If God were to send a Prophet today, would he be active on social media? The question is not as glib as it sounds. Mobile technology has irreversibly changed how we experience the world. Facebook and Twitter dominate our lives to an extent that it is hard for many to live without them. In an age of hajj selfies and ‘Sheikh Google’, it is clear Muslims are no exception. The Qur’an notes that every prophet spoke the tongue of his people and its poetic beauty is seen as an appeal to its own seventh century, jahili Arab audience. Would revelation in the twenty-first century, then, be expressed through a modern medium like YouTube or Instagram?
<div class="well">Hussein Kesvani, <i>Follow Me, Akhi: the Online World of British Muslims</i>, Hurst, London, 2019</div>
I ask this after reading Follow me Akhi, the debut work of British Muslim journalist, Hussein Kesvani. The book examines how a new generation of British Muslims use the internet to explore and express their religious identity in new online spaces, far removed from traditional structures like the mosque. Kesvani’s interest stems from what he felt were the out-dated ways that we try to find out ‘what British Muslims think’. As a journalist, he recounts that this typically involved being sent on a day-return trip to Bradford or East London Mosque. The same applies to the wealth of academic and popular literature on the topic of Muslims in Britain. Referring to works by Sadek Hamid, James Ferguson, Sayeeda Warsi among others, he writes:
The vast majority of these studies and volumes, while useful, have tended to focus on what ‘British Muslim communities’ are imagined to be in physical or geographical terms… the framework is constructed around physical Islamic spaces, meaning that mosques, imams and community centres have been the reference points for trying to understanding what a ‘British Muslim’ is.