In the past few days, a new version of the website of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī’s office has been unveiled. The practical guidelines mentioned by Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī in regards to the internet have shown the importance which he places in regards to this relatively new technology and the key role which the internet can play in spreading the pure teachings of Shia Islam. Let us now delve into the viewpoints of Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī in regards to certain necessities and obligations which we all have in relation to the internet. This is particularly important for those who are leaders in this nation, particularly those who are in charge of regulating the internet. The most important of these practical obligations are as follows:
The Unbreakable Link between Cultural Elements and Economic and Political Issues
There is no doubt that spreading the teachings of Shia Islam through the internet is one of the most important cultural issues of our time. We must recognize the importance of this issue and we must furthermore recognize that cultural issues have a direct link to economic and political issues within a given society as well. Similarly, if cultural elements are defective, then the economic and political situation of a given nation will also suffer from numerous problems. In light of this important issue, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated: ‘We believe that cultural issues influence political and economic issues, while political and economic issues also influence cultural issues in turn.’
In light of this understanding and the current cultural situation in our nation, we must recognize that our cultural environment is quite unsuitable at the current time. Among the means which have influenced the cultural climate are satellite dishes and the internet; these two things have proven to be a veritable poison for our youth. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has also spoken about various cultural problems such as late marriages, an increase in the divorce rate, a lack of modesty, etc… The rise of these issues makes the matter of confronting the dangers posed by the internet even more important.
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated in this regard: ‘We have an Islamic government at hand and we believe that if morality disappears or becomes corrupted, then this will bring about numerous problems for our society. So we must ask ourselves why the divorce rate has increased so much? Why are less and less people getting married, and that at later ages? Why have husbands become suspicious in regards to their wives and wives have become suspicious in regards to their husbands? Among the important causes of these problems are the internet and satellite dishes! ’
Grabd Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then continued and said: ‘The lack of modesty and the spread of licentousness, have shaken the foundations of the family. When we advise people in regards to such things we tell them that we are feeling for you and this is why we are advising you; this is something which is for your own good. We must carefully observe the various cultural issues and begin to advise the people who are around us or those whom we can influence in a positive manner. Sometimes, doing so may have a cost, but we will pay these costs. When we examine the internet and various satellite channels, it is clear that the enemies, as well as the licentious individuals are constantly busy in polluting them and making them a means of corruption. These corrupt individuals make use of various sites, satellite channels, and even mobile phones in poisoning the minds of the public. Therefore, we must also take more vigorous actions, enter the field whole heartedly, and neutralize these evil initiatives.’
The Necessity of Proper Utilization of the Internet--- A Necessary Strategy in Fighting the ‘Soft War’
According to Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī, the internet is one of the most important tools in the modern era and it is neither possible, nor even advisable, to stop people from uti-lizing it. We must do whatever is possible to reclaim this technology and advance it even further. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then mentioned that the internet possesses the potential of being destructive or of being constructive. He has then added, saying: ‘Even though the initial developers of the internet outside of our country wish to utilize it to undermine our religious beliefs, we must make use of this technology, which can both be a source of guidance or misguidance for our families, in the correct and proper way.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has further added: The enemies wish to use these new technologies to corrupt the entire world. Since there is nothing which has more influence upon the new generation than the internet, it is therefore necessary to combat the evils through the powerful culture of Islam and use the cultural teachings of this great faith in confronting the initiatives of the enemy.
The Necessity of Unity between the Technological and Cultural Leaders of the Nation and the Supreme Council of Cyberspace
One of the obvious and undeniable strategies which can be employed in this issue is the cooperation and unity of all the various government institutions with the Supreme Councile of Cyberspace. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has emphasized that: ‘It is necessary that the leaders of the various government institutions place any plans they have in relation to the use of the internet at the disposal of the Supreme Councile of Cyberspace, which is the legal authority in such matters, and they should implement them only after the elimination of the negative aspects of such plans.’
The Necessity of Creating a Nationwide Domestic Internet
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī believes that the creation of a domestic internet will help to confront the negative cultural aspects being spread by the enemies on the internet of today. He has stated that: ‘The reality is that a domestic internet can help to resolve many of the issues we are facing. It is necessary that our leaders sit down with the Supreme Council of Cyberspace and (resolve this issue), for if they do not, we will face many problems in the future.’
The Necessity of Spreading Information on the Internet
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī believes that an important issue relates to the spread of information through the internet (particularly by various government institutions) and it is his opinion that such a thing will prove beneficial to the media services of the Muslims and Shias. He has stated that: ‘The spreading of information will attract ever more attention and it will bring us closer to our goals in regards the promotion of the Islamic teachings.’
Refraining from Inactivity in the Cyberspace--- a Fundamental Principle in Benefitting from the Internet
It is evident that our inactivity in the face of the media activities of the Arrogant Superpowers has caused various problems and dangers which are in turn negatively manifested in the greater culture around us. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has emphasized the necessity of abstaining from such inactive approaches and he has stated: ‘After the Islamic victory and the awakening, and the issues which were initiated in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, the activities of the enemies of Islam entered a wholly new phase. This phase involves the internet and today, everyone can witness the fight by various world leaders against the religion of Islam. The reason behind this is that today, the last enemy of these individuals is true Islam.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then further explained the duties of the scholars in this regard and he has stated: ‘The duties of the Muslim scholars are heavier than ever for the attacks by the current enemies are much braoder in scope. Due to this reason we shouldn’t fall into a state of inaction and say that the enemies are too many and there is no way to combat their mass media platforms. Instead, we must say that the power of Islamic culture has prepared the way for progress and advancement and so we must move forward with proper planning and transform the dangers of the internet into opportunities.’
The Necessity of Utilizing Modern Day Technology in regards to the Internet
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has mentioned the following in regards to utilizing modern day technology in regards to the internet: ‘We are not opposed to technology. Not only are we not opposed to it but we consider it a necessary means for achieveing our goals.’ Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then stated: ‘We have a tradition that states that if knowledge is located on the Pleiades, a group amongst the Iranians will bring it down. During the time when the Islamic world was undergoing its golden age, the Europeans were undergoing their Dark Ages.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then delved into the importance of pursuing Islamic morality and abiding by the red lines of the Islamic government and the religion itself in relation to Western technology. He has stated: ‘We defend technology wholeheartedly and no one should imagine that we are opposed to it. At the same time, Western technology in its current form is much like muddy water which is unsuitable for drinking. Water is of course a means of life but when it is polluted, it must first be filtered.
The Western world doesn’t believe in religious or moral principles when it comes to technology but we do and we believe in a certain red line in regards to it. We believe that such technology must be first purified and refined.’ In a world where technology reigns supreme, it is necessary for us to use the best forms of it in the promotion of the truth. It is necessary that we utilize this technology for the promotion of morality and spirituality.
Placing More Importance on Translation and the Learnign of Foreign Languages --- An Important Strategy in Promoting the Teachings of Shia Islam on the Internet
There is no question that the ablitiy to speak foreign languages and translated religious text into such languages is an essential capability that the Islamic missionaries need to possess. Such foregin language skills are particularly important in light of the emergence of the new types of media which are appearing on the internet. Accordingly, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has referenced a tradition from Imam Ṣādiq (ʿa) in regards to the necessity of increasing the foreign language skills of the Islamic missionaries and seminary students.
The Ayatollah has spoken in regards to the need for more translation works through which the teachings of Islam can be better propagated. In a tradition from Imam Ṣādiq (ʿa), it has been narrated that a time will come when knowledge will spread from Qom to the various corners of the world. In light of the times that we live in and the technology which exists, it must be stated that the words of Imam Ṣādiq (ʿa) are a clear reason behind the need for translating the Islamic teachings into various foreign languages, as well as engaging in learning these various languages ourselves.
The Jurisprudential Principal of Al Maysūr --- A Practical Guide for a Constant and Effective Online Presence
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has delved into the broader necessity of utilizing modern day technologies and he has also touched upon the jurisprudential concept of Maysūr and how it plays a role in this regard. He has stated: ‘In this field, we must work based on the jurisprudential concept of Maysūr. This means that we should do what we are capable of and we shouldn’t totally discard our duties based on the excuse that we are not able to carry out our duties in this regard completely ; we must never cut short our presence in this field.’
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has then stated: ‘This principle also rules in morally based issues and up to whatever point possible, we must prepare the grounds for enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. Just like we have made use of the presence of scholars in various fields (including on the internet), we must use this field even more until we can expand the presence of religious individuals and institutions for an even greater level of consultation and the answering of questions. ’
Propagating the Teachings of Shia Islam is one of the Most Important Undertakings on the Internet
Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has considered the propagation of Shia teachings through the medium of the internet as a source of great blessings and he considers this propagation as a key guideline for success. He has stated: ‘You should know that in spite of all of the destructive activities of the enemies of Islam, the efforts which are made in promoting the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) through the internet and mass media can have a great effect overall.’
Transforming Threats into Opportunities on the Cyberspace through the Utilization of the Potential Offered by the Islamic Seminary and the Universities
Some of the individual and independent initiatives which arise from the propagators of Shia Islam can be very effective in and of themselves. However, making use of the enormous capabilities of the Islamic seminary and the university system can have an exponentially greater effect, particularly in regards to the digital and virtual fields. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated in this regard: ‘A group of researchers and experts in the Seminary (as well as outside of the seminary) must look into the methods of confronting the Western media onslaught which is taking place through the cyberspace and other forms of mass media.
This is particularly important in regards to the threats which are seen on the internet, as well as the anti Islamic propaganda which are being spread by the media of the enemies. Such propaganda is witnessed on a 24/7 basis all across the Islamic world.’ The Ayatollah has also stated that: ‘The cyberspace must be pulled towards education and training so that the people may be properly guided. Towards such an end, it is necessary to consult with the Islamic seminarians (and other experts in this field) and seek their active guidance.’
The Necessity of Managing the Internet for the Better Guidance of the Youth and the Strengthening of the Family Unit
There is no doubt that if the youth spend their time on the internet without having the necessary prerequisite Islamic knowledge, they will become afflicted with various serious moral and socially based problems. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has presented the necessary guidelines for guiding the youth in their use of various media and the internet; he has particularly focused on social media platforms. In this regard, he has mentioned the necessity of proper management for these new communication technologies for the better guidance of the youth and the strengthening of the family unit. He stated in this regard that: ‘Since the youth possess pure hearts, it is the duty of the leaders to draw a correct and beautiful picture on these hearts and so we must utilize these technologies, which can guide people or misguide them, in a correct manner. It must be recognized that these technologies cannot be stopped from entering the homes and so these technologies must be guided in the proper direction so that they bring about the proper growth and development in the next generation.’
Religious Creativity is one of the Greatest Needs in regards to the Internet
Similarly, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has further delved into the necessity of being more active (in relation to the religious propagators) on the internet and he has stated: ‘Sufficing with a limited number of religious initiatives and activities will cause a veritable retreat; rather, we must move forward.’ The Ayatollah has further added: ‘Every day and every year, we must make sure that our religious activities on the internet are combined with creativity and innovation.’
A Final Word
In the end, Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī stated that righteousness and success in the human society is conditionally based upon the efforts of the leaders in utilizing the new tech-nology which has come about and the efforts of the Muslims who strive to do cultural work in the field of cyberspace and who see their work as something which they are paying forward for their afterlife. Grand Ayatollah Makārim Shīrāzī has stated that: ‘The disseminators of corruption are quite active in our world of today and so the disseminators of righteousness and truth must stand up against them in opposition and they must make use of all of the new technologies which they have at hand.’
In addition, since the aim of the propagators of the Islamic teachings guide the people and prevent them from being misguided by intellectual and ideological deviations on the internet, these types of initiatives must be seen asgood deeds which are to be rewarded on the Day of Judgment.