Virtually Islamic

Thought I’d share a very interesting blog that charts the intersection of Islam and the Internet called Virtually Islamic.  It’s by Gary Bunt, the author of a number of cutting-edge books and articles on Muslims and the Internet. 

If you’re a techie like me, you’re sure to find it entertaining.  For example, he reports on a stink in Saudi Arabia at the moment over an imam who was punished for using his laptop during the khutbah (Friday sermon).

It’s inelegant and undesirable in most situations, sure.  But haram?  The Khutbah is the Muslim community’s most important forum and a place where practical matters are discussed and public announcements made.  Some topics could require visual aids, which today in practice means laptops and projectors.

Another example of how Saudi religious authorities  (such as they are) go overboard in protecting Islam from "corruption", in the process illegitimately imposing their own arbitrary opinions on other Muslims.  Not that it’s a big surprise coming from the land of the mutawa.

At least there’s a debate in Saudi over this, though.  That’s a healthy sign.

  • shabana

    the objectors might have been upset because they only associate the internet/computers with porn and such.

  • khaled

    salams svend! and congrats again to you and your wife on your baby!
    btw that must mean i need to be floged or something as i’ve given a khutba before using a laptop bec i was not able to print it out :-p
    no one minded and many thought it was khutbas getting techie :-)
    hope you are all in good health and nice to read your stuff always

  • touhid

    it would be interesting to know how the muslims reacted (and the discussions that ensued) when microphone/loudspeakers were introduced into the masjid sphere.

  • TM Lutas

    If the imam had been using electronic paper instead, would the punishment have been the same? The problem of invasive technology crops up in christian circles as well, though I doubt that something as simple as using a laptop for notes would be an issue. Some protestant churches in the US are wifi zones. It’s problematic because the less devout tend to be checking their email if the sermon is uninteresting to them. Cell phones that interrupt services have prompted some churches to buy jammers.
    And svend, congratulations on your child. From this father of three I hope you don’t mind a little advice, sleep when you can. But then again, if this isn’t your first you already know that.

  • svend

    Thanks for the tip and well wishes, TM. It is indeed my first time, and yes I try, though Shabana’s the one who’s up at night most of the time.
    Three of ‘em. Wow. That’s great. At this point, we’ll be grateful if we survive this one.
    As for paper visual aids, I’m not sure what the traditional line is on using paper. In case you didn’t know this, in Islam you have far more rules & jurisprudence covering daily life than Christianity. For us, the “Law” of the Old Testament remains in effect, in spirit if not in all the details (e.g., alcohol, which is banned in Islam, but an integral part of Jewish religious ritual).
    At the same time, there are a number of different schools of Islamic jurisprudence and rank & file Muslims aren’t always aware of the rulings anyway.
    Given how it’s not unusual to see imams waving papers, hold things up and point to them, etc., and things during khutbahs I doubt that *all* props and visual aids are off limits.
    The use of analogy (qiyas) is a well established principle of Islamic jurisprudence. It would seem to me that if holding up a sheet of paper is halal (allowed), projecting an image that is germane to the discussion would be, as well, but then I’m no scholar.
    That’s an interesting hypothesis about the negative associations of computers, Shabana, though I suspect that Saudis are past the stage of thinking computers are inherently one thing or the other.
    Great to hear from you, Khaled.
    That is an interesting question, Touhid. Don’t know about loudspeakers, but I know that the introduction of the telephone in Arabia was controversial, especially in Najd. I read somewhere that King Ibn Saud had to have people recite Quran over the phone to prove to suspicious bedouins that it wasn’t a tool of the Devil.