More and more, our social lives unfold online. Today, we develop friendships, meet romantic partners, and find jobs via the Internet. Muslims today are no exception to these trends, and so a unique phenomenon has arisen: our community is increasingly growing and interconnecting online. Many seekers and converts are first being exposed to the Deen [Islamic religion] and the Ummah [global Muslim community] via the Internet. Many of us are also being taught and mentored partly or even primarily online.
I, for one, first meaningfully encountered Islam online. I was active on Google+ back in its heyday (who else misses it?), and by chance connected with some lovely Muslims on there. I also encountered Muslims on other online platforms as I began wearing Christian headcoverings. As my spiritual journey progressed, I educated myself on Islam partly via the Internet. Alhamdulillah, I had the blessing of cultivating relationships online with Muslims who held my hand along the way, answered so many questions (may Allah reward everyone of them!), sent me books (oh, the international shipping some of them paid!), and just generally oriented me in this new world I was discovering. My story is not terribly unusual. My continued lack of in-depth engagement with my local Ummah is less common. But the way I discovered Islam? Taking my Shahada [see here] before witnesses via Skype? Those things are becoming increasingly ordinary.
I have nothing but positive things to say about this trend. Allah guides who He wills. It seems that more and more, the Internet is being used to show people the Path. It is beautiful to me how many people are finding Islam and support on their path via this incredible tool. Many converts would have next to no, or no, support along the way if it weren’t for the online communities that have arisen in the past few years.
Of course, the potential downside of this trend is the erosion of our local communities. Our local masajid [plural Arabic word meaning mosques] are invaluable to our spiritual welfare as Muslims. As we utilize online platforms to foster genuine, meaningful connections with other Muslims and to help seekers as they investigate Islam, we mustn’t neglect our local Islamic centers and mosques. We mustn’t forget to connect with other local Muslims, even in the smallest ways, such as exchanging salaams [Islamic greetings of peace] in public. At the same time, as Muslims we now have a fantastic tool for helping seekers and new converts. So, let’s utilize it! Let’s strike that balance between using the Internet to strengthen the Ummah overall and not letting our use of it to weaken our local comunities.