What will a mosque in America look like in 50 years? TIM asks in the timovation challenge.
Original contest post here:
As a judge for the TIMovation challenge, I’ve spent time imagining what a mosque of 2064 would look like, and I’ve thought of the many different ways that we could try to understand how rapid technology, along with the environment, society, and American political landscape, would also change.
No doubt the technologies of today are rapidly changing, so much so that they would dramatically impact the way in which religion is understood and experienced in America (and one can reference my controversial article in The Islamic Monthly online with the title Can My Robot Do Hajj For Me? where I offer what the possibilities of a robot may do for religious practices.)
At the same time, if one were to draw an equivalent parallel of the mosque of 1964—50 years ago—to today and observe how much has changed, the future prospect may look a bit more bleak.
So, I ask first, what is possible in the mosque of 2064, and then address what will probably happen.
The mosque of 2064 will be a place where the latest of technologies will interact to offer a highly individualized, specialized and focused atmosphere for every person entering in to its building. When first walking in, sensors are able to capture the mood, physiological state and stress level and neurological responses of every person. These sensors are able to adjust the surrounding air, which is ozone enriched and sent through clean air filtrations, to that person as they are in the mosque and standing for prayer. Through this, the mosque becomes a place for renewal and respite and visitors are entered into a deep state of meditative relaxation. Every person who chooses to worship finds more out of their prayers.
The prayer services will offer, through 3-D high intensity holograms real time views of Mecca and other major holy Islamic sites, and the experience will be intensified through atmospheric shifts in the viewing area to mimic the weather at that location. Worshipers could essentially perform a quick Umrah with the use of avatars on the ground there or pray directly in front of at the Kaabah.
Every worshipper could individually select, during their congregational prayer, which part of the world they wish to experience in their prayer and highly individualized sensors will essentially transport that worshiper to that place while still physically remaining in their own local mosque.
Finally, the Friday sermons themselves are highly personalized as well, offering to each worshipper the experience of sharing with other global Muslims around the world any difficulty or issues they are dealing with at present. Holograms will allow the option to have a Friday prayer with other worshipers around the globe who wish to have a Friday prayer that will serve as a message to their specific current life experience, be it a problem at work, or making a difficult life choice, or having a new baby or conflicts at home. A worshiper in Houston, Texas who is suffering from a difficult disease, for example, can join with hundreds of other Muslims around the globe who are suffering through the same issue and have a Friday sermon that is just catered to them. Such a possibility will allow for one to return to the original purpose of the Friday sermons which is to make sure that at least once a week you are getting some wisdom and knowledge that directly impacts you.
The mosque would evolve in to a place as a virtual classroom too, allowing one to interact with Muslims in, say, Tibet and find out what life is like in the community setting up a parallel connection. Full conversations can happen, Muslims will eat with them, share a meal with them, and all through a live universal computer generated translator.
But, the reality is that not much may change. By taking the last 50 years as a guide to how much we have progressed, it appears that the mosques are the last bastion of a person’s life to adopt technology, and have demonstrated a notorious form of not advancing. Just like today, fifty years ago people would still drive in cars to the mosque, women were still segregated and praying in dark, murky closet like spaces, and technological advancements have not at all shifted the ability for better social and religious experiences in the mosque.
In my worldwide travels to some of the leading technological hubs of the universe, I find myself frequenting the mosques to experience what religious life is in those parts of the world. Take India, one of the most progressive, high tech centers of the world, with millions of IT engineers who power the US economy. I will interact with them, and engage with them for meetings, but then walk across the street to catch my mid-day prayers, and I find myself in a completely, and starkly, different reality. It’s as if all those human advancement are left behind and one enters in to a different time and place altogether.
I am constantly urging religious practitioners and scholars to take a deeper look at the ways in which technology could vastly improve not only our daily lives but also our spiritual ones.
As for the mosque of 2064, it’s a mosque I personally hope to pray in.