Islamic Umma and Nationalism in a Postmodern World

Nationalism that developed in Europe reached the Muslim world in the 20th century, and it hardly brought peace as it brought ethnic and religious rivalries to the fore. Simultaneously, the growth of multiculturalism in a globalized postmodern world is threatening national sovereignty. Secular Liberals such as Jurgen Habermas warns that a national consciousness based on a culturally homogenous population has lost its integrative potential at the expense of growing diverse complex societies. Hence, both Eastern and Western scholars ask the same question: what would a new global order look like?

Despite the historical existence of the Islamic umma in different forms across various political governments, umma remains an equivocal concept that needs further exploration. This talk explores the umma as a socio-political and philosophical concept in the Qur’an. What is the difference between umma and a nation? How does it relate to religion and deal with diversity? Does the umma have any political significance? And how does it relate to political power? Can the umma compete with the nation state as a viable local unit/ global order in a postmodern world?

Jointly organised by the Faculty of Oriental Studies and the Middle East Centre