Question 2. What is the rationale for establishing IONA as a formal organization?
While there is a strong personal aspect to religion, it is obvious that much of human religiosity takes place within a communal context. This is why the defining revelatory experience of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) led within his own lifetime to the establishment of a community of believers, called the ummah. Those who accepted the call of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had to come together in the form of a community so that they could fulfill their divinely ordained obligations in a mutually supportive way.
The rationale for establishing an organization like IONA stems from our understanding of Islam itself. Indeed, a moment’s reflection is sufficient to see that none of the obligations mentioned above are meant to be solitary pursuits. They can only be undertaken in solidarity with others who are also pursuing the same obligations. Even the cultivation of a strong and authentic faith is a goal that requires one to seek the company of the faithful. This makes the endeavor of developing a personal faith a pre-eminently social (as opposed to a private) effort. This social and communal aspect is even more prominent in relation to the other Islamic obligations identified above.
Community life, in the form of an informal association with like-minded individuals, may be sufficient for fulfilling the first obligation, and, to some extent, even the second obligation. However, the third and fourth obligations are such that they cannot even be contemplated, let alone executed effectively, without an organized and disciplined community of men and women dedicated to their fulfillment.
Insofar as the obligations mentioned above are collective and social, they demand the appropriate procurement, development, and organization of both human and material resources. This demand naturally translates into the need for formal structure, division of work, leadership, and discipline. IONA represents one attempt to answer this need.