Virtually Islamic: Software for Spiritual and Social Life
March 6, 2009
Islam is no longer confined to this life and the afterlife—it is increasingly bound to the virtual life. A growing number of software products create virtual spaces in which Muslims can deepen their connection to their faith and non-Muslims can explore with Muslim identities.
One such product, created by Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s IslamOnline.net and connected to the popular online venture Second Life, creates a simulation of the pilgrimage to Mecca. Through their online avatars, users can peform all of the rituals of the pilgrimage in an accurately rendered simulation of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and its surrounding sites. Second Life, a three-dimensional virtual world with more than sixteen million users, also contains virtual representations of a Ramadan tent, Cordoba’s Mezquita mosque, Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque, Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, and a reconstruction of the community that surrounded Spain’s Alhambra as it existed in the thirteenth century. This reconstruction, named the Caliphate of Al-Andalus, is replete with Muslim, Christian and Jewish quarters and allows users to experiment with living under medieval Islamic rule.
Out of Finland comes another online community, Muxlim Pal, that creates a virtual world in which users can socialize with fellow Muslims. The site emphasizes that it is a safe space that bans violent, drug-related, and sexually explicit content.
With so much user-driven content, it remains unclear whether the sites will encourage more exchange between Muslims and non-Muslims or virtual wars between them—or between Muslims themselves. In a way, it’s just like real life.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.