Iran’s Religious Seminaries Embrace Artificial Intelligence
Iran Embraces AI in Religious Teachings
Iran’s Islamic clerics are championing the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to aid in the spread of religious teachings. Months earlier, the country’s Supreme Leader had labelled the technology as “satanic”, only to later advocate for its adoption.
Tech in the Holy City
The innovative push originates from the sacred city of Qom, a critical hub of Islamic learning and religious devotion. Hosting half of the country’s 200,000 Shia clerics, the city stands at the epicenter of technological adoption in spiritual studies. The move to embrace AI has found favor at the highest levels, with the Supreme Leader urging the clergy to navigate the uncharted waters of advanced technology. In alignment with this directive, the head of Qom’s seminary has also endorsed the technology for promoting Islamic civilization.
The government’s current interest and investigation into the use of AI within religious seminaries sharply contrasts its former stance. In an unprecedented case against a non-human entity, Iran’s Supreme Leader had issued a fatwa against AI earlier this year. Despite this, religious leaders advocate for the infusion of AI into society as a response to popular calls for modernization while preserving traditional values.
Future at Fast Pace
It is anticipated that advanced technology will support the more efficient dissemination of Islamic scriptures and permit religious rulings, or fatwas, to evolve in line with the rapidly progressing Iranian society. AI equipped assistants can support theologians with fatwa issuance, expediting a process that once took up to 50 days into a mere five hours.
Challenges on the Horizon
Despite the progress, some skeptics question the adaptation of AI into the religious sector due to Islam’s complex legal system. Concerns have been raised about the ability of AI to fully grasp the nuances of religious rulings and the values imparted through traditional teaching practice. Critics question whether artificial intelligence can truly understand and respond to such intricate matters.
A Step Forward
Despite confronting various challenges, the initiation at Qom symbolizes a readiness within Iran’s religious circles to endorse new technologies to maintain relevancy in an unceasingly modernizing world. Advocates assert that the broad goals remain identical, despite changes in the utilized tools, and that the adoption of AI does not inherently lead to an alignment with the perspectives of the Western secular society.
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