of Medina which declares all members of the ummah, regardless of religion, to be of ‘one ummah.' [8] In these passages of the Qur'an, ummah may be referring to a unity of mankind through the shared beliefs of the monotheistic religions. [12] However, Denny points out that the most recent ummah that receives a messenger from God is the Arab ummah. [13] As the Muslims became stronger during their residence in Medina, the Arab ummah narrowed into an ummah exclusively for Muslims. [13] 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. [13] The period in which the term ummah is used most often is within the Third Meccan Period followed by the Medinian period. [13] 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. [13] 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. [13] 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. [13]

A verse in the Qur'an also mentions the ummah, in the context of all of the messengers [15] , 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. [16] 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. [16] However, what distinguished this community from the tribes was its focus of the place of those morals within a person's life. [16]


After 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. [1] [17] 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. [17] 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. [18] Islamic historian, Tabari, suggested that Muhammad's initial intentions upon arriving in Medina was to establish a mosque, however this is unlikely [19] Tabari also claimed that Muhammad observed the first Friday prayer in Medina. [20] It occurred on Friday because Friday served as a market day in Medina to enable Jews to observe the sabbath. [20] 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 recognize Muhammad as the community and political figure of authority. [19] [21] The Constitution of Medina declared that the Jewish tribes and the Muslims from Medina formed 'one ummah.' [8] 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. [19] The purpose of the Constitution of Medina was to uphold political obligations and social relations between the various tribes. [19] 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. [19] In other words, the community was united according to preserve its shared interests. [19] 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. [8] These other religious groups were guaranteed security by God and 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. [8] 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

The Constitution of Medina is a document created by Muhammad to regulate social and political life in Medina. [22] 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. [23] 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. [23] 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. [23] The document does state that the Jews who join the Muslims will receive aid and equal rights. [23] 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. [23] This implies that the ummah is not strictly a religious community in Medina. [8] The Constitution of 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. [23] 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 share expenses. [8] [23]

Back to Mecca

After the Muslim takeover of Mecca, membership in the ummah required a commitment to Islam. [19] This happened as a result of Islam beginning to distinguish itself not just from Paganism but also Judaism and Christianity by emphasizing a model of community based on Abraham. [16] [16] 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. [16]

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. [16] Muhammad's community was designed to transform the world itself through action in the world. [16]

See also

Related Research Articles

The following list consists of notable concepts that are derived from both Islamic and Arab tradition, which are expressed as words in the Arabic language. The main purpose of this list is to disambiguate multiple spellings, to make note of spellings no longer in use for these concepts, to define the concept in one or two lines, to make it easy for one to find and pin down specific concepts, and to provide a guide to unique concepts of Islam all in one place.

Qibla direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays during salat

The Qibla, is the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays during Ṣalāṫ. It is fixed as the direction of the Kaaba in the Hejazi city of Mecca. Most mosques contain a wall niche that indicates the Qiblah, which is known as a miḥrâb. Most multifaith prayer rooms will also contain a Qibla, although usually less standardized in appearance than one would find within a mosque.

Medinan surah surahs of the Quran supposed to have been revealed or composed in Medina (as opposed to Mecca), after the Hijra

The Madaniy Surahs or Madaniy chapters of the Quran are the latest 24 Surahs that, according to Islamic tradition, were revealed at Medina after Muhammad's hijra from Mecca. These surahs were revealed by Allah when the Muslim community was larger and more developed, as opposed to their minority position in Mecca.

Military career of Muhammad

The military career of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, lasted for the final ten years of his life, from 622 to 632. After he and his small fellowship were pushed out of the holy trading town of Mecca, controlled by the powerful Quraish tribe, he started intercepting Meccan caravans. After his first victory in a pitched battle at Badr in 624, his power grew increasingly and he began to subjugate other tribes through either diplomacy or conquest. In 630 he finally accomplished his long-term goal of conquering Mecca and the Kaaba. By his death in 632, Muhammad had managed to unite most of Arabia, laying the foundation for the subsequent Islamic expansion.

Al-Mujadila 58th chapter of the Quran

Sūrat al-Mujādilah is the 58th chapter (sura) of the Qur'an with 22 verses (ayat). Revealed in Medina, the chapter first addresses the legality of pre-Islamic method of divorce called zihar. The name "she who disputes" refers to the woman who petitioned Muhammad about the unjustness of this method, and the chapter's first verses outlaws it and prescribes how to deal with past cases of zihar. The chapter also discusses public assemblies and prescribes manners associated with it. The chapter ends by contrasting what it calls "the confederates of God" and "the confederates of Satan" and promising rewards for the former.

Al-Mumtahanah 60th chapter of the Quran

Sūrat al-Mumtaḥanah is the 60th chapter (sura) of the Quran, a Medinan sura with 13 verses.

Al-Muzzammil 73rd chapter of the Quran

Sūrat al-Muzzammil is the seventy-third chapter of the Qur'an. The Sura contains 20 ayat, or verses, which are recognized by Muslims as the word of Allah (God).

Banu Qurayza

The Banu Qurayza were a Jewish tribe which lived in northern Arabia, at the oasis of Yathrib, until the 7th century, when their conflict with Muhammad led to their massacre.

Muhammad at Medina is a book about early Islam written by the non-Muslim Islamic scholar W. Montgomery Watt. Published at 418 pages by Oxford University Press in 1956, it is the sequel to Watt's 1953 volume, Muhammad at Mecca.

Muhammad in Medina Wikimedia list article

The Islamic prophet Muhammad came to Medina following the migration of his followers in what is known as the Hijra in 622. He had been invited to Medina by city leaders to adjudicate disputes between clans from which the city suffered. He left Medina to return to and conquer Mecca in December 629.

Muhammad in Mecca part of Muhammads life in Mecca, traditionally dated as the first 52 years of his life (570–622 CE), prior to leaving for Medina (the Hijra)

The Islamic prophet Muhammad was born and lived in Mecca for the first 52 years of his life. Orphaned early in life, he became known as a prominent merchant, and as an impartial and trustworthy arbiter of disputes. He married his first wife, the wealthy 40-year-old widow Khadijah at the age of 25. He would also marry Aisha and many others later in his life.

Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided humankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, viewed by Muslims as the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad.

Diplomatic career of Muhammad

Muhammad is documented as having engaged as a diplomat during his propagation of Islam and leadership over the growing Muslim Ummah (community). He established a method of communication with other tribal or national leaders through letters, assigned envoys, or by visiting them personally, such as at Ta’if. Instances of written correspondence include letters to Heraclius, the Negus and Khosrau. Although it is likely that Muhammad had initiated contact with other leaders within the Arabian Peninsula, some have questioned whether letters had been sent beyond these boundaries.

Early social changes under Islam

Many social changes took place under Islam between 610 and 661, including the period of Muhammad's mission and the rule of his four immediate successors who established the Rashidun Caliphate.

Muhammads views on Jews

The Islamic prophet Muhammad's views on Jews were informed through the contact he had with Jewish tribes living in and around Medina. His views on Jews include his theological teaching of them as People of the Book, his description of them as earlier receivers of Abrahamic revelation; and the failed political alliances between the Muslim and Jewish communities.

Asad ibn Zurara, often known by his kunyaAbu Umama, was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the first chief in Medina to become a Muslim.

Mukhayriq was a top rabbi and a descendant of Jacob who lived in Medina and accepted Muhammad as the Messenger sent by the God of Israel, the God of Aaron and Moses. He was a very respected Man among the Jews and was considered as one of the top three Jewish priests in whole of Medina. He also took part in the Battle of Uhud on March 19, 625 at the valley located in front of Mount Uhud, in what is now northwestern Arabia.


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