Apr 10, 2012

Online Pitfalls that occur on Facebook

By Khadeeja Islam 


Over the last few years, Islamic websites have mushroomed rapidly with content of every kind pertaining to Islam and Muslims. We are vulnerable at this age of technology. Although numerous articles have been written on this issue already, I have decided to contribute one highlighting certain pitfalls that occur on Facebook.

Technology... is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.” – C.P. Snow, New York Times, 15 March 1971.

The Discreet Battle
X and Y had a heated discussion over an Islamic issue on Facebook. Although both ended it on amicable notes, the battle was far from over. Right after the event, X muttered to herself, “I must do da’wah to Y indirectly.” She chose to update her status with a discreet message directed at Y. Minutes later, when Y’s eyes fell on that and she sensed it was for her. She retaliated with a status update of her own. What followed was a never-ending indirect battle of status updates!

When we decide to end an argument and forgive the other person, we should opt to do it wholeheartedly, through all possible means, whether direct or indirect. As for the noble intention of correcting the person, that needs to be done with patience and wisdom. What do these hasty updates lead to? A cycle of updates which breed contempt. Moreover, these “reforming” updates are not as discreet as we assume them to be. In fact, they are often tools for venting our anger. It is much wiser to apply such “indirect” da’wah at a time when the tension has subsided on both the sides and when the other person has clearly forgotten about the argument.

A Restless Mind
Sometimes, based on mere conjecture, we assume that a certain status update on Facebook must have been directed at us, although in reality, the user did not intend to do so. Our minds become clouded with thoughts, such as – “Did she mean that to me?” As a result, we either end up harbouring ill-feelings towards the other person or retaliating. We are so much involved in this trend of “teaching a lesson secretly via status updates” that we are always defensive and suspicious of our brothers and sisters. Our minds can be put to rest if we just remember that Allah knows best and we do not have knowledge of what the breasts of men conceal. So let us shun suspicion and have good opinions of people.

Many of us consider it a trivial act to use online materials without accrediting the sources. What’s the harm in distributing these noble works – whether it is under my name or someone else’s? How does it matter if the copyrights are violated? I personally agree that Islamic works should not have copyrights which are too strict. For instance, when the copyrights state that a book cannot be reproduced digitally, it does hinder the free propagation of Islam. However, whatever the copyrights, it is our duty to comply with them. Not doing so is fraudulent and therefore, illegal. As far as accrediting the sources is concerned, that is a very small price to pay for gaining access to excellent materials and then passing them around. It protects us from showing-off and prevents others from mistaking us as scholars.

Too Many Pages
I personally feel there is an overcrowding of Islamic websites. It is not bad to have many sites. In fact, an increasing number of Islamic websites has contributed greatly to the dissemination of Islam. However, many of the websites either lack original content or proper administration. My Facebook newsfeed is usually overwhelmed with so much information, usually repetitive, that my soul is hardly able to absorb any of them. Even if there is original content, it is wiser to contribute to the websites existing already, instead of making dozens of new ones. Unless the content demands it or unless there is so much content that a new site is inevitable, we should refrain from creating pages which basically convey more or less the same information. People will be attracted if the website hosts new, heart-warming content on a large scale and not a few articles (often copied) scattered on the site. This applies to Facebook pages just as much as it applies to external websites.

Lack of Sincerity
Often, few seekers of knowledge post a list of about 100 questions on Facebook and say, “These are asked by my non-Muslim friends. Please give me the answers so that I can pass it on to them.” Although they may have valid reasons, such as time constraints, for doing so, I feel that a sincere seeker of knowledge will approach a scholar and not laymen or mere students of knowledge on Facebook. That way, they will be able to avoid futile arguments online, and avail themselves of authentic knowledge. I have seen many insincere questioners who insist on “discussing” on Facebook and refuse to approach a scholar when asked to do so. Furthermore, students of knowledge should refrain from copy-pasting fatwa from various websites and arguing with others over a general fatwa and, instead, should direct them to scholars who are qualified to answer questions or give out specific fatwa based on individual situations.

World Wider Than the Web:
It is not sufficient to post verses from the Qur’an, or ahadeeth in profiles, pages, or groups. It is not sufficient to comment “SubhanAllah, Alhamdulillah, Allahu Akbar” on articles. It is not sufficient to preach online. Nowadays, there are many taking care of this duty of online da’wah. Therefore, we must reach out to the “offline” community and maintain a higher degree of social interaction. We must reach out to the pedestrians, the poor, the sick, the orphans, the rape/acid/domestic abuse victims, the abandoned parents, the hair-stylists, the illiterate, etc. We must venture out of our homes and put our knowledge into application. We must spend time amidst nature to appreciate the favours of Allah. In addition, other activities, such as writing, reading books, exercising, cooking, volunteering, etc. should get our equal attention. We have a world outside of Facebook, which is beckoning us.

Security Issues:
It is wise not to share too much personal information on Facebook. For instance, date of birth and residence address can be used to obtain a lot of information about a person. The password for Facebook should be unique and should never be the same as your e-mail password, for example. That way, if your account is hacked into, your e-mail account will still be secure. Private/sensitive matters, such as your holiday plans or the fact that you are alone at home, should never be divulged on Facebook. Apart from these, one should always be careful about criminals lurking on Facebook. Criminals may pose as students working on community-service projects to lure you into meeting them.

May Allah protect us from falling into these pitfalls. Ameen.


Very well written Masha Allah! The writer appears to be an enthusiastic, and well spoken Muslimah!

Beautiful insight, Masha Allah.

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Thank you for the compliments! I'm glad you liked it. Please feel free to share this article. Visit this website regularly to read more articles here inshaaAllah!

Bismillah. As salaamu alaykum wa rahmatullah. Ameen! May Allah swt increase us all in what is good for our deen, livelihood and affairs, insha'allah!

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