Question 6. How do you conceive the relationship between IONA and the global Muslim ummah?
IONA views itself as one small jama'ah that is working within the larger Al-Jama'ah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). We consider it to be very important for contemporary Muslims to organize themselves so that they can fulfill their divinely ordained obligations. At the same time, IONA does not consider itself as the only such organization.
IONA makes no claim of being the Al-Jama’ah itself. To make such a claim is to sow the nefarious seeds of dissension and separation. Instead, it is only a small and humble association of like-minded Muslims within the larger ummah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Consequently, the members of IONA do not make any claim of being in any way superior to, or better than, their millions of brothers and sisters in Islam. They consciously recognize that one does not become a Muslim by joining IONA, and that one does not lose their Islam by leaving IONA.
Having said this, however, we should also recognize that Muslims as a whole have been burdened with such gigantic responsibilities as can only be pursued and fulfilled in a state of organization and discipline. Establishing some form of organization and discipline is not an end in itself, but is merely a means towards facilitating the discharge of our divinely ordained obligations.
In this context, we emphasize that while obedience to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is required for its own sake, obedience to any other leader is always conditional and contingent. After Prophet Muhammad (SAW), all leaders who seek to guide their fellow Muslims are supposed to do so by following the example of the Prophet. Yet, they cannot claim the unique status of the Prophet himself. Consequently, all such leaders are, by definition, fallible human beings whose authority is subordinate to the authority of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). One may choose to follow such leaders for the sake of Islam, but only by constantly using one's own critical faculties and, furthermore, only within the bounds of the Shari'ah.
IONA, then, is one particular attempt to establish organization and discipline at a limited level within the Muslim Ummah. This takes the form of allegiance to a trustworthy leader and the voluntary adoption of the classical Islamic discipline of “listening and obeying” within the bounds of the Shari'ah and in association with the traditional norms of mutual consultation. It is understood that such a structure is merely instrumental and for this reason it does not, indeed cannot, replace the Al-Jama'ah.