One Ummah Vs Scattered Countries: Can We be United?
One of the major implications of the concept of Ummah in Islam is the issue of setting priorities straight and determining the methodology of living life along with charting the map of our relationships with others and planning a practical program to develop earth. Therefore realizing the real definition of Ummah is an essential matter as it gives rise to these important issues among many others.
The concept of Ummah from the Muslims’ perspective is an extensive term which stretches out to encompass Muslims in all times in what can be called as divine religion. Therefore, the Ummah starts from Adam and encompasses all the prophets and messengers in their divine parade along history. The Ummah after the Prophet’s death extends in both time and place and includes all circumstances and different people across the globe. This understanding is very important as it can be considered as the foundational base to our call for renovation, reform and modernity. Muslims are not familiar with national ties as a foundation for human unity though they don’t deny it when it is framed in its right context and consider that loving one’s country is part of faith. The Muslim on the other hand doesn’t give much weight to national union when it leads to false sense of nation based superiority and despicable racism.
The Ummah started with Adam and his immemorial story was recorded in the Quran to lay the foundation for human communion. The story tells us that Adam from earth thus earth is both his mother and father and this is not merely a motto for the environmentalists but part of the divine word of God. the fact that Adam comes from earth; this means that he and his lineage has to treat earth the way the son treats his parents and that the foundational base of the relationship with earth is excellence and good ethics. Also the fact that Adam comes from earth gives a true sense of equality among Adam’s children. Prophet Muhammad said in this regard, “All of you come from Adam and Adam comes from earth”.
Also the fact that Adam comes from dust means that he is destined to return back to it one day and that his earthly life is limited with death and thus this world is all about tests, commission and calamities and not an abode of eternity. God says, “From the earth We created you, and into it We will return you, and from it We will extract you another time.” 20:55
If Adam comes from earth, this also means that he is in a dire need of others because he can’t be self supportive all the time and this is the meaning of the phrase “There is no power no strength save with God” which is reported by the Prophet to be one of the treasures of heaven and this phrase simply summarizes the essence of man’s existence on earth and his mission on it.
Adam was breathed into with God’s spirit and God’s spirit is one of the noble creations of God. The fact that God attributed the spirit to Himself gives the spirit a great sense of sanctity. God says, “And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration." 15:29
God also commanded the angels to prostrate before Adam; an act which gives Adam a great sense of veneration and honor. God says, “And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” 17:70
Adam originally represents the source of goodness in opposition to Satan who represents the source of evil and therefore whoever resembles Adam is good and whoever falls into Satanic resemblance is evil. God says, “O mankind, eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy.” 2:168 Therefore Adam was guided to choose between the two routes as God says, “And have shown him the two ways” 90:10
This means that Adam was both honored and commissioned for a certain mission on earth. God says, “Indeed, we offered the Trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant.” 33:72
Reading the story of Adam’s origin from this humanitarian perspective gives rise to a whole new meaning of the Ummah which was born with the advent of Adam. God says in the Quran, “And indeed this, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so fear Me." 23:52 and says, “Indeed this, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so worship Me.” 21:92
Therefore we can easily determine the characteristics of this one Ummah in which equality among all humans is a necessity as they have one origin, one destiny which is death, and one divine call. God says, “Say, [O Muhammad], "O mankind, indeed I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, [from Him] to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. There is no deity except Him; He gives life and causes death." So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered prophet, who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him that you may be guided.” 7:158
According to this definition of the concept of Ummah, we find that the term is divided into two categories the first category is the Ummah of calling which encompasses humanity at large and the second category is the Ummah of response to this divine call and it includes those who believed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and embraced his message and his methodology of life. Therefore this wider understanding of the word “Ummah” encompasses humanity at large and engulfs both Muslims and non Muslims under the Ummah of calling. This bigger Ummah is addressed in the Quran by “O people..” and when it comes to theological issues that has to do with Islam per se, we find the Quran addressing the second category of Ummah by saying, “O Those who believe…”. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were sent for the bigger Ummah to encompass all people in their entirety. God says, “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” 21:107 and the Prophet’s intercession in the Day of Judgment encompasses all people alike.
If we settled on this all encompassing meaning of Ummah, we would build on this meaning a practical program pertinent to politics, economy and societal activities. We can apply a program which copes with our challenging modern issues and rearrange our priorities with an agenda which springs from our reality and needs without being trapped in outer hegemony.
If the Ummah was one since the dawn of creation and remained one after the emergence of Prophet Muhammad and enjoys the same unity in terms of the origin of creedal beliefs and orthodoxy. Why can’t we be one Ummah in our lived reality? To reach this state, we need to invent new systems and create modern procedures to achieve this goal. The Prophet said, “The strong believer is better and more loved by God than the weak one and goodness is found in both. Seek what benefits you and seek God’s assistance and don’t despair”. (Ibn Majah)
The program we can start should include the following points:
Forming alliances and bridging the gap between countries in the same region and we can start with the suggestion of building a high way which connects all cities from Tanja to ‘Amman. Forming high way networks is the first step in connecting countries to each other, melting differences and dissolving obstacles between countries. This network will not interfere in the independence of countries or in its political systems or its internal affairs. This network does not need a whole sum of financial resources or execution as a huge part of t his road is already in place and it just needs to be activated to play its influential role in connecting between countries.
Waiving entry visas between countries in the Arab world and this system is already applied in a number of Arab countries and only needs to be spread to encompass the whole region with the exception of the two holy cities of Makkah and Medinah for the sake of organizing ‘Umrah and pilgrimage trips.
Seeking to activate a free market zone and exchanging trade in a larger scale to ensure self sufficiency through executing giant projects like the one that existed between Egypt and the Sudan to cultivate wheat. If we managed to suffice ourselves with our own supplies of food, we can surely implement ideas that are coming from our own minds. This result can be achieved through division of labor and specialization among Arab countries to reach a stage of economic complementarity.
Seeking to unite currency in the Arab world and then apply the idea on a larger scale to encompass the Islamic world. This idea is worth thinking of and was applied successfully in Europe when the Euro was introduced.
There are ways to form alliances while keeping the religious identity intact such as federal unions. Reaching such alliances needs a sincere intention and relentless efforts to reach economic, social and cultural cooperation among countries of the Arab world.
An urgent reform is needed in the field of education through erecting scientific research centers and encouraging creativity and inventions.
We implore God to grant us the ability to develop the world, serve our religion and purify our souls to act as excellent models of how the true Ummah should be.