Like many other terms, ummah is a loose concept with diverse, context-specific, and, historically speaking, contingent meanings. However, despite disagreements among some exegetes, its closest meaning is perhaps community or people with an origin in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Akkadian languages.

With the advent of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century CE, the term’s meaning shifted from fidelity to the communal form of tribal organization to loyalty grounded in shared religion. There are over 60 references to ummah in the Qur’an, and their meanings are very diverse and inclusive, such as “communities of animals,” djinn (nonhuman agents), “people who were sent a prophet,” humankind, a “generation of people with a shared belief system”; exclusive, such as “the community of Muslims” or some Muslims; ...

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