by IRFAN AHMAD KHAN, Ph.D.
The Internet has opened immense possibilities of interaction within the Global Community of Believers. The part of Ummah Muslimah belonging to the family of internet users will be directly involved in this communication. However, the whole Ummah will feel its indirect impact. As it is expected that the family of internet users will keep growing for quite some time, the impact upon the Ummah of its people’s internet activity will also keep growing. As a result of this impact, internet can multiply the existing divisions among the Global Muslim Community and increase the confusions shared by many of its people. And it can help the development of that true unity which belongs to Ummah’s very essence. The secret lies in three fundamental principles that should be the focus of our study and research during our internet activities. Only when we fail to have a firm grip on these three sources of essential unity of the Ummah, divisions arise. And, in fact, most serious confusions of Muslim people are due to their lack of clarity concerning the meanings and significance of these principles or their mutual relationship. These principles are the following:
1. The First and the most basic Principle is tawhid. It straightens human life and thought through straightening man-God relationship. Tawhid liberates humans from all forms of lordship of Man over Man thus making them ‘truly `ibad (servants) of One God only’. It liberates them, for example, from the blind the following of their leaders/institutions. Tawhid is, in fact, a process of individual as well as communal transformation. ‘One’s coming out of the worship of all false gods and thereby one’s becoming/acting as servant of One God only’ involves a process of inner transformation, which is directed, in the external world, toward building a sustainable society — establishing perfect social and economic justice on Earth.
2. The Revealed Guidance in Divine Words explains meanings and implications of tawhid in a language understandable to Man. The Quranic Community extends from its very inception — when the Quran first called Mankind to the tawhidic mission — to the Last Day of Mankind on Earth. Its people are supposed to maintain a living contact with the Divine Book. As God leads the intellectual progress of Mankind and as Mankind passes through various stages of its growth and development, it is expected of the Muslim people that they would, generation after generation, keep reflecting over the meanings of the Quranic ayat (signs), receiving fresh inspiration and guidance from it.
3. However, the first generation of the Believers is in a very advantageous position due to the physical presence of the Prophet among them. The Prophet, who leads the Quranic Movement, himself takes care of the education and spiritual and moral development of his believers. In his own words and through his own actions, the Prophet explains the Quran to his first addressees and works out, under direct Divine guidance, its practical implications in human situation the Quranic Movement faced in the first instance. Although the Ummah is supposed to continue the task of understanding and living the RGDW; it is only in Prophet’s life that this task is performed under direct Divine Supervision. The Prophet has a special kind of direct relationship with God which others do not have. When needed God intervenes and corrects the Prophets or sends a new revelation. Thus the Sunnah of the Prophet has a special status. The Sunnah is documented in Hadith literature. And it is evaluated/scrutinized by the muhaddithin.
Thus Sunnah is concrete Islamic life. Here the tawhidic principle takes a concrete form as it is lived by the first generation of the believers. eing explained and applied to human life at a time and space by the first generation of the believers who understand and live this principle in the light of the Revealed Guidance in Divine Words and under the leadership of the Prophet himself. When the Revealed Guidance in Divine Words is complete and the Prophet has also completed his job of explaining and applying its guidance, he leaves. However, it is expected of the Ummah Muslimah that it would continue the task of understanding and living the tawhididic principle in the light of the Quran keeping the Model of the Prophet before their eyes. Today the Ummah is deprived of the physical presence of the Prophet and of many blessings which the first generation of his believers enjoyed. But, in some ways, it has more resources and now it has more freedom in doing its job. While all ijtihad has to justify itself on the criterion of authenticity, no member of the Muslim Community can claim any special direct relationship with God to curb any fresh understanding of the Book or to give his/her interpretation of the Book the status of the Quran or of the Sunnah.
Now, if we are right, then whatever is presented by some Muslims now-a-days, on internet or elsewhere, as true Islam has to justify itself as such in the light of the above.
Those Muslims who use internet for educatonal or dawah purposes must fully grasp the above point otherwise they would, unknowingly, lead Ummah to further division and totally miss the point of Ummah’s essential unity.