Mapping And Mining The NFT Minefieldby Helmy Sa'at & Farida Haji
The NFT fad is inevitable and in a constant state of flux and evolution, like any other shiny new object online. The concept demands an open mind to truly peel off the intricate layers involved before reaching an understanding based on informed opinions.
The ramifications are still being fiercely debated, shaped, and contested. It warrants our attention and active understanding instead of sitting comfortably in the backseat for now and only feeling impelled to say or do something when it is too late, in the near future.
Digging The NFT Goldmine
One of the many joys of owning an NFT is the digitalisation of content and selling without an intermediary. In a nutshell: Giving power to the creator, the layman. Yes, you!
Though there is no way to stop anybody else from taking a screen capture and duplicating it, such as printing it on a T-shirt; however, one could claim to own it without question or dispute. Thus, making it exclusive in ownership, unique and one of a kind albeit serving no other purpose besides personal appreciation and satisfaction of owning a digital commodity.
Who Are We Buying And Selling?
The first-ever NFT, Quantum, was minted in 2014. Since 2021, NFTs became mainstream and have revolutionised the art industry both creatively and financially. The most notable NFT variants in the marketplace come from the following categories: collectible items, artwork, music and media, gaming, virtual fashion, real-world assets and memes.
According to the latest report by Statista, as of February 15, 2022, the aggregated value of sales involving NFTs in multiple market segments over 30 days amounted to roughly USD$87 million.
Sultan Gustaf Al Ghozali, 22 years old, is not a celebrity. However, his face was plastered all over news coverage after he sold his collection of selfies, entitled “Ghozali Everyday”, as NFTs that reached a trading volume of more than USD$1 million. Though it started as a joke, he is certainly laughing all the way to the bank!
Moreover, there is now a new niche marketplace that deals exclusively with faith-inspired NFTs called Funoon. Their vision is to empower artists, sports personalities, and cultural icons to create on-chain NFT collectibles whilst giving back to communities.
Cashing in on one’s religious piety has been around for ages and manifested in many forms. There are definitely wide-reaching implications when religion is being traded online and offline. The NFT marketplace has created opportunities for facets of religion to be traded resulting in viable financial transactions that only benefit an individual or a group of individuals, which translates into the global ummah, and Islam by extension, to be on the losing end.
What it means essentially is that religion and its adherents could very well be held hostage for certain aspects of their faith when faith bleeds into the online landscape.
Take the colour green as an example. Yes, there are many shades of the colour with no clear and definitive ownership. However, what are the future implications in selling and buying colours?
Certain shades of green have been attached with particular associations. For instance, green has been associated with the Irish rebellion against the ruling Protestant England. Essentially, green is not copyrighted. However, in Islam, it has been identified as the favourite colour of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ albeit with no definitive proof. Furthermore, the flags of Islamic nations too are usually adorned with the colour green.
What does it mean for the global ummah and Islam when in the near future green has been bought and sold that comes with exclusive rights and ownership? It would not be a stretch to say that Islam and its adherents are hostages to NFTs then.
The Fate of NFT in Islam: Earning Or Sinning?
The domino effect which comes with the trading of NFTs is clear. Muslims readily question the concept of NFTs: Is this sharia-compliant?
Though it should be a matter of keen interest, most are apathetic towards it for now. This is compounded by the fact that many Muslim scholars and religious leaders tend to be two to three steps behind such developments which have no set precedent.
So what is a Muslim to do? And, what is the fate of Islam in the NFT marketplace?
The absence of a clear direction or Islamic law leaves many baffled, scurrying for a definite answer. However, the Prophet ﷺ always encouraged followers to gain knowledge. Therefore one must not depend on hearsay or blindly rule out the facts and believe what is said.
The trends may be difficult to follow, at times scary to undertake, as fear of the halal or haram sets in. However, if there is an Ustaz with who you can share your queries with, do not hesitate; or else, research and reading more about what satisfies your curiosity are great options to begin with!