The metaverse has been one of the most trending buzzwords across industries this year. The hype was ignited by social media giant Facebook when the company decided to rebrand itself as ‘Meta’ last year – signifying its focus on developing metaverse projects going forward.
Since then, several big-name organizations and businesses have extended their digital presence to this 3D immersive world to facilitate new consumer interaction and interactive service provisions.
From Microsoft to Adidas, major enterprises see this new web extension as an opportunity to create more value-driven engagement with the new generation of consumers – by embracing the culture of virtual experience, crypto, and NFTs. In fact, it is one of the fastest-growing industries today, expected to surge to $678.80 billion by 2030.
However, many Muslims around the world are hesitant to embrace the metaverse culture, as they are unsure how this new world technology is observed according to Islamic law. In this article, we will discuss and assess the core concept of the metaverse according to the fundamental Islamic principles.
Understanding the Metaverse
The metaverse is a fictional yet existing alternate virtual space based on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality. It allows users to interact with one another via an isolated virtual interface.
The metaverse conceptualizes a virtual world where users can actually interact with each other, as well as the world around them. Whether it’s communicating with each other, purchasing products, attending social events like concerts, buying assets, creating and selling art, or just making friends – it’s a 3D world where users can interact as they would in the real world.
The term “metaverse” isn’t new. It was coined back in 1992 when Neal Stephenson used the term to describe a futuristic dystopia in his book ‘Snow Crash.’ The key goal of this innovation is to bridge the gap between virtual reality and the physical world. All of our current interactions over the internet are two-dimensional.
The rapid progression of social media has enhanced our digital interactive experience, but such interactions are not nearly as immersive as real-life. The metaverse acknowledges this issue and tries to establish an alternate 3D virtual space across the internet that can provide seamless immersive interactions across different virtual worlds and events.
What are the opportunities of the Metaverse?
Fundamentally, the metaverse functions as a social network where individuals will interact using their avatars, which are basically 3D virtual characters. However, interactions could be much broader and more extensive and not just limited to communication.
Users can potentially work, play games, shop, enjoy different entertaining experiences together, attend virtual events, and much more. These features add new dimensions to remote activities.
On a wider level, the metaverse will pave the way for a fully operational digital economy. It will be a consolidated digital marketplace where users can seamlessly produce, acquire, and sell products or services, just like in the physical world.
For instance, users can acquire or sell digital lands/assets, participate in play-to-earn games, exchange skills for incentives, host different virtual shows, and much more. Eventually, this will create a large-scale decentralized digital economy.
Analyzing the Metaverse through Islamic Shariah
According to multiple Islamic scholarly sources, the general concept of the metaverse is halal. According to Dr. Mufti Menk, a globally renowned Islamic scholar, any form of social communication is legal and permitted in Islam. However, Muslims must know how to use these applications because they can be a double-edged sword.
From an Islamic perspective, any technology that benefits individuals is permitted and thereby halal. So, in a general sense, the metaverse is permitted by Islam because its core functionality is to make communication easier and more immersive, as well as establish a decentralized and corruption-free digital economy.
However, the metaverse, just like any technology, can be used to perform illicit activities. So, Muslims must ask, how does the metaverse impact our lives? Does their presence in this virtual world interfere with their obligations as Muslims and as community members? So, utility is a key part of how Islam perceives such technology.
For instance, one might use a metaverse platform to interact with their favorite brand or catch up with friends and colleagues. Islam does not diminish such activities. However, one might be using the metaverse to interact with content that is inappropriate for Islam, just as in the real world and on the regular Internet.
Islamic stance on the financial prospects of the Metaverse
There are critical considerations that Muslims need to undertake in terms of the financial aspects of the metaverse. Shariah emphasizes that not everything can be turned into money, but only legal products or services that are assessed to have a certain level of utility, which will consequently create value for the buyer and seller.
Therefore, Muslims in this space must only engage in financial activities that bring value and benefits.
The inherent concept of the metaverse isn’t dissimilar from the internet. Muslims are permitted and encouraged to use the internet for lawful pursuits. However, using the web to consume explicit and sinful content and engage in illicit activities is forbidden. The same is true regarding the metaverse.
Virtual Platforms use Animated Avatars – are they Haram in Islam?
The metaverse environment is always animated as avatars to mimic the real world. There is a certain level of disagreement about the acceptable definition of animated art among Islamic scholars. Some claim that animated artwork depictions of the living world should not be considered a violation of Taswir. Regardless, real-world objects like mountains, trees, planes, cars, and other things that aren’t alive can be depicted.
In conclusion, the metaverse is not haram – but there is content in this space that can go against fundamental Islamic principles. Shariah aims to give life meaning, so every Muslim has the inherent responsibility to engage in value-driven and meaningful experiences in any space. Therefore, it is advised that Muslims have a proactive stance toward this innovation.