From websites to You Tube to Facebook, there are now different forums for the Muslim population to provide its views, seek advice and exchange ideas. The information age has given birth to Islamic keyboard warriors – who have assumed the role of defending, advising or spreading Islam through chat forums and social media.
We all want to give the correct perception and information on Islam. However, in many Islamic online forums, the situation can become unpleasant. In these anonymous and unmoderated environments, many of us do not observe basic Islamic manner, protocol and adab.
Even if online, we are not allowed to behave however we want, in accordance with our nafs, pride and desire, but in line with what Allah expects of us. Let us examine eight simple points:
1. Beautiful Manner
This is the most important rule and is the backbone of all our interactions. People are judged primarily by manner, and first impressions are almost always based on this. There is adab in the way we speak to each other. One of the early scholars mentioned that the dignity of a person is his own deen, his level in this life is according to his mind and the status in his life is according to his manner.
The closest to Allah and Prophet Muhammad SAW is the one with good manner. "A believer will attain by his good behaviour the rank of one who prays and during the night and observes fasts during the day." (Abu Dawud).
It was also reported that Prophet SAW, said, "Shall I tell you about who among you I love the most and the one who will be seated closest to me on the Day of Rising?" The people were silent, so he repeated that two or three times. Then the people said, "Yes, Messenger of Allah." He said, "The one among you with the best character.” (Bukhari)
Rules of good behaviour apply in the online arena. Manner is reflected in the way you post a comment, your content, the choice of words and how you react to provocation. Merely infusing all your phrases with Masha Allah, Alhamdulillah etc. is pointless if you are rude or nasty. Being anonymous is not an excuse for stripping away one's good manner.
Many forums now, especially if not well moderated, are full of arguments, accusations and insults by moderators and contributors alike. The overall effect is detrimental to Islam. It turns the non-Muslims, and even the Muslims away.
There is no such thing as a rude or bad mannered Prophet or Messenger. They left us the examples of gentle speech and kind words. Even when Musa AS was sent to preach to Pharaoh, Allah SWT told him to be gentle in speech.
Beware of the comments we post on the net. Don't be rude or aggressive. Remember to give salam and polite phrases like “please” or “thank you” always help.
Even asking for advice has a certain manner. For example “DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS AYAT EXPLAIN NOW JZK!!!!!!” is not the correct way, but so many of us have reduced our communication to this coarse level. Is this the way we communicate with our teachers, colleagues and bosses?
Bring back our manners to the forum. If we die tonight, at least we can tell our Prophet SAW that we have behaved in the way he asked.
2. Post Correct Statements
Many of us today grew up without the benefit of a formal Islamic education. Much of the knowledge we own has been corrupted by culture and other influences.
Many of us talk about Islam according to our own understanding of it, not according to what Allah says. Many well meaning people make online statements about Islam with no proper basis, research or knowledge, on a range of issues from rulings to the matters of the unseen such as Dajjal and angels, based on information from other ill informed people, guesswork and a recollection of what some relative told them in the past. We follow our own nafs, not Islam.
Imagine if you were making a presentation before your CEO and an audience of 500 executives. You would research extensively to ensure that your facts and figures are accurate.
If you can be so meticulous for dunia, what about for akhirah? Every statement you make about Islam, even anonymously, is a mini presentation on Islam. More importantly, once online, the statement will be read again and again and even disseminated to others.
Incidentally, Google is not a reliable source of correct Islamic knowledge. The internet is like an ocean, which is full of good and bad fish, pollution, beauty and rubbish. You may pick up a shiny fish and then discover it is toxic inside! Therefore, always check with a person who has proper Islamic knowledge, or if unavailable, reputable books on Islam.
3. On Giving Advice or Disagreeing
Many of us give advice which aren’t backed up by Qur'an or Hadith, but rather through custom, culture and tradition. There are also others pass judgments and declare something as halal or haram, as if they were fatwa machines, with no knowledge, consultation with the learned or qualification to do so.
The Companions were highly reluctant to pass rulings on Islam. If they were approached, they would refer the questioner to another Companion. These were the most knowledgeable Muslims, but they were afraid of such a high responsibility. The arrogant ones, who are devoid of knowledge but love to hear themselves talk, are slaves of Shaitan. It is much better for you to keep silent on a topic you do not know about, rather than to provide wrong information that can mislead others.
The rule is simple. When advising, unless you are certain that what you are saying is in line with the Qur’an and Hadith, do not give advice. We dispute and criticize each other's practices and often assume they are wrong, without verifying the truth ourselves. Maybe it is us who are doing things wrongly! Islam is subject to various interpretations according to the situation, and that there may be more than one ruling on a topic, so don't assume that only your way is correct. Think before you type.
If you feel that the person genuinely needs advice, then research if you are not 100% sure, or verify the information with a scholar or a learned person first. It is better to give delayed but correct advice instead of hasty and inaccurate conclusions which can lead others astray.