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Umma and Globalization

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 38yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that wittgensteins is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
Umma and Globalization
Though there is a superficial plausibility in the suggestion that the umma is a precursor to globalization, but a closer and less cursory examination of the terms reveals that they are to be conflated at one's peril. Insofar as they both imply, where they do not demand, that it is becoming to see society in holistic terms, that is, vis a vis the overarching totality and excluding the localised units or indeed individuals that comprise it, then the comparison contains a grain of truth. But globalization is essentially an economic phenomenon; umma, first a political, then a relgious one. Micklethwait and Wooldridge expressly deny that globalization is coextensive with, and hence conceptually welded to, the march of the free-market, pointing out that it as much a cultural as an economic phenomenon. I suppose that they would accuse me of reductionism, that weasel word. This is not the place to go into the vexed and vexing topic of whether reductionism is as intellectually bankrupt as it is often made out to be. What I will say is this. Obviously the economic and the cultural are not discretely demarcated in reality, and it would be a perilous business to try to collapse one into the other. But it was Marx's great idea that, though the two realms are mutually interactive, it is nevertheless the case that economics, by which I mean the distribution of resources amongst self-interested rational actors, has causal priority. The cultural is to this extent is pure epiphenomena. Culture colours; economics moves. Economics, therefore, does not elide the social matrix it determines.

One reason why it would be mistake to identify umma with globalization is that they are each embedded in a historical context in terms of which we must understand them. I have already said that umma was first a political, and second a religious, concept. What I mean by this is that it originally arose in response to the exigencies of tribal warfare in seventh century Arabia. The origin of umma is conventionally traced to the hijra in 622. Increasingly persecuted for his radical religious beliefs in Mecca, Mohammad took the extremely bold of making a pilgrimage to Medina, a predominately Jewish region characterised by a myriad of conflicting kin-ship groups. Umma served the salutary purpose of uniting his own tribe, the Quraysh, and also the wider community of Medina over which he was exerting the increasing influence. It will be noted in passing that the death of Abu Talib had deprived Mohammad of the means of economic subsistence, and so a rapprochement with the Jewish communities was doubly important.

So far I have considered umma as an idelogical force. But, as Karen Armstrong has pointed out, it has since crystallised into a religious doctrine, with all the corresponding claims to truth which this implies. Umma was an attempt to base a society not on tribal affiliations but on unitary conception of the good life. It was to be a 'community of believers', purged of the paganism which had hitherto
splintered both the social and the private elements of Arabia. Umma, in turn, is parasitic on the idea of tawhid, the sense that life should be divinely ordered in a way which mirrors the economy and simplicity of a monotheistic universe. This was supplemented by the explicit egalitarianism of Islam, which prescribed that nobody, of whatever tribe, was to be left out of the divine plan.

Globalization is similarly egalitarian, in a way that is more radical and less assured. It is less assured because the play of market forces, the eclipse of the nation state which took upon itself the task of doling out the fruits of the economy to its citizens, will inevitably lead to financial inequalities far greater than anything ever possible before. It is more radical because it implies some sort of political decentralization, a devolution of power to the individual and a concomitant opening up of infinite possibilities, latent among which is that class can be transcended, that the lot of each can be improved so long as each has the will and wherewithal to make good the economic freedom which globalization has granted. Umma, whatever the cant about Muslim leaders being primus inter primus, is inherently hierarchical. This discrepancy can be explained in terms of the fact that a religious community will always defer to certain figures as possessed of greater veridical power. Mohammad, after all, had access to the word of God. Though globalisation by no means necessitates atheism, it does call into question such appeals to authority, and it renders the individual the final court of appeal in his own affairs.

Globalization makes the world smaller, as Hobsbawm said; or even flat, Friedman has suggested. The difference between regions, peoples and cultures are effaced, broadly, by three things: first, the growth of communications, which makes people propinquitous in time; second, the ease and relative cheapness of travel, which makes people propinquitous in space; and lastly, the world market, which brings about a convergence in people's life styles and the careers open to them. That said, the internal life may be left untouched by such external factors, and in this sense it is the umma which brings people closer together. John Gray has bewailed the deracination
of communal values by the tide of unfettered market processes, and it is questionable whether the atomised, free-standing individuals which globalization has fathered have greater understanding of those living in neighbouring continents than the those who shared and share a submission to the Quran.

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 68yrs • M •
A CTL of 1 means that Booky is a contributing member of Captain Cynic.
The "Ummah" appears to just be another name for the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven.


Creating a united Earth with one central gov is the only logical way for humanity to proceed.

A house divided can not stand.

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"Courage is the key to all advantages."
Umma and Globalization
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