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A Survey of Islam on the Internet
Abdul Karim Bangura

Abdul Karim Bangura1



In this essay2, I survey how the Internet has become a vast resource – not only for information, entertainment and interaction with other people in other places who share interests, but also for learning about Islam.

That the Internet is contributing to the spread of Islam, whether positively or negatively, is hardly a matter of dispute. Since the horrible attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC on September 11, 2001, many Americans have turned to the Internet to learn about global terrorism, Osama Bin Laden, and Islam – the world’s fastest growing religion. They have turned to the Internet for answers or inspiration. What they have found is a diverse Muslim world. A search for the word Islam on the Internet yields links to thousands of websites featuring everything from shopping to sermons to Web-muftis – people who provide answers to moral and legal questions. The web allows almost anyone to offer a plethora of perspectives, and much of the resulting discussion and debate can be found in the online discussion forums and chat rooms.

Some observers point out that the Internet has also altered consensus-building among the Ummah. What used to take decades, even centuries, to trace interpretations of the Qur’an, for example, has been accelerated by the Internet’s ability to give instant access to the teachings and thoughts of distant Islamic scholars in their original words. Practices, laws and beliefs that were once bound by geography are now evolving into a mainstream Muslim identity on Internet.

Ninety percent of all users go to the Internet for news or information; of that 90 percent, 80 percent use the Internet for research3. One in four of these users surfs the Internet for religious and spiritual material (about 28 million people in the United States), with 23 percent specifically searching for information about Islam4. Increasingly, students of all levels and disciplines are using the Internet as a primary source of information; 29 percent accept the information they find as a ‘good source of information,’ and only 34 percent consider additional verification of the information important5.

John Naisbitt once said in reference to the information age: ‘We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge’6. Indeed, information is abundant. A search for the key term ‘religion’ on the popular search engine Yahoo produces over 19 million results. The key term ‘God’ similarly produces over 18 million.  A search for ‘Allah’ using Yahoo produces over 8,000 results, some of which include, ironically, ‘Jesus Christ Superstore’ and ‘Angry at God’ message boards.

Thomas S. Valovic, in his book, Digital Mythologies (2000), addresses the issue of information overload and raises three vital questions: (1) Is too much information possible? (2) Is there an inverse relationship between quantity and quality? (3) Is there a difference between information and knowledge? In contemplating these queries, one is also led to reflect upon the utility of the available information, both good and bad, accessible to all on the Internet. Thus, even the seasoned researcher is bound to stumble upon the double-edged sword: i.e. the Internet can be beneficial at times and disadvantageous at others.

The Internet has been largely marketed and pushed as a fast, easy way to find any information one desires. Through this emphasis on fast and easy, information consumers who look to the net for resources often turn to the most readily available sources for answers (top ten Web sites, most heard about sites, sites which do not require login or passwords).  In focusing on fast and easy, users may overlook buried information (the higher numbered results), difficult to browse sites, and member-sensitive journals and archives.  In this way, too much information is possible because multitude of outdated, inaccurate, unprofessional sites complicate the access to useful information. 

However, sifting and sorting through this surplus to find useful information not only takes time and energy, but it also hampers the use of critical thought and analysis. Unfortunately, as more and more information is made available, the less time an individual will have to deliberate on it with thoroughness; thoroughness which often means checking the sources for reliability, quality and validation. Raw data itself is useless without rational thought and analysis, with which they become useful information, and useful information needs application to become knowledge.

The unwillingness and/or sheer inability to process the vast quantity of information the Internet provides often leads to incorrect and/or incomplete ideas about the topic in question. However, the successful employment of the tools made available by the Internet may lead to greater understanding and/or constructive application of the knowledge gained from researching a specific issue. Virtual investigation of religion may lead to virtually any point on the spectrum, spanning destructive/fraudulent information to enlightenment, depending on the individual and the information he/she comes across.

Optimists see the good in Internet based religious research in the following scenarios: networks tend to throw together people who otherwise would never have met and been able to share their perspectives. Healthy exchange of different beliefs can lead to self-exploration and understanding of others. Since the Internet is relatively anonymous, it can provide a friendly and face-saving way to discuss difficult topics. The Internet can provide access to and a platform from which to post a plethora of religious opinions.

However, harm is not difficult to find. The dissemination of misinformation may lead to confusion, apathy, or aversion. Individuals are allowed to post hate-promoting messages freely, breeding more hate. The overload or poor quality of information may lead to discouragement and abandonment of research. Persuasive information could potentially distract uncritical users. 

A Survey of Islam on the Internet

In the light of the nature by which the Internet is used for research – i.e. quick, readily available and user-friendly, the following five search engines were used to research available information about Islam using the keyword ‘Islam’: MSN, Google, Lycos, Yahoo, and HotBot. Assuming that browsers will only look at a handful of sites to gather information and that they turn to  sites will not take too much time to come across (i.e. in the lower numbers of the number of results found), every twentieth Web site of the first two hundred Web sites are taken as samples. The name, web address, and topics claimed to be covered by the websites are offered in the following tables to demonstrate what the average person looking for information about Islam, using one of the five most popular search engines, would come across. The actual validity and contents of the websites are discussed in another article.

Table 1: A Survey of Islam on the Internet: WebPages accessed 10/20/03


Search Engine: MSN URL Address Topics
1. (20) Frontline — Muslims

Examines Islam through the stories of diverse Muslims
2. (40) Women & Islam
Various progressive articles covering a range of topics in Islam
3. (60) Nation of Islam – Beliefs


A paper about Luis Farrakhan from a Christian perspective
4. (80) Examining the Black Muslim Movement, Nation of Islam
A discussion about the black Muslim movement through a Christian perspective
5. (100) Islam Online – 6 Muslims Killed in Karachi News article from October 3, 2003
6. (120) Islam, the Koran & the Torah – There is Only One God Examines the Qur’ān
7. (140) Islam in Kyrgyzstan
An overview of Islam in Kyrgyzstan
8. (160) Where Islam and Christianity Agree and Differ on Jesus A comparative discussion about Jesus in Christianity and Islam
9. (180) Answering Islam – Wife Beating in Islam Discusses the status of the wife in Islam via the Qur’ān, Hadīth, and other
10. (200) Al-Islam Basic beliefs, history, and resource guide to Islam


Search Engine: Google

URL Address


1. (20)

World headlines, overview, beliefs, current issues

2. (40) Women in Islam

Personality of a woman as defined by the Qur’ān and Sunnah, women in society, etc

3. (60)

Electronic mail service

4. (80) Introduction to Islam


Info by topic: Allah, cleanliness, contribution, human rights, Jesus, etc

5. (100) Islam

Historical information

6. (120) Islam – Wikipedia

Islam as defined by this encyclopedia

7. (140) Scholars of Islam and the Tragedy of September 11th


Statement from the Academic Organizations pertaining to Islam

8. (160) About Women in Islam – A resource page


Collection of links to information on women and Islam

9. (180) The Status of  Sunnah in Islam

Various papers discussing the status of Sunnah

10. (200) Rizwi’s Bibliography for Medieval Islam


List of references and links for research

 Table 1 Continues: A Survey of Islam on the Internet: WebPages accessed 10/20/03

Search Engine: Lycos URL Address Topics
1. (20) Audio lectures, how-to guides (pray etc), educational materials
2. (40) Islam The Eternal Path to Jannah Resources, links, articles, news
3. (60) Poems, prose, articles, links
4. (80) The Institute of Islamic Information and Education Dedicated to providing the most accurate look at Islam in America
5. (100) Article library
6. (120) Homepage of the Qur’ān and Sunnah Society ‘Aqīdah, ‘Ibādah, Sunnah, Manhaj, Qur’ān, Da‘wah, Fatāwā, Fiqh, Bayān
7. (140) Astronomy and Islam Links, groups, software, resources
8. (160) Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting News headlines
9. (180) Al Azhar Center’s Web site
10. (200) Muslim Directory Publishes information regarding Islamic organizations and resources in the UK


Table 1 Continues: A Survey of Islam on the Internet: WebPages accessed 10/20/03

Search Engine: Yahoo URL Address Topics
1. (20) Understanding Islam Questions, discussions, articles, books, translations
2. (40) Talk Islam Islamic world, family, country studies, questions and answers
3. (60) BBC Religion and Ethics: Islam UK religions/islam/index.shtml The essentials, the basics, features
4. (80) Islam—Academic info Links, Islamic law, Women in Islam, Muslims in China, Islam in America, Terrorism
5. (100) Islam Educational information for Christians about Islam
6. (120) Islamic Links – Sultan Correct your information about Islam
7. (140) What is Islam? History, status, basic beliefs, practices, Christian perspective
8. (160) Information and news network
9. (180) Muslim Women in Oman
Culture of women in Oman
10. (200) Islamic Tradition vri/islam.html


General resources, links on Mohammed, the Qur’ān, Hadīth, Sharī‘ah, Shiite, Sufis, modern movements

Table 1 Continues: A Survey of Islam on the Internet: WebPages accessed 10/20/03


Search Engine: HotBot URL Address Topics
1. (20) Internet Islamic History Sourcebook


Guide for research on Islamic history
2. (40) Islam Online Multiple language news, information, cultural resources, and analysis
3. (60) Converting to Islam Resource and comparative guide
4. (80) Intro to Articles and Pillars of Islam


Overview of Islam
5. (100) Intro to Islam Explains central questions on Islam
6. (120) Islam Today Current issues in Islam
7. (140) Women in Islam – United Submitters Int’l Addresses misconceptions about women in Islam
8. (160) Islam avoiding inappropriate websites
How to avoid inappropriate websites
9. (180) Modern Islam


Afghanistan and Fascism in Palestine
10. (200) Web resources for the study of Islam
Links to websites for research and information

Discussion of the Findings and Conclusion

As the preceding table reveals, the Internet frees individuals from the physical boundaries of their hometowns, their campuses, their cities and their countries when they need to learn about Islam. Information on Muslims in the Maldives or Tanzania or the United States can be gleaned just as fast and easily as information across the hall. Because the Internet does not have opening or closing hours, its information on Islam is more accessible than the information in a library. A school library may be tiny; but with access to the Internet, people have more information on Islam at their fingertips. All individuals need to do to obtain information about Islam on the Internet is to learn how to find it.

In conclusion, while the Internet has become a pervasive and inexpensive way of learning about Islam, one must evaluate the usefulness of the available information in this medium. The user must bear in mind that unlike most books or journal articles which go through a number of checks to make sure that their contents are reliable, he/she must give some thought to where a posting on Islam is found and whether the author who put it on the Internet is a reliable authority on the subject.







1. Abdul Karim Bangura is a researcher-in-residence at the Center for Global Peace and a professor of Islamic Studies and International Relations in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. The author of 36 books and more than 270 scholarly articles, Bangura holds a Ph.D. in Political Science, a Ph.D. in Development Economics, a Ph.D. in Linguistics, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science.

2. This essay benefited greatly from the research assistance of Ms. Lisa Roman.

3. Cortada, James W. 2002. Making the Information Society: Experience, Consequences, and Possibilities. New York, NY: Prentice Hall, 174.

4. Donovan, Gill. January 2002. A quarter of Web surfers are looking for religion. National Catholic Reporter 38, 6.

5. Graham, Leah and Panagiotis Takis Metaxas. May 2003. Of course it’s true: I saw it on the Internet! Communications of the ACM 46, 72.

6. Valovic, Thomas S. 2005. Digital Mythologies: The Hidden Complexities of the Internet. Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

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