Zul Hijja / Muharram 1422 H
Volume 15-03 No:183
In the past, there has been an assumption, more like a prejudice that Islam was indifferent or even hostile to modern technology. Yet a quick look on the Islamic web sites confirms that Muslims across the world are receptive of technological advances and have used the Internet to practice, teach and debate on issues related to their faith. In Virtually Islamic: Computer-mediated Communication and Cyber Islamic Environments, its author a Gary Bunt, says: “ A global ummah, or Muslim community is pulsing with chat rooms and newsgroups, and is energised by a host of intellectual discussions and social concerns”. “Within the spectrum are websites concerned with relatively benign matters like online affirmations of faith and information to facilitate business networks. Some forums moderate e-mail exchanges with religious scholars who dispense clarifications on many issues’’ writes Gary Bunt. “Websites of minority sects not recognised by Islamic establishments also find a voice online, since anonymity and protection from censorship allow them to defy sanctions against ‘deviationism,’. says Bunt. Then, there are politically driven sites, which sustain resistance movements related to just about every conceivable Muslim “problem,” from the Palestinian intifada to Kashmir secessionism.
The book, Virtually Islamic does not develop a central argument about Islam online. It is, however, a valuable guide to things related to Islam on the Internet, especially to readers pondering over technology’s impact on religious identity or the ummah’s urgent social, moral and political questions. Bunt offers an intriguing conclusion: “Greater communication networks and enhanced inter-activity will enable Islamic websites to bring people together more efficiently in cyberspace. But he believes that the electronic ummah will not produce unity, any more than the real Muslim community can. To that extent, a basic principle of the faith holds: There is only one Islam, real or virtual.
In our country, countless number of Islamic sites in different languages are uploaded regularly. Few such as jih.org and sio.org are the websites of the Islamic organisations such as Jamaat-e-islami and Students Islamic organisation of India respectively. Such websites provide online information about the organisation’s programmes, agenda, its aims and objectives and its different aspects. Then there are websites which claim to be Dawah websites such as the website of Islamic Research Foundation and islamvision. org, which claim to be a website for friends and foes. Besides providing reams of information about different aspects of Islam, the websites have discussion forums and online chatting specially for those who are interested in knowing more about Islam. Many are skeptical about such Dawah websites. They argue that one of the pre-requisites for inviting anyone towards Islam is the human touch and personal contact. Dr Safi Qureshi, a general practitioner believes that Dawah sites can only be a supplement, a means for Dawah and not an end in itself.” If the human touch was not required, Almighty Allah would have sent only the holy book and not the Prophet (Pbuh). Practice is more important then mere preaching. People would be more attracted towards a good practicing Muslim rather then a brilliantly designed Islamic website,” he says.
During the period of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), it was his exemplary character that influenced the most hostile tribes of Arabia and led them to embrace Islam. There was no Net or these hi-tech communication techniques then, but still the effect of Dawah was so powerful. Our generation has by the grace of the Almighty, innumerable means of communication and we ought to make intelligent use of these to propagate the message of Islam to the rest of the world.
In a random survey by Islamic Voice, it was revealed that the main purpose of non-Muslims visiting Islamic sites is getting information on issues linked with the Muslims, such as polygamy, triple talaq and purdah. One of the respondent, Ashok Desai, a businessman in Pharmaceuticals visited couple of Islamic websites only once when he needed information about purdah after attending a wedding reception of a Muslim friend.” I was surprised to see many women attending the reception in purdah. Out of curiosity, I logged into couple of Islamic websites suggested by my Muslim friend to know more about the purdah system”, he said.
Another respondent Abhay Kadakia a medical student often visits Islamic sites to know more about Islam, as one of his class mate is a Muslim.” I often asked her about Islam. Many a times I get very confused by her reply. So I myself search for more information through web sites,” he said.
Fatwa.com, provides fatwa online from a slew of ulemas all over the world. You ask a fatwa for any issue and they provide one, many a time within hours. Then there are websites of the Islamic monthly such as Islamic Voice, which provides news from the Islamic world as well as features and articles on a slew of subjects related to the community and Islamic ideology.
There are sites such as. Islammessage.com, sultan.org, offering free downloading of various Islamic literature, books on the Prophet’s (Pbuh) life, the Quran and Hadith. Here, one can down load informative books on various subjects such as ‘Material on the Authenticity of the Quran’ and ‘A brief illustrated guide to understanding Islam’. Also there are interesting and useful articles like the ‘Scientific Universal Signs included in the Quran’, ‘Islam and Muslims’, ‘Islam in the modern world’ World of Islam’ ‘Aftermath of the Colonial Period’, ‘Islamic World Civilization’, ‘General Characteristics of Islamic Civilization’ and ‘Islam, Knowledge and Science,’ provide basic introductory knowledge about the Muslim world. FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) offered by these sites are very useful. Here, the most basic information about Islam is provided, and statistics of the Muslim population around the world is given in detail in tabular format. Most of the features on wide ranging issues are of immense use for convincing logically to non-Muslims about Islam as the true religion. Internet has revolutionised the communication field. Thousands of Islamic sites are floating in the cyber space providing information. Ironically a cursory look at these Islamic Sites revealed that most of them provide re-cycled information from the same basic sources. Very few sites deal with the contemporary issues faced by the Islamic world. The intellectual stagnation of the Ummah is reflected in these sites. But nevertheless, useful information on various subjects for students, researchers and common Muslim is easily available.
The need is to effectively use the Internet for the propagation of Islam, remove misunderstanding about it, and establish a link or communication network with other communities. But Internet can only serve, as a Dawah tool. Without the human touch, Dawah can never be complete. Thus unless and until the efforts through Internet is supplemented with the personal touch, the real purpose of Dawah cannot be achieved.
During the period of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), it was his exemplary character that influenced the most hostile tribes of Arabia and led them to embrace Islam. There was no Net or these hi-tech communication techniques then, but still the effect of Dawah was so powerful. Our generation has by the grace of the Almighty, innumerable means of communication and we ought to make intelligent use of these to propagate the message of Islam to the rest of the world. The critical issue is to present Islam in a balanced style in a creative fashion and more than anything adhere to the ethics of originality than merely providing recycled stuff to the Netizens.Top