I have been an internet junkie since about 1990… And I was online when e-mail came through tel-net, and I was just using a dial-up to get to my university’s server. So, naturally I used the internet to research Islam and meet Muslims when I was considering conversion.
I have often wondered if I would have ever learned all I did, if I ever would have converted for that matter if it weren’t for my internet addiction (yes friends, addiction because I will ask you to use your computer to check my mail if I am at your house).
Now, I think that I may not be alone in this, and it brings rise to a question that I have: Does the internet have a role in modern Islam, and if it does what is it?
My answer is simple. I say undoubtedly, YES. With gusto, YES. What is that role, now that is a more complicated question. I think the internet has two major roles, education and community. Of course I might be biased since those are the two things I get from the internet… But bear with me because I still think it is true.
In this world we are all connected now, and we all have the opportunity to learn from the internet as long as we are critical readers. I know there are those out there who hate to see “wrong” information proliferated by the internet… But I look at it differently. I look at it as an opportunity to open your mind, to explore all the facets of a subject and solidify your opinion. In the end the truth will win out. There is no need to fret over sites that are flat out wrong or misleading, as long as we are all up to the responsibility of weeding out the information we take in.
In a broader sense I think this critical look at the religion will help us, strengthen us. There are many of us out there not ready to follow something simply because it is tradition, or the way things have always been done. If you are secure in your ideas, hold them up to our scrutiny and I promise you if they pass the test we will listen to them.
The community provided by the internet is important to people like me in remote areas where there simply are not many Muslims. I stay connected to the ummah through the friendships I form on-line, and I consider them to be as sincere and important as the friendships I have in the real world. I think even if you never make friends online you will find a certain comfort in reading a blog that reminds you of your outlook on life, a groups that touches on the issues that are important to you. There are days I don’t talk about Islam except with people on the internet. And that talk keeps things going for me when I feel that I am the Lone Ranger here in the Midwest.
So, I just hope that we all keep e-mailing, blogging, building sites… I think that it is a big part of our lives in this society where we are all so spread out. And who knows when you are typing that blog entry who might be reading it!