Using Social Media and Technology Responsibly
Some guidelines that should be observed by those who use the internet and smartphones, specifically in relation to messaging, email and using social media applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook. By sharing some essential Islāmic teachings in this regard, inshā'allāh, we will be able to use technology productively, safeguarding ourselves from harmful activities.
Forwarding Messages Requires Precaution
Messages are instantly forwarded to others, without proper understanding of its content nor consideration for the recipients. Many messages received are vague in nature; the truth behind them being seldom known. To spread a message without substantiating its content is very detrimental and could lead to sin, as to forward a lie is to spread a lie and be in support of it. Messages should never be shared until the content is verified and authenticated. False news or incorrect information regarding any matter can cause others unnecessary worry and concern, and will be tantamount to spreading a lie.
Our Nabī sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said:
To narrate whatever one hears is enough for an individual to be considered a liar. (Muslim)
More Precaution for 'Islāmic' Messages
Messages of an Islāmic nature demand even more precaution. Verses of the Glorious Qur'ān and ahādīth of our beloved Nabī sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam with their translations are often carelessly miswritten or many times are sheer falsehood; yet are haphazardly forwarded and shared on social media. Messages promising fabricated virtues for baseless actions are shared with a caption to forward to as many as possible. At times emotional blackmail and false threats are also included, 'if you do not forward this message to at least x amount of people then such and such shall happen to you', naturally all such messages are a complete sham.
Our Nabī sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam warned us:
Whosoever speaks about the Qur'ān without knowledge should take his place in the Fire. (At-Tirmidhī)
In another hadīth he sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam mentions:
A lie against me is not similar to a lie against any (normal) individual; whosoever lies regarding me should take his place in the Fire. (Al-Bukhārī)
Permission to Share?
At times, messages are of a personal nature; information or news regarding a certain individual or institution or even a country. One should contemplate before forwarding whether the sender or those whom the information is regarding would consent for the details to be shared with others? Has specific permission been granted to forward and spread the message? If not, then it would be totally unethical to do so.
A Beneficial Message?
If we stand back and objectively reflect, we will conclude that a large percentage of emails and messages received on social media applications are of a futile nature. Our Dīn encourages engagement in prosperous activities and to avoid spending invaluable time and energy on any endeavours which are of no avail or in some instances harmful.
Our beloved Nabī sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said:
It is from the excellence of an individual's Islām that he leaves Lā ya'nī (those things which do not benefit him). (Abū Dāwūd)
A Clear Message?
If all the above guidelines are dutifully met, then one should finally consider whether a message will cause any misunderstanding or misconception amongst those who receive it? After all it is an Islāmic principle and also a general etiquette of life, to always consider whether sharing information has the potential to cause a misunderstanding. Ibn Mas'ūd radhiyallāhu 'anhu mentions:
Whenever you speak to people regarding something which is beyond their intellect, it will surely be a means of fitnah (tribulation) for some of them. (Muslim)
If one is unsure or even has the slightest doubt whether a certain message could cause a misunderstanding, then it should not be shared.
Due attention should be paid to the etiquettes mentioned above in relation to certain aspects of using technology and bringing them into practice. May Allāh ta'ālā grant us all the understanding of our beautiful religion and its all-encompassing teachings of pure and considerate morals and ethics. Āmīn.