Ummaland.com: A Pioneering Vision in Muslim Social Networks
Maruf Yusupov, a co-founder of www.ummaland.com, is from Uzbekistan, a country that shares a border with Afghanistan, has an 88% Muslim population, and happens to have been the birth-place of the great Muhaddith Imam Al Bukhari.
Moving from here to Denmark to study Multi-Media Design meant experiencing, for the first time, the widespread anti-Muslim prejudices that still prevail in Western media.
A Constructive Culture Shock
“Being constantly exposed to this kind of propaganda leads you to an identity crisis,” says Maruf. “No one wants to be a member of a religion that blows up other citizens for no apparent reason, and this is how the mass media was depicting Islam. It made me question my religion.”
Strangely enough, it was this secular bigotry that compelled Maruf to come to terms with the religion in which he had been raised. No longer feeling comfortable with accepting religious doctrines from hearsay, he decided to put every teaching to the test and accept only what could be nailed down as fact.
Finding an Essential Truth to Live By
“But the more I researched scientifically, the closer I came to the Qur’an,” he discovered. “Modern science goes as far as Big Bang. Nothing comes out of nothing, so the Creator must exist. That was when I started exploring my Creator.
“From the Qur’an, I found out the true purpose of humankind and the statement that can completely transform us if we understand it, wholeheartedly accept it, and live by it.
“It’s this statement: La ilaha illa Allah. I’d known this statement all along, but I’d had no idea of its true meaning: there is no god except Allah, which is why He deserves that we build our lives around Him alone.”
With a great sense of relief, Maruf realized that his life now had meaning.
How Ummaland Was Born
“I was so grateful to Allah (swt) and to the online Islamic Community for sharing their knowledge with me. I wanted to pay back, so I started helping Islamic websites. Around that time, I found out about Understand Qur’an Academy [an organization that teaches Arabic and the Qur’an online] and Brother Abdul Azeez Abdul Raheem.
“I was so amazed by his enthusiasm and sincerity in teaching the Qur’an. I learned a lot from him. May Allah (swt) give him the best, here and in the Hereafter.”
The spiritual crisis brought on by the misrepresentations of Western media slowly revealed itself as an opportunity to deepen his Eeman and play a bigger role in the expansion of the Ummah.
Maruf started working as a Digital Strategy Advisor for Understand Qur’an Academy. Under his management, the organization quickly developed an engaging web-presence with a popular blog and a Facebook page with more than a million ‘likes.’
Maruf was becoming ever more eager to get busy putting shape to his ideas. Alhamdulillah a fruitful partnership was about to be born, one that would allow him to do just that. Jamoliddin Daliev — one of his best friends from Uzbekistan — came to Denmark from Sweden, having just finished a degree in computer programming.
“Every Friday, after Jumuah, we would talk about what we could do to please Allah (swt) and earn a living doing it. Then it came to us: if we could create a social network for Muslims, one that would serve halal and engaging content, then we could find Muslim business owners who would want to reach out to a Muslim audience. This is how Ummaland was born.”
Yusupov, Daliev, and Mehmudjan Mehmethaji from Uyghur Autonomous Region of China began working non-stop to bring their dream to life.
Why another Social Network?
‘Do we really need another social network?’ Maruf had been asking himself that question again and again. Weren’t there already enough social networks out there?
But he couldn’t argue with the numbers:
- There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today, and alhamdulillah this number is rapidly increasing.
- Three hundred million of these Muslims are active Internet users.
- Within the next ten years seven hundred million Muslims will have gained access to the Internet, inshaAllah.
- 56% of the world’s Muslims are under 25-years-old.
It’s clear from these figures that the number of Internet users among the Muslim population is increasing, that most of these users are youth, and that young Muslims make daily use of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. There was definitely new ground to be broken in order to realize the full potential of the Internet to expand and strengthen the Ummah.
For Muslims, the three most common problems with social networks are:
1). ads with harmful content,
2). the time wasted in small talk, and
3). a failure to take advantage of the Internet’s capacity to build productive connections.
“We see many brothers and sisters creating really amazing stuff!” says Maruf. “But it‘s all spread out, especially online.”
Conceiving a New Vision
Maruf and his partners began to further articulate their idea: “What if we had a social network with a focus on Islamic education, self-improvement, and beneficial social interactions that remind us of who we are as Muslims?
“What if we had a social network that brought the Islamic world together, creating networks of support that enable us to become more united and productive as a community?”
Ummaland’s Areas of Concern
Maruf outlines the main areas of focus:
- Productivity: “It‘s not just about what we do; how we do it is important, too. We believe productivity enables the Ummah to live in a more efficient way, thereby permitting us to reclaim our dignity and integrity.”
- Charity: “While education and productivity relate to self-improvement, we’d also like to focus on charity, gathering donations for worthy local and global causes.”
- Action: “In contrast to other social networks that promote ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ only, we‘d like to change this attitude into something actionable. For example, if a masjid or local community needs support, we want to be able to visit and help out in person if we can.”
- Education: “We believe proper Islamic education is the solution to most of our daily challenges. That’s why we’re integrating Islamic education as the core feature of our network. We welcome all Islamic institutions to join us in this endeavor.”
What’s on the Ummaland Horizon?
“In the near future,” says Maruf, “we want to focus on Islamic Education as the main core functionality so that our visitors can learn courses; for example, students can take Understand Qur’an Academy and Islamic Online University courses right from Ummaland.”