I recently heard a radio program that touched upon the Muslim Ummah (the community or nation of Islam). I don’t recall whether it was an NPR, PRI, or BBC program. A variety of Muslims were interviewed about what being a Muslim means to them. For many of them, being a Muslim meant being a member of a worldwide community. They spoke with a profound sense of connection to Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the world. At any time, one observed, a Muslim would be praying somewhere in the world.
It’s something like the religious equivalent of Walmart, the difference being that, rather than a shopping experience that transcends locality, Islam offers a religious culture that does the same. Rather than making a business of replacing local businesses, Islam has made a religion of replacing local cultures.
The notion of Ummah is quite similar to a familial concept that I was raised on as a Baha’i. I have often heard the terms “Baha’i family” and “worldwide Baha’i community” used. I daresay I’ve seen that Baha’i family exalted above traditional (natural and otherwise) family units more than once. The Baha’i community is a little more formal than the Muslim Ummah in that it demands universal loyalty to a single administrative order, but the idea is similar to, and perhaps derived from, the Muslim concept.
All this reminds me that I have an Ummah too, and it’s even bigger than the Muslim Ummah.
It’s called the human race, of course.