I'm surprised nobody ever asked me why I state on my homenode that the Ummah is my company for life. I don't think the average person knows what it is. I put it up there some three years ago, after some thought, and proudly kept it there.

What is the Ummah? It is the community of believers in Islam. It's the worldwide fellowship of Muslims everywhere. One Nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. (truly, not just a motto or pledge)

That definition is so simple, and perhaps so simple that a typical reader will glance at it and move on. But let me tell you, it's something that words truly fail to describe. It's something that I came across when I was 17, and I could immediately sense it when I first started observing Muslims. Now, I don't know where I would be or how I could function if it wasn't there.

This community of people is strong. It's vast. It's intense. I don't exactly know how it forms, it's a combination of strong devotion to the Monotheistic faith, the frequency of prayers in a communal group, the fact that we are all similar despite the various languages. Early on, I used to think that it was because we were a minority in a non-Muslim country, but it's far more than that. I think it's because we all share a sense of the numinous. Read Jaez's definition of taqwa, but even that doesn't give you an appreciation of its power; I've seen people burst into tears as Islam becomes so real to them. Maybe that's what binds us. It makes us so alike one another and capable of such empathy for one another. Jesus, peace be upon him, told his followers to "love thy neighbor." The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, repeated that sentiment and also left us a shining example of how we should be as Muslims, especially towards one another

You could try to dismiss this sense of zeal and togetherness as part of a cult, but it's not that. Cults are small, isolated communities, often tied to one location or living leader, but Islam encompasses the globe. I was in Penn Station, North America's busiest train station, and I chance-encountered another Muslim traveler. Although I never met him before and we were quite different in age, we exchanged hearty handshakes, and greeted each other warmly. He called me "brother" and I asked him which way Mecca was. People have tried to con me and rip me off many times at the train station, but I trusted this man, a Muslim can sense one another kindred soul. I cannot tell you how often this has happened to me only in the last 3 years.

I've visited many various mosques within New York, and some outside. It doesn't matter if I only speak English and they only speak Pashto or Arabic, we know how to greet one another as brothers, and we all pray together, in the same direction and in the same language. The Muslims are the most hospitable group I have met in my life. If you are also Muslim as well, you are a brother to them and they will drop everything to help you. I've exchanged phone numbers with people I've barely known for five minutes, and yet it's like we've known each other for ages. I have to plead with Muslim cab drivers to accept my money, although we don't even know each other's last names or anything before I hop in for a ride.

Muslims are supposed to defend their families and their faith to the death. This is called loyalty. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “The Muslim Community (Ummah) is like a body; if one part is in distress, the whole suffers.” The Muslims I've met, and this is thousands of them, actually take it to heart instead of just a token gesture. If one of my friends needs help, we all come to his or her aid. If someone in the community is ill or grieving, the group assists.

There is something aweing about it. We are one Ummah, we are bound together. When Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Indonesia suffer, we feel their pain. I found myself sobbing at a total stranger's funeral, though I doubt I ever met him before and there was no eulogy on him. I've spent hours on the phone counseling my brothers, although we are not related by family. That's something I still can't describe in words, the Ummah is a family, perhaps even stronger than a blood one. My brothers earnestly care for me, and I love them as much as or more than family, despite being the only son in my family.