Oct 17, 2014

The Problem with Mufti Google

By: AmatullahAminah


I love Google & Wikipedia … and HabibiHalaqas. It is like I have access to world’s best libraries and forums; most of all I have the liberty to choose from many conflicting views and approaches and practically use the info available according to my convenience and lifestyle. Life is good…Alhumdulillah for Google! 

However, I have come to realize that Google is not infallible, irrevocable, irrefutable and irreplaceable. Especially, when we christen it as ‘Shaykh’ Google and go about shopping for fatwas. It is hard to ignore the rising trend of using Google to browse for fiqh issues (or even as an advisory tool in religious matters) and continue browsing, hopping from site to site, until we find a ‘satisfactory’ answer- that is, an answer which will satisfy our current lifestyle and allow us to adopt a solution which may be least inconvenient. At times, even at the cost of twisting and cherry picking the ‘solutions’

“Ah! Alhumdulillah…I found an answer on Google”

How Ghastly!

It is actually very dangerous to go about looking for advice from complete strangers, who have attained their “PhDs” in religion, from studying a few websites. I would not even recommend the Question and Answers websites. Fiqh can be subjective and unique, it could differ from person to person and it most certainly takes into consideration the local political, cultural and economic climate. A general ruling comes with limitations and exceptions, which are usually ignored by random people publishing fatwas online. Furthermore, even if a body or a committee of scholars issues a ruling, it could be very likely that the ruling applies to the people of the region, facing a problem or issue in a specific environment (or a geographical region).

(Think: In a country like America, you are employed with an IT company and although you are earning halal income, you know your employer- the IT giant- is paying and receiving interest and the salary you get, most probably, comes from an income based on interest. Is your risq halal then? Now don’t get flustered and start Googling. Alhumdulillah your rizq is halal.) The scenario was just to drag your attention to problems and issues peculiar to a region where laws of the land are man-made.
Next time you are in a legal dilemma, talk to your masjid’s imam or a local scholar. Alhumdulillah for Google…you can also google contact info of prominent scholars in your region and get in touch with them ;) 

Now, let us examine the nature of our issues and how our beloved Shaykh Google could be messing up our chances. I browsed through some popular question and answer sites and found some pretty amusing questions with equally amusing answers. Quoting them below:

There are broadly three kinds of questions we Google:

a) The Generic Kind:
Nail Polish and Wudu
“My husband wants me to wear nail polish all the time. But I have to take it off for prayers, and this is very cumbersome for me. I don't understand the logic of this ruling either…” *

This is the safest kind to hunt online. Wudu is not valid if you have nail polish on. Period. Although, you could add an IF and a BUT to it as well. IF you are stranded on an island with no civilization and you cannot get nail polish remover, you cannot either chip off the nail polish, then you may make wudu and say your salah with the honest hope that Allah accepts it. Allah knows best.

b) The Advisory Kind:
Facebook is Halal or Haram?
“Q) Facebook is right for a muslim to get access??
 A) Muslims should know that the ill effects of Facebook is more than its good effects. Hence you are being made responsible to stay away from such platforms that approach you with evil.” *

Texting to the opposite sex
“Q) Is it jaa'iz to sms strangers (namahram)?
 A) Sms-ing strangers (non-mahram) is just like speaking face to face to them and is not jaa’iz.” *

Seriously, you do not need advice from self-professed scholars. Again, talk to your local imam. If someone is giving you advice to stay away from Facebook, then that very same reason stands true for internet, TV and smartphones. Any platform can throw a lot of fitnah your way, you should know what to avoid and how to avoid. Furthermore, you should know how to achieve a balance and prioritize your work and time. We would be questioned for our time and if you are investing hours to play candy crush on Facebook and mindlessly browsing through friends’ profiles, then you have a lot of time you could be using productively. If you are listening to Brother Nouman Ali Khan at 1:00 am and missing fajr, consequently, it is not right. And I know, brother Nouman would not be happy either. Shaytan plays some pretty clever games, eh!

Similarly, in the second scenario, you would not have a stranger’s number on your phone, to begin with. If you have a non-mahram’s number you know him/her in some capacity. It could be a co-worker, employer/employee, peer, classmate etc. Be sure to send strictly work-related messages with no friendly undertones and remember to text at an appropriate hour, while limiting your pleasantries to civility only. Like, do not text your classmate at 10:00 pm to ask about history notes and end your text with “Sweet dreams, sleep tight”. You know better!

c) The Legally Binding Kind:
This is perhaps the most dangerous of all. You are not seeking advice you are actually looking for a fatwa here. I could not find any question short enough to paste here; they all had page long answers. Over here we are looking at issues which talk about interest, buying homes, investing in shares, opening saving accounts, putting up pictures in a classroom, issues pertaining to multiple divorce with conditions like periods and sexual activities etc.

Take up your issues to a real, tangible scholar and never derive solutions for your problem from questions posted online, just because they ‘somewhat’ resemble your situation. To address issues, many times the scholar has the need to ask additional questions to have a clearer perspective; online scholars and Google cannot do that. If you want to be discreet, use email to get in touch with a real scholar, although rest assured that your secret will be kept safe and complete discretion is exercised. Your problem could be unique with its own peculiarities and Googling them is certainly not the best idea.

* All the sample questions are directly copied from question and answers kind of Internet sites. Direct reference to such sites is withheld in order to maintain the ethical need for anonymity.

I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please leave comments in the section below!


Post a Comment