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Umma (pl. ummam) is a polysemous Qurʾānic term denoting:
- a group of people (ʿuṣba) within a larger community;
- as a synonym of qawm (people);
- Prophet Ibrāhīm, upon him peace, as a paragon of submission--ummatan qānitan (Q 16:120);
- past unbelieving generations;
- people to whom the Prophet Muḥammad, upon him blessings and peace, was sent, including those who accepted his message and became Muslim;
- as well as those who rejected it (kuffār);
- as a synonym of milla (religion, the way), always associated with a certain Prophet, implicitly or explicitly;
- all living creatures, including animals and birds (Q 6:38);
- a duration of time, ḥīn, “because it is a collection of years and months” (Q 11:8; 12:45);
(Muqātil, Wujūh wal-naẓāʾir pp. 47-49; Dāmaghānī, Wujūh wal-naẓāʾir, 1: 120; Ibn al-Jawzī, Nuzhat al-aʿyun, p. 147).
Definition and Usage
Umma, from the root '-m-m, appear 53 times in its singular form and 11 times in plural in nine distinct meanings.