Once internet became known, it became an integral part of every human’s life, irrespective of their caste and religion. Internet covers a wide part of our necessity and has become critically essential that it is not only used for research and marketing, but also for analyzing other religions and studying in-depth about one’s own.
Muslim countries also use Internet widely, and unsurprisingly, it has shaped their lives as Muslims accordingly. With internet, Muslims have shifted their outlook to adjust with the twenty first century, and while it may have helped many to compete with modernization, it has also hampered the essence of true Islam and its meaning.
Islam on the internet, or also called “digital Islam” can be defined and found in various aspects. We can find Islam on blogs, websites, forums where the teachings and laws are discussed and explained; we can find Islam on YouTube videos, and now, on Twitter and Facebook among comments where the political Islam and degradation are focused. Now let’s see what really made the Internet a very important networking tool in our Islam?
Like everything else, the incident of 9/11 aroused the need of communicating online. Nonetheless, after the traditional era of Islam passed by, online communication had begun in 1990s but was solely in the hands of other elite classes including those of North America. With Arabia taking interest in inventing new software tools and occupying another communication ways, other Muslim countries also got encouraged to indulge in the easier methods to seek out help from fellow Muslims and keep one updated on the situation across the world. Was this a thoughtful step or not?
First of all, Internet Muslim World has vastly affected sectarian differences. Internet is one of the biggest contributors after media to encourage and promote regional and sect differences among Muslim countries, through launching a discussion on forums among youngsters who widely use Internet, and spreading misunderstandings and misconceptions. While it may have helped to meet and build strong relations with other Muslims living in perhaps Iran and Iraq, it has more widely ignited a fire among the closely living Muslim communities that still thrives, and is fed. Moreover, internet tool has also influenced our jihadist and similar movements. Military movements led by good/bad leaders such as al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hezbollah and other mujahedeen make use of internet for propagation campaigns and to influence the emotional and psychological prospect of locals. Once again, while it may have led to gaining lots of followers and turning the hearts back to lift the blind fold off many eyes; it has also led to other countries tagging Muslims as terrorists and backing their arguments with snaps of campaigning on the internet and videos. Nonetheless, internet has become another important way of gaining financial benefits for these jihadist movements.
Furthermore, internet has played a key part in changing the psychological and social outlook of numerous Muslims. With virtual debates, interpretations and presentations, the Islamic message among the users has also gone in depth and altered slightly. With the digital revolution, many are benefiting with deep study on an easier path, while the original meaning and Islamic or Quranic interpretations has also developed in hundreds of views and has become confusing for an outsider, or a beginner. We can find Quranic translations easily, the “Tafseer” and views of scholars on several websites and blogs, and hence, with such a large number of Muslims forwarding their own concepts publicly to the entire world, an outsider or an amateur is bound to be thrown in a conflict of real meaning and following the correct laws. It has also aroused the cynical view of Muslims conflicting within themselves and each sect having a different perspective. In short, Islam is seen as being a confusing, and unstable religion.
Other than this, internet is also used for matrimonial decisions in many Muslim countries. Though the websites encouraging a matrimony settling is under the parameters of ‘halal’ web, there are websites encouraging dating and illegal network relations that is not only forbidden, but is also a danger of Islamic culture and image. The online anonymity is another perk for online dating and has pushed traditional boundaries of interaction between a man and woman in Islam to its edge. Tempted with traffic on chat rooms according to stats, and under the dark of the night, the evil in them leap out at the opportunity of surfing through webs and resulting in signing in for an ‘illicit’ relationship even in Muslim countries.
Nevertheless, internet has positively influenced religious practices for many. Several Muslims use the internet for determining the correct prayer times, to download the recitation of Quran, to come in contact with authentic religious scholars having official websites and to study about other religion to strengthen the morals and belief in Islam. While it depends on the sect/religion when we decide about internet impacting religious practices, there have been positive comments from Muslims benefiting by several Islamic web portals, and looking up answers to simple yet conflicting issues.
Conclusively, internet, as we all know is a form of technology and would inevitable cause goods and bad just like media. It depends on how we Muslims use it, and retain the essence of traditional teachings and originality. It has both, benefited hundreds of Muslims in regards of communication, seeking answers, and studying in-depth, but has also harmed them by secret campaigns of so-called Muslims, coming as a disguise to disrupt the image of Islam, and spread conflict and misunderstanding among our communities.
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