Ramadan in IOL Second Life Tent
By Mohammad Yahia, IOL Staff
CAIRO — After the success of the first experience in the virtual world of Second Life, IslamOnline.net is launching its second Ramadan tent for the holy fasting month with a variety of activities for both Muslims and non-Muslims.
"Last year the tent had an oriental theme to it," says Ahmed Fawzy, the new tent's designer.
"This year we wanted to give it a modern Arabian feel. We wanted to give people a new taste of this culture."
The new tent offers a variety of religious, cultural and entertainment activities for both Muslim and non-Muslim visitors.
It also includes lectures and sessions for visitors in both English and Arabic.
"We have designed a spate tent that is stuffed with entertainment," said Fawzy.
"We want to enforce the 'building a close community' aspect of Ramadan."
IslamOnline.net launched its first Ramadan tent in Second Life last year, drawing hundreds of visitors.
IslamOnline.net is the first major Islamic media organization to have a presence inside the computer-generated world.
It has two islands in the virtual world with several major projects on them, including the Virtual Hajj Training Simulation.
Second Life is a virtual world entirely built and owned by its booming population, currently estimated at nearly nine million.
In the animated world, real people use proxies, called avatars, to "live" alternate identities in a virtual community, complete with homes, cars and shopping malls.
The new Ramadan tent features a design called "Virtual Qur'an Reading", that gives visitors the chance to enjoy reading the Holy Book during the holy fasting month.
Visitors can gather twice daily to read from a huge Qur'an inside the tent while listening to it being recited at the same time.
"We know that most people do a complete reading of the Qur'an once or twice during Ramadan," said Ahmed Fathy, one of IOL's Second Life coordinators.
"We wanted to invite them to do this inside Second Life with us in our island."
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
After breaking their fast, Muslims attend Tarawih, a special nightly prayers.
It is also customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.
Visitors to the new Ramadan tent can also take part in discussions, fatwa sessions and lectures given by eminent scholars on different religious issues.
It hosts a big board displaying the start of Ramadan in all world countries to help visitors know when their countries will start fasting.
The tent hosts special weekly sessions for new Muslims to help them through their first Ramadan.
Non-Muslims, who are curious to know about Islam, can also visit the tent to take part and ask scholars and visitors about the Muslim faith.
The new IOL Ramadan tent features a virtual dining table that shows different kinds of foods from all over the world.
By clicking on the foods, visitors can get full recipes on how to prepare these delicious dishes at home.
"To celebrate the cultural diversity of Muslims all over the world, we plan to have a virtual Arabic and Islamic attire fashion show," adds Fathy.
"This will probably take place in the second half of the holy month but it will be a very special event."
The tent will also host several competitions for visitors.
Among the contests is "What Does Ramadan Mean to You", which encourages visitors to send in pictures about Ramadan in their countries of origin or residence.
"We have so many surprises planned for Ramadan this year and we want to make it very special to all our visitors," says Fathy.
"There will be constant announcements everyday with all the events taking place so people will not miss anything."
The new Ramadan tent is already drawing praise from visitors.
"I think the design is very nice," said Batoul Botha, a Syrian visitor. "It is innovative and unexpected."
Toti Lowey, the Bahraini designer of last year's Ramadan tent, agreed.
"I feel this year it is much cozier.
"I can imagine it with lots of people and lots of kids with lamps in their hands running and playing around."
The Almighty Allah says,
"When a servant thinks of Me, I am near.
When he invokes Me, I am with him.
If he reflects on Me in secret, I reply in secret,
And if he acknowledges Me in an assembly,
I acknowledge him in a far superior assembly."
- Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as reptd by Abu Huraira