Technology & Islam - Time To Work Together?
Imagine this – you’re travelling, maybe on a plane or a train and can’t see the sun but it’s time to pray. So, you pull out your mobile and check the Kaba direction on Islamic Compass. Imagine you’re in a city you’re not too familiar with but it’s time for Salaat, so you whip out your iTouch, type in your postcode and get directions to the nearest mosque. Sorted.
Welcome to the 21st century people.
Day in and day out we are bombarded with adverts about new gadgets, new applications and new software – but most of the time we shrug it off. Ignore it. Brush it under the carpet. Let me ask you this, how many times have you actually given full thought to it? Okay, try to ignore the cheesy music, and mindboggling prices – but have you ever thought about how valuable technology can be, not only for this Islamic generation, but for future generations to come. My reason for writing an article on this particular topic is because I truly believe that us Muslims aren’t adapting fast enough to the world around us. However if we do… Well, that would be seriously beneficial.
Let’s rewind a moment. The word technology comes from the root word technologia which means a craft or a skill in Greek. This skill, had been in the hands of the Muslims for quite some time, until communication became so vast that anybody could get hold of information. Who here flicked on a light switch today? Well that was all down to our dear Muhammad Ibn Razi who, in the 9th century, created the first kerosene lamp (1001 Inventions published by FSTC Ltd) , that has been transformed into our modern day light bulbs, neon lights, spot lights, torches etc. Al – Jazari’s (1001 Inventions published by FSTC Ltd) simple but precious invention of the water clock in the 13th century has also allowed us to adapt and create grandfather clocks, alarm clocks and underwater watches. Hundreds of Muslim geniuses in the past built the key foundations of an endless list of things we use today and probably take for granted – from tea, to scalpels, to University. I think we have the responsibility of adding to that or passing it on.
Back to the future, we have such an enormous amount of technology taking role in our lives it’s unbelievable! Believe it or not, the average 15 to 21 year old spends 60% of their day using technology of some sort. Some may blame the older generation for lack of knowledge in this cyber world, but it’s not their fault that they weren’t brought up with all this technology! I truly believe that if we use technology sensibly we can use it to our own Islamic advantage. How, you may ask, can we use our present day technology to benefit our religion if the Prophet didn’t use it? Read on…
There is currently a phenomenal range of Islamic technology products available that some of you may, or may not, have heard of. Apple has over 1000 apps including some fantastic applications ideal for Muslims. Here are my top 5:
· Quick Mosque Finder: with over 770 UK and over 1000 US Mosques
· Islamic Compass
· iPray with iAzaan
· iHadith Collection
Additionally, chatting software like Skype allow having multiple discussions at one time which has helped some Sister’s , who find electronic communication acceptable, to use Skype Video Call. YouTube is also a prime location for scholars and lecturers to post messages and lectures which, I as a student, find pretty useful.
Aha, now we come to that huge world of Social Networking - which my parents like to call Antisocial networking. Social networking is the most popular cyber creation in history, and I think it deserves it. On the other hand, David Ross Brower, the founder of Friends of the Earth, once said “All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent.”, and this can be supported by headlines splattered all over the press about pornography, paedophilia and fraud scams all based on the internet and a lot on social networking sites. From this I can understand parental concern, but the amount of people who abuse the net are only a minority. The most used social networking sites in the world are Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and Friendster and are often abused. However, let’s look at the positives of them. Many people have been able to, find jobs, learn and discuss Islam in a wider space. Blogging has also become popular recently with Twitter being the number one hit. Famous people from James “Teddy” Caan to Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum use Twitter blogging as a tool to engage with their audience in “real time”. Photography is also something I think has not been approved fully in our Islamic culture. As my own specialty, I feel that photographs and general images are discriminated against and I am reminded often of this apparent Hadith: “Whoever makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, and he will never be able to put life in it.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari HadithHadith 3.428, Narrated by Said Bin Abu Al-Hasan, however there may be other opinions). Ahem, who actually brought the camera into our world and why? In the 11th century, Ibn Al-Haithan (1001 Inventions by FSTC Ltd) a famous Arab scientist put together the first pinhole camera consuming of just a box with a hole in it. This has been enhanced over hundreds of years to give us what we have today: SLRs, compact cameras and mobile phones. So, next time you snap a pic on your 5 Mega Pixel phone camera, spare a thought for Ibn Al-Haithan. I do agree that photography is widely abused in our society, but with the right intention we can benefit ourselves, and also share Islam with others. For example take Peter Sanders, who is a revert portraying his view of Islam through photography and inspires non Muslims to see the beauty too. Here is another Hadith: “I will not give up this work (of dawah) till Allah’s Deen becomes dominant or I give up my life in that pursuit.” (Narrated by Said Bin Abu Al-Hasan, according to Shamim A Siddiqi, New York). Supporting that hadith, I believe that with a clean mind and the skills of our young Muslim generation we can use technology to our advantage and pass on the beautiful message of our Deen.
On the outset it looks like technology was bound to be all of Satan’s work, but no need to fear, Allah is here! Let me explain … Just this May Ermy Ermy (an applications designer) created the iSlam Muhammad App portraying negative views of the Qur’an and sharing ‘pictures’ of the Prophet Muhammad (saw). You may be thinking I’ve just gone into all this effort for it to turn back on us! But fortunately, Apple banned the sale of this product, even though the equivalent Christian app, The Bible Thumper, is on sale – but is that really fair?
I know the majority of brothers and sisters reading this will already be familiar with all this modern day technology that I have explained, so this information would certainly benefit the older generation, or even the younger, learning generation. In conclusion, I do agree that technology is adapting so rapidly that it could easily slip out of our hands, but at the end of the day, the world is changing, and we must change with it. Plus, if we adapt with it we could benefit from it.
By Humaira Din
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