Use of the Internet Medium for Knowledge Presentation and Development
Syed Imtiaz Ahmad, Ph.D.
Computer Information Systems
Eastern Michigan University
Table of Contents
This paper presents concepts, strategies, and methods for development through the Internet medium, within the context of some desired goals. The context of development considered in this paper encompasses the larger concept of human development. Included in this larger context are science and technology development.
Broadly speaking, we may define development as progressive advance from a lower or simpler form to a higher or more complex form. More specifically, development is the process of augmenting, educating, expanding, evolving, growing, improving, increasing, manifesting, progressing, and vivifying. With this view in mind, this paper examines, in particular, the Internet medium for achieving the goals of development.
Effective use of any medium or resource requires understanding its nature and the cultural, as well as technological, means available for its utilization. It is also important to look at the position of the Internet medium in the light of other media. The paper reviews, and in particular, compares and contrasts media such as face-to-face oral communication, audio communication through radio, audio-visual communication using television, and now the Internet.
With a comparative view of the media, the paper describes and discusses the goals and the process of individual and collective development. In this endeavor, the paper highlights the role of knowledge and facilitation of knowledge for development.
Some key elements of knowledge-based development, such as strategy, content, rendering, empowering, and adornment are described and discussed. Furthermore, the issues of knowledge architecture and some historical landmarks in knowledge development are presented.
The paper also examines the role of interactions and collectivity in development, and it reviews both the passive and active forms that it may take.
Finally, the paper makes some recommendations on making an effective rather than simply pervasive use of the Internet medium for development.
Keywords and Phrases:
Internet medium, Islamic presence on the Internet, Islam and the Internet, Knowledge development and facilitation, Social and moral development.
Some of the key concepts presented and discussed in this paper are the Internet medium, knowledge, presentation of knowledge, and human development. Above all, the focus is on human development through knowledge acquisition and making the process of knowledge acquisition better and more effective in human development. The presentation that follows explores primarily the foundations of knowledge that are necessary for fundamental aspects of human development, i.e. realizing greater human potential regardless of the specific occupational or social endeavors.
As a framework for what follows, the following are some key concepts.
The Internet is a medium that is intended to provide progressively enhanced abilities for human communications. This medium follows in history other media previously used by mankind. The oral medium of communication preceded all other media, and the oral medium still offers highly diverse and potent means for communicating. The earliest, sophisticated form of written communication dates back some 7,000 years when Egyptians pioneered hieroglyphics – a means of communication that used pictures or symbols with form, color, graphics, and direction, called pictographs, to communicate objects and ideas. The more complex form of written communication, consisting of words and phrases, developed later, and added greater power for communicating objects and ideas. What happened as more and more oral expressions regarding objects and ideas were rendered in the medium of the written word? First, the written word preserved human history more effectively than the spoken word alone would have done. A written story can be told and retold with less possibility for distortion than the retelling of the spoken work if only for the limiting ability of recalling things from memory. More importantly though, the written word allowed for more powerful means of disseminating mere facts or data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. The 15th century invention of the Gutenberg press, splitting the written words into components allowed automation of the printing process, and increased the potential of the written word a thousand fold. This time in history is described as moving from the Middle Ages to Modern Times. Those who mastered this revolutionary medium also brought revolutions in human thinking and view of the civilized world, for good or for bad. Early 19th century ushered the era of radio communications – oral words could be communicated powerfully and dramatically over vast distances, often leading to sweeping cultural changes. Reality could be presented more vividly and non-reality could be made to sound like reality. Shortly thereafter came the medium of television, competing and complementing the silver screen medium. Late 19th century brought the Internet medium. If we just reflect on the impact on oral culture and civilization that the automated printing press had, we would also recognize the impact of each successive medium of communication. Another point requiring thoughtful reflection is that moving from one medium to another is not a matter of conversion of content but that of rendering. Without deliberate, organized, and creative rendering very little is gained, and more is often lost, when moving from one medium to another.
The next concept to be examined is the medium content or what the medium carries, more particularly the knowledge that may be our aim. It may be data - what we simply gather through our senses. We may relate it to happenings in the world, thus shaping it into information. We may process information into knowledge, leading to concepts and skills in achieving some desired goals. And finally, knowledge about knowledge leads to wisdom -- knowing how to separate things into meaningful parts, how to take parts and put them together into meaningful objects, how to size up a situation, how to grasp the principle of an object, and how to understand people’s experience in what they do. The question that one should ask is not what these words mean, rather given what they mean, how do we position ourselves on the media accordingly? Placing content in categories such as data, information, knowledge, and wisdom is intended to facilitate effective use of content for desired goals. Another fundamental aspect is the partitioning of content into meaningful chunks, characterizing what they are, and discovering and defining relationships in forming ideas, building scenarios, and fulfilling purposes that the contents may serve.
Presentation of knowledge should take into account those receiving knowledge, i.e. the learners in terms of their background and sensitivities. Different groups of learners often require different ways of presenting knowledge. Presentation of knowledge is rarely a matter of simple delivery. Simple delivery may only put the presenter in focus. The generally understood goals of presentation are to put the learner and knowledge acquisition in focus. It is not what gets delivered that matters but what really gets acquired, assimilated, and put to intended uses. Presentation of knowledge with this in mind requires selecting, organizing, articulating, incrementing, iterating, assessing, interacting, and navigating knowledge. The choice of a medium may imply a passive form of presentation, apparently devoid of any element of assessment, interaction, and navigation. However, with well-thought strategies, we may be able to overcome at least some of the apparent limitations of the medium. Consider, for example, the print medium. It may be viewed as a passive medium i.e. the knowledge presented may take the form of to whom it may concern, expecting the reader to perceive the nature of this knowledge without any assistance, and to acquire it accordingly. However, a good presenter, writer, or author of the book in print, who is sensitive to the needs of learners, overcomes the apparent passive nature of the medium in several ways. First, the style may be that of raising questions and discussing how these questions may be answered, or implicitly provoking questions that make the reader seek the answers, encouraging non-linear, goal-seeking access to presented knowledge as opposed to less meaningful form of reading it sequentially, and providing connections for readers who have less preparation than expected as well as those who are more advanced than expected. Therefore, an apparently passive medium can be brought to life, not quite the way that knowledge may be presented in person to a group of learners but trying to achieve that goal virtually. On the contrary, we may encounter a person who is presenting knowledge in a naturally interactive medium such as a lecture room and facing the audience in person but simply chooses to read from prepared notes, or simply reads out parts of printed material. This presenter either does not understand the medium or simply has no interest in whether those receiving knowledge are learning or acquiring knowledge. Creating situations that engage the learner in mentally using the knowledge as it is being presented, rather than simply receiving it, remains a desirable goal to be achieved regardless of the choice of medium for presentation of knowledge.
The last and most significant concept presented in this paper is that of human development through knowledge that has been revealed to mankind in words and patterns, and knowledge that has been evolving over the ages. What is the meaning of human development? Human development may be looked at from different perspectives, both as basic human interest and as formalized disciplines of studies such as psychology, science, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and so on. Contemporary studies on human development often engage in analysis and remedies when human development is impeded due to temperament, problems with identification or one’s identity, parenting, society, chance, and other factors. Here, we will focus primarily on building foundations for best possible human development, i.e. knowing that different human beings have varying human faculties, what should be done in order to ensure that they all develop to their best possible potential. While there are many factors that are essential to building foundations for human development, we will mention here a few of them and only briefly, just enough to outline a framework for discussion. What possibly is the most essential factor that influences positive human development? It is to be aware of self, being ever mindful of doing the right thing, and to avoid acting on mere impulses. How does one achieve this goal? It is through a process called identification or constructing an identity, i.e. finding principles that help develop the best possible human potential, and role models that exemplify those principles. It may be viewed as an anchoring process that gives us a sense of belonging to something distinct and valuable. Rather than simply finding principles that we can identify with in practice, it may often be easier to look at a good role model and then simply emulate that person. However, finding good role models in our living environment may not be easy and at times confusing, particularly if these so-called role models are going through life changes themselves and the consequences of the life style may only become known much later. Furthermore, one role model, no matter how good, may not be able to exemplify everything in life. Even if that were to be true, the principles that the role model exemplifies may not be obvious. Principles can only be derived through repeated observations and experimentation. History helps us here. We can look at several role models through history and we can look at lessons drawn from the history of civilization. Coming back now to identification, the single most important factor in human development, we need to identify with some infallible source of guidance, the unquestionable principles for human development, and finally some role models. Most will accept God as infallible source of guidance, the knowledge that God brought on the good and bad in human civilization, and the Prophets who acted as role models of achieving excellence in human potential. Being mindful of God, therefore, gives one an identification of what is best for developing human potential. It prevents alienation. One can always find solace in the presence of God, literally converse with God in prosperity and adversity, keeping one’s personality in harmonious balance, avoiding excesses on oneself or others in prosperity, and avoiding harm from stress in adversity. Of course, one may find it easier to identify with someone more physical than God in trying to achieve the same goals. The other important factors that may emerge from this process of identification are being truthful and upright, and seeking individual and collective well-being. In order to achieve these goals, quest for knowledge that exists and participation in deriving new knowledge from what exists are essential pre-requisites.
Keeping in mind the characteristics and purpose of knowledge as outlined in the preceding section, consideration will now be given to the issue of presentation of knowledge. The focus is on goal-oriented presentation of knowledge, and the goal is human development. What preparation does the presenter need in order to make sure that knowledge is not simply delivered but the intended goal is achieved? The knowledge has to be prepared based on the principles of knowledge engineering, and presented based on the principles of pedagogy. Instead of discussing the issues in abstract, a concrete example will be presented - that of presenting knowledge on Islam with the sole purpose of individual and collective human development. This, in Islam is known as ‘Dawah ila Allah’ or inviting people to the way of God. Aligning oneself to the way of God is not an act of loyalty that benefits God. It is simply a matter of identifying oneself with principles that are beneficial to human development. Also, no individual can be in a beneficial situation unless the living environment itself is beneficial, and that of necessity calls for collective human development. Self-development is an illusion without collective development. That is the essence of inviting people to the way of God. How do we invite people to the way of God for individual and collective development? We begin with what God has revealed in the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad
Say: "This is my way: I do invite to (the way of) Allah on evidence clear as seeing with one's eyes, I and whoever follows me: Glory to Allah! And never will I join gods with Allah!" Yusuf 12:108
Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious. Al-Nahl 16:125
And dispute not with the People of the Book except with means better (than mere disputation) unless it is with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury). Al-Ankabut 29:46.
"Hold firmly to what We have given you and bring (ever) to remembrance what is therein, perchance you may become mindful (of Allah)." Al-Baqara 2:63
The above selections of the Arabic text of verses revealed in the Qur’an are for the purpose of stating verbatim as to what was said in Arabic and translation of the meaning of Qur’anic verses by Abdullah Yusuf Ali that he completed in 1935. Given these verses, the task at hand will be to identify distinct components of knowledge engineering and pedagogy presented in these verses. Although, the focus here is on something quite specific, the components of knowledge and pedagogy identified and discussed here can be easily generalized and then applied to other, apparently quite different, situations of knowledge engineering and pedagogy.
Here is a summary of knowledge engineering and pedagogical elements contained in the above verses.
Insight, mind’s eye (seeing is believing),
knowledge presentation skills, skill of skills.
Vigor, forcefulness, empowerment,
robustness, adornment, animation.
Best rendering, excellence in packaging,
emphatic advising, positive advising.
Elegant reasoning, skillful interaction,
thoughtful scenarios and discussion.
The knowledge engineering and pedagogical elements highlighted above are insight, wisdom, vigor, best rendering, and elegant reasoning. We will further elaborate on them briefly in order to develop a better understanding of what they are and how to apply them in achieving the goals of human development.
Insight means developing a comprehension of knowledge beyond the mere words or symbols. A presenter’s role is much more than the mere delivery of knowledge. Presenter has to internalize knowledge first in terms of components and relationships as they are received and then to reengineer them according to the requirements of the environment where they are to be presented. Knowledge does not get altered but simply adopted to suit the presentation environment. Presentation of knowledge that fails to take into account learner’s preparation and needs may be devoid of intended benefits. The presenter has to often reengineer knowledge components and relations dynamically in order to stimulate the learner’s mind with scenarios of how the knowledge that is presented can be used in responding to situations that the learner may face.
Wisdom is a matter of staging knowledge. Knowledge is not a commodity that can be delivered as a bundle. It must be staged according to the situation at hand, presented in incremental fashion and worked on iteratively based on learners’ needs. Presenting too many things too quickly may cause confusion and undue stress. Presenting too few things may inhibit meaning. Detailing things prematurely may distort overall meaning, and not detailing enough may make knowledge useless in serving the desired goals. Wisdom in presentation of knowledge means visualizing an evolving scenario of knowledge application and effectiveness, and handling the presentation of knowledge in time and space accordingly. There is no wisdom in presentation of knowledge if it simply projects what the presenter knows, and does not take into account what the learner may or may not need.
Vigor in presentation of knowledge means that the presenter engages in building scenarios and welcomes questioning of knowledge that is presented. The more questions are asked the more lively the presenter becomes by dynamically creating scenarios, and thereby giving a robust view of knowledge. The learner need not be given answers that have no life. The learner can be simply motivated to find answers in the scenarios that the presenter creates. The presenter also finds ways to convey the same knowledge from several complementing perspectives. Knowledge can often be enhanced and accentuated in meaning through adornments.
Best rendering selects knowledge relevant to a given situation, constructs learning scenarios or objectives to be fulfilled through presentation of knowledge, partitions knowledge into meaningful components with granularity that fits the context, sets connections, and establishes navigational pathways. We may call this process as packaging of knowledge in the sense of components and relations that are expected to serve the desired purpose. Also, there has to be a sense of empathy or attachment with the learner. The presenter does not say to the learner: “Here is what you need. Take it.” It is more like saying: “I cannot be sure about what you need. However, here is what I think may help you. Try to adopt it to your needs, and let me know if you need something different.” The presenter does not point at holes in learner’s knowledge and pours his knowledge on them. He is simply drawing learner’s attention to knowledge that may be helpful in achieving certain goals.
Elegant reasoning is the attainable quality of the process that the presenter can adopt to interact with the learner. It is the way to open the doors to thinking and rethinking. The presenter does not try to overpower the learner with some knowledge that may make the learner speechless but not open the learner’s mind to new knowledge. The goal of presenting knowledge is to light the learner’s path to human development and not simply stop the learner from moving forward at all.
The preceding section presented and discussed elements of knowledge engineering and pedagogy without making any explicit reference to the medium being used. Are all of these elements medium neutral or favored toward a particular medium? They are, more or less, medium neutral provided that there is a good understanding of the medium in consideration while at the same time there is ample clarity about the goals to be achieved in presenting knowledge. Consider, for example, the Internet medium. Can all of the above elements be effectively utilized on the Internet medium? The answer is again in the affirmative. The issue is whether we are driven by the medium or driven by goals of knowledge presentation. Are we in the realm of what is called technology push or in the realm of what is called demand pull? Consider, for example, that there is a body of knowledge in print, and we are concerned about improving presentation of this knowledge through whatever means possible, i.e. we have a good understanding of the goals we want to achieve, and we may adopt the Internet medium and whatever it may offer to achieve these goals. With this mode of thinking, we want to retain everything good that the print medium offered and simply enhance through the Internet what the print medium did not offer. This is demand pull and with this in mind one can use the Internet medium to enhance presentation of knowledge. Since the Internet medium is different from the print medium, it will be necessary to reengineer knowledge in order make effective use of this new medium. On the contrary, consider that somebody comes along and makes a pitch about the Internet medium as to how it can revolutionize the presentation of knowledge. This person does not give you time to think as to how you can do better in presenting knowledge on the Internet medium. You may neither have the time to really reflect what you are currently doing nor how you may want to change it. However, the Internet medium may appear very appealing. Every new medium offers something new, and so does the Internet medium. The Internet medium is distinctly more powerful in rapid dissemination of information around the globe. That may be to your advantage and you may choose this medium for that reason alone. This is technology push. It may only achieve mapping the current body of knowledge to the new medium. Whenever something is mapped there may be some loss of contents and semantics of knowledge. Those accessing knowledge may certainly benefit from fast and global accessibility but something we possessed earlier got lost and much of what could be gained through the new medium was also not achieved. This is obviously a sad state of affairs for anyone. Is this state of affairs a myth or reality? It is more often a reality than myth, and sadly it affects more of those people who can ill afford it.
Consider the following example of a search for the term Allah and the index prepared by Abdullah Yusuf Ali appearing in print, and search for the same term at an eminent Internet site:
Yusuf Ali in Print Index
Yusuf Ali Text Search at Web
Cherisher, 1:2; 6:164.
Protector, 2:257; 3:150; 22:78.
Helper, 3:150; 4:45; 11:51.
Creator, 2:29, 117; 6:73
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 1:1
Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. 1:2
This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah. 2:2
Allah hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur). 2:7
Of the people there are some who say: "We believe in Allah and the Last Day;" but they do not (really) believe. 2:8
Only the first five entries are shown here because they appear to be adequate in pointing out the difference. Which one is more conducive to learning? The printed index assists in learning about Allah whereas the web simply provides raw data or information where the word Allah appears in the text. Could the web rendering not retain the meticulous index that Abdullah Yusuf Ali compiled for the print version? The answer is that it could. The difference here is that Abdullah Yusuf Ali was focused on fulfilling certain goals in presenting knowledge, whereas the web version is simply focused on presentation. Something has been lost apparently. In addition to the fact that what the web produces is not very conducive to learning, the number of hits it produces is too high to be of much value to most learners.
Another important consideration is that of retaining the culturally powerful semantics that words may convey in a language. Often these words cannot be rendered into a single word in another language. The usual practice in these cases is to retain these words in the translation, at least as reference even if not repeated in all instances. Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation of the meaning of Qur’anic verses followed the same practice. The Internet rendering of Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation does not follow that practice as shown in the following selection of a few of the commonly used words.
Translation of Some Commonly Used Words (Concepts)
Abdullah Yusuf Ali Index
8:72 (n. 1239)
59:9 (n. 5383)
63:7 (n. 5474)
9:117 Allah turned with favour to the Prophet, the Muhajirs, and the Ansar,- who followed him in a time of distress, after that the hearts of a part of them had nearly swerved (from duty); but He turned to them (also): for He is unto them Most Kind, Most Merciful.
Companions in heaven
44:54 (n. 4728-29)
52:20 (n. 5053)
2:222 They ask thee concerning women's courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean. But when they have purified themselves, ye may approach them in any manner, time, or place ordained for you by Allah. For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.
4:95 Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward.
9:20 (n. 1270)
See also Fighting; Striving
No Match Please Try Again
See Ghafir s.40
No Match Please Try Again
Meaning, 2:2 (n.26)
59:18-19 (nn. 539-539A
No Match Please Try Again
Much can be said about the apparent problems in the web responses. However, we will let the readers review the contents and draw their own conclusions.
How well are we doing in presenting knowledge on Islam over the Internet Medium? A plain answer to this question is that while we may be doing a lot, it does not add up much from the learner’s perspective. Consider, for example, the hits that Yahoo search engine produced on Allah.
y-NoT Media Productions
Long Beach, CA
Malveaux Family Internet Domain
The Malveaux World on the Internet!
WOMEN FOR ISRAEL'S TOMORROW
WOMEN IN GREEN
Lotus Art Islamic calligraphy engraved on solid hardwoods. Insightful messages glorifying the Name and Attributes of Allah.
Maryam and Fatima’s Page on Islam
Information regarding Allah, the Qur'an, and other aspects of Islam
The Beig Twinz’ Home Page
(Muhammad Farooq-I-Azam Malik)
Harun Yahya, author of books explicitly proving the existence of and emphasising the marvellous creation of Allah.
Islam and Sufi Tradition of Chishti Qadhiri - introduction to Sufism, the way towards the knowledge of Self and the relation with Allah.
The Friday Journal - bi-weekly newsletter offers a collection of articles including information about the Allah, Q'uran, and other islamic beliefs.
Allamah Jawadi, Vakeel of Ayatullah Sayyid Ali al Husaini al Seestani (m.z.a.) and Ayatullah Sayyid Ali al Khamen'ie (m.z.a.) and other Maraje'
Islamic Foundation of America - non-profit organization whose goal is to build a strong society based upon the values of peace and cooperation according to the will of Allah.
Dulles, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
compare and contrast the Bible and the Koran relative to prophecy concerning end-time events.
There were sixteen hits. Of these six were unrelated, one possibly just a form of ridicule, two clearly anti-Islam, covert and overt, and two on the fringes. This only left five sites that Yahoo search engine identified that had in reality something to do with Islam. None of the URLs made a direct hit to a page describing Allah. One can of course fault Yahoo or others for that. However, the point is that the state of knowledge on Islam that exists on the Internet and the perceptions it creates has some serious deficiencies.
Alta Vista search engine produced 229,390 hits. However, the results were just as questionable. It showed a confusing conglomerate of negative words and a lot of it on the fringes.
Direct Hit, Lycos About.com, did better. It produced what it called the most highly rated sites about Allah. Some of these were clearly meant to ridicule, and some were on Islamic topics other than Allah. Of these, the following four appeared to be more promising:
5301 Edgewood Road
College Park, MD 20740
Young Muslims Canada
Of these four sites, two of them, Al-Huda and MSA-USC, opened to Allah directly, and the message was conveyed relatively more clearly by MSA-USC.
The next question we will examine is that of knowledge components on Islam that are now appearing on the Internet. There are numerous sites dealing with knowledge on Islam. We will consider here the following three, two of them based in North America and one in the Middle East:
News and information about Islam and its civilizations.
It may be noted from the above that only one of the three sites has a banner indicating the site’s purpose or focus. Also, the first and third sites allow local searches whereas the second one does global searches only.
Choice of the word Islam seemed natural as the first item in searching for knowledge components at these sites. Despite several attempts, only one site produced a meaningful direct answer, shown here only partially:
Islam is one of the three monotheistic religions. Islam emerged in the Arab peninsula, which we know today as Saudi Arabia in 622 A. D. Like the other two of the three monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Christianity, Islam was revealed through a prophet who is known as the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him ([PBUH]). Judaism is believed to be based on the teachings and laws of the Prophet Moses, while Christianity is said to take its social and moral codes from the teachings of the Prophet Jesus. All three religions are believed to have their roots in the teachings of the Prophet of God, the patriarch Abraham.
In keeping with a promise made to Abraham by God, each prophet is believed to be a blood descendant of Abraham. The Prophets Moses and Jesus are believed to have descended from Abraham's son Isaac, born through his first wife Sarah, while the Prophet Muhammad is said to have descended from Abraham's son Ishmael, who was born through Abraham's wife Hajar. Ishmael is also believed to be the first member of the Arab nation since he and his mother Hajar settled in a previously uninhabited desert that became Mecca, and subsequently the site of the Kaba. The Holy Qur'an, 2:124-130:
And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled: He (Allah (Subhana Wa Ta'ala(SWT)) said: I will make thee an Imam (leader) to the people. Abraham pleaded and of may offspring? Allah (SWT) answered: But my promise is not within the reach of evil doers. Remember we made the sacred house a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and we covenanted with Abraham and Ishmael that they should sanctify my house for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves therein in prayer. And remember Abraham said: My Lord make this a city of Peace, and feed its people with fruits-such of them as believe in Allah(SWT) and the Last Day. He said Yea and such reject faith- for awhile will I grant their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of the fire-an evil destination indeed. And remember Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer), Our Lord Accept this service form us; for thou art the All Hearing, The All Knowing. Our Lord make of us Muslims, bowing to thy Will, and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to thy Will, and show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in Mercy) For thou at the Oft relenting Most Merciful. Our Lord send amongst them a messenger of their own, who shall rehearse Thy signs to them and instruct them in scripture and wisdom, and purify them: for Thou art the Exalted in Might the Wise. And who turns away from the religion of Abraham but such as debase their souls with folly? Him we chose and rendered pure in this world: and he will be in the hereafter in the ranks of the righteous.
In Arabic, the word Islam means "to submit," or "to surrender and obey." The Qur'an, the Muslim Holy Book, never uses the word "Islam" as we do, but says, "Al-Islam," or "The Islam," referring to a way of life that follows a distinct code of moral, social, and legal behaviors that were revealed by God through His various Prophets with a specific purpose or intention. This intention is understood in Al-Islam as God's desire to guide mankind to the best in this life and the next life (or afterlife).
This component of knowledge on Islam leaves much to be desired in terms or ordering of text and language expressions, and numerous other inconsistencies.
The next search on Prophet Muhammad produced almost no results. One site produced several hundred hits locally. The first ten of them provided no meaningful knowledge component on Prophet Muhammad directly. The second was also the same, and the Middle Eastern site indicated that this part was under construction.
What are some of the lessons we can draw from the above? At least one lesson is that, the Internet does not have clearly defined and readily accessible knowledge components on Islam.
There are many Internet sites presenting knowledge on Islam. It is, however, not clear whether this presentation of knowledge is effective in achieving the goals of creating a better understanding of Islam among Muslims and non-Muslims. One may also question whether this knowledge is helpful in developing human potential according to Islam, or does this knowledge consist of bits and pieces of information that may be less than complete, lacking precision, and possibly full of inconsistencies? It is difficult to be definitive about the state of knowledge on Islam in the Internet medium. That is likely to take a more concerted study. However, there are ample reasons to say that this state of knowledge leaves much to be desired. The primary reason for this perceived poor state of affairs is that much of the knowledge that is being constructed for Internet publication does not appear to be based on the usual foundations of knowledge engineering and comparative paradigms of the print and Internet media. In order to get some insights into the nature of problems, consider the activities for presentation of knowledge on the Internet as a business enterprise such as an automobile manufacturing company. This analogy is somewhat crude. However, it will help us understand some important issues. There was a time that an automobile manufacturing company used to manufacture all components in house, literally from rubber and steel. Components were often large. They were made and fitted with each other totally according to internal considerations. Today, most automobile companies manufacture very few components. They are primarily in the business of assembling cars. They may design components based on their distinctive view of the car structure and appearance, and each component is often standardized to fit many car models, and possibly entirely different cars, even the cars being assembled by competitors. Today, car components are mostly manufactured by those specialized in manufacturing one or more components. A car is not treated as a monolithic object but an assembly of components conceived and designed based on functionality and reusability with a view to assembling a variety of cars fulfilling customer needs and choices. The basic elements of this strategy are standardization of components and reusability. Moreover, the car manufacturers and component manufacturer achieve their respective goals of excellence through collaboration.
In the light of the above, some important recommendations that can be made for presentation knowledge on Islam through the Internet medium are: collaboration, standardization of components for building component repositories, and definition of component interconnection frameworks for presentation of knowledge. Presentation of knowledge on Islam through the Internet medium will benefit greatly from these principles and practices of knowledge engineering.
- History of words and semantics: Columbia Encyclopedia and Webster’s Dictionary.
- History of developments in media and knowledge: Encyclopedia Brittanica.
- On data, information, knowledge, and wisdom (DIKW).
- J. Kagan, Forces in Human Development.
- Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an – Text, Translation, and Commentary, Kamil Muslim Trust, Qatar.
- Syed Imtiaz Ahmad, On Adornments.
- S. Imtiaz Ahmad, Science and Technology Development Initiatives through the Internet Medium – Collaboration.