5.3. Signs of an Islamic Digital Divide within the As’adiyah Community

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Create Date 28 October 2016
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Wahyuddin Halim (Universitas Islam Negeri Makassar)


This paper discusses the uses of social media, particularly Facebook and WhatsApp, within  the As’adiyah community. As’adiyah is the oldest and largest Islamic socio-religious organization in South Sulawesi founded in Sengkang, the capital of the district of Wajo. Through its various religious and social programs, As’adiyah trains and produces Islamic scholars, teachers and preachers as well as students who memorise the Qur’an (A. huffadz, pl. for tahfidz) and are later expected to become “professional” imam. As’adiyah alumni can be found throughout the country and they work not only in the religious field but also in other practical fields of life. Long before they had access to the digital realm, they were maintaining a network among themselves in their homeland South Sulawesi as well as in the diaspora by inviting As’adiyah preachers and imam to their places or by sending their children to study in the As’adiyah boarding school (pesantren) in Sengkang. Since the introduction and appropriation of digital technologies, many members of the As’adiyah community (students, teachers, leaders, alumni) started to make use of social media to maintain and strengthen the As'adiyah network. The particular focus of this paper is to investigate how As’adiyah religious preachers’ (I. mubalig) uses of social media, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, can strengthen and expand their Islamic authority in contrast to those who do not have the technical and financial capability to use these popular interfaces of the internet. The paper thus argues that today we see first signs of the emergence of an Islamic digital divide within the As’adiyah community, i.e. particularly among its preachers.