Offending Our “Loved Ones” From Behind Social Media

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Outline

Introduction

Alḥamudulillāh… Infinite thanks and praises are due the Almighty Allah. I send peace and blessings upon the most trustworthy in relations and ethics, Ḥabībī Muḥammad, his household, his companions and all those who follow his guided path, till the Day of Judgement.

We live in an era (towards end of time), when everyone writes and blogs, in a way or the other. Writing tools, i.e., laptops, tablets, smartphones are at everyone’s disposal, and more so that they are carried along wherever we go. Thanks to the continuous advancement of technology, time has emerged to be running unimaginably fast. To be on par with these changes, our emotions boil faster, and hence, our reactions to “offences” are ‘super-fast.’

This article aims to discuss how we should treat our loved ones online. It also discusses how to engage in discussions and how to agree and disagree, the Islamic way.

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Different Types of Writers Online

With the affordability of computers and access to the Interned, and with the emergence of social media, everyone writes, and none can stop any from expressing his views. Thus, different types of writers have surfaced. In the context of this article, there are two kinds of writers:  Frequent writers and occasional writers.

Although they write anytime, anywhere, scheduled and unscheduled, frequent writers write on various platforms, such as newspapers, news sites, weblogs, and social networking sites (SNS), i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

As for occasional writers, although they, too, can use the above platforms, they don’t have the passion for writing as much as frequent writers do. Their writings are usually motivated by emotions and coincidental events. Majority of them write and share their thoughts and ideas (occasionally) on the social media, especially on Facebook and Twitter, more than on the other platforms.

Frequent writers have significant number of readers, who are usually beyond their circle of relatives, friends and acquaintances. Therefore, they usually have a message to send across, to a broader audience. But occasional writers usually share their happy moments with family members, friends and associates, albeit, they don’t mind strangers coming across their sharings. Therefore, their sharings usually relate their experiences with a friend, a relative or a neighbour.

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How Do We Write and Interact the Islamic Way?

It’s encouraged to write and share your good experiences which happened between your loved ones and you. Just don’t fake it! Your bad experiences (with your loved ones) shouldn’t be shared on social media, unless they carry great lessons for others to learn from. Even when they carry great lessons, we must ensure they are not offensive to the parties involved. Different people get offended differently. Your sense of offence is different from any one else’s. It’s therefore, important to look at things from their perspective.

Whether you are a frequent or an occasional writer, as long as you write, blog or even tweet, in fact, as long as you speak publicly, the probability of offending one or some of your loved ones, unintentionally, is significant. You may not mean to, but they can easily feel the guilt, whenever you touch on their human weakness, although you may not be aware they possess such a weakness. And that’s when they will take the offence.

This is a natural reaction of the son of Ādam and we should always expect it. You, too, do take the offence—let’s be honest, when others discuss an issue, which touches your weakness, even when they don’t know you. I can imagine; as you read these lines, you (may) think I’m talking about you, although you are sure I don’t know you in person, possibly not even on social media J

Frequent writers, as far as I understand, tackle issues which everyone in the society bears responsibility for, including themselves (the writers themselves). In other words, they tackle issues, which have major implications on the society at large. Therefore, they are not assumed to bring up topics, which they are aware to be a problem of their relative or a friend. Frequent writers likewise anyone else have the moral responsibility to help our loved ones overcome their human weakness, just like others help us overcome ours. And this should be done privately, in a respectful and lovely manner.

Unfortunately, some of us (occasional writers) do purposely post or tweet, just to send a message across to someone, who unfortunately considers them as a relative or a good friend. In my humble understanding and experience, a good friend will draw your attention to your flaws and extend his advice accordingly. It may hurt that he corrects you, but it will be more hurtful when everyone comes to correct you. That will not be a correction, but an expose.

I find it difficult to believe, that someone who hides behind a posting on Facebook or a twit on Twitter to insult his own relative or a friend is a good friend. If you can send your own friends bunches of insults, how would you treat your real enemies?

Reviling a Muslim for a reason or no reason has a lot of implications on our individual personality as Muslims. Among others is what the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam said in a ḥadīth narrated by Imām(s) Al-Bukhārī and Muslim from ʾAbdullāh ibn Masʾūd, raḍiya Allāhu ʾanhu:

سِبَابُ الْمُسْلِمِ فُسُوقٌ وَقِتَالُهُ كُفْرٌ

“Reviling a Muslim is an evil action and fighting him is kufr (disbelief/denial).”

In Islam, there are moral protocols for us to follow, whenever we have misunderstanding, disagreements and disputes with any one. The least we do when we are in dispute with someone, is not to transgress. We are not allowed to tell lies about our enemies. We should not post and spread negative information about our enemies which will ruin their lives, even if such information is true! We are also not allowed to put our enemies in a situation which will endanger their lives and the privacy of their loved ones. It’s important to remember, that some of whom we consider enemies may enter heaven ahead of us. Therefore, the question is: If you agree that any of your enemies is a potential inhabitant of heaven, how are you supposed to treat him?

In the past, when “enemy” is mentioned, it was hard to first think of a Muslim relative or a friend. But today (towards end of time), who are our enemies?

The Prophet Muḥammad, allā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam, said in a ḥadīth reported by Imam(s) Al-Bukhārī and Muslim from ʾAbdullāh ibn ʾAmr, raiya Allāhu ʾanhumā:

أَرْبَعٌ مَنْ كُنِّ فِيهِ كَانَ مُنَافِقاً خَالِصاً. وَمَنْ كَانَتْ فِيهِ خَصْلَةٌ مِنْهُنَّ، كَانَتْ فِيهِ خَصْلَةٌ مِنَ النِّفَاقِ حَتَّى يَدَعَهَا: إِذَا اؤْتُمِنَ خَانَ، وَإِذَا حَدَّثَ كَذَبَ، وَإِذَا عَاهَدَ غَدَرَ، وَإِذَا خَاصَمَ فَجَرَ

It means, “There are four traits whoever possesses [all of] them is a hypocrite.  And whoever possesses some of them carries an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: The one who when he is entrusted he betrays, when he speaks he lies, when he makes an agreement he violates it, and when he disputes he transgresses.”

It’s worth noting that the Arabic term, which was translated to “transgression” actually means he fabricates stories and behaves immorally. If enmity leads to telling lies, then we should remember what Allah says about lies fabricators:

إِنَّمَا يَفْتَرِي الْكَذِبَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ، وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَاذِبُونَ

“Only those who do not believe in the verses/signs of Allah fabricate falsehood, and these are the liars” [Surah al-Nahl, 16:105].

Also, once you transgress, you automatically misbehave. And mostly, we regret our moments of transgression.

It is unethical to take the mistakes of our “friends” and our disputes with them, to the online platform, unless if they reject the truth–and only the arrogant rejects the truth, and unless that mistake (wrongdoing) is a social illness which needs to be addressed. There is a possibility that he may never see the post you posted online about him. Thus, it’s moral and wise that we stop insulting our friends on Facebook and Twitter. If we insist, we should be gentlemen enough to let them know, when we mean them.

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Let’s Agree to Disagree

Difference in opinions does happen for many reasons. Among others, differences happen due to intellectual ability, educational orientation, environmental influence in our upbringing and many more. As long as we are two different individuals, we are meant to have differences. Parents have differences with their children, and vice versa. Siblings always quarrel, due to personal and temperamental differences. Spouses are always in bad terms. If parents and children disagree, children among themselves have differences, and spouse can’t get along, you can’t fool yourself that you will ever come across someone with whom you will always agree on opinions, so long as you have opinions. Even “Yes Men” disagree, but behind their bosses.

The companions of the Prophet, ṣallā Allāhu ʾalaihi wa sallam, had differences, and that differences in understanding generated variation in opinions. Today, we have differences, and we always disagree with each other. But the difference between our differences and that of the companions is that, we disagree over petty worldly gains. They disagreed over what they perceived was for or against Allāh’s commands.

Mostly, differences in opinions, if they are not guided by reference to the desire of Allāh and His Prophet, it leads to disagreement. Disagreements and disputes have impactful implications. Among others are hatred and jealousy. Hatred and jealousy result lead to conflicts and destruction and families and kinship ties.

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Don’t Confuse Posting With Discussion

I have to distinguish between posting something on social media and discussing a topic which is posted and meant for discussion. Postings are usually done to send a message, express emotions and grievance, or present one’ self. It’s usually done on one’s personal account. Discussion on the other hand takes place when an entry is posted, on a personal page or an online forum and called for discussion or debate about an issue.

Personal posting is where we sometimes, hide and send offensive messages to our “loved ones and friends.”

Reacting and engaging to postings which discussions are called for require that we apply our Islamic code of cyberethics. By doing that, we deal with our elders with due respect, even though we can’t see them face-to-face, or even if we have no personal encounter with them. At the same time, we find excuses (mercy and compassion) for the younger ones as and when they lose focus on the importance of their adab. As we do that, we have to remind and advice accordingly.

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Conclusion

I believe that writing openly and discussing issues openly is the best way frequent writers can communicate with their loved ones, I mean it’s the best way they can reach to their audiences and more and to send their message across effectively. With that we can assume that they regard their audience with respect and love. But I don’t think occasional writers need an open platform to advice or send a hidden messages to their loved ones, which is their relatives and good friends. This doesn’t mean occasional writers shouldn’t write. Everyone has the right to write, but we shouldn’t make our personal problems and disputes public, if we ever want reconciliation with whom we have the problem with.

Whether you are a frequent writer or an occasional, don’t write, blog or tweet (or speak publicly) with an intention to offend. Let’s purify our intentions, and if we do, we will not have to justify after that, to anyone. I’m pretty sure that no matter how you are given the opportunity to justify, you can’t please everyone at a time. It’s Impossible. In the end, Allāh is the only One, who doesn’t need a justification.

As Muslims, there are many things we can’t do due to our submission to the will of Allāh. The same logic applies when we are online. Having access to the Internet doesn’t mean we can behave limitless. And just because everyone is doing something doesn’t justify its righteousness.

May Allah make us trustworthy friends, who respect humanity of their enemies, let alone their friends. May He send us to friends who are ready to accept us as whom we are, with whom we can help each other, towards attaining the Ultimate Pleasure of His.

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Allah knows best.
Allāhu Hāfiz 🙂

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