“A layman’s guide to video conferencing”

As Salaam Alaikum! I pray you and your loved ones are well and protected from the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic plaguing our world. For those who are ill, may Allah (SWT) grant you Ash-Shifaa (healing) and Al-‘Afiyah (relief from any and all affliction). 

And to those who have returned to Allah (SWT), we say “Inna lillaahi wa inna ‘ilayhi raaji’oon/We are from Allah and to Him, we shall return.” We pray for strength and comfort for all families. And may Allah’s mercy be upon us all.

 Wow, just a few months ago at the end of December, we were making goals and plans for the 2020 new year. Some of those plans may have included going to the gym, going to shows and events, traveling, and being with family and friends. All these plans included being in and amongst crowds. But man plans and Allah plans, and surely Allah is the best of planners. 

Although not a new term, “Social Distancing” is emerging in our everyday conversations due to COVID-19. The definition is “to deliberately increase the physical space between people to avoid the spreading of an illness.” 

For COVID-19, health officials say that staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching this disease.

As we can no longer venture out into crowds, we have to change how we maneuver in this world. Schools have closed so students are now distance learning, offices have closed so employees are working from home, conferences have been canceled so video conferencing is a replacement. 

Doctors’ offices are closed so Tele-medicine is now replacing in-person visits. TV interviews, weddings, college tours, birthday parties and funerals are also being attended differently. 

I even recently attended a virtual Muslim singles event. The commonality in all of these “new normal” situations is that they are done online through a video communication/conferencing service, like Skype or Zoom. 

With COVID-19, Zoom has become the breakout player in the arena as individuals, companies and religious organizations have used it to stay connected to family, friends, employees and congregants.

This service also can relieve some of the stress related to Social Isolation like grandparents who can’t get out can see their family and kids who can’t play with their friends outdoors. While it doesn’t replace you actually being there in person, it is a great alternative to connect virtually. Alhamdulillah for this technology! 

So as a user, how do you use video conferencing? I’ll give high-level instructions on how to navigate. Please note depending on device type the buttons and functions (start/stop camera or mic) may be in a different area on your device. Also, as a user, you don’t necessarily have to download the Zoom application (app) on your device to join a meeting. 

Please keep in mind that if your camera and microphone are on, all participants see and hear what’s in your space. Therefore, be in a space that’s free of clutter from view and away from noise as much as possible. Always dress appropriately, for example even if it’s just a sister’s Zoom, you should cover as a male could walk past another participant’s camera on their device and he could see you uncovered.

I’ll use the scenario of a Masjid hosting a meeting via Zoom. You will need a device (computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone) with a camera and microphone and a connection to the internet. 

The Masjid would setup the Zoom meeting and will email an invitation via a web link. The invitation will contain the meeting date, time, meeting id and password. The weblink has the meeting id and password embedded, but if it asks you for information, refer to the email. 

At the time of the meeting, click the link and it will navigate to a browser or Zoom application. Select one. If the host (Masjid) has not started the meeting, you may see a message, “waiting for the host to start the meeting.” 

If the host has started the meeting, they may have everyone in a virtual waiting room until they accept you to join. This is a way to verify that you belong in the meeting. Be sure to fill in your name so everyone knows how to identify you.

Please note due to the increase of Zoom meetings, some people have taken to hacking into people meetings and being obtrusive. As of April 5th, Zoom has implemented security measures to help thwart off these intrusions.

Once in the meeting, be sure to turn on your microphone and camera using the start icons in the Zoom room. Please note it’s not obligatory to turn them on, however the host can send you a request to turn your camera on.  

Once in, you can participate in the meeting. The beauty of this is that you have the opportunity to talk and see other participants face to face, although not in person, it is a great substitute to still feel connected to the community.  

You can always do a web search to learn more about video communication tools.

I pray to Allah that this virus is removed from the earth swiftly. O Allah we seek refuge in You against all evil. Oh Allah take us out of our plight and bring to us after it something better. Oh Allah protect us and place Your mercy on us all. 

Ameen. Ameen. Ameen.

Blessed Ramadan!

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