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Question: 

Aslam o’ Alaikum Respected Mufti,

I want to ask whether it is OK to use facebook as there are a lot of anti-Islamic pages and groups on it? Some of my friends still use facebook even after that event name “draw MUHAMMAD (S.A.W.) day”. I have told them to quit facebook but they say that its OK to use facebook provided we do not open anti-Islamic pages. Is this right?

Answer:

In the name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Assalāmu ῾alaykum wa Rahmatullāhi Wabarakātuh

We thank you for seeking clarity on the matter.

In order to understand the issue at hand we must look at the matter from a few different angles. We will also take this opportunity to dispel some misconceptions about the “Facebook” boycott Fatawa.

“Facebook” is a social networking website whose description according to them is “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.” Moreover, it aims to make new relationships across the borders to give way into a global online community which revolves around the user. Essentially there is nothing wrong in this concept. However, like every other medium of communication and social interaction, we are required to consider the Pros and Cons while establishing the Sharī῾ah Compliancy.

Telephone is an example of such a medium which is perfectly permissible, however, if the interaction is between two non Mahram (strangers) then it will become impermissible. Similarly, if the medium of social interaction violates any Shar῾ī rules or make it extremely difficult to maintain them, then this medium will be impermissible as well.

With regards to Facebook, Pakistan had banned it only for the time it hosted the “Everybody draw Muhammad” event. This ban was lifted afterwards. Our motive for its Boycott was not primarily for hosting this event, rather for being deliberately negligent in taking appropriate measures and removing the page.

According to the Terms and Conditions of Facebook under the title of “Safety” it states,

“7. You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”[1]

This is further explained in a correspondence to a user who promoted Hitler in order to test the double standards of Facebook. Facebook wrote:

“We do not tolerate hate speech. Targeting people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or disease is a serious violation of our standards and has resulted in the permanent loss of your account.”[2]

This makes it a moral duty of the users to report any page that violates the above. Thereafter it becomes an obligation of “Facebook” to remove those pages. In case of the above mentioned event which was rightfully deemed derogatory and disrespectful by many Muslims, as was prevalent from worldwide protests, even their policy demanded that the page be removed. Their antic is compounded by the fact that there were ample complaints against it, yet Facebook chose to overlook these complaints and reap a generous publicity worldwide through it.

Their bias becomes more apparent when individuals like “Saad Waraich” took these issues head on in the form of their private experiments. A page which was intentionally made to discuss the personality of Hitler was not only removed, but the user was also banned permanently. He was told:

We will not be able to reactivate your account for any reason.  This decision is final.[3]

While “Everybody draw Muhammad” page was allowed under their policy of “Freedom of Speech”, “Hitler page” got purged within hours.[4]

Although such direct discrimination towards Islam is sufficient to render Facebook an abhorrence for us as Muslims, nonetheless its drawbacks are not limited to this bias. Many people have enumerated countless reasons for leaving Facebook. You can perhaps enlighten your friends about these as well.

Facebook, being a social networking site offers all types of media options imaginable. These include many which are impermissible in Islām.

  • The website strives on the exchange of pictures and videos which are more often than not of prohibitive nature in Islām.
  • The website does not offer any restriction in gender interaction. This means that it is very difficult to safeguard oneself or youth from interacting with a non mahram (strangers). Putting oneself in such danger is like intentionally stepping into Shaitan’s trap. Muftī Taqī Uthmāni Sāheb had mentioned this in his talk as well: “I dont know but I have been informed that young boys and girls have been befriending each other through this site and the moral teachings of religion are being stampeded and trampled upon. So this site should be blocked and banned!”[5] This is exactly what we have observed as well.
  • The website offers a poor security for private material. This has been an administrative concern for Facebook for quite some time now. Moreover their new privacy measures which claims to tackle these security issues suggests that many aspects of ones profile now becomes public information.[6] Focusing on such issues, other people including non Muslims, have been contemplating leaving Facebook.[7][8]
  • The website’s structure makes the user incapable to deleting information like pictures and videos permanently. This means that should you want to delete any impermissible picture, it will remain accessible through its direct link even after a month or so, and in some cases up to a year later.[9] [10]
  • The website also does not allow you to delete your own account. It follows a procedure of requesting a permanent delete, in which you submit a request which deactivates your account. The account still remains with Facebook and is only deleted permanently after 14 days of zero activity on the website. Furthermore, should there be any activity during these 14 days, the website automatically reinstates the account and the request for deletion is revoked.

While we enumerate all these cons to the website, we still face the common reservations to our decision of Boycott. It is also beneficial to skim through some of these concerns and address them as well.

  • The website despite the negatives is a means for Da῾wah to over 350 million users

We do not argue that it is a means for da῾wah and propagating the true teachings of Islām. However, we do take note that this noble work ofda῾wah should not be tainted with impermissible modes. For example, it is a noble effort to bring the message of Islam to one and all, but that does not mean that we take this effort into the bars and pubs as well. The same people in the bars and pubs can be approached elsewhere.

While we invite towards the pristine religion of Islam, it is incumbent that we keep our actions in conformity with Dīn. While our Noble Prophetsalallahu alayhi wasallam exerted his efforts to invite everyone towards the truth, He salallahu alayhi wasallam did not let down his guard and sit among the companies of fusāq and fujār (sinners) to carry out this work.

We iterate that this particular website is “a mean” of propagating Islam and not “the mean”. There are numerous other ways were we can do the same work of Da῾wah without having to tolerate institutions and organization with a direct bias with Islam. The honour of a Muslim jolts him to shun away any such gathering and company that directly or indirectly reviles and belittles our Noble Prophet salallahu alayhi wasallam.

We also recall the action of Sahābi Sayiduna Abu Bakr radi allahu ῾anhu, when he was asked to stop reciting Quran in order to keep his amnesty among the QuraishSayiduna Abu Bakr radiallahu anhu shun away such amnesty and sought the amnesty of Allāh. We too desist ourselves from having the need of such a medium that has no respect for our Nabi salallahu alayhi wasallam. Allah’s religion is Haqq and will prevail with or without such means, hence we chose to make this effort through the means which are Shaī῾ah Compliant.

  • It is possible to keep ones Facebook Islamic, and free of unislamic contents.

We do realize that those who are cautious of Allah’s laws can keep their pages free from un-islamic content, however we cannot risk the ummahto fall into this fitna merely because some people can uphold the restrictions of Islam. It has been established from experience that many Muslimusers, including some Ahlul ῾ilm who have utilized Facebook, end up loosing recognizance of the laws of hijab, and have many non mahram and even non muslim women communicating in ways inappropriate for a muslim.

We must realize that every page or profile which is established attracts some followers. Over time it does not remain a status “wall”, rather it evolves into a hub inculcating different “friends” to get acquainted and becomes friends through it. That is the essence of a social networking website. Many people may keep their pages islamic, yet may be oblivious to the fact that how many of their followers in their “friends” list started their interaction with other non mahram sisters who were also listed in this person’s friend list. One may argue at length that the action of those “friends” remains their personal action, but we cannot overlook the fact that this hub was the initiating point for their haram interaction. Hence, he will be equally responsible for the haram that will come forth from his own page, whether he realizes it or not.

We cannot allow putting our ummah into such widespread fitna and then expect them to remain safe as well. As the proverbial saying goes, “The essence of fire is to burn, should it not find anything to burn, it will burn itself out.” The essence of every fitna is that it puts a person into a test. How unfortunate are those who put themselves into the fitna and then expect to survive without being tested. It is the duty of the ῾ulamā’ to safeguard the ummah from throwing themselves into these tests and then regret their own loss.

Our opposition to Facebook is also based on their active bias towards Muslims as we have explained before. In light of this we do not find any soft spot for Facebook.

  • If we boycott Facebook, then we might as well boycott Youtube, Yahoo and Google.

With regards to Youtube, Yahoo, Google or any other website, we had categorically mentioned in our Fatwa, “…delete Facebook accounts and any other media that deems it acceptable to disrespect our beloved Rasoolullah sallallāhu alayhi wasallam and never to reactivate them again.

Obviously we will carry out appropriate diplomatic measures before resorting to boycotting these sites. Should other measures achieve the desired cooperation then we do not see a need for drastic steps. However, if any of these websites deem it acceptable to disrespect our belovedRasulullah salallahu alayhi wasallam then we hold the same view of boycotting against them as well.

Having said that, we should point out that Youtube is a website for much fitna. The website is filled with movies, pictures and that is the sole reason for the website. Although some people use it for propagation, we feel that it should be avoided as much as possible.

We strongly advise your friends to reconsider their decision. The glory of Islām lays in the love for Allah and His Messenger salallahu alayhi wasallam.[11] Nabī salallahu alayhi wasallam cautioned the ummah from abstaining from doubtful because one who falls into the doubtful is bound to overstep into harām. If this is the case about doubtful issues, we should gauge the level of caution for the mediums which exposes us to so many vices and sin.

We end our advice with a link to the transcript of the talk of Muftī Taqī Uthmāni Sāheb. We hope that the information provided will help your friends to make a more informed decision about this menace. We ask Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta῾āla to guide us towards the correct understanding of Dīn and its implementation in the footsteps of His Rasūl salallahu alayhi wasallam, Amīn.

Shaykh (Mufti) Taqi Usmani (HA) on insulting caricatures of Rasul-ullah (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam) & boycotting FaceBook

And Allāh Ta῾āla Knows Best
Wassalāmu ῾alaykum 

Faisal bin Abdul Hamid,
Student, Madrasah In῾āmiyyah

Checked and Approved by:

Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Dārul Iftā, Madrasah In῾āmiyyah

[4] “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the freedom to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities, or ideas.” – in a statement to AFP  (Site accessed 14th July 2010 ) http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=3&art_id=nw20100520065609455C544747

[6]“ Under the new regime, Facebook treats that information — along with your name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks, and the pages that you are a “fan” of — as “publicly available information” or “PAI.” Before, users were allowed to restrict access to much of that information. Now, however, those privacy options have been eliminated.” ( Site accessed 14thJuly 2010 ) http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/12/facebooks-new-privacy-changes-good-bad-and-ugly

[9] “The researchers opened accounts with 16 social media sites and uploaded pictures.  Then, 30 days later, they returned to see if the image URLs still contained the images.  They found that 6 sites, including FaceBook, still had the images accessible.”  (Site accessed 14th July 2010 )http://www.thetechnewsblog.com/2009/05/21/facebook-keeps-your-deleted-pictures/

[11] “None of you is a believer till I am dearer to him than his child, his father and the whole of mankind” .(Muslim)