The Islamic Ruling Regarding Morals and Ethics on Social Networks, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

One of the first casualties of online social networking is modesty (hiyaa). The Prophet (SAWS) said: “And modesty is a branch of faith”. When a Muslim loses shame then they have lost a part of their faith. Facebook is a public forum; the words you say and conversations that you have on Facebook and other social media are public. You are willingly stating your views, your positions, your beliefs, and your personal discretions out there for public consumption.


social networking 2Social 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.[1] 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)”.[2]What is not sanctioned however is that people connect with one another and engage in behavior in ways that are prohibited by the Quran and the Sunna and that contradict the moral and ethical standards of our faith.

One of the first common casualties of social networking is shame

One of the first casualties of online social networking is modesty (hiyaa).  The Prophet (SAWS) said: “And modesty  is a branch of faith”. When a Muslim loses shame then they have lost a part of their faith. Facebook is a public forum; the words you say and conversations that you have on Facebook and other social media are public. You are willingly stating your views, your positions, your beliefs, and your personal discretions out there for public consumption. Therefore, if you openly report your sins without shame or modesty, then you are telling the world that you are a sinner. Therefore, If you openly and shamelessly backbite, then you are telling the world that you are an open backbiter, and if you glowingly talk about your escapades with your boyfriend or girlfriend, then you are telling the world that you are an open fornicator. You are still accountable for it but you are now deliberately publicizing it. Deliberately publicizing something is called (mujaahara) and mujaahara of sin, is itself a sin, and it shows that you lack modesty.

 Ibn Abbaas said: “Shame and faith are in the same horn, when shame is taken away, the other follows”[3]. And Salmaan al-Faarisee relates: “when Allah wants destruction for a person, he takes shame away (from his heart).  The invisible wall of the internet sometimes lures people into a false sense of anonymity and they become unabashedly immodest.  When people start to lose modesty/shame, their faith as a whole begins to dwindle, and it can continue to where they have no shame at all. This is why the Prophet said: “If you do not feel any shame, then do as you wish[4]. People put out things shamelessly and fool themselves into thinking that since they are behind a computer screen, there are no repercussions for what they do and say, and all they need to do to hide is to turn off their computer. That is a wrong asumption.

The difference between public and private actions in Islam

When you intentionally publicize something to the world, you are making a public statement about yourself, who you are, what you believe, and what you are about. With respect to Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala, is doesn’t matter if what is said is done in private, or done publicly, each is accounted for;

سَوَاء مِّنكُم مَّنْ أَسَرَّ الْقَوْلَ وَمَن جَهَرَ بِهِ وَمَنْ هُوَ مُسْتَخْفٍ بِاللَّيْلِ وَسَارِبٌ بِالنَّهَارِ

It is all alike [to Him] whether any of you conceals his thougt or brings it into the open, and whether he seeks to hide [his evil deeds] under the cover of night or walks [boldly] in the light of day”.[5]

With respect to the public, when you publicize things to people without shame, you give them license to form opinions about you that you, yourself, have confirmed. There is the additional harm of opening yourself up to criticism, recrimination, and ruining your reputation. Facebook is a public forum; the words you say and conversations that you have on Facebook and other social media are public. If you unabashedly lie to the public, then you only confirm to them that you are a liar. If you are unabashedly lewd to the public, then you confirm to them that you are lewd.

Everything on Facebook is recorded

Everything that you put on your facebook page becomes a permanent record that will bear witness for, or against you on the Day of Judgment. The angels that record words and deeds are not intimidated by the internet; and even though you can set your privacy settings to limit access for people, there is no way that a person can shield his or her online actions from them or from Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala. Sometimes people are misled into thinking that since we are sitting comfortably ensconced in our homes out of view from the public; our words and actions online do not fall under any divine jurisdiction and have no spiritual consequence. This could not be farther from the truth; every deed, and every word, is recorded;

And whoever does an atoms weight of good shall see it, and whoever does an atoms weight of bad shall see it”[6]. The angels who record deeds, and words, write down every word whether it is online or offline;

مَا يَلْفِظُ مِن قَوْلٍ إِلَّا لَدَيْهِ رَقِيبٌ عَتِيدٌ

[Not a word does he utter but there is a sentinel by him, ready (to note it).[7]]

Facebook Fitna

For all its benefit, Facebook like other social networks can be a great source of fitna (trial); an alarming amount of marriages have ended, been weakened or have been threatened by the involvement of one or both spouses in risky facebook activity. People are insulted, maligned and slandered, and in turn, are tempted to return insults, and often do.  Peoples sexual exploits are divulged shamelessly and people regularly report their offline sinful behavior. 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, Instagram 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.

How Sins or virtues are multiplied on Facebook

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.[8] 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 why the Prophet (SAWS) said: “A person will say something that angers Allah and not give it any thought, then (that statement) will throw him into the hell-fire a distance of seventy autums[9]. A singular online statement of backbiting, slander, or disbelief, may multiply long after you have logged out of your computer, and become a cause for your own spiritual ruin. May Allah protect us from that.

Good and Bad Precedents

This is the true danger of using bad words, bad adab and bad judgment when posting, liking or commenting on things using the internet, is that since it is a public forum, you increase the likelihood that someone else will follow your example. 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.[10] 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.[11] 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”[12].

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.[13]

Major infractions we commit on Facebook

Spreading marital secrets.

 The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Verily among the worst people before Allâh on the Day of Judgment is a man who approaches his wife sexually and she responds and then he spreads her secrets.”[1] This is when either a husband or a wife, and sometimes boyfriend and girlfriend pretending to be married, discloses about their personal bedroom manners. This is prohibited behavior in Islam and has terrible spiritual consequences, and places people amongst the worst people on the Day of Judgment.


[1] Collected by Muslim, Ibn Abi Shayba, and others.

Heretical statements or sentiments

Another common problem that we see are when people make statements, or take positions that are tantamount to kufr (heresy); such as when people openly reject verses of the Quran, or authentic  hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) without any ta’weel [acceptable interpretation] . A person may state on facebook or another social network like YouTube, twitter or instagram and say, I believe such and such a thing, or so and so is correct when they say such and such a thing, all the while, the statement that they make or say they believe in is a statement of unbelief. Kufr, does not cease to be kufr, just because it’s on the internet.

Speaking without knowledge

Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala makes it clear; وَلاَ تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولـئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولاً   [“And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of Reckoning).”][15]  Too often, people make claims about religious matters without having any knowledge. It is common that people make their own tafseer of the Quran, or ignore agreed upon positions of Islamic scholarship, many times, committing heresy in the process. The Prophet said: “Whoever speaks about the Quran without knowledge, then let him have his seat in Hellfire.” [Tirmithi]. Making capricious statements about Quranic verses is a cardinal sin. Even if the person happens to be correct, the fact alone that he or she takes such liberties as to freely interpret the sacred word of the Almighty God Allah, after it had been sent down from seven heavens, delivered by the archangel Jib’reel to the Prophet (SAWS) and preserved in the hearts of men is enough to warrant condemnation.  “The Prophet said: ”He who speaks about the Quran on the basis of his own opinion, he commits an error even if he is right”. [Tirmithi and Dawood]

Disclosing the faults of others

This has become rampant on face book and other social media. Many Muslims have followed the path of tabloid television and spend an inordinate amount of time in trying to disclose the faults of others; such behavior leads to punishment in this life and in the hereafter;
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَن تَشِيعَ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

“Those who love to see scandal published (and) broadcast among the Believers will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows and ye know not”[16] (Quran, 19-24) The first principle to follow on this matter is to cover up your brother’s faults and resist scandal, based upon the hadith of the Prophet (SAWS) “Whosoever covers (the sins of) a Muslim, Allah covers (his sins) on the Day of Judgment”.

Backbiting and Slander

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it…But fear Allah. For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful”.[17]

Backbiting is the most heinous of sins, and bears grave consequences. The Prophet (SAWS) was reported to have said: “Allah may forgive a person if he repents after committing adultery. However, Allah will not forgive the one who backbites, till his victim forgives him.”[18]

Dear 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 religion, 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, like or comment. And Allah knows best.

Shaykh Luqman Ahmad

Shaykh Luqman is the weekly Imam/Khateeb at the Islamic Society of Folsom in Northern California  and Executive Director of the Lotus Tree Institute, an American Muslim Think Tank based in California; he can be reached at imamabulaith@yahoo.com.


[1] Collected by Bukhaari

[2] Quran, 49:13

[3] Jaami’ Uloom wal Hikam, By Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, p. 248.

[4] Collected by Bukhaari.

[5] Quran, 13:10

[6] Quran, 99:7-8

[7] Quran, 50:18

[8] Quran, 6:160

[9] Collected by Imam Ahmad, and Abu Eesa at-Tirmithee.

[10] Collected by Muslim

[11] Collected by Muslim

[12] Sharhu Muslim 16/227-227

[13] Collected by Bukhaari

[14] Collected by Muslim, Ibn Abi Shayba, and others.

[15] Quran, 17:36

[16] Quran, 24:19

[17] Quran, 49:12

[18] Collected by al-Bayhaqi

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7 thoughts on “The Islamic Ruling Regarding Morals and Ethics on Social Networks, by Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad”

    1. I Jaffar Wali Green appreciated this article so much, it is a great reminder of the ways that we can easily let our Deen be eroded by the whispers of the evil one. I am using this article today as a gift on 10/16/2016. The Ahmad Sisters are having their Sisters Halaqa today in Wilmington DE and I gave each one a copy of this article written by their own Brother, Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad.

      Like

  1. As Salaamu Alaikum,

    JazakhAllah Khair forp posting this beautiful naseeha ya Imam. I have a question… Do you have any advice as to the steps to be taken to make taubah for any mistakes we’ve made knowingly or unknowingly on social networks?

    I am no longer apart of any social networks but would like to make sure on yawmul qiyama, i didn’t apathetically leave any sin unaccounted for on my part, especially those sins regarding speaking about situations and personalities in which we do not have full knowledge.

    Shukran,
    Abu Nadira

    Like

    1. Alaikum salaam wa rahmatullah, ma sha Allah, and may Allah have mercy upon you dear brother. Remember that tauba nasooha (sincere repentance) from any sin, cyber or otherwise still requires according to Imam an-Nawai and the majority of scholars; the same three or four components; 1. Cessation of the act (which you have already done) 2. Remorse for the misdeed or contrition. 3. The resolve to never do it again and 4. In the case where someone else’s rights have been assaulted then you must make amends with that person. Allah does not burden any soul with more than he can bear. You are only responsible for what you can do. If you have insulted or slandered any individual then I would suggest a public apology or disavowal. Other than that; and Allah knows best, you would have done all that you can do. Perhaps it would comfort you to know that the Prophet (SAWS) said; “The one who repents from a sin is like he who has no sin”. Still, it is a good thing for all of us (myself included) to be gravely concerned about our deeds and about what may turn up on the Day of Judgment, and no one should ever consider themselves secure from the plan of Allah except those who are astray. Also, let me invite you to the following du’aa of the Prophet (SAWS) as reported in Bukhaari and Muslim, in the hadith of Abu Musa who said; “the Prophet (SAWS) used to supplicate”; “O Allah! Forgive my errors, my ignorance, and my excessiveness in my affairs. You are better aware of my faults than myself. O Allah! Forgive my faults which I committed in seriousness or in fun, deliberately or inadvertently. O Allah! Grant me pardon for those sins which I committed in the past, and those which I may commit in the future, which I committed in private or in public and all those sins which You are better aware of than me. You are The Preceding (al-Muqaddam) and you are the Last (al-Mu’aakhar) and You have power over all things”. [Collected by Bukhaari and Muslim]. I cannot speak for Allah sub’haanahu wa ta’ala because He acts according to His own will. However, based upon the little that He has revealed to me through His Book and by way of His Beloved; Mustapha (SAWS), I believe that if you sincerely go to Him Be He Exalted and Glorified with this du’aa. It is very likely that He will answer it because it is of His way, that He answers the supplications of those who call upon Him. “When my servants ask you regarding me, I am indeed close: I respond to the call of the suppliant when he calls me” Quran 2:186 And while you are at it Abu Nadira, please make du’aa for me and my family as well. Imam Luqman Ahmad

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  2. As Salaamu Alaikum,

    Also Imam, I wanted to know more concerning this hadith:

    “The Prophet said: ”He who speaks about the Quran on the basis of his own opinion, he commits an error even if he is right”. [Tirmithi and Dawood]

    Can you give an example of this, of how a laymen may fall into this? I was of the opinion that we are encouraged to contemplate and draw possible conclusions from the verses of the Qur’an (without changing their revealed meanings of course, and without giving wanton fatwas) especially in this contemporary age in which so many “scholars” are misinterpreting the verses (not my statement, but that of their scholarly peers). For example verses concerning Jihad are interpreting in so many ways, the laymen can become confused as to which ijtihad to submit to.

    Undoubtedly, the condemnation of this hadith is very strong and I would like to be on the safe side concerning this, but also use my intellect to the degree Allah is pleased with concerning his kitab.

    Shukran,
    Abu Nadira

    Like

  3. I Jaffar Wali Green appreciated this article so much, it is a great reminder of the ways that we can easily let our Deen be eroded by the whispers of the evil one. I am using this article today as a gift on 10/16/2016. The Ahmad Sisters are having their Sisters Halaqa today in Wilmington DE and I gave each one a copy of this article written by their own Brother, Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad.

    Like

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