Ummah or Nation
American Journal of Islam and Society
The interaction of societies and worldviews is one of the great themesof modem world history. Abdullah al-Ahsan makes an important contributionto the explanation and W1derstanding of these interactions in thecontext of the Islamic world. In particular, he concentrates on the issuesof ultimate sociopolitical identity and how it is affected by the attitudesand beliefs of modem Muslims: the dual loyalty to "nation" and to thegreater Islamic commnity (ummah).This book opens with a discussion of the
... a discussion of the term "um.mah" and its conceptualdevelopment in Islamic history. Then it addresses the development of nationalism in the modem world, particularly during the colonialera in Turkey, Egypt, and South Asia, and leading to "the identity crisisof the modem Muslim." Al-Ahsan concludes with a discussion of contemporarytransnational Muslim organizations, giving special attention to theOrganization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which he describes as botha potentially ummatic entity and an organization of nation-states."The problematic relationship between European secular thought andtraditional Islamic ideas has created an identity crisis in contemporaryMuslim society" (p. 145), al-Ahsan says. This is not just a matter of thecoexistence of different identities within an individual or group, which isnatural; rather it involves defining a Muslim's "supreme loyalty." Forsuch a loyalty to be successful it should "be strong enough to generate asense of unity among its adherents and at the same time be flexibleenough to accommodate other identities within its fold" (p. 146). This isa matter of individual identity and "an adherent should have the freedom ...