By Meena Malik
Every year Hajj, a pilgrimage mandatory for all Muslims to complete once in their lifetime, is a great opportunity to see the vastness and diversity of the Muslims in our world today. The global community of Muslims is something Muslims call the “ummah.” The bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood between all Muslims is very special and sacred.
What is the Muslim Ummah?
What is “the ummah,” you ask? It’s the bond between all Muslims, men and women, young and old, past and future, near and far everywhere in the world. This connection is a brotherhood and sisterhood established through a shared belief in the core teaching of Islam: there is nothing worthy of being worshipped except for God, and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was his last and final messenger. Once a person accepts Islam, they unlock a membership to a community that spans all of time and space–the Muslim ummah.
The idea of a Muslim community is referenced in Islam’s two primary sources, the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet, or the sunnah. in the Quran [2:143]. Although the word “ummah” is used for other groups of people as well, the general usage of the term today refers specifically to the global Muslim ummah. Ummah is also a term that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to describe all of his followers. Many of his sayings use the phrase “my ummah” within them and it is often translated as “nation.”
The Ummah Lives as One
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, explained the connection between Muslims with a beautiful analogy. He said, “Muslims are like one body of a person; if the eye is sore, the whole body aches, and if the headaches, the whole body aches” (Sahih Muslim). Here the Muslim ummah is described as one unit, existing in the world in one form. It also explains that like one body, Muslims should be striving to take care of any particular group of Muslims in the world who are struggling or suffering in any way. Muslims who are experiencing times of ease should not just feel empathy with those going through hardship, they should actually feel the pain as if they themselves were suffering from it. This Prophetic teaching is one reason why the entire ummah often participates in efforts to help other Muslims who are struggling. Whether it’s from a political situation such as the Israeli occupation of Palestine or the civil war in Syria, a natural disaster such as flooding or a drought, or any other dire situation, Muslims in the ummah are interconnected and support each other. This is what causes a Muslim from China to be concerned about the issue in Palestine, or a Muslim from America to be concerned about the Uyghurs in China.
The Importance of Treating Others Well in the Ummah
An additional way Muslims in the ummah connect with each other is through loving each other. The Muslim ummah is like a huge family in which every person loves others for the sake of Allah. This love for the sake of Allah is simply rooted in the fact that other Muslims are fellow believers. We are often drawn to or care about people for arbitrary reasons: where they come from, how much they have, what they look like, what their personality is like, etc. But loving people without any arbitrary distractors is a spiritual pinnacle for the Muslim because this bond stems from a Muslim’s adherence to Islam.
This love within the ummah is particularly evident during Hajj. Firstly, a genial code of conduct is mandatory for Muslims on Hajj. One of the foundational rules of performing the pilgrimage includes avoiding arguments and disputes with others. Moreover, amidst the unfathomable diversity of Muslims representing each corner of the ummah, material considerations are irrelevant as thousands of worshippers gather together. Race, language, wealth, and social status are all tertiary relative to a person’s piety, or status with God. The emphasis on the bonds of faith alone among Muslims was a life changing experience for Malcolm X.
Lastly, the Muslim’s code of conduct with others as detailed in the Quran and Sunnah is something so important that Allah requires any wrongs to be righted on the Day of Judgment. Actions such as stealing, lying, and cheating that violate the rights of others will all be accounted for in front of God.
Meena Malik is a writer and high school English teacher by training. You can find many of her writings at muslimmatters.org and listen to her newly launched podcast, Brown Teacher Reads.