In a 2005 lecture titled “Islam, Muslims, and Modern Technology,” Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a celebrated Iranian scholar of Islam, explores Muslims’ relationship with Western technology. “We cannot be naïve and think it is simply neutral,” Nasr said, pointing to technology’s deleterious effects on health and mental well-being. Nasr isn’t calling for cutting out television and internet and cellphones entirely; he advocates instead for casting a critical eye on Western technology to discern its value and objectives. He emphasizes tradition: Mass production shouldn’t be allowed to take over traditionally handmade goods like Persian carpets and Indian saris, and Islamic architecture and urban design should be taught alongside their Western equivalents in the Muslim world.
Amana Raquib, a professor of philosophy and religion at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, Pakistan, argues for the development of an Islamic ethical framework for evaluating technology. She proposes a handful of ways to apply Islamic values to modern technology in a 2016 paper submitted to a conference called “Islamic Perspectives on Science and Technology.” Technology that promotes greed and selfishness doesn’t align with Islamic values, she writes; nor does technology that could “enhance” humans (such as gene therapy), because it contradicts our nature as divinely created beings.
Apps that order up religious sacrifices, however, would seem to be a prime example of technology imbued with Islamic values. Dubai’s ordering service may seem newfangled, but Muslims have been arranging Eid al-Adha sacrifices remotely for a long time. Numerous services allow Muslims to offer their ritual sacrifice to a family in need abroad, and some have had online order forms since the internet was young.
“These are interesting ideas because they take out some of the traditional processes,” said Gary Bunt, a professor of Islamic Studies at University of Wales Trinity Saint David. “Now it’s another product on your phone.” But for big, busy families, he said, it’s a natural progression.
Even as technology alters every facet of daily life, the core practices of Eid al-Adha haven’t changed dramatically over the years, said Hilal Khashan, a political-science professor at the American University of Beirut. The first morning of the four-day celebration involves an early visit to the mosque for prayer. Muslims make family visits, trade presents, cook traditional dishes and sweets, and slaughter and share a sacrificial animal, if they can afford to do so.
The most tangible encroachment of modernity may be an uptick in buzzing smartphone notifications around the holidays. “In the past, people would send postcards and letters,” Khashan said. “Now, everybody just exchanges holiday wishes on WhatsApp.”