By Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Many of us may remember the year 1999 when the world was gripped by the fear of the Millennium bug, the famous Y2K. what followed was nothing short of a pandemonium whereby software companies from the biggest names like Microsoft to antivirus names like Dr Solomon, all released their own version to protect loss of data come midnight of 31st December 1999.
The while the world survived the projected and predicted catastrophe life has never been quite the same for all of humankind that survived the imaginary bug.
Will tell us how that one was a commercial drive but where we stand today no longer fictitious by any measure. Post-1999, today there is very little we can do without our devices – from communications to entertainment, from trade and services to investigation and from transportation to information and every other aspect of our lives is now seemingly impossible without the use of this marvellous and indeed superior technology.
Now as we stand at the threshold of a new marvel that promises to integrate all facets of life even further, what is known as the internet of things, we must pose once again the age-old question of the meaning of our lives and the meaning of our creation and how this remarkable human stride fills the gap in fulfilling our inner as well as outward need as human beings.
In 1999, the internet was still new and most of us did not know what we were going to do with it. Websites that we have today, did not even exist at the time, and Google which is a handy tool for all of us, was not even conceived.
Fast forward to life today, and we observe the dramatic change in our lives – we wake up in the morning, we are instantly connected, we check our messages on chat rooms or chat apps we flip through email queues, we read newspapers online and we even plan our day using apps by the digital platform, our meetings are arranged in similar fashion, navigation for our transportation is also dependent on this very technology. In short, everything has changed and this has indelibly transformed our social interaction and mannerisms and behaviour with each other. Not only does this present us with a deeper divide for the cliche ‘generation gap’ but it is also taking the terms ‘strangers’ and ‘family; to a whole new level. It is not uncommon to see people opening up to strangers and shutting out family.
Like every other human invention, technology has its pros and cons there are as many bad uses to it as there are good, and so now what we witness is an erosion of people’s privacy, respect for each other and the promotion of audacious self-publicity and reckless behaviour.
Rumour mongering, scandalising, name-calling, illicit relationships, promotion of adult content, celebrity aping and the greed to be heard and recognised as an authoritative voice in a given field of service and trade, are some of the by-products of the internet. In other words, a beautiful and productive creation is being hijacked by those seeking to serve themselves or their dollar masters, [o ensure social anarchy prevails.
As long as we are good human beings that respect others, fear consequences in an after-life and practice virtues, the promise of more advancement in technology, is going to be a really good thing. More productivity, more prosperity and more time on our hands should probably help us to more reflective about the footprint we plan to leave behind once we are gone.
The burden on the shoulders of Muslims is even greater for using these new media to destroy rather than to help build, cannot and should not be allowed, to become part of our identities. We cannot allow our fascination of these products to take away from us the real meaning of life, instead, they should be used to further understand our Creator and the reason why He placed us in this world.
Imam Zainul Abideen (AS), in one of his du’as supplicates thus: To thee do I beg for shelter, O Lord of forgiveness and approbation, from tyranny and oppression, from the changes of time and succession of grief, and from a life ended without preparation