Social media have become increasingly integrated into common Indonesian lives. Based on the “We Are Social” report back in 2019, 150 million Indonesians are active social media users, which is around half of the population.[i] Out of all social media available for them, as a messenger, WhatsApp reigned top as the most popular used by Indonesian.[ii] This is so as out of 150 million active internet users, 83% used WhatsApp actively.[iii]
Indonesia consists of majority Muslims.[iv] According to Indonesia Investments website, Indonesia makes up around 13% of the total percentage of Muslims in the world- around 207 million Muslims.[v] With concerns over how the internet has become increasingly integrated into people's lives, the number of religious educations, especially Islamic Education in the country, has increasingly been delivered through social media platforms.[vi] One of the most significantly popular being through WhatsApp messenger.
Why is WhatsApp Popular?
Perhaps one of the main reasons why WhatsApp is popular in Indonesia is because WhatsApp was the first of its type.[vii] It officially launched in 2009 and only needs a phone and a phone number to operate.[viii] It acts as an alternative to SMS but better.[ix] WhatsApp does not limit the number of words and users can send more multimedia contents.[x] WhatsApp also adds features where it can adapt to various gadgets and platforms, such as the computer.[xi] In addition, users can now create their own WhatsApp group and group video calls.[xii] Entertaining features such as GIF and downloadable stickers are also added.[xiii] Moreover, excluding possible data charges for internet data users, WhatsApp is free to use most of the time.[xiv] Considering the appropriate timing for its breakthrough as well as its relevant practicality, WhatsApp remained as the number one social media app for many Indonesians. With such strengths, businesses and communities have seen WhatsApp as a potential medium for effective communications with clients and fellow members. Such is also the consideration thought by many Islamic Communities in Indonesia with the purpose of spreading Islamic Education and Dakwah (preaching).
WhatsApp as a Medium to Spread Islamic Education
One example of Islamic Education delivered through WhastApp could be seen from the community- “Belajar Islam Seru” or BIS. BIS is run by several Ustadzah (female Islamic teacher) and its purpose is to educate their members about Islam through dakwah.[xv] Dakwah in this context is defined as an act whose purpose is to create a secure, peaceful and prosperous order for individuals through Islamic ways.[xvi] In order to do so, one who delivers dakwah needs to be a good communicator who possesses sufficient abilities in understanding Al-Qur’an and the prophet’s sunnah.[xvii] They should also be able to help their communities in ibadah (worship activities).[xviii] WhatsApp in this case is considered appropriate to deliver dakwah as it helps ustadzah deliver it in an efficient and effective way. According to members of BIS, the use of WhatsApp helps them to interact on a more personal level.[xix] This kind of interaction is important to increase the persuasiveness in the dakwah delivered.[xx] WhatsApp also supports the sharing of media such as pictures, videos, group calls, and voice notes to make the communication within BIS more interactive and interesting.[xxi]
Second example could be seen from the “One Day One Juz” community or ODOJ whose purpose is to motivate Muslims to read Al-Qur’an.[xxii] WhatsApp is considered by ODOJ movement leaders as the appropriate medium to deliver such encouragement.[xxiii] Members of ODOJ are divided into male and female groups.[xxiv] Each group has an administrator which leads the group. Members of the group are required to report their reading progress to a Penanggung Jawab Harian (PJH) or the Person Responsible for the Day, every day.[xxv] To help maintain commitment, ODOJ has established a ranking system from 1 to 5 stars, 5 being earliest to complete the readings.[xxvi] ODOJ have also posted reports and advice from their central administrations to the WhatsApp groups.[xxvii] In addition to its features, the low cost of WhatsApp plays an important role for ODOJ to gain wider follower especially in the increasingly tech-savvy Indonesia.[xxviii]
Last but not least, there are the Pengajian (Islamic prayer and study activity) groups made by communities of Yogyakarta middle class educated mothers. These pengajian groups are Pengajian Medina, Pengajian Al-Hijrah and Pengajian Safina.[xxix] Within each groups, the members study Islam in a more personal level with convenience, may it be through the reading of Al-Qur’an, how to dress in accordance to the Islamic teachings, or others related to donations and ibadah.[xxx] The deliverance of this information and dakwah also involved ustadz (male Islamic teacher) as religious teachers.[xxxi] Shared information may be in the form of pictures, motivation quotes or links for sources of information which are then discussed by the group members.[xxxii]
From here we could see how the use of WhatsApp has assisted the spreading of Islamic Education in Indonesia. It depicts how the convenience and features of WhatsApp have enhanced various religious activities of the groups that utilize it. It proves further how the traditional practice of communities has now gradually moved and integrated to that of digital communities. These communities are able to access various information almost instantaneously and have created a wider spread of Islamic voices. With this we could conclude that the use of social media like WhatsApp helps communities to stay relevant in the digital world.
Read more articles written by Mira Ardya Pramastri
[i] We Are Social. (2019). Digital 2019: Indonesia (Online). Available at: https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2019-indonesia [Accessed on May, 8th 2020].
[iv] Indonesia Investments (2020). Islam in Indonesia (Online). Available at https://www.indonesia-investments.com/culture/religion/islam/item248 [Accessed on May, 8th 2020].
[vi] Slama, M. (2018). Practicing Islam through social media in Indonesia. Indonesia and the Malay World, 46(134), pp.1-4, DOI: 10.1080/13639811.2018.1416798.
[vii] Unuth, N. (2020). Why WhatsApp Is so Popular (Online). Available at: https://www.lifewire.com/reasons-why-whatsapp-is-popular-3426372 [Accessed on May, 10th 2020].
[xv] Harahap, S.H., & Kurniawati, D.I. (2018). WhatsApp Sebagai Media Strategi Komunikasi Ustadzah Dalam Menyampaikan Dakwah (Studi Deskriptif Kualitatif Komunitas “Belajar Islam Seru”). DiMCC Conference Proceeding, 1, pp. 131-150.
[xxii] Nisa, E.F. (2018). Social Media and the Birth of an Islamic Social Movement: ODOJ (One Day One Juz) in Contemporary Indonesia. Indonesia and the Malay World, 46(134), pp. 24-43.
[xxix] Ridho, S. (2018). Pesan Instan Muslimah Kelas Menengah Baru: Studi Identitas Islam di Group Whatsapp “Islam.” MAARIF, 13(1), pp. 137-157.