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Muslims in the Metaverse: Future Islamic Design, Peter Gould

Space mosque? Holo calligraphy? Buraq travel in VR? Muslims in the metaverse is a concept award-winning designer and entrepreneur, Peter Gould is exploring.

Islam Imagined Digital Communities


He has worked on a variety of digital and creative projects — including collaborating with Google Glass and building apps for Muslim kids. His interest in virtual reality began as a student at University of Technology Sydney. As a Muslim, he is always keen to bring together Islamic traditions and emerging digital technology. His studio has offices in Sydney, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.

We talked to Peter all things digital, innovating Islamic design for the future and imagining new possibilities.

Your spiritual and creative journey are closely linked, what led you to developing a career in design?

I’d always had an interest and curiosity around design and technology from a young age, and was fascinated by creating digital artwork on early computers. I loved the potential of that space, and eventually started to freelance as a graphic designer while I was in high school. I remember a friend asking me to design a poster for AUD20, which would have been a whole day’s work at McDonalds at the time, so that was really the first time I thought that design is really what I want to be doing professionally.

I enrolled in a Bachelor of Design course at university, and actually started my first design firm at the same time, even though I was very new to it. It was a big experiment, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was excited by the potential of technology and creative expression. That was around the year 2000/01, when a lot of early internet technology was starting to get traction – animation was online, video was very new, and I was right in that space.

Parallel to that, I was having my own personal journey and became interested in Islam and the spiritual path. I was asking so many questions around my own existence and what it all means; how is it that I’ve been born with all these opportunities and blessings that somebody born elsewhere doesn’t have? This discovery process really answered a lot of the questions that I had in ways that I never would have imagined - very deep, but also very simple ways.

Peter receives award from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum 2015.jpg


So these two paths have always been connected and over time, particularly with travel, I really saw them mature, intertwine, and be enriched by traditional Islamic cultures. My design profession and interest in start-ups and entrepreneurship was growing at the same time as my spiritual awareness was deepening, and the potential of all those things together was a really fascinating journey to explore.

You take an innovative approach to Islamic design and entrepreneurship, and are known to say innovation has been central to reconnecting with Islam over generations. What does this mean for Islamic art and culture in the present day?

My understanding is that Muslim cultures and civilisations have always adopted, embraced and been curious about technologies that can improve the human experience. That there was an appreciation and connection to the beauty of the divine source of that technology’s inspiration.

So through their work, calligraphers or architects or craftspeople were helping people to remember God and reconnect. It wasn’t about shying away from technology or innovation, but seeing its potential to improve themselves and their condition. And I think that continues today. We’re on the next part of the journey, where the culture of the day – the zeitgeist – is digital platforms using hyper-connected devices.

Peter working with UAE clients


I think our spirituality is increasingly important in a time when we can become easily distracted, so reconnecting to and re-embracing some traditional understandings of Islamic art becomes very profound. For example, taking the concept of Niyyah and looking at what it could mean for a product designer or start-up founder. Or taking basic concepts around Barakah and looking at how we could bring blessings into our projects.

While these things that were traditionally implied or understood by Muslim practitioners in the past, we might have to consciously describe them and think more deeply about them today. And used the right way, with the right intention, the tools that we have today can really help us to do that. The technology we have at our disposal gives us new and dynamic ways to connect to the divine through art and culture, and I think it’s a really exciting time for creatives to explore that potential.

‍In a world of social media and new technologies, how can we keep growing our Islamic traditions with these new tools?

I believe that many of the challenges we face as humans are timeless: Working on ourselves, the journey of consciousness and awareness, and remembering and connecting with the source of all these blessings.

The new tools we have can of course be a distraction from all of that, but I also think there’s huge potential to use them in positive ways. For example, we could create new interfaces for people who might be looking for a window into a spiritual practice or path. Interfaces that are firmly rooted in the Islamic tradition, but for new audiences who might discover them because they’re using some of these new tools and technologies.