The Ideal Society: the Umma

Developing Just Leadership

Ali Shariati

Rajab 25, 1398 1978-07-01

Occasional Paper

by Ali Shariati

(Translated from Islamshinasi, Vol. 1, pp. 97 98.)

THE IDEAL SOCIETY OF ISLAM is called the umma. Taking the place of all the similar concept‑, which in different languages and cultures designate a human agglomeration or society, such as "society," "nation," "race, “people,” “tribe," ”clan," etc., is the single word umma, a word imbued with progressive spirit and implying a dynamic, committed and ideological social vision.

The word umma derives from the root amm, which has the sense of path and intention. The umma is, therefore, a society in which a number of individuals, possessing a common faith and goal, come together in harmony with the intention of advanc­ing and moving toward their common goal.

While other expressions denoting human agglomerations have taken unity of blood or soil and the sharing of material benefit as the criterion of society, Islam, by choosing the word umma, has made intellectual responsibility and shared move­ment toward a common goal the basis of its social philosophy.

The infrastructure of the umma is the economy, because "Whoever has no worldly life has no spiritual life." Its social system is based on equity and justice and ownership by the people, on the revival of the "system of Abel," the society of human equality and thus also of brotherhood‑the classless society. This is a fundamental principle, but it is not the aim, as in Western socialism, which has retained the world‑view of the Western bourgeoisie. The political philosophy and the form of regime of the umma is not the democracy of heads, not irrespon­sible and directionless liberalism which is a plaything of con­testing social forces, not putrid aristocracy, not anti‑popular dictatorship, not a self‑imposing oligarchy. It consists rather of “purity of leadership" (not the leader, for that would be fas­cism), committed and revolutionary leadership, responsible for the movement and growth of society on the basis of its world­view and ideology, and for the realization of the divine destiny of mail in the plan of creation. This is the true meaning of imamate!

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