Back to Home Page or Contents Page or Islam or Index
Umma (Arabic, plural, umam) designates a people or community;
a powerful and sometimes a visionary concept of Islam.
Although the word has various uses in the Qur'an, it principally designates
social divisions of humanity: "Humanity was a single umma, then it
fall into divisions. If a word had not previously gone out from the Lord,
the matter between them would have been decided, concerning which they disagreed."
It is considered such a division is in disobedience conflict with the unity
which is a necessary consequence of the unity of God from whom all creation
comes. To each umma a prophet was sent to recall them to Islam; little success
was achieved until the coming of Muhammad.
While the Qur'an required Muhammad to establish an Arab umma out of the
dissented tribes, it also envisaged the creation of a single umma transcending
the further divisions in the world. The initial attempt of this was seen
in the Constitution of Madina. However, the early division of the Muslim
community between the Sunni and Sha'i Islam, and the relatively ineffective
efforts to establish a pan-Islam, illustrate how far this vision is from
being realized. Islam did experienced a resurgent in the 20th century, and
was critical of governments under which Muslims are a majority, but, as
yet, there is no Islamic constrained government A.G.H.
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions,
New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 1003