‘If I delete this message, would it be a sin?’
What should we make of unsolicited Islamic advice on Facebook and our phones?
I am 18 years old, and I am a regular receiver of Faiza’s Islamist text messages.
Every other day, I can be sure of being forwarded a Hadith, or a prayer or advice, sometimes about the path to happiness or in other cases, about maintaining modesty. Whether I read them, delete them, forward them, or watch as they pile up in my phone inbox, is irrelevant.
This electronic message is not the kind of message carried by a paper flyer from a mosque, or a dars pamphlet invitation from a relative. They are mass produced, more old-school, and definable events. These phone messages are of a different nature, in a less tangible medium, from someone who I share canteen money with. Its impact is altogether different because it is not anonymous. It is from a face I know.
I bring up my age 18 for a reason. My grandmother isn’t, for example, someone who would be likely to receive such communications. Even my parents are from a different generation; they came at the advent of this technology with its laptops, mobile phones, email. They straddle the cusp and thus have the advantage of being able to look back at a time when it didn’t exist.
“Beta, I remember what it was like when one wasn’t so connected all the time.”
Well, I don’t. I was born into a generation that doesn’t necessarily need a flyer or handout or magazine to be invited to a sermon, lecture or mode of life.
I can just check my phone, or log on to Facebook and scroll down to the links Ahmed posted on Zain’s wall about piety and its role in society. Or I go through my email inbox which has messages on why I should not to go to mixed parties. I am inundated by this kind of one-way interaction unlike my parents simply because they were never as connected to the rest of the world as I am. They never had to experience a virtual loss of privacy such as in this domain: religion.
As I see it, this phenomenon is like constant ‘streaming’ your belief to other people. It is interesting to me because it is coming from people my own age. Faiza is quite businesslike about it: She has a certain company’s package (Rs25 for 1,000 messages over a fortnight) which she calls a “really good deal”.
“Honestly, you’re just generally sending it to people, you aren’t directing it at them,” she says.
“It’s a really simple way that doesn't offend anyone.”
When someone gets irritated, she takes them off the list.
Then there is Ali who posts short statuses and threads on Facebook very openly about Islam.
“I try not to make my posts controversial,” he says.
And yet, the comments his posts receive, regardless of the topic, are insightful: You are hurting the sensitivities of many non-Muslims in our class; every Muslim should aspire for Jannah (paradise), the real success. Ali seems to concede that it’s difficult to ignore the comments sometimes:
“When it comes to religion, people become a little... jazbaati (emotional). You know what I mean?”
But why bother if you feel some people are being a little ‘jazbaati’ and by that word taken in context, irrational?
“Because if something’s right, you have to say it’s right.” says Ali.
“We always should pass on what is good,” reiterates Faiza.
The trick is to never become, as always when it comes to belief and faith, jazbaati.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy. The headline is based on a question someone asked and not what the writer is saying.