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We know the Quran is an incredible resource from advice on relationships, and inheritance to cleanliness and behavior. This is not to mention all the scientific miracles that only became known as such hundreds of years later.
So what does the Quran say about social media behavior? How does a Muslim navigate that sea within the bounds of Islam?
Lower your gaze - not just from visually inappropriate content.
In Surah An-Nur, Allah says: "Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), …"
This advice, for both men and women requests that we protect our eyes (and as a result our hearts) from seeing that which is immodest. The obvious online connotation of this would be abstaining from viewing pornography. But there is a much more prevalent and subtle immodesty that is often ignored. With the introduction of Instagram and Facebook as a means for people to share their lives pictorially, online content has become increasingly visual.This has resulted in a huge percentage of content that is designed to be visually stimulating and often times immodest. A fully or decently clothed individual is made to look a certain way. Your innocent browsing on Instagram may go from casual browsing to a slow decay.
We 'feed' ourselves content that can often not only make us and our lives feel inadequate. The advice to lower our gaze has a significant meaning if we are to protect our hearts.
Purify/Renew your intention & use it for good
The first of the 40 Nawawi hadeeth states that "actions are judged by intentions." With the online world full of stimuli and distraction, our mind hops from one story to another and we may lose sight of time and purpose. Being conscious of this and ensuring that we are acting with (good) intention is a great way to take benefit and limit the harms.
Social media in and of itself is not inherently evil. It does, like many things come down to how we use it. If you focus your efforts on using it to spread good and it can be a source of ajr for you. The angels on your shoulders don't take a break when you take a social media one.
Behave like you would offline
The introduction of social media has meant that it is so easy to have alternate personalities and realities. Since our actions and our words are no longer limited to where we are physically, we need to pay close attention to our behavior in that online realm. Is this something I would say or do in person? If not, we certainly should not be doing so behind a screen.
Keep your gratitude list in check
Linked to the previous point about alternate realities, know and remember that you are human. Constantly consuming another person's life's best moments (because that's often they all are) can be damaging to our internal gratitude-meter. It isn't an overnight shift but it certainly is one that can have a significant impact over time. Allah has bestowed us all with certain blessings, so try to focus on what you have and not what you don't. Expressions like FOMO, (Fear Of Missing Out) are a manifestation of a culture where we are less focused on ourpresent and more on someone else's.
Advise in private
Of the many sunnah etiquettes of giving advice is to make sure we advise a person in private and conceal their sins. If you see something that you disagree with on Facebook, it's unlikely your public comment will make a difference to the person's understanding because it probably comes across as disingenuous. If you're sincerely seeking to advise someone, than do so in private as it will almost always have more impact. Not only are you able to connect with them on a personal level, you are also able to purify your intention as you aren't doing it to put up a public debate.
The saying 'only dead fish go with the flow' is an important one for Muslims. With the world evolving and new technologies and eases at our fingertips it is important we reflect on our behavior and not simply flow like dead fish. Whatever the majority is doing is certainly not the best way, and will become increasingly less so. We must be active not passive members of the environment, culture and society at large if we are to make the best of our limited time on this Earth.