The Good News:
Amid horror stories of youth, Muslim and non-Muslim, checking out websites filled with pornographic material, and generally using the internet negatively, bright spots can be found.
Huma Ahmad and Taha Ghayyur are both examples of this.
Huma Ahmad began her website www.jannah.org as a personal home page when she was 19 and a student at State University of New York (SUNY) in Albany, New York.
"A lot of young people know how to go on the internet and do things there and there wasn't anything for Muslims," she says, explaining part of the reason she started her home page.
"I thought maybe just my friends would look at it, and then after a while it was starting to get more and more visitors internationally," says Huma Ahmad in an interview with Sound Vision. "They all had suggestions and ideas and I kept trying to implement [them]."
The site has grown from "just a few links to a more personal, comfortable place for Muslims to go to," says the computer software trainer. You can find recitations of the Quran, articles on women and gender equity, games and quizzes, upcoming events in the Muslim community in New York and abroad, and Islamic calligraphy, to name just some of the features of this colorful and dynamic website.
More pages have been added to the site since its inception and it's more interactive, Ahmad notes. Jannah.org is updated weekly and is a recommended link on a number of Islamic websites and Muslim personal home pages. Not only does jannah.org get visitors from around the world, but even Christian missionaries visit, as well as those ignorant of Islam.
"I think the Web is a very good forum for Muslims getting in touch with each other and I don't think anyone seeks to become the Fatwa clearinghouse of the internet," she says. "We just want to have a place where Muslims can talk to each other and feel good about their Deen"
Taha Ghayyur is National Coordinator of Young Muslims Canada, and the brains behind Friday Nasihah, a weekly e-mail list featuring short tidbits on Islam aimed at young Muslims.
"It's one of the only lists that has commentary on the Quran itself, not just the verses, so it gives you a deep insight into the message of the Quran?which a lot of people have left behind these days," says the 19-year-old in an interview with Sound Vision.
The weekly message consists of four or five different sections: Quranic commentary, Hadith, something about the lives of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)'s companions, and an excerpt from a book, usually of a motivational nature.
Ghayyur says a lot of young Muslim brothers in his province of Ontario use Friday Nasihah as a guide for their high school Khutbahs. Some of them also use it for Halaqas in their schools.
"I noticed that [many of my friends] used to absorb a lot of things by just reading stuff on the net or through e-mails and chatting on the net. So I felt that [if] we actually present Islamic material through this media, it will Insha Allah, serve as a reminder on a weekly, or even daily basis," he says.
"One of the things we did was we tried our best to make it more youth-oriented [by choosing] items or articles that have modern English and [in which the] language is easy," Ghayyur explains.
He says topics included in Friday Nasihah are usually not related to Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), nor are they controversial or too "high level".
Like jannah.org, the success of Friday Nasihah has gone beyond the original intent-in this case, to keep it aimed at Canadians.
"We have people subscribing from Tanzania, Malaysia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, some of [them] countries I have never heard of," Ghayyur notes.
Ghayyur says the role of the internet in spreading Islam amongst youth, especially, cannot be ignored.
"Unfortunately people don't read books on Islam anymore, and a lot of friends of mine who receive Friday Nasihah probably don't read the whole thing every time, but there are items they have told me that really wake them up, or it clicks into their mind, and they say there is something wrong with me and I should do something about it.'"
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