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Umma or Ummah ( Arabic أمة, DMG Umma ) refers to a community in the field of Islam that, like a people or a nation, extends beyond the framework of a tribe or clan . In a narrower sense, the term is used for the religiously founded community of Muslims . In this case it is mostly derived from the adjective islāmī (إسلامي) accompanied, i.e. al-Umma al-islāmīya (الأمة الإسلامية). The Arabic plural of umma is umam . The Arabic word seems to be borrowed from the Hebrew umma ( tribe, gender ), which is possibly derived from the Assyrian ummanu . However, a common Semitic root is also possible.

Koranic statements

Not in use in pre-Islamic times, the word ummah appears for the first time in the Meccan parts of the Koran and describes past communities, mostly led by prophets. The true community that serves God is only "one community" ( umma wāḥida ), but it fell apart because of internal disputes ( Sura 21 : 92f). In Sura 7:34 it is said that every ummah has a fixed time. But not only humans, but also animals and jinn are united in umam (cf. Sura 6 : 38; 7:38; 46:18).

Use in Islamic history

In Medina the term was used for the followers of Muhammad from Mecca and Medina and the clans allied with them. Thus, at the beginning of the municipal ordinance of Medina it is stated that “the believers and Muslims of the Quraish and Yathrib and those who follow them are linked to them and fight together with them”, form a “single umma” ( umma wāḥida ), the is different from other people. The fact that the treaty also included Jewish clans shows that at the time the term did not refer to a strictly religiously defined community.

Soon after it was founded, this Jewish-Islamic umma, which was originally not based on a legal system such as Sharia, but based on customary law regulating relations between clans and tribes, split into various religious-political parties: Kharijites , Shiites and Sunnis . In 1911, the Shiite scholar ʿAbd al-Husain Sharaf ad-Dīn (1873-1958) wrote his book "Important Chapters in the Unification of the Ummah" ( al-Fuṣūl al-muhimma fī taʾlīf al-umma ), a work that the Reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites should serve.

Lange was understood Umma essentially the "Muslim world community of faith," the faith community of Muslims as a whole, since the 19th century but also - using the term additive "al-'arabīya" - the "Arab nation", a term from the The vocabulary comes from Arab nationalism , which has almost nothing to do with the world religion of Islam . In compound form, the expression in Arabic results in al-Umma al-ʿarabīya (الأمة العربية / 'The Arab nation'). Since 1967, with the defeat in the Six Day War and the beginning of the collapse of Arab nationalism, the religious concept has clearly regained the upper hand.

In contrast to the ummah, which puts the community in the foreground, the term Dār al-Islām (Arabic: "The area of ​​Islam") in Islamic international law denotes the area in which Muslims rule , in contrast to Dar ul -Harb (Arabic: "The area of ​​war"). The term “Islamic World”, which is often used today, is not precisely defined.

In the present day, the Muslim community of a particular country is often referred to as the ummah. Tariq Ramadan writes three basic principles of the Islamic umma in his text on the identity of European Muslims. These three are affiliation, commitment to the community principle of justice, and absolute contractual loyalty.

In everyday life it can happen that believers in a mosque community support each other economically.


  • George C. Decasa: The qurʾānic concept of umma and its function in Philippine Muslim society . Pontificia Univ. Gregoriana, Roma, 1999.
  • Frederick Mathewson Denny: "The meaning of ummah in the Qur'ān". In: History of Religions 15/1 (1975) 34-70.
  • Frederick Mathewson Denny: Art. "Umma". In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition Vol. X, pp. 859b-863b.
  • Charles Genequand: "La umma et les falāsifa" in Simon Jargy (ed.): Islam communautaire (al-Umma). Concept et réalités . Labor et Fides, Geneva, 1984. pp. 35-46.
  • Jonas Grutzpalk: Umma and Asabiya . In: Tönnies-Forum 1 (2007) 29-44 ( online ).
  • Claude Lambelet: “La constitution de la umma dans le coran: quelques références coraniques” in Simon Jargy (ed.): Islam communautaire (al-Umma). Concept et réalités . Labor et Fides, Geneva, 1984. pp. 9-19.
  • Hansjörg Schmid / Amir Dziri / Anja Middelbeck-Varwick / Mohammad Gharaibeh (eds.): Church and Umma: Faith Community in Christianity and Islam. (= Theological Forum Christianity - Islam 2013) Pustet, Regensburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-7917-2583-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. See Hans Jansen : Mohammed. A biography. (2005/2007) Translated from the Dutch by Marlene Müller-Haas. CH Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-56858-9 , pp. 225-229 ( The Constitution of Medina ).
  2. See Rainer Brunner: Approach and Distance. Schia, Azhar and Islamic Ecumenism in the 20th Century . Berlin: Schwarz 1996. pp. 40f.
  3. See, for example for. Ivory Coast Lémassou Fofana: Ivory Coast: Islam et sociétés. Contribution des musulmans à l'édification de la nation ivoirienne (Xie – XXe siècles) . CERAP, Abidjan, 2007. p. 120.