Earlier today, I had a wonderful and enlightening conversation with a Muslim Intellectual named Drown Pharaoh...
[15:09] Drown Pharaoh gave you Social Simulation Research Lab, Hyperborea (223, 83, 23).
[15:09] Drown Pharaoh: Hello!
[15:09] You: good to meet you finally :-)
[15:09] You: thanks for agreeing to meet with me
[15:09] Drown Pharaoh: And you :-)
[15:09] Drown Pharaoh: Pleasure
[15:09] You: I am very curious to know more about the Islamic perspective in SL
[15:10] You: if I crash, it is because my wireless connection failed and will have to reboot
[15:10] Drown Pharaoh: No problems, well, shall we sit down?
[15:10] You: yes
[15:10] You: sounds good
[15:11] You: it is hard to sit down in SL ;-)
[15:11] You: I almost crashed there...my connection is very slow...
We first sat down in the Social Simulation Research Lab in Hyperborea which I felt to be a perfect place to begin our discussion. In a sense, our conversation was a kind of multi-faith laboratory experiment to see if we could reach a common worldview somewhere in the bridging social realm of our Second Lives...
[15:11] Drown Pharaoh: Yeah :-) Okay, well, I just witnessed a shahadah
[15:11] You: please tell me more
[15:12] Drown Pharaoh: That is when somone becomes Muslim, it is the first pillar of Islam. That took place at the mosque on Chebi.
[15:12] You: wow!
[15:12] Drown Pharaoh: The second this week! :-) But the first I have been witness to.
[15:12] You: so it was through Second Life that they became Muslim?
[15:13] Drown Pharaoh: Yes. I gather she was already very interested in islam but meeting Muslims here was the thing that moved her a step further
[15:13] You: yes, I am sure SL is a great place for this 21st century society to more directly understand the culture of others
[15:14] You: do you think she became a Muslim in RL as well as SL?
[15:14] Drown Pharaoh: I think so, but of course it's hard to verify. The great thing for me as a Muslim is to meet Muslims from across the globe, and also different kinds of Muslims, Sunni Shi'a, but also progressive and conservative
[15:15] You: wow, conservative ones in SL?
[15:15] Drown Pharaoh: Normally that kind of mix would be unusual in rl
[15:15] You: are you Sunni or Shia?
[15:15] Drown Pharaoh: Oh yes, quite traditional Muslims, who follow the shariah. I am Sunni, I lean towards Sufism but I call myself a liberal Muslim
...as you can see, the infinite light of Allah was shining through this virtual lamp quite brightly upon our dialogue this day...I guess it definitely was Allah's will that Drown and myself learn more about each other. I was most curious to know more about what drew him as a Muslim to Second Life and what he thought the Islamic perspective on virtual worlds such as SL might be...
[15:16] You: ahhh...yes, Sufism allows for mysticism which would explain why you seem to understand the metaphysics of SL enough to enter it
[15:17] Drown Pharaoh: Well, I'm not sure what mysticism is. Some Sufis prefer not to use that term. Sufism is more a technology of enlightenment, I would say :-)
[15:17] You: ok, yes, it is a matter of language and words..I agree with you there
[15:18] You: one thing about SL for me is that through avatar worlds like this, they compel me to see things theistically rather than aestheistically
[15:18] You: I was raised *atheistically
[15:18] You: I was raised Atheistically and was dogmatic until I entered virtual worlds and saw more clearly that the multiverse is an act of Ultimate Creation
[15:18] You: and now, i can see this in RL as well as SL
[15:18] Drown Pharaoh: I see. For me, as a Muslim, the world - include this one - is an ayat, which means it is a sign of God.
[15:19] You: wow, ok
[15:19] Drown Pharaoh: ayat is also a verse in the Qur'an
[15:19] You: by a sign, do you mean a sign that God is present as the Creator of these worlds?
[15:19] You: if I crash, I might lose this chat history, I hope you will be able to stay online and preserve it :-)
[15:20] Drown Pharaoh: Yes, I have that problem! :-) Anyway, God in Islam is a very multifacted concept, but essential God is 'Real'
[15:20] You: ok
[15:20] Drown Pharaoh: In other words, everything else is ephemeral. But the sign of that reality can be seen in everything, including of course the human heart.
[15:21] You: yes, I agree with you
[15:21] You: so for you, Second Life is just as important as a sign of Allah as Real Life, right?
[15:21] Drown Pharaoh: Absolutely!
[15:21] You: they hold equal importance for you as an Allah-created lived reality?
[15:21] Drown Pharaoh: Of course, everything belongs to Allah
[15:22] You: yes, I am wondering if places like SL help you to see this more clearly than in RL?
[15:22] Drown Pharaoh: Perhaps. May I ask what kind of experiences you have had, religiously, on SL?
[15:22] You: well, I am new to SL
[15:23] You: but I have visited other avatar worlds such as Traveler
[15:23] You: and I met the creator of Traveler in RL
[15:23] Drown Pharaoh: Cool
[15:23] You: and it reminded me that there was a creative intelligence behind the avatar realm...
[15:23] You: and then...
[15:23] You: it occurred to me that RL is also a created avatar realm
[15:23] You: I saw the analogy more clearly
[15:24] You: and shifted away from my Atheistic upbringing as a result
[15:25] Drown Pharaoh: That's very interesting. To be honest, SL has not changed my views on Islam. It is the social things that have been, I don't know, incredible!
[15:25] You: were you raised a Muslim or did you convert to Islam?
[15:25] Drown Pharaoh: I'm a convert of 16 years
[15:25] You: yes, well it sounds like you became Muslim before entering SL, you did not require that analogy
[15:25] You: what was your belief prior to Islam?
[15:26] Drown Pharaoh: None, really. Not atheist. I just believed in the here and now and common sense. But I was doing a degree in religious studies. Religions fascinate me, all of them!
[15:26] You: great! me too!
[15:26] You: I studied religion a little bit as well but that was over 10 years ago and I only remember basics
[15:27] You: I am going to paste this chat history now in case I crash..it is going very well so far
[15:27] Drown Pharaoh: Yeah, actually me too, if that's okay.
[15:27] You: yes, please..I might crash even with the simple act of opening my word processor ;-)
[15:28] You: SL is such a resource drain...my word program is still opening
[15:28] Drown Pharaoh: I use notepad, and if I check the net, firefox, because it's lighter going than Explorer
[15:28] You: ahhh..notepad opened
[15:28] You: good idea
[15:28] You: oh ok..good advice
[15:29] Drown Pharaoh: Firefox uses another browser technology though, which doesn't hand horizontal tables and my website looks terrible in parts :-)
[15:30] Drown Pharaoh: Interesting, thinking about atheism. Have you visited any of the atheist humanist sims here?
[15:30] You: ok..I literally just saved that notepad file..even with that I thought it was crashing ;-)
[15:30] You: not yet, I plan to explore every aspect of religious belief..and I believe Atheism to be its own religion ;-)
[15:31] Drown Pharaoh: It is here - quite a dogmatic one, in my opinion :-)
[15:31] You: one of the places I wish to visit is the Transhumanist space
[15:31] You: yes, it can be very dogmatic
[15:31] Drown Pharaoh: Transhumanist space. I don't know that.
[15:31] You: the thing about Transhumanism and Posthumanism is...many adherants seem to be dogmatically atheist
[15:32] Drown Pharaoh: Oh, the AI and cyborg folks, is it?
[15:32] You: but I would argue that Posthumanism and Transhumanism can allow for full Theism as well - it is not incompatible as a philosophy
[15:32] You: yes, basically it
[15:33] Drown Pharaoh: It's amusing because basically I am a wannabe social sciences postgrad and these days, it is a subject that is philosophy heavy
[15:33] You: religious critics of Posthumanism claim that such a philosphy means that we are trying to become gods
[15:33] You: wow! very neat!
[15:33] Drown Pharaoh: So some of the stuff they say just seems out of touch with debates in epistemology
[15:33] You: but my take on Trans and Post Humanism is that the more powerful we became, the more we realize how much more greater Allah is
[15:33] You: yes, I agree
[15:34] You: I think limiting ourselves to human and mortal would be to dumb down Allah
[15:34] You: this is my personal opinion
[15:34] Drown Pharaoh: yes, well when they manage to define consciousness, I'll pop round for a chat :-)
[15:34] You: heheheh
[15:34] You: with Allah, there is no upper limit of achivement
[15:35] You: Allah is always infinitely ahead of us no matter how much we work to improve ourselves
[15:35] You: but I think we should to celebrate the glory of Allah..do you agree?
[15:35] Drown Pharaoh: Well, I believe in human transformation and cultural evolution
[15:36] You: great! we are on the same page then :-)
[15:36] You: what do the conservative Muslims think of their experience in SL?
[15:37] Drown Pharaoh: Much as they do on real life. When a sex shop opened next door to the mosque, they complained - bless 'em :-)
[15:37] You: heheheh....yes, SL is basically like the USA in mirrored form..like a big American city
[15:38] Drown Pharaoh: The Muslim community here is very diverse. There is a big French Moroccan presence, and Sufism is big amongst this group
[15:38] You: was this complaint reported as news? it should be
[15:38] You: yes, I can see Sufism being bigger than usual here
[15:39] You: Sufism itself seems (if I am not mistaken) to find Allah through the virtuality of creation itself
[15:39] Drown Pharaoh: I suppose, yes, although the extent that Muslims with Sufi backgrounds are adherents to Sufism as a form of enlightenment varies, I'm sure
[15:40] You: hmmm..this might be a controversial question but...with some of the Shias you know...do you think they can envision the Mahdi (Mehdi) coming back as an SL avatar?
[15:40] You: yes, I am sure the experience varies
[15:40] Drown Pharaoh: In islam, Sufism has often appealed to poor urban and rural populations because of its focus on joy and love
[15:41] You: ok...nothing wrong with joy and love, in my opinion :-)
[15:41] Drown Pharaoh: There are one or two shi'a here, but I don't think they are particularly pious. I'm still getting to know the community
[15:41] You: ok, makes sense
[15:41] You: how many Muslims do you think are in SL now?
[15:42] Drown Pharaoh: In the Islamic Society, there are 114 members, not all Muslim, but there are 100+
[15:42] You: wow!
[15:42] You: well, it is the fastest growing religion in the world so it makes sense
[15:43] Drown Pharaoh: We're small compared to Christianity and Buddhism on here! :-)
[15:43] You: yes, but perhaps that will change over time
[15:43] You: you have already seen at least one conversion to your Umma already
[15:43] Drown Pharaoh: The Jewish community is growing, and its social solidarity is very impressive
[15:43] You: yes, I am quite impressed with that too
[15:44] Drown Pharaoh: I went to the grand opening of the Jewish Museum on the 25th. It was wonderful.
[15:44] You: wow! in SL, right?
[15:44] You: I hope in SL there can be a safe discussion between all religious communities here..maybe it will be better than RL for this
[15:44] Drown Pharaoh: Yes, the speeches were great and so were the fireworks!
[15:44] You: maybe religious differences could be settled in SL
[15:45] You: Star of David shaped fireworks? ;-)
[15:45] Drown Pharaoh: :-) Yes, the relationship between Muslims and jews here is very good.
[15:45] You: I am tired of warfare
[15:45] You: yes, I think we can all rise beyond religious discrimination here although SL is not immune to RL pettiness
[15:46] You: but I think people in general here can appreciate the diversity of expression more in places like SL than RL
[15:46] Drown Pharaoh: Well, one of the Jewish leaders is an artist, hence quite liberal, so that sets the tone for things.
[15:47] You: I am going to save the next installment of the chat history...brb
[15:47] Drown Pharaoh: ok
[15:48] You: thanks for your patience :-)
[15:48] Drown Pharaoh: However, the Jewish community is also diverse. They have Hassidic Jews here :-) That is what impresses me. Such diversity but they have great times together!
[15:48] You: I am ready for more chatting
[15:49] You: is that Jewish artist you speak of named Fau Ferdinand?
[15:49] Drown Pharaoh: Muslims tend to squabble more easily over religious differences, but again, less here. No, Beth Odets, she is the designer and owner of TMA synagogue
[15:49] You: oh ok, I think I heard of her name when I was web browsing religious sites in SL
[15:50] Drown Pharaoh: Yeah. She is a natural leader and a lot of fun. Drop in on the TMA sim. There is a teapot you can sit inside to drink tea :-)
[15:50] You: wow! ok, that almost sounds like a Buddhist ritual ;-)
[15:51] You: shall we move to some different scenery? I would like to take some more photos
[15:51] Drown Pharaoh: Also, if you join the synagogue group, and you will get notices of when she plays violin. I've not heard her yet, but apparently she is quite talented. Okay, where shall we go?
[15:52] You: wow, ok..violin in SL would be very surreal...where would you like to go? Perhaps to an Islamic place?
[15:52] You: when is your next prayer time?
[15:53] Drown Pharaoh: Chebi is busy and I don't want to intrude on recent events - have you seen Fort Malaya?
[15:53] You: no, I do not think I have seen the Fort yet
[15:53] You: I do not recognize it by name, anyway
[15:54] Drown Pharaoh: Excellent - its a museum built by a British Malaysian, worth a look. Lovely mosque
[15:54] You: great! can you TP me when you get there?
[15:54] Drown Pharaoh: ok
[15:54] You: thanks
[15:55] Drown Pharaoh gave you Fort Malaya History Museum, Ocean Pines (144, 173, 24).
[15:55] You: it is still rezzing for me
[15:55] You: ahhh...looks good!
[15:55] Drown Pharaoh: It's based on a Malaysian fort of the 18th century, I think.
[15:56] You: wow! can we find a good place to pose together and take a photo?
[15:56] Drown Pharaoh: back in 1 minute
[15:56] You: ok
[15:56] Drown Pharaoh: afk
[15:56] You: me too
[15:56] You: afk..
[15:57] You: back now
[15:59] Drown Pharaoh: back
[15:59] You: great
[15:59] You: maybe a picture in front of the blue flag?
[15:59] Drown Pharaoh: Sure
[15:59] You: great
While chatting in this prayer space, we decided to take a photo of us that included this "blue flag", I naively alluded to...
[16:00] You: what is the respectful thing to do in this space?
[16:00] You: this looks like the prayer space
[16:00] Drown Pharaoh: Yes, I would remove my shoes, but I forgot to put them back on :-)
[16:01] You: let me see if I know how to remove my shoes...I am a newbie after all...
[16:01] Drown Pharaoh: I'm sure Sabri, the owner, will be cool if you can't.
[16:01] You: oops, I should have saved my shoes
[16:02] Drown Pharaoh: They will still be in your inventory
[16:02] You: oh ok..good
[16:02] You: not that I should be too attached to my appearance or anything ;-)
[16:02] You: is it best for me to kneel on a rug?
[16:02] Drown Pharaoh: I'm sorry, though, I cannot stay much longer. Its midnight here and I have a meeting at 10am and a child to get ready forr schools.
[16:03] You: yes, of course..one photo of us and then we can finish this session?
[16:03] You: I also have a child in RL but he is only a year old
[16:03] Drown Pharaoh: Sure. Erm, I have some sitting animations - one moment
[16:03] You: ok
[16:03] No room to sit here, try another spot.
[16:03] Drown Pharaoh: Mine is 14 and profoundly autistic! :-)
[16:03] You: ahhh yes, I heard you telling me this
[16:04] Drown Pharaoh: He's lovely, though
[16:04] You: I am sure he is :-)
[16:04] Drown Pharaoh gave you sit ground 2.
[16:04] You: thanks
[16:05] You: hmmm...almost on the rug...this might look disrespectful on the blog, correct? ;-)
[16:05] You: we are facing the wrong way too ;-)
[16:05] Drown Pharaoh: No, you can sit anywhere in a mosque, just not with the bottom of your feet facing mecca
[16:05] Drown Pharaoh: mecca is on my right here :-)
[16:05] You: how is this?
[16:06] Drown Pharaoh: sure
[16:06] Drown Pharaoh: But you can sit with the animation I have you.
[16:06] Drown Pharaoh: If you wish
[16:06] Drown Pharaoh: gave you, excuse me
[16:06] You: np
[16:06] You: I will just take one from another angle
[16:07] You: just trying to get the flag in the pic
[16:07] You: thank you
[16:08] Drown Pharaoh: hi
[16:08] You: Hi Mojo
[16:08] Mojo Aabye: hey there drown ph. whats going on here?
[16:08] Drown Pharaoh: Anyway, I must go now. Before my wife drags me off the PC by my ear!
[16:08] Mojo Aabye: cu
[16:08] You: heheheh..understood..thanks Drown
[16:09] You: let me IM you my email address and blog
[16:09] Drown Pharaoh: Last pic
[16:09] Drown Pharaoh: okay, erm
[16:09] You: ok
[16:09] You: I will update my blog later tonight..I am in the same time zone as SL
[16:09] Drown Pharaoh: http://slfountain.wordpress.com/ and my email address is on there
[16:10] You: thank you
[16:10] Drown Pharaoh: thanks
[16:10] Drown Pharaoh: so nice talking and see you again
[16:10] You: yes, good bye for now
[16:10] You: have a good night
[16:10] You: chat soon hopefully, I want to continue this correspondence
[16:10] Drown Pharaoh: of course, see yer
[16:10] Drown Pharaoh is Offline
...and so, once Drown Pharaoh had signed off for the evening, I decided to meditate at the entrance of this historic Mosque for a little while because I needed more time to myself to figure out...
...exactly the nature of the lessons I have learned about Islam. This may take days, if not years to fully process the Islamic perspective but I welcome it and I am very thankful to Drown Pharaoh for taking the time out of his busy RL schedule to speak to me about the conviction of his religion while expressing to me the subjective liberalness of his particular interpretation of Islam.