SAFAR - RABI-UL-AWWAL
Volume 17-04 No : 208
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Youngsters are depending more now on virtual Islamic organisations, Islamic websites, and online Islamic fatwa sites to learn about Islam.
By M Hanif Lakdawala
A random survey was conducted by Islamic Voice, in association with Trends Research and Analysis Center (TRAC) to find out what was the source of Islamic learning among youngsters today. A pilot study in Mumbai to map the Muslim student’s and youth’s source of acquiring knowledge on religion and their involvement in the community affairs revealed the changing trends
The pilot study finds that, while more students' favour Internet resources because of the ease, convenience and depth, the traditional sources are losing ground because of their outdated methods.
For more than 45 per cent of those surveyed, virtual Islamic organisations, Islamic websites, and online Islamic fatwa sites are the source of learning about Islam.
The respondents describe the experience as a mix of enrichment and awareness.
The samples were selected across five Muslim majority colleges spread over the city. The age group-between 16-21.The sample size was 216.Survey methodology consisted of focus group and intensive interview.
The findings are presented below:
(1) Awareness about the slew of Islamic websites: 58 per cent
(2) Awareness about Islamic organisations: 49 per cent
(3) Interest in learning about Islam: 88 per cent
Preferred Mode of Learning about Islam:
a) Online resources- (virtual Islamic organisations, Islamic websites, and online Islamic fatwa sites)-46 per cent
b) Traditional sources- (Islamic organisations, Islamic literature, Madrasas, local mosque Imam)-32 per cent
c) Both-19 per cent
Amongst the traditional sources, Islamic organisations are conceding the most ground. The awareness level about the different Islamic organisations is as under:
a) Tablighi Jamaat: 79 per cent
b) Jamaat-e-Islami: 27 per cent
c) Islamic Research Foundation: 41 per cent
d) Students Islamic Organi -sation: 6 per cent
e) Dawat-e islami-7 per cent
f) Others - 14 per cent
Most of the respondents revealed that the parent's coaching is their major source of Islamic knowledge. “Comprehensive”, “reliable" and "adequate" were the terms used to describe the information acquired from parents.
One source of knowledge, which is losing ground, is the local mosque. Just 18 per cent of the students said they get comprehensive, reliable and adequate knowledge through Friday sermons.
Islam and knowledge went together, closely from the very early stages. Other than the Quran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that prompted people to learn, the concrete symbol of Islam, the Mosque, was the centre of learning. And, indeed, until now, in most parts of the Islamic world, the word Jamia means at once both mosque and school, even when they are separate buildings, most often distant from each other. Finally, `Jamia', the word for university in Arabic derives from Jami, mosque. No similar derivation exists in any other language or culture; no better association between Islam and higher learning than this.
But the survey revealed that the Mosque is losing its pre-eminent position as the learning center. Amjad Baig, a management student, said that Friday sermons lack depth and the authenticity of the information is also in doubt. "Even today, the approach is sectarian and source of information is not given due importance".
Another finding of the study is that Islamic literature is losing its pre -eminent position in Islamic learning. Just 7 per cent of the respondents said that they read Islamic literature. Hussain Vora, a Software developer, said that instead of Islamic literature, he prefers listening to the audio as he has a vast selection. "The treatment in the book is very dry and many a times information provided is outdated. Whereas the audio text is updated frequently", he said.
Islamic organisations like Tabligi Jamaat; Jamaat-e-Islami and Students Islamic Organisation etc are losing their grip over the students and the youth. In the past, at least Muslim managed colleges in Mumbai had regular Islamic sessions. But as of now none of the colleges in Mumbai have the Islamic learning sessions.
Wasim Baig a student leader of Maharastra College said that Islamic organisations have failed to keep pace with the changing needs and trends. "Just repeating the same old lecture is not going to attract the youth. What is needed is the change in approach and outlook supported by the well-researched content", he said.
46 per cent of the respondents prefer online resources such as virtual Islamic organisations, Islamic websites, and online Islamic fatwa sites. What attracts them to these online resources? 52 per cent said information is provided in the user friendly format,.31 per cent said the data is reliable as the source is quite often quoted.17 per cent prefer them as it is convenient. Most of the respondents said that they prefer online resources as they provide value additions such as e-commerce option of purchasing lots of items such as Islamic calendars, diaries and literature.
On line mentoring is other reason for the popularity of these Internet resourses. Online Fatwas and question answer sessions and live chats with the experts are attracting more and more students and youth-48 per cent of the respondents said that they prefer online interaction to answer their doubts. Basit Merchant, a student of advertising, says:" I cannot imagine asking the Imam of my Mosque about my doubts as they don't easily mix with the common masses, but I have no such hesitation in interacting with my online Mentors.
Wide choice and better options were the reasons given by 33 per cent of the respondents. "One can choose the virtual organisation or website as per one's requirement," said Asif Siddique, a Management student. "The range of services offered by them makes them a better alternative", he said. But an overwhelming 88 per cent agreed that they will prefer an on -ground mentor rather than an online Mentor for acquiring Islamic learning if alternatives are available.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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