Monotheism 1 – What Is Monotheism

Jamal Badawi


Channel: Jamal Badawi


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Salam Alaikum Peace be upon you, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to a new episode of Islamic focus. I am Mohammed Hosni, and I will be acting as your host on today's program. We have been promising you for several weeks now, a series of episodes dealing with the fundamental teachings and tenets of Islam. And I'm happy to announce to you today that today's program would be the first in that series.

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With us today is Dr. Gamal, by the way, professor at St. Mary's University, and he will help us to elucidate some of the basic concepts and maybe define some of the fundamental terminology that would be necessary prerequisite for any reasonable understanding of the wealth of ideas comprised in Islam. Dr. Gamal welcome to our program. And I think the best point to start

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at is the extent of the Muslim presence in the world. And whether every Muslim is an Arab and every Arab is a Muslim, as a lot of people may tend to believe. See, the whole notion of a Muslim being an Arab, in long, flowing robes of our camel or horse, is a kind of stereotype that seems to have been deliberately perpetrated by the media, not only by the media, but even some of the more respectable writing seems, somehow to imply this kind of stereotype. Indeed, you'd be surprised to know that Muslims, the Arab, the Arab section of Muslims, in fact, constitute a small minority among Muslims. In other words, the Muslims who are Arabs, at the same time, constitute nearly 15%, that's almost

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one seventh of the total world population, or Muslim population, I should say.

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In fact, the reverse is also true that not every Arab is a Muslim. In other words, there are many Arabs also who are Christians or Jews and have been for years living in, in Arab countries. So this is, like I said, it's a kind of false stereotype that is normally associated with everything from popeye the sailor man to cartoons and paper to writings. It's not a true picture. Indeed, the total Muslim world population

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gets quite close to 1 billion, there are various estimates, some are somewhat under estimated. One recent issue of the Time magazine estimated the total Muslims all over the world as 1700 750 million. There are other studies that shows it's actually closer to 1 billion

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Muslims all over the world. But in any case, that would place it either as the largest face universal face on Earth, or at least a close second, because according to the same time issue, it estimates the total number of followers of Christianity with various sects, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodox and all others, combined at 985 million.

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So that, like I said, puts Islam either the largest face if you take 1 billion as the estimate, or a close second, really. So it's a universal religion, really, rather than something that's

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necessarily connected with Arabs. You might, I might give you some examples of places where people only hear about when news breaks about.

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Most people would think of Muslims, if not only limited to the herbs as mainly concentrated an African or Asian countries. Of course, in combined Asia and Africa, they should be close to 700 million Muslims. And definitely This is the largest concentration. But on the other hand, there are also many places in the world where Muslims have even a majority outside of Asia and Africa.

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Yes, for example, in Europe, Turkey is close to 98 to 99%. Muslim Albania, which is now under a communist occupation.

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Estimated even according to the Time Magazine, some people even would place the estimate at higher than that. But according to the time estimate, there is about 70% of the total population in Albania are Muslims. There have been several reports also relatively recently showing that on Europe as a whole, they on the continent level, Muslims constitute the second largest religion in Europe.

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followed in Europe. Beside this, of course. And this might explain sometimes the discrepancy between the estimates there are many places where Muslims constitute a substantial minority. Also, in Russia, for example, after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, many questions have been raised about the effect of that Sonic revival on the Muslim population under Russian occupation, which are estimated now as about 60 million

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Muslims, that's almost 25% of the total Soviet Union and China there's at least 20 million perhaps more than that. In India, even though Muslims are a minority, that they're a substantial minority of 80 million. In addition, of course, to Muslim presence, and considerable minorities in places like the Philippines.

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In North America, even to some extent there is presence, which is growing, and many other places in the world. In fact,

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the reflects or show the universality of Islam as a universal faith. There is nearly 120 different countries in the world or more, which has Muslims as either minority or majority and 57, roughly 757 countries, the Muslims constitute a substantial majority of the population. So the notion like I said, it's basically a lot of people who find it very strange to believe that a place like Russia has 50 million Muslims, whereas Egypt is considered an Islamic country it's going through has less than that, right?

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Okay, having established that, not every Arab is a Muslim, or not every Muslim is an Arab, maybe we should move to the following point, the following misconception which is, Islam being always talked about as a religion, like Christianity is a religion Judaism is a religion or any other of the religions of the world. And then the problem of sacred versus secular, which is almost becoming a proverbial dichotomy. And whether this dichotomy really exists in Islam

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at all, the whole notion of so called sacred versus secular, is something that stemmed largely in western thinking. And for most

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people in the West, when you mentioned the word religion, it's automatically tied in their minds with the ritualistic or spiritual aspect of life, something just acts of worship.

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And according to this, they seem to be an implication that life is compartmentalised. In two major components. One component is a sacred or religious dogma is a secular and

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the religious part relate concerns itself mainly with the spiritual and moral aspects of life.

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The personal relationship between the person and the Creator, Hawaiian, the secular aspect is everything else, that is everything that does not fall within the boundaries of this very limited definition of what religion is, would fall under the secular. And as such religion does not really play a very significant role as a regulatory force in the social, economic or political life of the individual, the Muslim find that kind of dichotomy, unacceptable and quite inconsistent. In fact, with the nature of Islam as the Muslim understand it, at least there are three basic reasons for that.

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On the etymological level, the word itself, religion, in the western dictionary, if you'd get the equivalent of that in Arabic, it's the word militarily not related not gene, as we use it in the word we use for for Islam. Exactly. We don't use it for that. It's simply you know, something which is limited and ritualistic. But the actual word used for, quote, unquote, religion as again, a broader term is Dean an Arabic d n, which means a way or a way of life. And that's, that doesn't really have an exact word in English. No, I don't think that there's any single English word really, that would convey the meaning or technology of the idea. And that's why I have some reservations

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about we use the term religion to refer to Islam because the religion is connotated in the minds of most Western audiences with its limited conception. But like I said, if I may put it in more than one word, as a way of life, total guidance in life, then it follows from that that there is no compartmentalization that there is no separation between religious and secular or sacred and secular, because you could worship God in a way by following his commands and way of life in your socio economic political life that people call secular. And you can also conduct the so called secular activities, according to the injunction

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Then broad guidance that is provided by by revelation. This is one thing. The the second major area, of course, that reflect on this dichotomy is that, historically speaking,

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the development of Muslim civilization has been quite different than what happened in the West. For example, in the case of Islam, the more people were sincere in the application of their faith in the various facets of their life, the more they had material, progress and civilization, prosperity and prosperity, the more they deviated from the Christian teachings of their faith, the more they become, they became backwards.

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In other words, there was a complete harmonious correspondence between following the precepts of the faith as a total way of life and progress and civilization. And the reverse is true. And this course is stands in contrast to the what happened, for example, in Europe, where the trend actually was reversed exactly the opposite, exactly the opposite. That's why it is very important for students of Islam, especially if they don't have, you know, the standard background or they don't really have the commitment, not to try to interpret Islam and put it in the western frame of reference. They have to interpret Islam as it is so petrification of church and state right now, which is totally

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irrelevant, really in the in the mind of the Muslim altogether.

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Good. So, at this point, we have cleared up exactly where the Muslims are in the world, whether all Muslims are Arabs or not. And we have cleared the misconception, the common misconception that Islam is just another religion, and that secular and sacred should be dichotomized should be separated in Islam, like in any other faith or any other religion. Now, in a lot of the literature about Islam, some of the most notable references in our university libraries about Islam,

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call it mohammedanism. As a matter of fact, the famous book of Hamilton, which is one of the main differences of Islam is called mohammedanism. Is this a proper name? And why do Muslims never use that name is only used in the West? It is like one scholar quoted, he says the misunderstanding of Islam starts with its very name for the month, no, it's not the same and mohammedanism is not an alternative name for Islam. In fact, it is regarded as an offensive and improper

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title to give to the Muslims no matter how spread. And that includes also the various derivatives of the word like referring to Muslims as mohammedans, instead of Muslim followers of Maha photos of hunt. There are four basic reasons for that, first of all, that absolutely, there is no basis whatsoever of that term mohammedanism as derived, let's say from the scriptures of Islam, or the saying of the prophet or the the name even used by Muslims, they never refer to that. So the title is baseless. But aside from the title being best, as there is a second reason also,

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the fact of the tendency to use mohammedanism tends to replace it with the more authentic title. And by authentic I mean, a title which is given the name of the religion or the face is given actually, in the scriptures of Islam, it's given in the Quran, it's used by the prophet of Islam, and throughout the 1400 years of the history of Muslims.

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They have been using also the term Islam rather than Mohammed ism. So this is another reason why the place the authentic term was some alien term that comes from a different frame of mind. A third reason is that when you use the term Mohammed and isn't given the fact that many other faiths in the world also derive their names from people who are regarded by some as their founders. It also gives a kind of false impression either that Mohammed is worshipped by Muslims, if you compare it, for example, with the price of Christianity, or the least, is that Islam has its center really as a person, not as a principle, Muhammad is not to be derived from God himself, but rather founded by

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Muhammad, and Islam, like Buddhism. In fact, in some of the differences, including the one that you refer to, there is this tendency to talk about Muhammad someone did Islam and such and such, Islam was founded in the seventh century by a man called Mohammed. This to the Muslim is a very inaccurate and offensive way of putting stem because it depicts a great prophet as an imposter because the Prophet has indicated that what he's teaching is a revelation that he received from God but to say he found that we're just talking as if somebody sit down and concoct some existing revelation or scriptures and come and tell people that you know, Here I come, I am a prophet of God. So the

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question of again impression, the falsity

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Question of Muhammad is the founder for the Muslim, the founder of Islam, is God Himself. It is the direct revelation just as God has given his word and revelation to previous prophets before Mohammed. The fourth. And final reason that again, when you use the term mohammedanism, you tend to undermine the universality of Islam. I have referred briefly also to this universality when talking about the population of Muslims that extend all the way from Indonesia, to Morocco, in Europe to South Africa.

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And by using or relating Islam, specifically to one person, as if only the followers of Mohammed, or people who are like I said, associated with the stereotype, Arab, are the Muslims, whereas the Muslim Islam is the same basic doctrine, preached by all prophets throughout history, Mohammed being only the last prophet and messenger of God, with a universal message to the entire humanity.

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Now, could you define to us the word Islam itself? In essence, from what you have been telling us, you've been talking about the universality of Islam, and what Islam is not? Maybe now you should give us and you said that Islam appeared in the Quran, the Holy Book of the Muslims, could you give us the etymological word of the meaning of the word etymologically. Speaking, Islam is a term that connotates two things are derived from two meanings. One is salon, which means peace.

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The other is submission, submission in a sense of conscious willing submission to the will of God. In fact, the two meanings are not different, really, because putting both routes together, they're both meanings, I should say, together, it follows that Islam is the attainment of peace through the willing, willing and voluntary submission to the will of God. In that sense, then, when we talk about peace, here, you're talking both about inner peace, internal peace within the individual and peace from without. And it is important also to indicate here that when we talk about winning submission, that we're talking about the submission, which is not just lip service, but rather a

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submission that manifests itself in the actual life and the deeds of the individual. Right. In other words, it manifests itself in the love of God in following the command commandments and injunctions that has been given by him. In that sense, you could say that Islam, among all other faiths that I'm familiar with is the only one that is it has a clearly attributive title, that is a title that summarizes its nature, almost the whole face and model exactly, you can summarize the whole face in one word, rather than as common in the names of many faiths, which by the way, are sometimes names given also by outsiders, rather than original names, you know, but many other faiths, especially the

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Word says, the major ones, the names could be derived either from the name of a person

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who was believed to be the preacher of a place or a particular locality or geographic limitation, whereas the nature of Islam is a lot more universal as the total and complete message to the entire mankind for that reason, like I said, the word Islam perhaps is the proper term to use.

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And just as a, parenthetically, at this point, when we say submission, we don't really mean submission in the negative sense. It's sort of a positive submission if if the word can make any sense.

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Okay, now, having defined the word Islam, maybe the next logical step would be to define a Muslim who is a Muslim,

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who can be considered a Muslim who cannot be considered one. Again, you can define it on different levels.

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In one sense, if you take the exact term, Islam in a sense of submission,

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it follows also that there are many other creatures, animate and inanimate, who are regarded as Muslims in a sense of submitting themselves to the will of God.

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Even a person who is defying the law of God who is defying the teachings of God in a way, he submits to God in one level, at least the insofar as the biological function or various aspects of his life or her life, which are beyond his or her control. In other words, it's a melodically Strictly speaking, you can say that the sun, the moon, the ocean, the vegetations are Muslims that they submit to the laws which are devised by, by God in nature. So in that sense, you could say the whole universe, willingly or unwillingly submit to the laws of God. But on the second level, and this is perhaps the more important one that like we were talking before, the submission has to be a willing

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submission a commitment that the person makes, which means that there are also some aspects in our life.

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Which we had some control on, we had some freewill in choosing to do or not to do the moral laws, for example, the obedience to the commands and guidance of the creators. Now, if the person have the submission also, are they willing submission in this sphere of life where he has a choice, then there will be total harmony between compulsive submission and voluntary submission and get harmony in this universe. So in a sense, then you can say that any person throughout history will have to the best of his ability and his search for truth has submitted his will to the will of God, exactly the voluntary commitment and submission, he can be regarded as a must. But of course, from the the

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jurisprudence point of view, if you talk about today's definition of a Muslim, within this tour restrictions or limitations, we can say then that a Muslim who believes in all Prophets and Messengers that were sent by God throughout history, including the last of them, Prophet Muhammad, and the acceptance of the last revealed scriptures, that is the Quran as the basic guiding aspects and the life of the, the person.

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So, just make sure that we understand each other on that court, any Muslim who considers other prophets before Muhammad as bona fide prophets, if you will, and the followers as bonafide Muslims in the sense of the world

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would be doing the right thing, and I think every Muslim should be doing right. Indeed, I think many of the audience might not realize the fact that the way Islam regards others faith, they regard Islam regardless as development or stages or links. In the same phase, a Muslim does not resort to the use of the term, for example, religions with Florida. In fact, the Quran indicates that the true faith throughout history, even before Muhammad was born, is Islam that is submission to the will of God as we have defined it. There may have been some differences in the legislative aspects of the very specific, detailed teachings of previous prophets in history. But the Quran indicates that the

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true face from the very beginning from Adam, down to Abraham, Moses, Jesus. And finally, Muhammad is basically Islam. In fact, two quotes from the Quran, there is one verse that says, The true faith in the sight of God or the true way of life, and the sight of God is this man. In another verse, it says that whoever seeks any path other than Islam in a sense of submission to the will of God, it will not be accepted from from Him and He will be a loser in the Day of Judgment. In the Quran, we read, also

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instructing Prophet Mohammed to tell the people, it says, say or Mohammed to people. I am not an integrator of a new concocted doctrine among the messengers. So it was, like I said, links, the same basic truth that God has revealed the previous prophets has finally culminated in the complete the most complete form in the message of Prophet Mohammed. So on the basis of that, it is no surprise that the Quran uses even the executor, Muslim to refer not only to the previous prophets, but to those who sincerely

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followed their path. Let me if I may take a couple of minutes give you some petitions that petitions from the Quran to make the point. For example, in chapter 10, verse 80, for profit, Norway is quoted as saying to his people, I have been commanded to be of those who are Muslims, exact word Muslim is used, that is of those who submit to God's will,

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about Prophet Abraham in chapter two, verse 128, quoting both Abraham and Ishmael, and it says, Abram, Abraham, and Ishmael said, Oh our Lord, make us Muslims, that will cure well, and also of our progeny, people who are Muslims to your will. In chapter 112, verse 101, Prophet Joseph, is also quoted as saying, Creator of the heavens and the earth, you are my protector in this world and in the hereafter. Take my soul at this as Muslim are one submitting to your will, and unites me with a righteous about prophets, Moses. In chapter 10, verse 84, Moses is quoting is quoted as saying, All my people, if you do really believe in God, then in him put your trust if you are Muslims.

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Finally, in chapter five, verse 114, we read, and behold, I got an i inspired the disciple of Jesus, to have faith in me and my apostle. They said, We have faith, and do you bear witness that we bow to God as much

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In other words, the the

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monumental evidence that you can find in the Quran makes it quite clear that the title Muslim

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is something that goes much before Prophet Mohammed and Prophet Muhammad simply is completing or through his message. That total message of Islam or divine revelation that has been given to previous prophets has finally come to full calendars. That's the best proof that Islam is not a new idea that comes to the fore in a certain geographical location in certain historical period of time. It is just the culmination or the completion of a total picture that has been evolving over it has been, right Actually, this relates even to one of the very common misconception when some people start saying, Oh, look, you know, some of the teachings of the Quran are similar to the Bible, oh,

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Muhammad must have copied them from the Bible. And they forget that the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, the Quran, and any other scriptures if

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it's coming from the same source, exactly, instead of admitting the concept of Revelation, which is an accepted, at least among people who are religious,

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go to

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Now, besides the obvious historical relevance of this point,

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do you see that it has any kind of implications as an approach in the contemporary world? I think it does. First of all, by developing this more universal approach, or universal brotherhood, if you will,

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we can demolish the walls of prejudice, fanaticism, and intolerance, and particularly stereotype as it relates to Islam that existed in the minds of many people, especially in the Western world. When Stannis believes that something strange a kind of personality, cult, weird kinds of things, whereas it is just at the heart of the total, basic divine revelation in history. Secondly, by believing that all prophets are Muslims, this establish the fact that prophets throughout history, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, are brothers, they're not really competing with each other for the souls of people. They're all conveying the same essential message of God. And it follows from that, that

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those who claim to be sincere followers of those prophets must realize them, that in order to follow them sincerely, they must also be brothers, they must break this wall, they might have some differences, like the Quran says, If God Well, he could have made people all follow one religion. But within this level of tolerance and brotherhood, universal brotherhood, people can talk and have dialogues about the particular differences that they might have in the interpretation of divine revelation. But the boils down again to the basic human brotherhood and the Brotherhood of all prophets and their followers. But the Brotherhood Thank you very much. I'm afraid we're running

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short of time. And thank you very much, gentlemen, for being with us today. And we promise you to pursue this series of programs on the fundamental, basic tenants of Islam and hoping to see what happens next time. Assalamu alaikum