Social networking can be an effective tool for maintaining contact with relatives, giving sincere advice, inviting to Islam, spreading the word of Allah, and disseminating the words of His Prophet (SAWS), as the Prophet has said: “inform about me, even if it’s only one verse.” All of these actions mentioned are praiseworthy manifestations of faith if done with the right intention and in the right manner. Millions of Muslims across the world use facebook and other social networking outlets to do these things on a daily basis. Internet networking is the new international meeting place, and it can be a sometimes, spiritually uplifting, engaging, and profitable venue for global interconnection, spreading good, and familiarization of peoples from different backgrounds, cultures, and faiths. Human beings by our nature, are social beings, and social interconnectivity by itself is not prohibited in Islam, as Allah has indeed sanctioned it; يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”. What is not sanctioned however is that people connect with one another in ways that are prohibited by the Quran, by the Sunna of the Prophet, or by agreement of the Muslim scholars. Islamic laws of ethics and morality are applicable at all times, and do not cease to apply once you turn on your computer and go online. Sometimes people are misled into thinking that since we are sitting comfortably ensconced in our homes out of view from the public; our public words and actions online have no spiritual consequence. This could not be farther from the truth; فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ “And whoever does an atoms weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atoms weight of bad shall see it”. Being on or offline does not matter when it comes to maintaining Islamic standards of ethics and morality.
An alarming amount of marriages have ended, weakened or have been threatened by the involvement of one or both spouses in risky facebook activity where they are interacting with members of the opposite sex in an inappropriate manner. It is not permissible for a Muslim to use social networking as a means to cheat on one’s spouse, cultivate unlawful relationships, post revealing photographs, spread bedroom secrets, or to uncover the faults of others without just cause. All of the above are prohibited in Islam by agreement of the scholars, and have toxic consequences upon the soul. Likewise, we shouldn’t use the internet to make fun of people, exhibit bad character, or to backbite and slander one another. Those of you who are looking for spouses should keep in mind that it will only take a few clicks for your potential husband or wife to see the extent of your bad character, in fact the world can see it and all who see it or read it will bear witness to it.
Some people have taken it upon themselves to use social media like facebook, twitter, and Pinterest, to show the worst behavioral qualities that they have to the public. Remember, whatever any one of us puts out on the internet, multiplies and can spread way beyond our control. When it comes to good words or good deeds, they are automatically multiplied by at least tenfold;
[مَن جَاء بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا وَمَن جَاء بِالسَّيِّئَةِ فَلاَ يُجْزَى إِلاَّ مِثْلَهَا وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ] “He that doeth good shall have ten times as much to his credit: He that doeth evil shall only be recompensed according to his evil: no wrong shall be done unto (any of) them.” However, bad words and statements, on the other hand, require more caution; a bad word, bad action or deed under normal circumstances, by itself constitutes only one infraction or sinful act. However, when you take into account the duplicitous nature of internet posting in that information is often re-tweeted, re-posted and forwarded to and read by others, who in turn, repeat the information, a single bad word, false statement, accusation or slander is multiplied exponentially, so one personal attack is not just one personal attack, it can easily become 1,000,000 personal attacks, and one heretical statement becomes 1,000,000 heretical statements. Then it’s all written down and goes on a scale that we will see on the Day of Judgment.
This is the true danger of using bad words, bad adab and bad judgment when posting, liking or commenting on things using the internet. As in the hadith of Jarir ibn Abdullah, who reported the Prophet (SAWS) as saying; “Whoever sets a good precedent in Islam will have the reward for that and the reward of those who do it after him, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever sets a bad precedent in Islam will bear the burden of sin for that, and the burden of those who do it after him, without that detracting from their burden in the slightest.” It is important for Muslims to be aware of the potential consequences for what they are posting. In the hadith of Abu Hurraira, he said: the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said: “Whoever calls others to guidance will have a reward like that of those who follow it, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest. And whoever calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like that of those who follow it, without it detracting from their burden in the slightest.” With respect to the two previously mentioned hadith, Imam Nawawi says; “These two ahaadeeth clearly encourage us to set good precedents and forbid setting bad precedents. The one who sets a good precedent will have a reward like that of everyone who follows it until the Day of Resurrection, and the one who sets a bad precedent will have a burden of sin like that of everyone who follows it until the Day of Resurrection. The one who calls others to right guidance will have a reward like that of those who follow it, and the one who calls others to misguidance will have a burden of sin like that of those who follow it, whether this guidance or misguidance is something that he initiated or it was started before him, and whether that is by teaching knowledge, acts of worship, etiquette or anything else”.
This is important to consider, because long after you have logged off of your computer, deleted your social network account, changed your profile, or in some way shielded your identity, your actions are still spreading and having consequences. This can continue long after your soul has left your body and you are in your grave. It is common that people post and say things that they give no second thought to, and it will turn out that those statements and posts will result in their being thrown into the hell-fire. In the hadith of Abu Hurraira, the Prophet (SAWS) said: “A slave of Allah might say something which pleases Allah Almighty without realizing it on account of which Allah raises him some degrees. A slave of Allah might say something which angers Allah Almighty without realizing it on account of which he falls into Jahannam.”
A general rule to keep in mind is that lawful and prohibited words, and statements; continue to come under legislation of the shariah whether online or offline. The angels that record deeds are not intimidated by the internet, and there is no way that a person can shield his or her actions from them or from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala.
Beloveds, let’s be mindful of what we post or comment on the internet because bad words, bad adab, profanity, personal attacks, false accusations, lewdness, and misinformation about the deen, has its consequences. Hiding behind online anonymity may work for some people to conceal their real identities from the public, but it doesn’t work with Allah; “And every human being’s destiny have We tied to his neck; and on the Day of Resurrection We shall bring forth for him a record which he will find wide open, and he will be told:] “Read this thy record,! Sufficient is thine own self today to make out thine account!” 17:13-14 Quran. Remember to think before you post or comment. And Allah knows best.
Shaykh Luqman Ahmad
Shaykh Luqman is the Imam and Executive Director of Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, California, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org