“Indeed, God commands justice, doing good to others, as well as courtesy to close relatives. He forbids indecency, wickedness, and aggression. He instructs you so perhaps you will be mindful.” (16:90 )            “For every day on which the sun rises, there is a (reward from God) for the one who establishes justice among people.” (al-Bukhari)            “And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that [with your lives] you may bear witness to the truth before all humankind. . .” (2:143)            “Dispensers of justice will be seated on pulpits of light beside God.” (Muslim)            “Do not spread corruption in the land after it has been set in order. And call upon Him with hope and fear. Indeed, Allah’s mercy is always close to the good-doers.” (7:56)           “Even an ant in its hole and fish (in the depth of water) invoke blessings on someone who teaches people goodness.” (al-Tirmidhi)            “O believers! Remain conscious of God, and be with those who are truthful in word and deed.” (9:119)           “God does not judge you according to your bodies and appearances, but He looks into your hearts and observes your deeds.” (Muslim)            “The parable of those who spend their possessions for the sake of God is that of a grain out of which grow seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains: for God grants manifold increase unto whom He wills; and God is infinite, all-knowing.” (2:261)           “Charity does not diminish wealth.” (Riyadh al-Salihin)            “Let there be a group among you who call ˹others˺ to goodness, encourage what is good, and forbid what is evil-it is they who will be successful.” (3:104)           “Avoid cruelty and injustice...and guard yourselves against miserliness, for this has ruined nations who lived before you.” (Riyadh al-Salihin)            “Do not forget to show kindness to each other. Surely God observes your actions.” (2:237)           “(Allah) has revealed to me that you should adopt humility so that no one oppresses another.” (Riyadh al-Salihin)            “It is We who sent down this Reminder (al-Quran) and it is We who shall preserve it.” (15:9)           “The best among you are those who learn the Quran and teach it (to others).” (al-Bukhari)            “So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.” (2:152)           “There are two blessings that many people lose -- health and free time for doing good.” (al-Bukhari)            “Say: 'O My servants who have transgressed against your own souls, do not despair of God's mercy, for God forgives all sins. It is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.'“(39:53)           “Happy is the man who avoids dissension, but how fine is the man who is afflicted and shows endurance.” (Abu Dawud)            “And you love wealth with immense love.” (89:20)           “Being rich does not mean having a great amount of property, but (it) is being content (with what one has).” (al-Bukhari)            “Every soul is held in pledge for its deeds.” (74:38)           “Make things easy and convenient and don't make them harsh and difficult. Give cheer and glad tidings and do not create hatred.” (al-Bukhari & Muslim)           

About IONA


“The fundamental goal of IONA is to assist its members to attain the good pleasure of Allah (SWT) in order to gain salvation in the Hereafter.”
IONA believes that this can only be achieved by fulfilling the pre-requisite duties ordained in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Consequently, the primary focus of IONA is to help the individual Muslim fulfill the following four basic duties of a Muslim in light of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The first duty of a Muslim is to develop Iman (conviction of the heart).  This can be achieved by believing, reciting, understanding and pondering over the ayat of the Qur’an and behaving accordingly.  In short, one must establish an intimate relationship with the Qur’an in order to increase one’s Iman.
One must wage a constant struggle (jihad) in order to fulfill the duty of attaining and increasing one’s Iman.  This struggle is fulfilled through the following three levels:
  • Remembrance through the Qur’an (Tazakkur ):  To grasp the most essential and basic meanings of the Qur’anic ayat through constant recitation.
  • Pondering over the Qur’an (Tadabbur):  To ponder deeply over the Qur’anic ayat in order to understand its wisdom (hikmah).
  • Learning the Arabic Language: An intimate relationship with the Qur’an can only be genuinely established if its message is understood in its own language. Translations are not sufficient.
To become a genuine slave (‘abd) of Allah (SWT), one must willingly, completely and at all times submit to His commands with a sense of love and gratitude.  This submission is not to be limited only to the five pillars of Islam; it is also required in one’s economic endeavors, political conduct and social behavior.  Thus, the total submission to Allah (SWT) must encompass all of our individual and collective affairs.
In order to fulfill this duty, a struggle (jihad) must occur through the following three levels:
  • Jihad against one’s own soul – nafs (the impulses of the self)
  • Jihad against the whispering temptations of Satan
  • Jihad against the wrong trends of society
Since there is no prophet after the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), it is the duty of the Muslim ummah to collectively deliver the message of Islam to humanity for all times to come.  The message has to be delivered through words and actions.
There are three levels of jihad to fulfill this duty:
  • Call with Wisdom (Da’wah bil Hikmah): To spread the message of the Qur’an in the highest intellectual idiom of the day, so that its knowledge and wisdom is understood and acknowledged by the intellectual elite of society
  • Admonition (Da’wah bil Mawa’izah Al-Hasanah):To spread the message of the Qur’an with the utmost sincerity in simple language.  This sincerity should be reflected by the exemplary behavior of the message-giver
  • Debate (Mujadalah): To respond to the confrontational and evil spirited propaganda against Islam in the best manner through debates and arguments,
It is only by establishing a just socio-politico-economic order, as outlined in the Qur’an and Sunnah, that Muslims will be able to genuinely fulfill the obligation of Shahada ‘Alan-Nas(witness unto mankind). Struggling to establish the Deen is an obligatory duty on every Muslim, a duty that the ummah has practically neglected or forgotten.
I. IONAbelieves that the three initial steps mentioned above are necessary to fulfill this most important duty, Iqaamat-ud-Deen.
The struggle (jihad) required to fulfill this duty can only be accomplished through a well-structured and disciplined organization (jama’ah) and must pass through the following three phases:
  • Passive Resistance:  The members must endure with steadfastness and perseverance(sabr) any oppression, slander, torture or opposition directed against the Islamic movement
  • Active Resistance: Upon achieving a sound infrastructure, critical mass, and  moral credibility to confront the shortcomings of the present corrupt system, the organization (jama’ah) will engage in active resistance by means of a non-violent mass movement to promote its goal of establishing the Deen of Allah (SWT)
  • Disciplined, Non-Violent Mass Movement:  Through active resistance the movement will use all constitutionally sanctioned means to bring about just changes in social, political, and economic practices. This includes non-violent direct action and civil disobedience


The obligations of a Muslim as ordained by the Qur'an and Sunnah, can be understood as having four levels:
  • A Muslim is required to develop real faith and conviction (iman) in one’s heart.
  • A Muslim is required to live a life of complete submission to the will of Allah (SWT).
  • A Muslim is required to propagate and disseminate the message of Islam to the entire humanity.
  • A Muslim is required to try his utmost to establish a Just Islamic Order.
The fundamental objective of establishing IONA is to assist the Muslims in North America to uphold and implement these obligations first on themselves, next on their families, inform their friends and then to invite the non-Muslims to Islam. The ultimate goal is to seek Allah (SWT)'s pleasure and salvation in the Hereafter.


As expounded by the founder of Tanzeem-e-Islami, Dr. Israr Ahmad. Though many Islamic organizations and groups are working to bring Islam to mankind, Dr. Israr Ahmad has understood the importance of judiciously studying the Qur’an as the basis, and propagating it into today’s idiom.
For the last forty years or so, Dr. Israr Ahmad has been actively engaged not only in reviving the Qur'an- centered Islamic perennial philosophy and world-view, but also reforming the society in a practical way with the ultimate objective of establishing a Just Islamic Order on earth. Dr. Israr Ahmad believes in a dynamic and revolutionary concept of Islam, and in this regard he is a disciple of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Sayyid Abul A`la Maududi.
The second son of a government servant, Dr. Israr graduated as a medical doctor from King Edward Medical College (Lahore) in 1954 and later received his masters in Islamic Studies from the University of Karachi in 1965. He came under the influence of Allama Iqbal and Maulana Abul A`la Maududi as a young student, worked briefly for Muslim Student's Federation in the Independence Movement and, following the creation of Pakistan in 1947, joined the Islami Jami`at-e-Talaba and then the Jama`at-e- Islami, Pakistan.
Dr. Israr Ahmad resigned from the Jama`at-e-Islami in April 1957 because of its involvement in the electoral politics, which he believed was irreconcilable with the revolutionary methodology adopted by the Jama'at in the pre-1947 period. After resigning from the Jama`at, Dr. Israr continued to give Qur'anic lectures in different cities of Pakistan, and especially after 1965 he invested the better part of his physical and intellectual abilities in the learning and teaching of the Qur'anic wisdom.
Dr. Israr Ahmad wrote, “Islamic Renaissance – The Real Task Ahead,” an extremely significant tract in 1967 in which he explained his basic thought — that an Islamic Renaissance is possible only by means of revitalizing the Iman (true faith and conviction) among the Muslims, particularly their intelligentsia. The revitalization of Iman, in turn, is possible only by the propagation of the Qur'anic teachings and presenting the everlasting wisdom of the Book of Allah (SWT) in contemporary idiom and at the highest level of scholarship.
This undertaking is essential in order to remove the existing dichotomy between modern physical and social sciences on the one hand and the knowledge revealed by the Almighty Allah (SWT) on the other.
Dr. Israr Ahmad gave up his medical practice in 1971 in order to launch a full-fledged and vigorous movement for the revival of Islam. As a result of his efforts, the Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur'an Lahore (Society of the Servants of Al-Qur’an) was established in 1972, Tanzeem-e-Islami (Islamic Organization) was founded in 1975, and Tahreek-e-Khilafat Pakistan (Khilafah Movement) was launched in 1991. In 1993, Dr. Israr Ahmad established Tanzeem-e-Islami North America, or T.I.N.A., of which he was the Ameer until 2003. In that year, he appointed Br. Mustapha Elturk to head this organization. In accordance with his wishes, T.I.N.A. became independent from Tanzeem-e-Islami Pakistan with this change in its top leadership. It is now known as the Islamic Organization of North America (Al-Tanzeem Al-Islami Amrika Al-Shamaliah) or IONA.
As the prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAW) worked tirelessly to establish justice for mankind through obedience to the absolute Deity. IONA is dedicated to the task of awakening the Muslims in North America in particular and non-Muslims in general to a balanced life offered by Islam through the Qur’an and Sunnah. Moreover, IONA is dedicated to reviving the Qur’an into the hearts of Muslims, whereby the Qur’an is the source of revitalizing one’s Iman, in order to fulfill the obligation of making Allah’s Deen supreme in all spheres of human life, both private and public.

Dr. Israr Ahmad

50 Years of Uninterrupted Service to the Qur’an and Islam

By: Ameer Mustapha Elturk

The dual jihad of Dr. Israr Ahmad (RA), Jihad Bil Qur’an and Jihad fi Sabillah.
“As for those who struggle in Our cause, We shall surely guide them in Our Ways. And Allah is certainly with the virtuous.” (al-‘Ankabut, 29:69)
Dr. Israr Ahmad was an esteemed and admired Islamic scholar, theologian, and thinker of our time.
He gave up his medical practice and made the learning and teaching the Qur’an his lifetime endeavor.
After listening to a lecture delivered by Dr. Israr Ahmad (RA) in the early 90’s, at the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit’s masjid, I recognized, not only his ability to profoundly convey the gems of wisdom of the Qur’an but also his deep understanding of Islam as a Deen, and our duties toward the deen.
Throughout his lectures and personal interactions with Dr. Israr Ahmad, I have since become more familiar with his revolutionary thought regarding Islam and the root cause for our decadence and down fall.
Dr. Israr Ahmad, the founder of Markazi Anjuman Khuddam al-Qur’an (The Central Society of the Servants of the Qur’an), believed in the crucial importance of returning to the Qur’an as the primary source of guidance for Muslims.
Dr. Israr Ahmad recognized the Quran as the direct and unaltered word of Allah (SWT), revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He believed that the Qur’an serves as the ultimate and authentic source of guidance for all aspects of life, providing answers to moral, ethical, social, and spiritual crises.
He aimed to counteract the deviations and innovations that have engulfed the Muslim societies by encouraging Muslims to turn back to the authentic teachings of Islam primarily through the Qur’an.
He advocated for a return to the Qur’an in order to distinguish between true Islamic teachings and cultural practices that may contradict them.
Dr. Israr Ahmad believed that a genuine connection with the Qur’an could lead to a spiritual rejuvenation of individuals and the entire Muslim community. He saw the Qur’an as a means to deepen one’s faith, find solace, and enhance one’s relationship with Allah (SWT). By studying and understanding the teachings of the Qur’an, Muslims can learn how to apply Islamic principles in their personal, family, social, and professional lives. The Qur’an is a practical guide for life.
Dr. Israr Ahmad firmly believes that if Muslims were to return to the Qur’an sincerely with the pure intent of seeking its guidance, the Qur’an can serve as a unifying factor among Muslims. Muslims could overcome sectarian differences and divisions, fostering a sense of unity and brotherhood.
By promoting a balanced understanding of the Qur’an’s teachings, Dr. Israr Ahmad aimed to counter extremist ideologies that misinterpret the Qur’an for political or personal gain. He believed that a proper understanding of the Qur’an could help prevent radicalization.
He believed that the Qur’anic knowledge should be accessible to all, enabling Muslims to make informed decisions and choices based on authentic Islamic teachings.
Dr. Israr Ahmad, who is known for his comprehensive and in-depth Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir), made several notable contributions through his teachings, writings, and efforts to spread a deeper understanding of Islam. He provided a detailed analysis of the Qur’an, emphasizing the spiritual and practical guidance contained therein.
He developed a coherent Qur’anic thought which enabled him to articulate, promote and advocate the concept of Islam as a deen and not just a mere religion, or a madhhab.
In his treatise, Islamic Renaissance the Real Task Ahead, written in 1967, Dr. Israr Ahmad presented an in-depth analysis of the current religious and cultural attitude of Muslims all over the world. He offered a program as an answer to the ailments of the Islamic movements.
In 1975, Dr. Israr Ahmad established Tanzeem-e-Islami. The aim of the Islamic movemnet is to organize a collective struggle in the way of Allah with the aim of establishing Islam as a Deen on the basis of personal pledge (bay’ah).
Tanzeem-e-Islami aims to promote a revival of Islamic values and principles in society. The organization focused on individual transformation, character building, and fostering a sense of responsibility among Muslims to contribute positively to their communities.
He stressed the importance of understanding Islam beyond ritual practices, advocating for a deeper comprehension of its teachings. He aimed to help Muslims recognize the true essence of their faith and live according to its principles in all aspects of life.
Dr. Israr Ahmad had a comprehensive understanding of Islam as a complete way of life, encompassing spiritual, social, moral, and ethical dimensions. He emphasized the concept of Islam as a “deen,” which is often translated as “religion” but carries a broader meaning in Islamic terminology.
He believes that Islam is not merely a set of rituals and beliefs, but a comprehensive and holistic way of life that governs all aspects of an individual’s existence. It provides guidance for personal conduct, family life, social interactions, governance, and more. Islam is a way of life that combines both the individual and the collective affairs of society.
As a Da’ee, preacher, Dr. Israr Ahmad was committed to spreading the message of Islam through educational programs, lectures, and seminars. He believed in the power of knowledge to transform individuals and societies, and he focused on educating people about the core beliefs and values of Islam.
He advocated for the implementation of Islamic law (Sharia) in a way that aligns with the contemporary context. He believed that adhering to Islamic principles would lead to a just and equitable society.
Dr. Israr Ahmad stressed the importance of a deep and sincere connection with Allah (SWT) as the central aspect of Islam. According to Dr. Israr Ahmad, spirituality is at the core of the deen, and individuals should strive to attain closeness to Allah (SWT) through acts of worship, devotion, and self-purification (tazkiya)
Islam, in Dr. Israr Ahmad’s view, is characterized by submission and obedience to Allah’s commands. He believed that true believers should align their lives with the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the way of Prophet Muhammad-SAW) in order to achieve spiritual growth and attain salvation.
Islam as a deen encompasses social responsibility and calls for believers to actively contribute to the betterment of society.
Dr. Israr Ahmad believed that Islam provides guidance for governance and administration. He emphasized the importance of implementing Islamic principles in the socio-political realm to ensure justice and equity. To this effect, he stressed the importance of Jama’ah, for there can be no Islam without a party (Jama’ah).
As an activist, Dr. Israr Ahmad emphasized the importance of peaceful activism and civic engagement within the bounds of Islamic principles. His approach aimed to address societal issues while maintaining the ethical standards of Islam.
Dr. Israr Ahmad’s contributions continue to influence and inspire Muslims seeking to deepen their understanding of Islam and apply its teachings in contemporary contexts.
Dr. Israr Ahmad’s call for Muslims to return to the Qur’an stemmed from his conviction that the Qur’anic teachings offer timeless solutions to contemporary challenges, promote spiritual growth, and enable Muslims to lead a life in accordance with Islamic values.
Dr. Israr AhmasdDr. Israr Ahmad’s understanding of Islam as a deen revolved around the idea that it is a comprehensive way of life that guides individuals in every aspect of their existence. His teachings emphasized the importance of spirituality, ethical conduct, social responsibility, and unity among Muslims. He believed that practicing Islam as a deen requires a holistic approach that integrates faith, knowledge, and actions in pursuit of a meaningful and purposeful life in this world and the Hereafter.
Dr. Israr Ahmad stressed that Islam as a way of life (Deen) provides a framework for preparing for the Hereafter. Believers are encouraged to lead a righteous life, seek forgiveness for their sins, and strive to attain Paradise through good deeds and devotion.
Dr. Israr Ahmad’s contribution to the Ummah is immeasurable. He touched many hearts and influenced many lives across the globe through his hard work, dedication, and commitment to the Qur’an and Islam.
In 1995, I joined Tanzeem-e-Islami North America later became the Islamic Organization of North America (IONA), and pledged to dedicate my life to the cause of Islam. Dr. Israr’s influence on my life was significant. I am ever indebted to him. He helped me transform my life and set me on the right path.
May Allah (SWT) grant our teacher, Dr. Israr Ahmad, a magnificent reward. May he be blessed with the honorable company of the Prophets, Truthful ones, Martyrs and the Righteous, ameen.
Last but not least. One of the fruits of Dr. Israr Ahmad’s labor is the founding of the Islamic Organization of North America, IONA.
IONA aims at transforming its members and surrounding communities to righteous, God-fearing believers, who collectively strive for the highest moral standard and constantly seek God’s forgiveness to earn His pleasure in this life and in the hereafter.
IONA members rejuvenate their souls through internal struggle (Jihad al-Nafs) and spiritual exercise in worship of the Creator, God, Allah, most glorified. The strength of their belief in Allah almighty gives them the courage to promote virtue and suppress vice, and to engage in the struggle to establish social, political, and economic justice.
In short, IONA is a non-violent movement dedicated to reviving the Qur’an into the hearts of Muslims, while we share its message with non-Muslims, and to promote and struggle for Divine Justice.
Our slogan is Repentance, Revitalization of Faith, Renewal of Covenant.

Ameer Mustapha Elturk

Imam Mustapha Elturk immigrated to the United States in 1976 amid the start of the civil war in Lebanon to continue his higher education. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from Lawrence Institute of Technology, and a Masters of Liberal Arts in Social Justice from Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan.
Imam Elturk is a student of the late Islamic thinker, scholar, and one of the most revered contemporary teachers of the Quran in southeast Asia, Dr. Israr Ahmad (d. 2010) (RA). Under his guidance he gained knowledge in Theology, Fundamentals of Faith (emphasis on Iman (creed), Tawheed (oneness of God), Sciences and Exegesis of the Qur’an, and Sirah, the Prophet Muhammad’s biography.
Imam Elturk’s passion for learning and teaching the Qur’an dates back to 1993 when he encountered Dr. Israr Ahmad (RA) during an American lecture tour which inspired him to delve into the meaning and wisdom of the Quran.
He joined the Islamic Organization of North America (IONA) in 1995 and became active in propagating the message of the Qur’an to Muslims and those of other faiths through Friday sermons and lectures in Mosques and other facilities across America and abroad. He served as IONA’s Education and Training Director from 1998 to 2003. Thereafter he was appointed Ameer (Imam and President) of IONA headquartered in Warren, Michigan. He left his thriving career as an electronics engineering consultant in 2007 to lead the IONA Masjid and Learning Center established in the same year in Warren, Michigan.
As a publicly engaged leader and a leading interfaith activist in the Detroit metropolitan area, Elturk served on the Executive Board of directors as Treasurer of the InterFaith Leadership
Council of Metropolitan Detroit (IFLC). He served as President and member of the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Center for Racial Justice (ICRJ). ICRJ, a non-profit organization in Macomb County in Michigan, promotes the ideals and universal values of freedom, equality and justice of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Imam Elturk co-founded the Muslim Chaplaincy Program at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS) in Detroit, Michigan, where he taught theology, modes of worship, and Qur’anic studies.
Imam Elturk served on the Executive Board of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC) and currently, he
  • Serves as a Co-chair of the Imams Council of Michigan (ICM).
  • serves on the University Islamic Center (Wayne State) board of directors.
  • serves on the advisory board of the Michigan Coalition of Human Rights (MCHR)
  • is a co-founding member of the American Human Rights Council (AHRC).
  • is a member of the Interfaith Justice Committee of the People’s Water Board Coalition (PWBC), an organization committed to advocate for clean, accessible and Affordable Water and Sanitation for all.
  • is a member of the Religious Leaders Forum of the Abrahamic Faiths of Metropolitan Detroit
  • is the President of the American Society for Religious and Cultural Understanding (ASRCU) a dawah organization involved mainly in the prisons and correctional facilities.
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
All praise is due to Allah (SWT) and may His peace and blessings be upon His Prophet and Messenger Muhammad (SAW). To proceed,
IONA identifies itself with the slogan “Repentance, Revitalization of Faith, Renewal of Covenant.” A slogan is a catchphrase that puts in a nutshell what the organization is all about and what it stands for. This is not to equate the slogan with the higher calling of a mission, Iqamatuddin.
Repentance: This suggests that the members of IONA have given up the major sins and are extremely cautious about minor ones. Through the internal struggle, they have transformed themselves into pious, righteous, God-fearing individuals who are constantly conscious of their Creator. They are the ones who have turned towards their Lord and never look back. Their attitudes are those of a true believer and they strive to reach the highest standard of moral conduct. They constantly seek forgiveness of their Lord and struggle to earn His good pleasure.
Revitalization of Faith: It is through this internal struggle and the transformation of attitude that good behavior becomes manifest and noticeable. IONA members become, according to the Qur’anic term, Ibadur-Rahman, servants of the Most-Merciful. They draw themselves nearer and closer to their Lord through their faithful obedience to His commands. The basic modes of worship become for them the spiritual exercise that rejuvenate their soul and intensify their love for their Creator. The spiritual pleasure they receive in performing Tahajjud, nafl fasting, Infaq, and other acts of sincere devotion help them move towards a higher level of worship, the level of Ihsan.
Renewal of Covenant: These pious and virtuous acts of the believers will result in a collective effort for the eradication of evil in the society they live in. Their deep-rooted faith in their Lord gives them the much- needed strength and courage to ordain what is good and wholesome and forbid evil, with the aim and objective of establishing a system based on justice and fair play so that the Lord, the Master of the universe, becomes truly supreme. It is only through this collective effort of struggling to re-establish the limits and boundaries of Allah (SWT) that one may say that one had tried his/her utmost best to fulfill the covenant of Alast, the primordial covenant that Allah (SWT) took from all the human beings (5:127).
According to surah al-Tawbah (9:111), Allah (SWT) has indeed purchased everything from the believers in exchange for the priceless Paradise. The very next ayah outlines the actual contract between the believer and Allah (SWT), which has been summarized in our slogan – Repentance; Revitalization of Faith; Renewal of Covenant.  May we live up to that bargain, Ameen.
May Allah (SWT)’s peace and blessings be upon you.
Mustapha Elturk


Politics is an important arena in which North American Muslims can play a positive role. To be politically informed and active is both their right and duty as citizens of a democratic state. It is also a matter of their communal well-being. There is no doubt that Muslims in North America need to empower themselves. If Muslims are to survive and prosper in this part of the world, they need to have their voices heard in the echelons of power so that decisions affecting them are not made without their support and approval. This is particularly important in view of the prevalence of negative stereotypes of Muslims and the rapid erosion of their civil liberties in recent years. Similarly, if North American Muslims are concerned about the plight of their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and are interested in influencing the foreign policies of their own countries in a positive way, they must actively participate in politics.
On the basis of the best scholarly understandings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, IONA has recognized that our divinely ordained obligations are as follows: (1) the cultivation of a strong and authentic faith; (2) the loving and sincere obedience to the will of Allah (SWT); (3) calling all of humankind towards Islam in the most beautiful and convincing way; and, (4) engaging in the struggle to establish social, political, and economic justice in the world.
While in principle the Muslim’s “zone of concern” is the entire world and all of humankind, IONA’s particular “zone of influence” is limited to North America, viz, the United States and Canada. Furthermore, even though IONA works primarily among the Muslims of this region, it is important to emphasize that its mission is concerned with the salvation and welfare of all people.
We believe that it is only by reminding Muslims of their duties, and by helping Muslims carry out their duties in the best and most appropriate manner, that Islam can be established as a historical reality. Furthermore, it is only when Islam is established as a historical reality that its message of peace, justice, and salvation can be brought most effectively to the entire humankind. Hence we must start at the beginning, i.e., by learning about our obligations and by striving to fulfill them.
Politics is an important arena in which North American Muslims can play a positive role. To be politically informed and active is both their right and duty as citizens of a democratic state. It is also a matter of their communal well-being. There is no doubt that Muslims in North America need to empower themselves. If Muslims are to survive and prosper in this part of the world, they need to have their voices heard in the echelons of power so that decisions affecting them are not made without their support and approval. This is particularly important in view of the prevalence of negative stereotypes of Muslims and the rapid erosion of their civil liberties in recent years. Similarly, if North American Muslims are concerned about the plight of their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and are interested in influencing the foreign policies of their own countries in a positive way, they must actively participate in politics.
On the basis of the best scholarly understandings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, IONA has recognized that our divinely ordained obligations are as follows: (1) the cultivation of a strong and authentic faith; (2) the loving and sincere obedience to the will of Allah (SWT); (3) calling all of humankind towards Islam in the most beautiful and convincing way; and, (4) engaging in the struggle to establish social, political, and economic justice in the world.
While in principle the Muslim’s “zone of concern” is the entire world and all of humankind, IONA’s particular “zone of influence” is limited to North America, viz, the United States and Canada. Furthermore, even though IONA works primarily among the Muslims of this region, it is important to emphasize that its mission is concerned with the salvation and welfare of all people.
We believe that it is only by reminding Muslims of their duties, and by helping Muslims carry out their duties in the best and most appropriate manner, that Islam can be established as a historical reality. Furthermore, it is only when Islam is established as a historical reality that its message of peace, justice, and salvation can be brought most effectively to the entire humankind. Hence we must start at the beginning, i.e., by learning about our obligations and by striving to fulfill them.
The term “Iqamatuddin” literally means “establishing the religion” and is derived from the Qur’an itself. To engage in a struggle for establishing Islam as a historical reality is one of the most important duties in Islam. The evidence for this can be found throughout the Qur’an, as well as in the Hadith and the scholarly tradition of Islam. Indeed, religion cannot thrive if it is limited to the personal life of an individual or, at best, to the sphere of the family. Many of the social and ethical imperatives of Islam are inherently public in nature and, as such, they demand to be enacted in the concrete historical reality. Similarly, the moral values of Islam are meant not for private contemplation but for actualization on the stage of history.
It is important to remember that the term “Iqamatuddin” stands for a duty that has been described in many other ways as well in the Qur’an and Hadith. Phrases such as “establish the religion of God,” “religion should belong to God only,” “people should stand in justice,” or “make God’s word supreme” allude to one and the same obligation. According to the Qur’an, this was the mission of all previous messengers as well.
The Qur’anic notion of “Iqamatuddin” emphasizes the actualization of Islamic moral values in the public domain of human life. We believe that justice is the most crucial element of the public dimension of Islam, as well as one of the central goals of the Shari’ah. Insofar as this is the case, the duty to struggle for the establishment of Islam as a historical reality is practically synonymous with the obligation to strive for the establishment of social, political, and economic justice in the world.
The bottom line is that Allah (SWT), through the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhmmad (SAW), has ordered the Muslims to establish a just social order. Allah (SWT) loves those who are just, and He does not love the oppressors, tyrants, and exploiters. Muslims are supposed to be the instruments through which Allah (SWT) wishes to establish a social order where justice and peace reign supreme, where no one takes another person’s right, and where all are free to be sincere and loving worshipers of their Lord. The immediate purpose of Iqamatuddin is therefore to eradicate corruption, to reform the earth, and to establish justice.
“He has ordained for you as part of your Deen that which He enjoined on Noah, and that which We revealed to you (Muhammad), and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses and Jesus, to Establish the Deen, and be not divided therein…”
[Al-Shura; 42:13]
The history of Muslims, as well as of other religious communities, shows that groups, associations, and organizations formed for a desirable and noble purpose often disintegrate into hostile sects. This tends to happen when the members of a particular group forget the goal for which they organized themselves in the first place, and instead become dedicated to promoting their own narrow interests. Safeguarding one’s leadership position or political influence frequently becomes an end in itself, while the original goal is reduced to a meaningless slogan.
IONA is aware of this danger, but it is also cognizant of the fact that one cannot avoid the forming of groups, associations, and organizations just because such a danger exists.
While making the best possible effort to prevent such an unfortunate situation, the members of IONA seek the help and support of Allah (SWT) to keep them on the straight path. For this reason, the members of IONA frequently remind each other that they belong to an organization that is not an end in itself, but only a means to a higher end.
We consider ourselves primarily as members of the Muslim ummah. This is our first and foremost identity, after our most basic identity as divinely created human beings. We try not to let our sense of belonging to IONA take precedence over our sense of being Muslims.
The word “Al-Jama’ah” denotes the one Muslim ummah established by the Prophet Muhammad (SWT). As Muslims and followers of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), we are all part of this “Al-Jama’ah.” To accept Islam is identical with joining this Al-Jama’ah, and to leave the latter is tantamount to abandoning Islam itself. By definition, there can be only one such ummah, and to cause dissension and separation within this Al-Jama’ah is nothing short of an attempt to sabotage the work and mission of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). We seek the refuge of Allah (SWT) from becoming an agent of such dissension and separation.
The current state of the Al-Jama’ah, however, leaves much to be desired. To begin with, the worldwide Muslim community is not organized in such a way that allows it to effectively fulfill its divinely ordained obligations. The ummah is divided and subdivided along racial, national, sectarian, ethnic, and other lines; it lacks even an informal structure of leadership and there is hardly any established tradition of “listening and obeying.”
Since the desired and ideal unity of the entire Muslim ummah cannot be achieved overnight, Muslims who do realize their duties and are willing to strive for them have no recourse but to organize themselves in some sort of group. Such a group is by no means an attempt to replace the ummah. Instead, it is meant to facilitate the taking of conscious and deliberate steps in the direction of restoring the desired and ideal unity of the global Muslim ummah.
In other words, the aim of establishing such a group is not to cause further division within the ummah, but to develop and organize the human and material resources so that the desired goals may be pursued in the most effective manner. In fact, the Qur’an itself contains a clear imperative that points in this direction: “Let there arise out of you a band of people, inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong…” (3:104).
“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. And they are the successful ones.”
[Alee ‘Imran; 3:104]
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.
Muslims in North America are known for their diversity. Over the years they have organized themselves in numerous groups and parties, each with its distinctive set of goals and methodologies. If one agrees with the program offered by one or more of these organizations, one should not hesitate to join them. In IONA’s view, the work of all legitimate Muslim organizations in North America is valuable and necessary, and they should be given the credit and support they deserve. The diversity of activist groups is a sign of the vitality of the Muslim community in North America; it should not be taken as the indication of its internal strife. The separate existence of IONA, on the other hand, stems from the fact that it is unique in several ways.
The reason IONA must continue to exist independently, rather than merge with another organization, is that it is distinctive in terms of its diagnosis of the ailment of the Muslim ummah as well as in the terms of its proposed treatment. It is also unique for having followed the traditional Islamic way of establishing organization and discipline, rather than choosing the modern Western pattern. While the work of ICNA, ISNA, MAS, CAIR, and other organizations is not without merit, the specific goals and methodology of IONA are significantly different from theirs. A separate discussion on these differences can easily be found by exploring other parts of this website or by studying IONA’s literature.
Without giving up its own claim to uniqueness and particularity, IONA considers itself as working in harmony with other Islamic organizations, complementing their efforts to serve Islam, and not as working against them in any sense. In fact, IONA does not look at the work of other Islamic organizations as any less valuable than its own, only different in some ways.
“…And cooperate (with each other) in righteousness and piety, And do not cooperate in sin and enmity. Have fear of God; He is severe in His retribution.”
[al-Ma’idah; 5:2]
IONA has only one overarching objective: to help as many North American Muslims as possible in understanding and fulfilling their divinely ordained obligations, so they may please Allah (SWT) and achieve success and salvation in the Hereafter. IONA’s vision for serving Islam in the contemporary world is firmly rooted in this comprehensive objective.
While the objective itself transcends both history and geography, its concrete realization must take into account the conditions that prevail in the here and now. This is because we are not abstract entities, but rather human beings made of flesh and blood who are living in a particular part of the world at a particular period in history. We cannot ignore our surroundings.
This underscores the fact that the message of IONA, while universal and timeless in principle, is primarily addressed to the Muslims of North America at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The particularity of its temporal and geographical context has important implications for how the universality of the objective will be translated into concrete goals for the present day.
Both the historical moment in which we are living and the social and cultural complex that surrounds us impose certain unique restrictions and allow unique opportunities. IONA seeks to translate its universal objective into concrete goals in an authentic and effective fashion, by keeping in mind this particular configuration of restrictions and opportunities.
On the one hand, we ought to be firmly grounded in the main source of divine guidance – the Qur’an – as well as the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the Islamic scholarly traditions. This grounding is needed to maintain our authenticity. On the other hand, we must be familiar with the historical and socio-cultural context in which we find ourselves, particularly in relation to the massive changes that have occurred in the world starting in 1492 with the European discovery of the Americas. This familiarity is needed to maintain our effectiveness.
IONA’s vision for serving Islam in the contemporary world is informed by the above needs and realities. The clarification and articulation of that vision is an ongoing process. This website is itself an attempt to present and propagate that vision.
The long-term goals of IONA can be summarized as follows. Keep in mind, however, that these goals must be appreciated in light of what has been said above regarding the overarching objective that IONA has set for itself, as well as IONA’s understanding of the divinely ordained obligations that must be fulfilled in order to achieve that objective.
1. To understand and explain the guidance of the Qur’an in light of the Islamic scholarly tradition and our immediate historical and socio-cultural context. The main emphasis of this endeavor is to propagate on a large scale a clear understanding of our divinely ordained obligations as well as to conclusively establish the necessity of fulfilling them.
2. To organize those who respond to the above call into a disciplined and egalitarian community in accordance with Islamic principles. Since the obligations in question cannot be adequately fulfilled by isolated individuals, it is imperative that those wishing to fulfill these obligations to the best of their abilities join their hands, become each other’s supporters, and share their resources and energies in an organized fashion.
3. To continue the process of religious learning, spiritual growth, and mutual support while becoming increasingly better organized. This is achieved by following a voluntarily adopted discipline of “listening and obeying” within the bounds of the Shari’ah.
4. To cultivate constant self-transformation as well as religious and moral improvement under the guidance and direction of qualified teachers and mentors, in order to become increasingly sincere servants and worshipers of Allah (SWT). This is partly achieved through an emphasis on following the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), cleansing our souls, improving our etiquettes and morals, and practicing patience and perseverance in the face of difficulties and temptations.
5. To continuously develop the knowledge of and insight into the meanings of the Glorious Qur’an, in order to acquire the ability to disseminate and propagate its message in an authentic and effective fashion given the realities of our context. To achieve this, the pursuit of both religious and secular education is encouraged at all levels of learning, including Arabic language skills and a regular schedule of recitation and contemplation.
6. To invest time and energy in calling people towards Islam in the best possible manner, using all available and legitimate means of communication, propagation, and persuasion. This goal is facilitated by the prior and simultaneous achievement of community, mutual support, solidarity, discipline, moral training, and education.
7. Insofar as social justice is an integral part of Islam, IONA is committed to serve as a vehicle for the eradication of corruption (fasad) and the establishment of justice in the world. An important goal of IONA, therefore, is to identify and oppose any systematic practice of injustice, oppression, and exploitation, initially through speech and persuasion but also, if needed, through nonviolent acts of moral protest and resistance. As the level of personal and organizational discipline increases, it is hoped that the organization’s ability to “command what is good and forbid what is evil” will be proportionally enhanced to include increasingly bigger aims in this regard.
The above is a brief overview of the long-term goals that IONA has set for itself. As these goals are put into practice, in accordance with the unique configuration of given opportunities and restrictions, resources and organization, discipline and training, they are naturally translated into a wide variety of short-term goals. These short-term goals are then broken down into strategies, tactics, and logistics.
Politics is an important arena in which North American Muslims can play a positive role. To be politically informed and active is both their right and duty as citizens of a democratic state. It is also a matter of their communal well-being. There is no doubt that Muslims in North America need to empower themselves. If Muslims are to survive and prosper in this part of the world, they need to have their voices heard in the echelons of power so that decisions affecting them are not made without their support and approval. This is particularly important in view of the prevalence of negative stereotypes of Muslims and the rapid erosion of their civil liberties in recent years. Similarly, if North American Muslims are concerned about the plight of their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and are interested in influencing the foreign policies of their own countries in a positive way, they must actively participate in politics.
Having acknowledged the importance of a well-informed and politically active Muslim community in North America, we wish to point out that this is not one of the goals that IONA wishes to pursue itself. While IONA does not oppose Muslim participation in North American electoral politics, it has chosen not to take this route itself. This decision stems from the very nature of IONA’s comprehensive methodology. The latter aims at the revival and renaissance of the Islamic civilization by facilitating the fulfillment of our divinely ordained obligations in accordance with the approach taken by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as discussed in more detail elsewhere in this website.
While IONA does not believe that participation in the electoral process will necessarily serve the cause of Islam, in reference to its own vision of what that cause entails, this stance does not indicate that IONA is indifferent to political matters. Indeed, the Qur’an has made it incumbent upon Muslims to “command what is good and forbid what is evil.” Muslims are required by their faith to stand up for justice as witnesses for Allah (SWT), regardless of who they have to criticize in order to fulfill this obligation. A community that aspires to stand up for justice cannot ignore the realm where the worst injustices take place, and where the tools for establishing justice are also found. However, IONA believes that, in the unique social context of North America, political participation in the conventional sense is not the best way of influencing the affairs of the world in accordance with Islamic ideals and values. Instead, IONA’s long-term strategy is to educate and organize at the level of civil society.
According to the Qur’an, Muslim men and Muslim women are helpers and supporters of each other. This was fully demonstrated by the active participation of women in the community of the earliest followers of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In our own times, there is no denying the absolute necessity of both men and women to participate in Islamic activism. Any attempt at creating an activist organization that excludes women is doomed to fail.
Since the Islamic obligations discussed above are just as relevant for Muslim women as they are for Muslim men, IONA’s call is directed equally at both genders. Women are as encouraged to join and be active in IONA as are men.
At the present moment, female members of IONA have their own organizational structure, separate from that of men. In organizational or educational gatherings, men and women are generally separated through a wall or partition; when this is not feasible, men and women sit in different parts of the room and minimize their mutual contact as much as possible. Women are encouraged to wear loose dresses that fully cover their bodies, except their hands and faces. Many IONA members wear a face veil as well, as a sign of their modesty, piety, and commitment to Islam; however, the organization does not view the face veil as mandatory. Men are strongly urged to avoid unnecessary contact with women who are not their immediate relatives, and also to exercise self-restraint by lowering their gaze when they have to interact with women.
Even though women are normally segregated from men, they are very well appreciated for their positive contribution to IONA and are given the maximum possible support from the rest of the organization.
It should be noted that the precise role of women in the contemporary world is an area of heated debate and intense contestation among Muslim communities. This is because the Shari’ah, as understood and interpreted by our blessed predecessors during the classical era, has placed numerous restrictions on the social role and mobility of women. On the other hand, the social and economic realities of the world have changed tremendously since the time when the classical jurists derived their rulings and legal opinions. This combination of factors has made the question of gender roles one of the most controversial among Muslims today, as well as one of the most urgent. The situation is exacerbated by the relative stagnation in the juristic conversation during the last two hundred years, as well as by the contemporary crisis of religious authority in Islam.
IONA as an organization is fully aware of the constant need for growth and improvement. As the number of female members of IONA increases, the women’s side of the organization is likely to become more active, disciplined, and better organized. At the same time, as the female members of IONA become increasingly conscious of their crucially important role, they are likely to exercise greater influence within the organization. Similarly, as the knowledge and experience of both male and female members of IONA regarding the Islamic tradition improves, they are likely to devise more authentic and ingenious solutions to the challenges of gender relations and roles.
IONA believes that jihad is a central concept and duty in Islam. In fact, the Qur’an repeatedly asserts that no one can be a true believer, or hope for success and salvation in the hereafter, if they do not practice jihad. There is no exaggeration in the statement that Islam as a concrete historical reality cannot exist in the absence of jihad. Indeed, if jihad were to be taken out of Islam, there will be very little left that can be called “Islamic.”
Yet, jihad is a concept that has suffered a great deal from various kinds of misinterpretations and even outright distortions. These misinterpretations and distortions have come from both Muslims and non-Muslims, and have contributed to extremely narrow, truncated, and misleading views of Islam. The common stereotype of the violent, blood-thirsty Muslim is actually a caricature of the notion of jihad, a result of an utter failure to comprehend and appreciate the true significance of this concept. While detailed discussions of jihad, its Qur’anic meaning, and its various kinds and levels can be found elsewhere in this website, a very short introduction of the concept is given below.
The word jihad literally means “struggle.” In the Islamic context the word denotes a particular kind of struggle, one that a believer undertakes in order to fulfill their divinely ordained obligations.
The nature of the human being and the created universe is such that one always faces some degree of resistance as one attempts to perform what is required by the Creator. This resistance may be called “inertia,” after the term used in physics for the tendency of both stationary and moving bodies to maintain the status quo. When an individual tries to quit smoking, he or she experiences a resistance from their own body which is addicted to nicotine. When a group of individuals tries to eradicate racism from society, it runs into resistance from entrenched attitudes and institutions that do not wish to give up their privilege. In both examples, the resistance of inertia must be overcome before any change can take place. The phenomenon of the counter force required to overcome that resistance is precisely what the Qur’an calls jihad.
Now the obligations that all Muslims are charged with can be understood under four headings: (1) the cultivation of a strong and authentic faith; (2) the loving and sincere obedience to the will of Allah (SWT); (3) calling all of humankind towards Islam in the most beautiful and convincing way; and, (4) engaging in the struggle to establish social, political, and economic justice in the world. Because fulfilling these obligations necessarily involves exerting a considerable effort in order to overcome the resistance of inertia, it can be readily seen that jihad is an inevitable part of a Muslim’s life. Without exerting a considerable effort, one cannot fulfill one’s duties; without fulfilling one’s duties to the best of one’s abilities, one cannot hope to receive the mercy and grace of Allah (SWT) that one needs to attain success and salvation in the hereafter.
Most forms of jihad, as understood in this light, do not involve violence or warfare. Most forms of jihad are, in fact, spiritual struggles that an individual undertakes either in his or her personal capacity or in solidarity with other believers in a social and communal context, in order to fulfill one or more of the obligations outlined above. IONA is fully committed to this understanding of jihad in both theory and practice.
“And those who strive in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to our paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right.”
[al-’Ankabout, 29:69]
There is, of course, one form of jihad that does involve warfare. That sometimes war becomes an Islamic obligation is quite clear in the Qur’anic narrative, as well as in the Hadith and Sira of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW); it can be described as follows.
In the struggle to establish Islam as a concrete historical reality, the opposition one faces may increase to such an extent that it demands nothing less than a direct physical confrontation. In other words, as one strives to establish social, political, and economic justice in the world, the resistance of inertia from the vested interests may reach a point where its challenge appears in the form of warfare. To give up one’s struggle at that stage is to surrender to the forces of tyranny, oppression, and injustice. It is in such circumstances that jihad takes the form of qital (battle). Both the Qur’an and the Hadith contain extensive discussions of this form of jihad, why it is necessary for the faithful to participate in such battles, and why running away from these confrontations is a sign of one’s abandonment of Islam itself.
IONA adheres to this theoretical understanding of qital. In terms of its practical methodology, however, a very important qualification must be made at this point. IONA does not believe that warfare (or another form of bilaterally violent confrontation) is an inevitable and necessary component of contemporary struggles for Iqamatuddin, even though this was an important part of the struggle undertaken by Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
When the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) led the struggle for the establishment of Islam as a historical reality, he had to lead and participate in numerous battles. It was incumbent on all his followers to likewise risk their lives and limbs in such battles; those who tried to evade this duty were often called the “hypocrites.” For this reason, Islamic sources exalt the virtues of participating in battle for the sake of Allah (SWT).
However, IONA recognizes that we are now living in very different times. That the struggle for Iqamatuddin does not necessarily involve warfare, or armed conflict more generally, is today a sociological fact. This was certainly not true in the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), but it is becoming increasingly true of such struggles in the twenty-first century, the historical context most relevant to IONA. While the resistance of inertia would still have to be overcome, there are now available to us numerous nonviolent alternatives that must take precedence on both practical and ethical grounds. It must be emphasized; therefore, that “nonviolent struggle” is a very important and integral part of IONA’s practical methodology.
[al-’Ankabout, 29:69]
“Nonviolence” is not passive surrender to tyranny. It is, on the contrary, a politically sophisticated method of resistance and opposition; albeit one that does not mandate the use of violence as a coercive tool. While most of the substantial revolutions in history have been bloody undertakings, IONA believes that the use of violence to change society or transform political authority has now become both obsolete and counterproductive.
Let us look at the practical aspect of the issue. It is not unusual for a popular movement demanding a fundamental social or political change to confront the resistance of an organized state or government. In pre-modern times, there was a definite possibility of success for a popular movement undertaking a violent rebellion against the government; one of the most well-known examples of this phenomenon is the French revolution. With the consolidation of the nation-state during the last two hundred years, however, such a possibility no longer exists. The modern nation-state exercises a monopoly over the means and use of legitimate violence, and all modern governments possess powerful resources to destroy, disperse, or otherwise neutralize a violent uprising, no matter how popular. Particularly during the twentieth-century, the use of violence by non-state agents has become both futile and obsolete.
In addition to becoming largely ineffective, revolutionary violence has also become increasingly counter-productive. The use of armed attacks on military targets is impossible for most such movements, which is why they resort to attacking innocent civilians. But terrorism does not help these movements at all; instead, it legitimizes the effort of the state or government to brutally suppress the opposition and to reduce the level of popular support for the cause. In today’s world, to anticipate that a positive social or political change will result from the use of terrorism is to live in a fool’s paradise.
In the twentieth-century, numerous movements for social or political change have succeeded without resorting to violent methods, and the trend is gaining world-wide acceptance. Generally speaking, the modern nation-state tends to rely heavily for its own legitimation on the willing cooperation and consent of its citizens. The pressure of democratic ideals is such that even the worst dictatorships are forced to make a show of popular support through token elections or referendums. Consequently, peaceful withholding of cooperation and withdrawing of consent have now become immensely effective means for making successful popular demands.
Nonviolent strategies include mass protests, civil disobedience, strikes, sit-ins, economic boycotts, nonviolent interventions, etc. There is no hard and fast recipe of a successful protest movement; although creative and flexible strategizing in view of the available opportunities and constraints is a crucial factor that determines the success or failure of a given campaign.
Nonviolence enjoys numerous strategic advantages over violence. Undeserved suffering of morally upright individuals espousing a just cause widens the zone of their sympathizers. Nonviolence allows a very large number of people to participate in the movement, including the children and the elderly. Long-term bitterness and hatred is precluded, and reconciliation remains a possibility in the future. Gandhi’s Salt March and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the Civil Rights movement are just two of the most famous examples of successful nonviolent movements. These have set the stage for other success stories like the Solidarity movement in Poland, the People Power movement in the Philippines, and anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.
In the history of humanity, the practice of nonviolence as a strategy for resistance and opposition is a very recent phenomenon. During the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) – and for several hundred years after him – warfare was the only possible means for a political revolution or a basic transformation in social structures. However, the chances of the success of nonviolent methods have steadily improved during the last hundred years or so. In the twenty-first century, nonviolence is destined to become even more effective and sophisticated, making warfare look much like a dinosaur whose time has long past.
Let us look at the religious and ethical aspects of this issue. In Islam, warfare is always a means to an end, never an end in itself, and the taking of a human life is always an exception to the general rule of protecting and saving lives. In situations where the same end can be achieved by violent and nonviolent methods, the latter is clearly preferable over the former. Despite the emphasis on qital in the Qur’an and Hadith, there is nothing in these sources that would preclude or prohibit the adoption of nonviolence as both ethics and strategy.
We know that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was a kind, lenient, and gentle human being; he was sent by Allah (SWT) as a “mercy to the worlds.” If such a man fought battles, it was only because there was no alternative to warfare in seventh-century Arabia. Furthermore, the Prophet (SAW) and his followers themselves set an example for us when they practiced strict nonviolence for several years in Makkah. It is well known that Muslims were ridiculed, opposed, and persecuted by the elders of Quraysh, and Muslim slaves were frequently tortured and killed. Despite this, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did not allow Muslims to carry out any retaliation against their tormentors; he only asked them to endure with patience while keeping their faith and continuing their struggle. The Muslim practice of patience and strict non-retaliation during the 12 years in Makkah provide us with a brilliant example of how to resist evil without causing injury.
It is true that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) changed his strategy after the migration to Medina, and when Allah (SWT) through revelation gave Muslims the permission to fight back against their oppressors. However, the social and historical context must be kept in mind as we try to understand the battles in which early Muslims participated. From the Islamic viewpoint, warfare is not an absolute good; it is only a relative good. It is important to remember that there is nothing inherently desirable in war from a moral and religious viewpoint. Killing for the sake of killing is no act of virtue by any standard. As such, it is only the end for which one fights, and the conditions which one upholds while doing so, that makes fighting morally good or bad. Qital was made mandatory upon Muslims because it was the only possible method to serve the cause of Islam in the particular social and historical context of seventh-century Arabia. The Prophet (SAW) led the Muslims in many battles; he had to do this in order to protect his community, to defeat his enemies, and to establish Islam as a historical reality. If the establishment of Islam were possible without resorting to war, there is no doubt that this is what the Prophet (SAW) would have preferred.
In this context, it is important to dispel the common misunderstanding that nonviolent struggles are somehow “easier” than armed combat. On the contrary, it is fair to say that nonviolence is not for the fainthearted. It requires extraordinary courage, patience, and discipline to stand one’s ground in front of guns, tanks, and bulldozers. While it is relatively easy to take the life of a much hated opponent in a moment of rage, it calls for a great deal of self-control to allow oneself to be beaten to a pulp and not raise one’s hand in self-defense. Indeed, the use of nonviolence does not guarantee that one will remain safe and protected. In the final analysis, there is probably equal risk of losing one’s life or limb in both kinds of conflict. Nonviolence, therefore, is not an attempt to run away from danger or confrontation. The imperatives of the Qur’an and Hadith that encourage Muslims to remain steadfast in times of conflict and to endure physical pain with patience remain as applicable in cases of nonviolent resistance as they were in the original context of warfare.
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.
Anti-Semitism is defined as “hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group.” Technically speaking, this term is a misnomer because Jews are not the only Semitic people; Arabs, too are Semites, even though the term “Anti-Semitism” is never applied to hostility or discrimination against Arabs. However, since the term “Anti-Semitism” is now universally understood as denoting the irrational hatred and prejudice against the Jewish people, we too will use it only in this sense.
To understand IONA’s position on anti-Semitism, three points should be noted:
1. The Qur’an neither teaches nor condones Anti-Semitism
The Qur’an teaches that all humanity has descended from Adam. This means that all people are members of the same family—irrespective of the differences of race, class, ethnicity, gender, religion, nationality, and other markers of identity. One of the central corollaries of tawhid—the imperative to believe in and worship only the One True God—is the radical egalitarianism of all human beings. In his farewell address, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “O people! Your Lord is One, and your father is one; all of you are from Adam, and Adam was made from the earth. The noblest among you in God’s view is the one who is most pious. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, except in piety.”
In light of these teachings, there is no religious or moral justification for a Muslim to hate an individual or a community on the basis of racial or religious differences. The Jews, furthermore, are particularly close to us because they are the descendents of the monotheistic community established by the Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, who has been much praised in the Qur’an as the “friend of God” and as “leader of humankind.” The Qur’an acknowledges that God had chosen the “Children of Israel” over all other nations and had blessed them both materially and spiritually. There is more space devoted in the Qur’an to Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, than any other figure.
It is true that the Qur’an criticizes the “Children of Israel” for their repeated transgressions of divine commandments and for their opposition to prophets. More specifically, the Qur’an criticizes the Jews of Medina, who were contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), for their opposition to Islam and for their violations of the peace-and-cooperation treaty that they had made with Muslims. These criticisms, however, are not racially based; they are based on the same moral principles that Muslims too are required to uphold. Jews have not been reprimanded in the Qur’an just because they are Jews; rather, they are admonished because of their breaking of promises and other unrighteous attitudes and actions, i.e., for their violation of the Torah. Because the Qur’an takes a consistent and impartial moral stance, it praises the faithful and righteous among the “People of the Book” just as it admonishes some Muslims for their moral shortcomings.
The actual historic record confirms the fact that Muslims as a whole had never been anti-Semitic. The history of Muslim-Jewish relations before the twentieth-century provides ample evidence that Muslim societies were much more tolerant and respectful towards their Jewish residents as compared to comparable Christian societies. It is certainly true that non-Muslims had a second-class status under Muslim rule, but one should remember that a lower status for minorities was the norm in all pre-modern societies.
Historically speaking, anti-Semitism had always been a uniquely Christian problem, and its roots can be traced to the New Testament itself. The very existence of Jewish communities in their midst created a theological problem for many medieval Christians, some of whom periodically sought to exterminate all Jews. Muslims, on the other hand, did not face a similar theological problem; they could accept Jews (and Christians) as “People of the Book” without feeling that their religion requires them to exterminate these religious “others.” Consequently, nothing even remotely comparable to the widespread massacres of Jews who lived under Christian rule ever took place in Muslim lands. In fact, Muslims and Jews suffered similar treatment in the wake of the Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula; it is well-known that the expelled Jews subsequently found a safe haven in Muslim lands. No Muslim society would have justified the kind of Nazi policies that led to the horrors of the Shoah during WW II.
2. Anti-Semitism among contemporary Muslims has political causes
We do not deny the existence of anti-Semitism among contemporary Muslims. However, it is very important to recognize that the hatred of Jews that one sometimes finds in Muslims societies has no roots in Islamic scripture, theology, law, or in Muslim history; instead, it is a product of specific political events of the twentieth-century, i.e., the Israel-Palestine issue. Several Jewish historians have acknowledged that there was no anti-Semitism in Muslim societies before the nineteenth-century, and very little before the twentieth-century.
To understand the origin of anti-Semitism among Muslims, one must recognize the blurring of the boundary between scripture-based religion and secular nationalism that has taken place in modern Judaism. Even though Zionism began in the nineteenthcentury as a secular and socialist movement among non-religious Jews, it has now become part of the religious identity of a large proportion of Jewish population.
Due to this blurring of the boundary between religion and nationalism, political debates frequently take a religious hue; similarly, religious sentiments are often invoked when the issue in question is purely political and ought to be addressed on pragmatic grounds alone. Another very unfortunate side-effect of this blurring is that a principle-based moral criticism of specific political policies can be easily misunderstood or misconstrued as religious or racial hatred.
In light of these three points, our position on anti-Semitism should be very clear. We believe in the essential unity of humankind and we reject any hatred, prejudice, or discrimination that is perpetrated or justified on the basis of the racial, ethnic, or religious identity of any individual or community. We denounce anti-Semitism just as we denounce all other kinds of racism and racist ideologies directed against any group of people; we reject the irrational hatred of the Jewish people just as we reject Islamophobia—the irrational hatred aimed at Islam and Muslims.
We take this stand publicly because we are commanded by the Qur’an to “enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong” and to “stand up for God as witnesses of justice.” For the same reason, we also take the principled stand that our respect for any religious tradition or any ethnic/racial group does not require us to suspend our right and obligation of moral criticism.