He is someone who submits willingly and absolutely to the will of Allah, the almighty. He lives consistently by the tents of Al-Islam. He considers the sayings of Allah and his messenger in whatever he sets out to do.
In this age of rocket-science, there exist quite a lot of novel inventions which could only be dreamt about in the Prophetic era. This poses a challenge to present-day Muslims, as patterning their lives with that of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon his soul) would be somewhat difficult considering the quantum jump experienced in technological, environmental, and socio-economic spheres. One of such new inventions is the internet, and more specifically, social networks.
It is expedient that I assert here that Islam, being an often widely misconstrued way of life, is a religion that embraces all forms of scientific advancements as long as they do not contradict its basic provisions e.g. science seeking to prove the inexistence of God, seeking to immortalise man, manufacturing electric cigars or artificial sex objects etc. Scientific inventions are permitted, and in fact encouraged, so long as they promote the general wellbeing of humanity.
And it is the duty of every Muslim to learn and apply the etiquettes pertaining to these inventions, in order not to stray from the pristine path of Islam, without knowing.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK:
This may simply be referred to as a world of virtual communities, through which people tend to relate and interact more easily and exchange information, ideas, messages, pictures, videos and what have you.
Examples include the very popular (in this part of the world) Facebook which currently has more than 1.06 billion active users; we also have Twitter with up to 500 million users, YouTube (for uploading and streaming videos) which also reached a billion active user-count in recent time, Instagram (for sharing pictures), Nairaland (largest online forum in Nigeria), Whatsapp, BBM, 2go (messengers for on-the-click chatting) and countless others.
PROBLEMS IN SOCIAL NETWORKING:
Just like every other thing, social networking has a number of ills which result from the abuse humans subject it to.
- One of such major problems inherent in social networking is that of massive time wastage. This is because these networks have been known to be very addictive. After all, there is a good reason Blackberry used to be called ‘Crackberry’, alluding to crack cocaine. You want to keep liking, sharing, tweeting, commenting, uploading, fighting for ‘front-page’ or ‘first-to-comment’; and there’s really no end to it. Take a look at Nairaland, which has a feature of displaying the number of hours, days or months each member has spent on the forum, perhaps to serve as a yardstick of seniority. We find some who have spent as much as 6, 7 months, and they are still active. Any serious-minded business-oriented person will know how much can be monetarily achieved over this span of time. How about 2go? A messenger that is most popular among the teenagers. We find a similar feature on it; only more obvious. The more you use the application, the more your rank increases, alternating between novice, beginner, master, professional, expert etc. This makes absolutely no sense to me, as even on getting to the highest cadre, no single penny will be paid to you. As a matter of fact, it is the reverse, because 2go users depend on what is called ‘Go-credits’ in order to survive on the network.
Most times, when we share a status and nobody comments on it, we become sad; when we upload a very nice picture of ourselves and there’s no single ‘like’ after many hours, we get annoyed; when we keep following a person we’ve been ‘eyeing’ and yet the person ignores our advances, we become furious. We keep on string for cyber-relevance at the expense of our real, physical lives; not knowing that it is how eminent we are actually that determines how relevant we get virtually. Taking as evidence, the time Aliko Dangote decided to join Twitter, sometime last year; on the first day alone, I believe he got millions of followers.
People, most especially the youths, are ceaselessly glued to their browsing gadgets, just to know if anything new is on their page or wall. And sure enough, there is always something new. People even go as far as pinging in toilets, while crossing the street or during Jum’ah service. That’s how bad the situation is.
- Another of the problems inherent in social networking is the problem of pornography and exposure to nudity. The simple truth is that if we can have unprecedented obscenity on the streets, offices, schools and in our homes; then we cannot possibly expect anything less from cyber-space where there is much more freedom. There are already tons of websites dedicated to the disobedience of Allah and committed to misleading millions of people by exploiting their carnal weakness. It has been statistically proven that 12 percent of all sites are porn-oriented, 35 percent of all downloads are pornographic, kids first see porn online, on average, at age 11 and 20 percent of men watch it at work.
Seeing pornographic pictures or watching an indecency movie does not just end there, it causes an unsettling ripple effect. The eye is the window to the soul, so whatever it plays audience to directly affect the condition of the soul, for good or otherwise. Thus, an eye that wanders and a gaze that is constantly not lowered bring unrest to the soul of a man. It causes a chronic lack of focus, and makes us prone to the exploitation of Ash-Shaytan. See Qur’an 24: 30, 31.
- Aside from the aforementioned, another problem we may encounter while using social networks is engaging, knowingly or unknowingly, in gossiping and spreading false news. You may be on Whatsapp, and then suddenly a contact will send you a broadcast saying ‘Boko-Haram’s next target is Lagos’, ‘CONFIRMED: Jonathan gives out customised iPhones at daughter’s wedding’, ‘REVEALED: Bill Gates is the chief-sponsor of Al-Qaeda’ or perhaps, ‘Do not wear red today: from Pastor Adeboye’. Some even claim the silly broadcasts are from some Shuyukh (scholars) in Saudi Arabia, and some go to the extent of fabricating ahadith, claiming they are from the Prophet, for God knows what reason. For instance; one I read recently, which was shared to me by a knowledgeable muslim youth, which said it’s the month of Rajab, the Prophet has promised rewards for the person who informs others first, so re-broadcast to gain rewards… Thus, it is important that we have it at the back of our mind that just as it easy to earn rewards by sharing useful information to thousands of people, it is equally as easy to earn Allah’s displeasure by contributing to gossips and promoting fallacious news or slandering assertions.
SOLUTIONS TO THE PROBLEMS, HOW MUSLIMS OUGHT TO USE THE SOCIAL NETWORK:
- Be time conscious at all times: avoid excessive usage of the social network and be conscious of the time of salah and ‘ibadaat, both mandatory and voluntary.Every second in a Muslim’s life is very important because they all account for how good and comfortable his worldly affairs are; and then he will also account for all when he eventually faces his Lord on the day of reckoning.
- Turn off images as default setting: do this to avoid getting indecent pop-ups; switch pictures on only when it is safe and necessary.Always remember the words of Shaykhu-l-Islam, Ibn Taymiyyah; ‘whenever a man exposes himself to a calamity, Allah will leave him to himself’.
- Do not like/share/join/commend anti-Islamic items e.g. photos, uploads, updates, groups, pages etc.
- Be extra cautious of friends of the opposite sex: I find it somewhat surprising that majority (about 70-80%) of the friend suggestions I get on Facebook are female; not sure if the same thing is obtainable in female accounts. We shouldknow that seclusion and flirting is wrong, be it offline or online.
- Do not share doubtful or unverified information; confirm before you react.
- Be careful not to try and please others, whether positively or negatively: do not share your acts of worship, do not upload unwholesome pictures and avoid using vulgar words.
- Avoid getting into needless, unproductive arguments: they waste time and breed resentment.
- Add your parents to your contact-list if they are also on the network: and do not use multiple accounts except with good intentions; this serves as a check on ones activities.
- Use your browsing gadgets only/mostly when others are around.
- Do not sign up on too many networks: two or three is okay, never visit/register on dating sites.
BENEFITS MUSLIMS CAN DERIVE FROM SOCIAL NETWORKS:
- Online Dawah: Since, in this day and time, people are generally more present virtually than physically; the social network is a viable medium for getting people’s attention and sharing the message of Islam to an uncountable audience. This may be done through sharing Islamic updates, logical proof for the authenticity of Islam; info-graphics and befriending non-muslims for the sake of Dawah.
- Sharing Islamic resources: e.g. verses of the Qur’an, sayings of the Prophet (PBUH), stories of the companions, lectures of knowledgeable scholars; whether in text, image, audio or video. This is in line with the hadith of the Prophet that ‘convey from me (my message, to others), even if it is just a verse.’ Adhering to this advice will, in shaa Allah, bring to us abundant rewards.
- Strengthening family ties: advancement in the field of transportation has made it possible and easier for families to be wide apart. We see families in which the father is working in France, the mother is living in Nigeria and the children are schooling in the United States. In such a situation, it may be difficult for the family members to sustain the bond. The best way, therefore, to keep in touch with one’s family and relatives, in line with prophetic injunctions, is to harness what social networks have to offer. Let us be brave enough to ‘ping’ our dad, ‘video-call’ our mom and chat with our siblings. It has been made easy for us; the only obstacle is the will.
- Visiting educative websites; getting up-to-date NEWS: another great use of social networks is gaining academic-wise; there are a lot of forums online where intellectually uplifting information are shared. A Muslim should focus on these opportunities and make sure he benefits from them. And again, one may also get up-to-date news through social networks. You get to know happenings all over the world, in real time. This also affords us the chance of hearing of and being concerned about our brethren crisis-ridden countries, facing one fitna or the other.
To conclude this write-up, I wish to share a particular tradition of the Holy Prophet, Muhammad ‘bn Abdullah, narrated by Abu Said Al-Khudri and reported in Sahih Bukhari [Book 8; Volume 74; Hadith 248]:
The Prophet said, ‘Beware! Avoid sitting on the roads.” They (the people) said, “O Allah s Apostle! We can’t help sitting (on the roads) as these are (our places) here we have talks.” The Prophet said, ‘if you refuse but to sit, then pay the road its right’. They said, “What is the right of the road, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, ‘Lowering your gaze, refraining from harming others, returning greeting, and enjoining what is good, and forbidding what is evil.”
Let us now reassign the setting of this hadith, and assume the subject is the social network and not road network. Going by this assumption, the basis then is – ‘avoid using the social network’; our excuse is – ‘but we can’t help using it as it is our medium for having talks and holding conversations’. Hence, ‘if we think we cannot but use it, let us pay the social network its rights’; which are ‘lowering your gaze’ [do not look at indecent items], ‘refraining from harming others’ [do not slander, abuse or speak ill of others’, ‘returning greeting’ [whenever someone says taslim, reply] and ‘enjoining what is good, and forbidding what is evil’ [use the platform of social networks for Dawah, admonitions, corrections and intellectual Jihad’.