As online resources become ever more important, many Muslims — in the U.S. and elsewhere — are turning to a website that helps them connect with their faith while they juggle school, family life and busy careers. They visit the Virtual Mosque, where they find articles and sermons peppered with pop-culture references that recall the founder’s past as a hip-hop DJ.
The website is the brainchild of Imam Suhaib Webb, an Oklahoma native who converted to Islam when he was in college.
Webb, 44, is a classically trained Islamic scholar who is widely known for his social media outreach to U.S. Muslim youth, including eight-second sermons on Snapchat and lectures that mention rapper Nicki Minaj.
“I started Virtual Mosque because I noticed a shift amongst American Muslims,” Webb said. “Many of them were discovering their faith online. And while that platform is great, it does not guarantee responsible scholarship — often, answers are given without a real conversation between the seeker and the person answering the question.”
So “we tried to close that gap … [by inviting] an open engagement between the questioner and the person answering the question,” and “by creating a space that recognizes Muslims are not a monolith” and that respects different traditions within Islam.
— VirtualMosque.com (@Virtual_Mosque) June 26, 2016
The virtual mosque was launched during Webb’s tenure in Boston, where he served as imam at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center from 2011 to 2015. Today Webb runs Center DC, a faith-based community space in Washington.
The site’s essays examine a wide range of topics from an Islamic perspective, including gender relations (“Female Scholars and Preachers in Islam”), the challenges of married life (“In-Law Interference”) and the concerns of young people (“Being Religious Without Being a Jerk”).
All Virtual Mosque content is posted in English. Some essays are also available in Arabic, Spanish and Malay.
The site gets some 13,000 page views per day and even more during Ramadan, Webb said.
Since its launch, the site’s administrators have added more writers, editors and other staffers. “The growth of the Virtual Mosque … is the greatest measure of our success,” Webb said.