Prophet Musa’s People and Prophet Muhammad’s Ummah

By Spahic Omer

Prophet Musa and the various aspects of his prophetic mission are the most recurring themes in the Qur’an. His name is mentioned 136 times. The reason for this is because the episodes of Musa’s life, as well as his prophethood, were the most dramatic and most consequential. They in turn were part of one of the most fateful chapters in the history of mankind, which is the establishment and implementation of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Covenant was first supposed to be fulfilled by the Children of Israel – to whom Musa had been sent as prophet – but they both failed and refused to do so, having been deficient in the necessary prerequisites.

After persisting for ages in their transgressions and rebellions against God and His prophets – hence never fulfilling their potentials and never reaching the standards set especially by Musa – the Children of Israel were cursed and stripped of heavenly privileges. Theirs was an unfulfilled promise that led to a failed legacy, standing as an example not of how things should, but should not, be done. As a consequence, the Promised Land, around which the gist of the Abrahamic Covenant revolved, proved sometimes to be a cursed land and at other times a land of make-believe. And instead of attracting each other, the Land and the Children of Israel were increasingly repelling each other.

As their last window of opportunity, the Children of Israel were asked to redeem themselves and follow the final messenger of God, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and his family). By becoming members of Muhammad’s universal community, another chance for participating in the fulfilment of the Abrahamic Covenant would have presented itself, albeit not on the basis of the idea of national exclusivity, but rather the idea of global inclusivity.

The Children of Israel would have joined hands with their brother nation: Muslims. As members of a global fraternity, they would have been led by Muhammad, the younger brother of the Semitic family, whose primary task was to confirm and exonerate the legacies of all the previous prophets, including his brothers from the Semitic lineage. The notion of a chosen and preferred nation would then have been changed into the notion of a favourite class or category, based not on a constrained race, but unbounded faith. Similarly, the notion of the Promised Land would have been changed into a segment of the notion of the promised earth, shifting from historical particularism to future universalism.

Needless to say that the Abrahamic Covenant was ultimately fulfilled by Prophet Muhammad in his capacity as Abraham’s (Prophet Ibrahim’s) best descendent and son, and by his followers, Muslims, in their capacity as Abraham’s best descendants and sons. It was only Muhammad and Muslims who followed in the footsteps of Abraham, duly implementing his religious teachings and living up to the provisos of the Covenant. Thus, the Qur’an explicitly tells Muslims that Abraham’s religion is their religion, and that he was their ideological “father” (al-Hajj 78).

The majority of the Children of Israel never achieved this honourable status, prompting Jesus (Prophet ‘Isa) to accuse them of betraying both the mandates of Abraham and God. To Jesus, those people were mere hypocrites, trying to manipulate as much history as scriptures. He told them: “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father…If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him” (John 8:31-47).

The idea of a nation (people) and the idea of an ummah

The Qur’anic extensive references to the personality of Prophet Musa served as a prelude to that of Prophet Muhammad, and the calling of the former as a precursor to that of the latter. As if the Qur’an calls attention to the fact that Muhammad’s mission was the climax, as well as realization, of a process set in motion most prominently by Musa, and that Muslims embody all the qualities and virtues that the Children of Israel were meant to possess, but ultimately fell short of.

Due to this, to many people, the mention of a future prophet similar to Prophet Musa in the following account of the Old Testament aims at no one but Prophet Muhammad: “I will raise up for them a prophet (i.e. Muhammad) like you (i.e. Moses) from among their kindred” (Deuteronomy 18:18).

There are two major Qur’anic terms used interchangeably with regard to the prophethoods of Musa and Muhammad: a nation (qawm or people) and an ummah.

A nation (or a people) is defined as mere human beings or persons making up a group or assembly linked by common worldly interests, such as a culture, tradition, ethnic group, or a sense of kinship. A nation is also the mass of a community as distinguished from a special class. This means that, considering that man is by nature a social being, the existence of a nation as a group linked by naturally common characteristics is a biological-cum-existential necessity to which anybody: good or bad, competent or otherwise, can belong. Unless someone is racist or harbours nationalistic tendencies – both of which are abominable traits – there is nothing inherently special about one people over another. Peoples or nations are generally what they are, not what they want to be.

An ummah, on the other hand, is a category, or a community, of people who transcend the naturally common worldly concerns and measures, and subscribe to the standards of a higher order, such as faith, righteousness and good work. Within the scope of an ummah, the significance of a nation (qawm) is relative and operates subserviently to the implications of the significance of an ummah. Accordingly, the creation of an ummah is the ultimate goal, while the existence of a nation is an expedient means. The former furthermore is a privilege and honour, which must be consciously chosen and earned, whereas the latter connotes a utility and engineered label, which can be inherited and even manipulated. It goes without saying that the members of an ummah are unavoidably the members of a nation or nations, while the members of a nation are not necessarily the members of an ummah.

Humans were created as nations, but were expected to be elevated to ummahs by means of sending prophets with the divine guidance. That is why the Qur’an emphatically declares that no single people (nation) was neglected in that regard: “For We assuredly sent amongst every nation (people) a messenger, (with the command): ‘Serve Allah and eschew evil’” (al-Nahl 36). From the very beginning, the choice was placed into the hands of people: to remain trapped in the lows of their inherited station, or to aim for the highest ontological grades.

It is interesting to observe – as a short detour – that such is the Qur’anic style that, since all nations were intended and were invited to become ummahs, sometimes some of them were called ummahs from the start before they even became, or failed to become, ummahs. This could be the case owing to the following construal – and Almighty Allah knows best. If those nations became ummahs, all would have been well and good, but if they did not, that means that they resolutely and en bloc decided not to give up their earlier falsehood paradigms in favour of the truth conveyed by their messengers. Inasmuch as they still rallied around the powerful – yet false – ideologies and life systems of theirs, those nations rendered themselves, instead of ummahs, pseudo-ummahs. The Qur’an calls them ummahs rather symbolically, also suggesting that they had squandered all their chances and that their instances had become of might-have-beens.

Underscoring the complexity and depth of the concept of ummah, the Qur’an also associates it with the meanings of “religion” and “emulated role model.” The former implies the unified orientation and purpose, and the latter the approach and behavioural style. The Qur’an thus states that if Allah had willed, He could have made all people of one religion (one “ummah” with the same disposition) (al-Nahl 93). The Qur’an also points out that Prophet Ibrahim was an “ummah”, that is to say, a “leader”, a “model” and an embodiment of so much truth and virtue as can be found in entire nations and communities (al-Nahl 120).

The people – not ummah – of Prophet Musa

The Qur’an keeps referring to the Children of Israel as a mere people (nation), or the people of Prophet Musa. Musa, too, persistently addresses them as “his people.” Not even once does the Qur’anic discourse call them an ummah. Moreover, to give emphasis to its intent, the Qur’an on a couple of occasions refers to the small group of believers among the Children of Israel – during Musa’s time and afterwards – as an ummah, calling to mind the prestige they as a larger group were required to achieve, but did not.

For example, the Qur’an states: “And among the people of Musa is a community (ummah) which guides by truth and by it establishes justice” (al-A’raf 159); “Among them (Jews and Christians) are a moderate community (ummah), but many of them – evil is that which they do” (al-Ma’idah 66); “They are not (all) the same; among the People of the Scripture (from Musa’s to Muhammad’s time) is a community (ummah) standing (in obedience), reciting the verses of Allah during periods of the night and prostrating (in prayer)” (Alu ‘Imran 113).

The Children of Israel did not merit the status of an ummah because they persisted in rebelling against God and betraying Musa. So much so that Musa at one point lamented: “O my people (qawm), why do you vex and insult me while you certainly know that I am the messenger of Allah to you?” God then affirmed that only after they themselves had deviated, did He cause their hearts to deviate, and that He did not guide them solely on account of His guidance being incompatible with their reputation as “the defiantly disobedient people” (al-Saff 5).

As a result, Musa did not feel that his people truly belonged to him, nor that he belonged to them. There endured a spiritual and psychological gap between them. For Musa, his people remained just an assemblage of human beings that made up a socio-cultural group. They remained alienated from each other, much like Dhul Qarnayn and the three random nations (qawm) he encountered on his voyages (al-Kahf 86-93).

Hence, when Musa and his people were fleeing from Egypt, pursued by Pharaoh and his ruthless army, facing the obstacle of the Red Sea, Musa proclaimed that God was with “him.” Though accompanied by multitudes, Musa did not say that God was with “them” or “us.” Despite standing side by side, confronting the same adversary, Musa and his people were spiritually estranged. They were never completely in sync and their perspectives never fully aligned.

And right there, during the most critical moment of his prophetic career, Musa felt alone. God was the only one he had faith in and could rely upon. Nevertheless, he chose to keep a distance between his people and God. After coming to terms with their spiritual deficiencies, Musa felt that they were undeserving of anything better.

Consequently, when speaking of the highest spiritual dominion, Musa only mentioned himself: “Indeed, with me (not with “us”) is my Lord; He will guide me (not “us”)” (al-Shu’ara’ 62). This response seems all the more remarkable when contrasted with the preceding exclamation of the Children of Israel, wherein they used the pronoun “we”: “Those with Musa said: ‘Indeed, we are to be overtaken!” (al-Shu’ara’ 61). Without a doubt, Musa’s decision to meet his people’s pronoun “we” with his pronoun “me” highlights the intense estrangement in their relationship.

Henceforth, Musa’s relationship with his people steadily declined, leaving Musa to endure and wish for a swift turn of events. Regrettably, things were going from bad to worse. Musa controlled his emotions and showed compassion towards his people, remembering their past sufferings under the oppressive regime of Egypt. He acknowledged their mistakes and misbehaviour by merely labelling them as “ignorant” and admitting that “they had brought injustice upon themselves.” Musa conveyed the message that if Pharaoh was mistreating them and acting unfairly towards them physically, they were also inflicting harm upon themselves spiritually. They were their own oppressors. If Musa could help them with regard to the former, he could not do much concerning the latter. In the absence of self-initiated spiritual growth, no one else could aid the Children of Israel.

Finally, when they betrayed Musa by refusing to enter the Promised Land, for which the entire prophethood enterprise of Musa had been initiated, enough was enough. It was right then and there that Musa declared, once and for all, that his people would never be able to progress from the low level of a nation to the commendable level of an ummah. Musa announced his disassociation from the rebellious segments of his people, calling them defiant wrongdoers.

Musa’s declaration indirectly also conveyed that his people were not fully prepared to carry out the honourable duties of the Abrahamic Covenant, lacking the necessary basic requirements. Such was the rigor and nobility of the Covenant that it surpassed the abilities of a nation. That feat could only be achieved by an ummah. And since there was no ummah other than the ummah of Prophet Muhammad that ever afterwards could fit the bill, it was the same ummah – as history and the living legacy of Islamic civilization could authenticate – that truly fulfilled the Covenant.

Musa addressed God after the overwhelming aspects of his corrupted people had rejected the opportunity to enter the Promised Land and begin building the foundations of an ummah: “O my Lord! I have power only over myself and my brother: so separate us from this defiantly disobedient people!” (al-Ma’idah 25).

By taking these courses of action, the future of the Children of Israel was set in stone and their fate was sealed. It was their lot to forever be a people, playing a minor role in the grand narrative of civilization and operating as its footnote.

The concept of nation hinders while that of ummah empowers

That said, if the Children of Israel had only listened to and followed the counsels of Musa, the possibilities would have been limitless. They would have been made an ummah, giving them the means to inherit the earth. In place of being subjugated and forced to serve others, they would have had the opportunity to become the rulers of their own destinies and of others as well. By practicing righteousness, they would have suppressed the wickedness of other nations, controlling and eliminating it entirely.

But since they did not do that, they allowed their wrongdoings to overcome them, making themselves vulnerable to the influences of the religious and cultural persuasions of other nations. This led them to become slaves to their own transgressions and to the transgressions of those who constantly manipulated or conquered them.

The Children of Israel were presented with a choice: to liberate themselves and others or be denied liberty; to rule as an ummah or be ruled as a nation; and to be the inheritors of the earth or to fall short and let the earth close in upon them, allowing the earth to become nothing but the locus of their failures as well as the necropolis of their vain ambitions and goals. Indeed, it was clear that the Children of Israel were ill-equipped to comprehend the gravity of the nation-ummah dynamics they had been thrust into. Little did they know that their actions could determine their standing in the world, leave a lasting impact in history, and solidify their presence in the minds of people. On the other hand, their actions could also hinder their growth and hinder their chances of individual and national greatness.

Advising them to be patiently motivated and aspiring, and to seek help only in their Creator and Lord, Musa told the Children of Israel: “Seek help through Allah and be patient. Indeed, the earth belongs to Allah. He causes to inherit it whom He wills of His servants. And the (best) outcome is for the righteous…Perhaps your Lord will destroy your enemy and grant you succession on the earth and see how you will do” (al-A’raf 128-129).

Prophet Muhammad and his ummah

Both the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad refer to Muslims as an ummah. In addition, they are regularly given a range of praiseworthy descriptions, attesting to their qualities that pertain to faith, piety, obedience, high moral standards and excellence not only in discharging their spiritual, but also worldly, assignments. However, one thing is certain: as a community of believers, Muslims are never depicted as a mere people (qawm).

To make things yet more emphatic, the nonbelieving segments of those to whom Prophet Muhammad had been sent – in particular the polytheistic Quraysh of Makkah – are referred to as belonging to the people (qawm) who refused to follow Muhammad. For instance, the Qur’an says: “So what is (the matter) with those people (qawm) that they can hardly understand any statement?” (al-Nisa’ 78); “But your people (qawm) have denied it while it is the truth. Say: ‘I am not over you a manager’” (al-An’am 66); “And the Messenger has said: ‘O my Lord, indeed my people (qawm) have taken this Qur’an as (a thing) abandoned” (al-Furqan 30).

The Qur’an also tends to brand the complete Quraysh tribe as a people (qawm), whom Prophet Muhammad had targeted first with his prophetic mission, and who later, after responding differently to the mission, became divided into two categories: believers (ummah) and non-believers (remaining just a people and so, an unfulfilled potential). The Qur’an says for example: “Or do they say: ‘He invented it’? Rather, it is the truth from your Lord, (O Muhammad), that you may warn a people (the Quraysh as qawm) to whom no warner has come before you (so) perhaps they will be guided” (al-Sajdah 3); “That you may warn a people (the Quraysh as qawm) whose forefathers were not warned, so they are unaware” (Ya Sin 6).

According to the Qur’an – it follows – the Quraysh and then every other tribe, nation, or community were simply groups of people with spiritual and civilizational potential. Through Islam, they were given the chance to awaken and become enlightened, evolving into an ummah that will embrace at once spiritual fulfilment and cultural advancement. Otherwise, they would have remained dormant. Unrefined and unfulfilled, they would have promoted prejudice and close-mindedness, while neglecting social and cultural inclusivity, and would have advocated for discriminatory and dogmatic individualism, rather than embracing a universal existential and spiritual perspective.

Put differently, Islam aims to rescue the world from the fetters of the minimalism and crudeness of mere tribes, nations and peoples, leading it to the liberty and sophistication of a universal ummah whose cosmopolitan ethos is celebrated and also optimized for attaining the highest degrees of righteousness and virtue. In reality, nations are the means for an ummah, additionally functioning as its building blocks. Without adequately cultivating the former, the latter cannot be realized. However, if nurtured incorrectly for their own sake, nations not only fail to reach their potentials, but also become a threat. Instead of contributing to the realization and sustainability of an ummah, they can undermine and even destroy it.

These messages are emphasized in two verses of the Qur’an where Muslims are described not just as an ummah, but also the best ummah ever. In the first verse, the Qur’an stresses that, as the best ummah, Muslims serve as a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration. It also brings attention to a fundamental aspect of the Muslim ummah identity, which is the combination of faith in God with the responsibility to promote good and prevent wrongdoing. The Qur’an says: “You are the best ummah produced (as an example) for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” (Alu ‘Imran 110).

In the second verse, the Qur’an underscores the significance of Muslims as the best ummah and a benchmark for others. As part of this role, they will be witnesses to the nations (the entirety of mankind) which, while persisting in the inadequate state of mere nations and peoples, did not embrace or become part of the best ummah.

The mantle of the best ummah stands for a proof of Muslims’ faithful internalization and practice of Islam. Which means that it is not a choice, but rather a responsibility, to become the best ummah. Or else, Prophet Muhammad will be a witness against his followers for failing in their both religious and civilizational duties.

In any case, Muslims have a choice: they can meet the standards of the best ummah and testify against others, or falter and be testified against by their prophet. The Qur’an says: “And thus we have made you a middle and justly balanced (i.e. the best) ummah that you will be witnesses over the nations and the Messenger will be a witness over you” (al-Baqarah 143).

Comparing some deeds of Prophet Musa’s people and Prophet Muhammad’s ummah

We have already mentioned that when Prophet Musa faced the most critical challenges, he felt isolated. His people were numerous, but only a handful could be trusted. Thus, during the exodus, when caught between Pharaoh and his army on one side, and the Red Sea on the other, Musa made a distinction between himself and his people. While conversing with them, he met their use of “us” with his own pronoun “me.” They represented two separate universes functioning independently.

This is in stark contrast to Prophet Muhammad’s experiences, who also faced numerous critical challenges. In one instance, while secretly migrating from Makkah to Madinah, the Prophet took shelter with his closest companion, Abu Bakr, in the cave Thawr. It must be pointed out – by the way – that Abu Bakr was not only a companion, but also a representative, yet a microcosm, of the Muslim ummah. Surrounded by the pursuing enemy and thinking of the worst scenarios, Abu Bakr worried. Comforting him, the Prophet said to him: “Do not grieve; indeed, Allah is with us” (al-Tawbah 40).

The inclusion of the pronoun “us” in the Prophet’s words suggests a strong bond and a shared identity between himself and his ummah. They identified with one another: the Prophet was the ummah, and the ummah, in turn, was him. As such, their destinies were also one and the same. Together they created them, lived through them, and, whenever necessary, they were ready to defend them by any means necessary. While in the case of Musa and his people there were “us” and “me” (“Indeed, with me is my Lord”), in the case of Muhammad and his ummah there was only “us” (“Indeed, Allah is with us”).

Furthermore, the Qur’an says that those who disbelieved among the Children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of Prophets Dawud (David) and ‘Isa (Jesus). That was so because they disobeyed and habitually transgressed. “They used not to prevent one another from wrongdoing that they did. How wretched was that which they were doing” (al-Ma’idah 79).

The prescribed assignment of the Children of Israel was to stop and safeguard one another against wrongdoing. So engrossed in committing evil were they that they almost became synonymous with it. Hence, the priority for the Children of Israel was to defend and keep each other safe from their own misconducts. Commensurate with the implications of being a nation, they had neither the time nor the credentials for others. If they were not guided, how could they guide others? If they could not correct their own ways, how could they detect and mend the wrong ways of others?

However, the situation of an ummah is dissimilar to that of a nation. As the best ummah, the Qur’an reminds that the assignments of Muslims are not limited to themselves, but also extend to others. They are expected not just to stop each other from doing wrong, but also to deter others from doing so, hence the words of the Qur’an in relation to the Muslim ummah: “(You are) enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong” (Alu ‘Imran 110).

As the sole community following the right path, the Muslim ummah has the responsibility to radiate positivity to others and be a beacon of hope for the world. The mission of Muslims is to try to save the world from the abyss of falsehood, ignorance and the infinite forms of prejudice. True, they are not perfect. However, the imperfections of the genuine components of the best ummah are not deliberate, but accidental (“slip-ups” as per the Qur’anic vocabulary). Their focus is on goodness, not wickedness, as the latter is incompatible with the concept of ummah. As such, it is only Muslims who have what it takes to preach to the world, and to try to bring it to the path of moral and spiritual uprightness.

Indeed, as the trajectory of the nation of the Children of Israel kept progressing from weakness to weakness, and from failure to failure, the trajectory of the Muslim ummah moved from strength to strength and from success to success. For that reason does the Qur’an bring to light that, instead of deterring each other from committing evil acts (which is not their way of life), the members of the Muslim ummah join together in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy (al-‘Asr 3). They know that the cure for evil is ubiquitous goodness, and that the best remedy for the spread of the former is the diffusion of the latter. In point of fact, the two cannot coexist. Goodness is intrinsic and real, evil constructed and artificial; in the face of goodness, evil simply evaporates.

Prophet Muhammad even appeared to have sympathy for Musa and the struggles he faced with his people. The Prophet was aware that his problems with his people were much smaller compared to those of Musa. Thus, in the aftermath of the battle of Hunayn in the 8th year following the hijrah or migration to Madinah, after some unscrupulous persons had accused the Prophet of being unjust, the Prophet sought out an extra source of succour. Finding it in the life-story of Musa, the Prophet remarked: “May Allah have mercy on Musa! He was hurt by more than this, yet he remained patient” (Sahih al-Bukhari).

Finally, if the people of Musa reached the nadir of nonconformity and sin when they arrived at the threshold of the Promised Land, and were supposed to enter it by inaugurating a new culture of jihad, the ummah of Muhammad – on the contrary – came of age during the first battle of Badr, which marked a pivotal moment for the future. At that particular juncture, Musa’s people betrayed him yet again, causing him great pain. Their blatant impudence and depravity were evident in their words: “O Musa, indeed we will not enter it (the Promised Land), ever, as long as they (the strong and tyrannical people) are within it; so go, you and your Lord, and fight. Indeed, we are remaining right here” (al-Ma’idah 24).

However, when he was faced with the prospect of a first and most decisive fight at the plains of Badr – reminiscent of Musa’s arrival at the brink of the Promised Land – Prophet Muhammad worried whether his ummah was ready. He furthermore wondered if they had the necessary qualities to transition from being a group of people to becoming a unified ummah.

Nonetheless, all the worries of the Prophet were laid to rest when the Muslims told him the following: “O Messenger of Allah! Proceed where Allah directs you to, for we are with you. We will not say as the Children of Israel said to Musa: ‘Go you and your Lord and fight and we will stay here’; rather we shall say: ‘Go you and your Lord and fight and we will fight along with you.’ By Allah! If you were to take us to Barik al-Ghimad, we will still fight resolutely with you against its defenders until you gained it.’”

These words and the way they were spoken, were a sign that the Muslims had matured and had become not only an ummah, but also the best ummah. They demonstrated their ability to overcome and bury the inherent disadvantages of being just a group of people (a nation), and were ready to fully embrace the guaranteed returns entailed in the idea and actual marvel of the ummah. Making reference to the inadequacy of the nation of the Children of Israel was by no means coincidental. It denoted both the profound wisdom of Muslims and their willingness to differentiate themselves from the nations with failed civilizational legacies. From that moment on, the future belonged to the best ummah; it did not take long for them to start dominating the nations of the world.

It should not be surprising, based on the information above, that Prophet Muhammad’s mantra on the Day of Judgement, when exercising his right of intercession, will be “my ummah, my ummah (ummati, ummati).”

Prophet Muhammad meets Prophet Musa

According to several authentic hadiths or traditions of Prophet Muhammad, during the event of Isra and Mi’raj, the Prophet met Musa. The latter asked if Almighty God had ordained something for the Prophet’s followers during the auspicious occasion of the Mi’raj (ascension into heaven). The Prophet answered that fifty daily prayers had been ordained. To that, Musa retorted that the Prophet’s followers would not be able to perform so many prayers, so he advised the Prophet to return to God and ask for a remission in the number. The Prophet did as advised, but Musa continuously insisted on making repeat visits and requesting further leniency, because the Prophet’s followers would not be able to cope.

This, too, the Prophet heeded, returning to God again and again. In the end, when the daily prayers were reduced to only five, Musa still wanted the Prophet to ask for further reduction. However, the Prophet replied: “I feel ashamed now of repeatedly asking my Lord for reduction. I accept and resign to His Will (i.e. that five daily prayers become an obligation)” (Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri, the Sealed Nectar).

It is fascinating to recognize that in their conversations, Musa was looking at the issue of prayer through the prism of his people’s character, whereas Prophet Muhammad was doing the same through the prism of the character of his ummah. Musa knew who he had and Muhammad knew who he has. Musa knew he could not rely on his rebellious people, but Muhammad knew he could trust his obedient and accomplished ummah.

While there was nothing that could galvanize the people of Musa, Muhammad understood that the institution of prayer will be that centre of gravity around which all aspects of the arduous processes of personality-refinement and ummah-building will revolve. Muhammad further knew that prayer will be his ummah’s greatest asset, making the ummah, in turn, the greatest asset of all humanity. And just as prayer has been ordained at the highest levels of the metaphysical existence, the highest levels of one’s personal and collective (ummah) existence can only be achieved through it. Definitely, for the ummah, the sky (heaven) is the limit, but for nations, the trivialities of earthly life and matter. ***

(Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer is an academic in the Department of History and Civilisation, AbdulHamid AbuSulayman Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia.)