Ummah: Strangled by Culture?

The Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” [Muslim]

Rasullullah  giving an example of Muslim unity is reported to have said in a Hadith:“The Muslim Ummah is like one body. If the eye is in pain then the whole body is in pain and if the head is in pain then the whole body is in pain”

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was very clear about how a Muslim community or ummah should behave towards each other.  It is extremely important for a religious community to have definitive standards of behavior as exemplified by their religious teachings.  For, if the ummah does not behave towards each other as the Qur’an teaches, there will be little unity and representation of the heart of Islam.  As a unified body, Islam can reach humanity in truth and justice.

A body must work together, and not against itself or it becomes weakened.  There is much disunity in Islam due to various sects warring against each other.  For example, shortly after the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) death, a disagreement arose among his followers regarding who should be his successor.  Some of his followers felt there should be a consensus regarding choice of successor, others determined only the Prophet’s descendants should become the next leader.  Subsequently, the position was given to an aide of the Prophet’s, Abu Bakr, but others thought the title should have been given to the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali.  Later, Ali was made leader, but was assassinated.  The followers of Ali are known as the Shiites.  However, the Sunnis believe themselves to be the only true adherents of the Prophet’s teachings.  Due to this early disagreement regarding who should succeed the Prophet the two sects have grown and developed different tenets which has led to modern day conflicts.  The Sunnis make up 85% of all Muslims and emphasize Allah’s power within all domains of life including the public and the political, while the Shiites focus more on martyrdom and sacrifice.  Also, there are some similar facets of the Shiite and Sufi (mystical branch of Islam) sects which emphasizes an internal approach to Islam as opposed to the more conservative external aspect of Islam.  Additionally, there is a sub-branch of the Sunnis called Wahhabism which is extremely conservative but that has incorporated many tribal characteristics into its expression of Islam.

There is the Ahmadiyya sect which began in British India near the end of the 19th century that believes the Messiah has already come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian.  Ahmadiyya’s believe that Allah sent Ahmad (like Jesus) “…to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace.”  The Ahmadiyya sect emphasizes religious plurality based upon Ahmad’s recognition of other religions founders such as Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu and Guru Nanak (Sikhism).  Ahmad believed these other religion’s teachings are incorporated into Islam.  Additionally, Ahmad taught his followers to focus on a “jihad of the pen” to defend Islam.  Unlike Sunni and Shiite sects, the Ahmadi Muslims believe in separation of mosque and state.  The primary belief espoused by the Ahmadi’s Muslims is “love for all, hatred for none.”  Unfortunately, because some of the Islamic beliefs of the Ahmadi Muslims are different than the Sunnis and Shiites, the Ahmadi Muslims have experienced persecution and oppression around the world by other Islamic sects who believe the Ahmadi’s are not really Muslim.

The Qur’an on dividing religion into factions:

“As for those who have divided their religion and broken up into factions, have nothing to do with them [Prophet].  Their case rests with Allah: in time He will tell them about their deeds.” 6:149

“Turn to Him alone, all of you.  Be mindful of Him; keep up the prayer; do not join those who ascribe partners to Allah, those who divide their religion into sects, with each party rejoicing in their own.” 30:31-32

It is easily seen how conflict has developed looking at the spectrum from the conservative Wahhabism to the mystical, internal sect of Sufism. In Sura 30, a key point is “….each party rejoicing in their own.”   A sect that is arrogant and superior acting will persecute another Muslim sect out of pride, and not attempt in humility to find common ground based upon the Qu’ran. Repeatedly in the Qur’an the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tells the believers to fully submit to Allah. By submitting to Allah, the body will beginning acting as one moving together based upon the pure teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  Not acting in unity is like a group of people rafting down rapids who are each paddling a different way based upon the direction they individually think the raft should go down the river.  Subsequently, the raft will not move intentionally, but will follow the strongest current which may cause the rafters to be in danger from obstacles that will cause the raft to flip and throw the rafters in the river. This is why many rafting trips on rapids have a river guide to make sure all the rafters are paddling together in the direction that will be the safest.  As Muslims, our guide is the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who was chosen as God’s messenger to keep Muslims together moving towards Allah.



The challenge is being able to accept internal sect differences without letting the differences create conflict.  The Ummah refers to all Muslims around the world being in one body who are to help each other, defend each other, encourage each other and work together to spread the compassion of Allah to the disadvantaged thereby being a witness to Allah.

However, oftentimes the behavior of many Muslims is no different than that of non-believers.  For example, on my twitter feed I observed a Counselor frequently re-tweet a Psychologist whose many sayings appear to be spiritually wise.  I looked at the Psychologist’s twitter page and discovered that he had tweeted thousands of times, and had thousands of followers, he had only “liked” someone else’s tweet seven times. The Psychologist’s twitter behavior causes his words to become impotent because his behavior does not align with his teachings. We are to treat each other the same way we ourselves want to be treated. Our behavior must match that of our religion’s teachings or we present ourselves as hypocrites.  Some Muslims express the same twitter behavior as the Psychologist I mentioned by engaging in a twitter competitive, popularity contest.  Muslims on my twitter feed who have published books or who have thousands of followers rarely if at all “like” someone else’s posts. It is a pecking order of the worse sort.  The goal is to get the most followers while following the least number of people.  Instead of encouraging and lifting up other Muslims, they compete in the numbers game to come out on top.  And yet, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) teaches that the best among us is the one that is most pious.  And piety must have at its foundation humility.

The Ummah becomes weak by those who seek to subvert Allah’s will by following the way of unbelievers-the most respected are those with wealth, status and power.  The children’s movie, Happy Feet, is a good visual representation of the Muslim Twitter hierarchy.   The main character, Mumbles, is considered the least of the penguin colony because he can’t sing like the other penguins.  Instead, he dances.  Subsequently, Mumbles is made fun of , mocked and ostracized.  He goes on a journey to seek the truth regarding the decreasing number of fish in an attempt to help the colony and is directed to the character of “Lovelace.”  Lovelace represents the Muslims who seeks admiration based upon their power, wealth and status.  The penguins go to Lovelace for advice and answers because of his popularity, not because he has true spiritual wisdom.  In Mumbles case, Mumbles himself had the courage and wisdom to continue the journey without Lovelace’s advice.  Mumbles courageously risks his life for the good of the colony, and by so doing, reveals himself to be the true leader of the colony.


Lovelace, King of the rock mountain

Happy Feet – Lovelace video clip

In order for the Ummah to be strong and function as Allah’s wills, it must move together based upon the direction provided in the Qur’an.  Each individual must understand the need to submit to Allah in order for the Ummah to be an effective body.  The various sects need to focus on their Qur’an based similarities instead of their differences.  Many Muslims today believe Islam needs a revival.  However, in order for a revival to occur, the broken body must be healed.


We move together

individually using our strengths

to strengthen the whole.

We protect each other

thereby keeping the body safe.

We humbly bow together

to be raised up by Allah.

For so it is His will.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s