How often do you visit a
website? At first, the question seems strange.
Surely one visits a web site when one is looking for
some information. If someone wants to find a Hadith,
they can go to a Hadith Web site. This seems logical
enough. But one of the most interesting trends on the
Web has been away from what might be termed ‘reference’
Web sites: Places where you visit when you need to find
out something like a Hadith or Qur’anic Ayah. The shift
has been towards dynamic web sites: Web sites that you
visit regularly, perhaps daily or weekly.
Why would you want to visit a Web
site daily? After all, the information is going to be
the same as it was the day before, right? Wrong. Dynamic
web sites change daily, and in some cases hourly. They
give you information that’s up to date, and often
feature news feeds that are updated as soon as the news
comes in. Good examples of dynamic web sites are
newspaper sites and so on.
Another trend on the Web has been
also towards more interactive sites: No longer are Web
sites a one-way street, where all you do is read them.
Instead, so-called community sites become a place to
discuss ideas, issues and news, where visitors to the
site can add comments and ask questions.
What is so amazing about
IslamiCity—the subject of today’s review—is that it
seamlessly combines all three styles of Web page into
one: Reference, dynamic and community.
The reference section—more like
the old-fashioned Web site—is very interesting indeed.
It has some unique features. Without doubt the most
useful of Qur’an can sometimes be a headache, if you
only know how it sounds in Arabic. Let’s say, for
example, I want to know which verse it is that sounds
like ‘qul huwwa Allahu ahad’. The phonetic search
feature allows you to type exactly that, and sure enough
it finds the first verse of al-Ikhlaas. This is an
immensely useful feature. When preparing a talk for some
Muslims recently, I found this feature amazing. It
didn’t always get things right, but it was still very
easy to use and stunningly convenient.
But this is only one of its many
features. It has a considerable database of Qur’an and
Hadith references, all in an easy to search format. Not
only that, but it has extensive multimedia resources
available, with both audio and video available, mostly
in Real format. This includes complete Qur’anic
recitations by people like Sheikh Abdul Baset and
Al-Husary, English translations and more. The sheer
scope of the material is huge. However, I had some
problems accessing some of the media using Netscape;
they seem to assume that you have Internet Explorer.
Furthermore, it is updated
regularly. Most interesting is the news feed, which from
sources around the world, the editors of IslamiCity
select articles about Islam in the news—sometimes within
minutes of that information becoming available. They
also offer through the associated site iViews, and offer
deeper analyses of recent events.
In addition, they have an
excellent system for people to contribute their opinions
about articles, events and so on. As with all such
forums, one must be such venues for conversation is
knowledgeable, or for that matter, even honest. So, due
care must be exercised in participating and also reading
As a final sweetener, IslamiCity
has some very interesting items on sale in its bazar
(sic). Whether it is cost-effective to ship them to
Australia, I do not know, but there are some items there
that would be very difficult to obtain locally.
As you can imagine, the manpower
and expenses in maintaining a site of this nature are
huge. If you really like the site, then there is also
the opportunity to become a member. Although this costs
approximately $8 a month, this might very well be a
worthwhile investment. However, this should not stop you
from visiting the site. There is still a great deal of
information and resources available that don’t require
you to be a member.
I only had two gripes with the
site: Firstly, it doesn’t always work correctly with all
browsers; like many recent Web sites, they are
increasingly designed to work with Microsoft’s Internet
Explorer alone. As I rarely use Microsoft Windows, this
is a serious disadvantage for me; but for the majority
of users it may not be an issue. Secondly, navigation
around the site is a little bit clumsy. There are
buttons on the top and on the side, some of which take
you to the same web page, others that take you to other
web sites and so on. It can get very confusing.
But these issues pale into
insignificance compared to the wealth of up-todate,
interesting and real information available from the Web
site. May Allah help those who developed it.