Fatwa in the digital age

The entire world knows that digitalization has always been an inevitable outcome of the technological revolution. But what no one ever imagined was that, in a few months’ time, it would take a pandemic to create a quantum leap in the full-scale adoption of digital technology. COVD-19 has forever changed the world and the way governments, companies, and services conduct their businesses.

Today’s changing tide across the spectrum of our activities is perhaps in no area more evident than in digital technology. Measures to contain the coronavirus have seen a significant decrease of the physical footprint across almost all human dimensions, signifying a long-term, if not an enduring shift, towards a digitally transformed world.

It was not conceivable for the world to fall in line with the changing times while Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta, the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide, and Muftis around the world remain static. During the pandemic, fatwa authorities showed a remarkable ability to adapt to rapid changes and rise up to their duty with promptitude and a commitment to fulfill the needs of Muslims everywhere. They issued time and context relevant fatwas and gave greater prominence to integrating between primary texts and lived reality. 

However, this prompt response to the unprecedented state of affairs would not have been possible had Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta and the General Secretariat for Fatwa Authorities Worldwide not accelerated their uptake of digital technology to keep pace with the evolving needs of Muslims in these trying times when lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures halted in-person meetings. In addition to facilitating fatwa services, making management procedures easier, minimizing errors, ensuring the smooth running of their services; inside operations, and communication strategies, fatwa authorities and the General Secretariat capitalized on digital technology to interrupt extremists’ attempts to exploit the pandemic to spread ideological lies feeding into their worldview and counter their radical online content and militant digital activities. 

To address the needs of the Muslim public during the COVID-19 pandemic and such challenges of extremist hate speech and theories, among others, at a time when the entire world was at its most vulnerable in recent times, fatwa authorities and the General Secretariat launched many platforms and social media pages to disseminate sound fatwas and provide judicious counsel during the pandemic. 

The conference organized by the General Secretariat this year on 2nd and 3rd August 2021 “Fatwa Authorities in the Digital Age” is timely and came in line with the General Secretariat’s response to the challenges fatwa authorities have faced on their way to digital transformation. It likewise came in step with and complemented the role the General Secretariat plays in bringing together the scholars and Grand Muftis across the globe and extending bridges of communication and collaboration among fatwa authorities. In addition to this, the conference will explore the means of benefitting from modern technology in developing Fatwa and its objectives. 

Any crisis is unwelcome, but then any crisis may bring opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic that has caused so much disruption to our world has taught us some valuable lessons. The pandemic made us realize our potential to adapt to the most trying circumstances and it pushed us to leverage digital transformation through emerging technologies on an unprecedented scale. It showed us that the need to communicate and interact with the public necessitates embracing new strategies and procedures. It also showed us that this requires investment of genuine and serious efforts to face emerging challenges, enlighten the people about their religion, refute any misconceptions, and undermine any extremist efforts to hijack Islam and its moderate teachings.  However, most important of all, it taught us the value of uniting and acting as one to catalyse collective action for the benefit of all.

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