Question 16. Why is the Qur’an so heavily emphasized in IONA? By placing so much emphasis on the Qur’an, isn’t IONA undermining the traditional legacy of Islamic scholarship including tafsir, hadith, aqidah, and fiqh?
The Qur’an is the very foundation of the Islamic tradition. It is the revealed word of Allah (SWT), and is therefore incomparably more important than anything else in the Islamic tradition. The importance given to the Qur’an, however, does not mean that we are not aware of the value of tafsir, hadith, fiqh, and other aspects of our tradition, nor does it mean that we do not recognize the legacy of our blessed predecessors. The members of IONA fully understand that the Qur’an does not stand alone; it can only be approached through the interpretive lens provided by the rest of the Islamic tradition. Some modern Muslims have indeed tried to reject the entire corpus of the tradition in the name of favoring the Qur’an as the sole source of guidance; such misguided individuals have not served the cause of Islam in any way but have ended up creating dissension in the ummah.
Having said this, it is important to keep in mind that the Qur’an is the living miracle of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Its wonders are infinite and its wisdom is fathomless. In every generation, Muslims have to read and interpret the Qur’an and derive guidance for their own time and their own circumstances. While the Islamic tradition that we have inherited from the past should always be kept in view, it is important to acknowledge that the legacy of the past does not always address the concrete problems that Muslims have to face within each new generation. This means that the central importance and continuing relevance of the Qur’an cannot be underestimated.
Human understanding of the divine word is dependent on the state of human knowledge in relation to secular fields, such as science, history, language, psychology, etc. Thus, as our knowledge about the material world and about humankind grows, new ways of apprehending the Qur’anic teachings become available to us. For this reason, scholars will always find new and unprecedented meanings in the Qur’an, for there is simply no limit to the treasures of wisdom that can be found in the study of divine revelations. Far from being a disregard for tradition, this is a testimony to the infinite potential of the revealed word.
Even more important is the question of inculcating authentic faith. By “faith,” we mean a state of inner conviction, peace, and trust that is more than mere belief or verbal attestation to a creed. While much valuable Islamic knowledge can be gained from the study of the scholarly works of our blessed predecessors, faith is something that we gain primarily from developing a close and intimate relationship with the Qur’an itself.
As the Qur’an itself repeatedly indicates, personal enlightenment and the inculcation of authentic faith require sustained reflection on the message and meaning of the Qur’an. For this reason, IONA encourages all of its members to develop such a relationship by means of daily recitation and study of the Qur’an. Learning the Arabic language and the acquisition of scholarly tools that help in the understanding of the Qur'an are also emphasized.