بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
By Amina Salau
The age of social media networking has increased our friendship circles, allowed us to meet new people, and connect with old friends. People who use social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will agree that the “virtual friend” syndrome is now commonplace. You have a lot of friends who you have never met, but with whom you share a seemingly strong bond as if you have known each other for a lifetime. In most cases, these relationships are just like your real lifefriendships in the sense that a lot of people feel free to talk to strangers online, the same way they talk to their friends in real life.
The concept of Haya (modesty) in Islam encompasses modesty, shyness, and humility. It is about the innate character of human beings; it something which propels us towards good deeds, and discourages us from evil deeds. Abu Hurayrah (ra) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “Faith (belief) consists of sixty branches (i.e. parts), and Haya is part of faith.” (Bukhari)
Having Haya does not mean you’re timid, fearful or lacking confidence. It simply means you are modest and well-behaved.
Does Haya Apply To The Internet?
One of the beauties of the Internet is also its ill-effect; it’s the fact that we are all behind a veil. The Internet is the veil; people either do good or engage in evil, while safely behind the veil. We know the way Haya applies to our daily lives, but does this apply to the Internet too? I say it does. A great deal.
The fact that you can be anonymous online, and say or do whatever you want, without your close relatives having any clue about it, does not mean you should. A Muslim should always remember that Allah is watching. We need to remain as modest online as we are in real life.
The Internet also exposes us to thoughts and ideas that are foreign to our beliefs. It exposes us to ideas that may either hurt or help our Iman (faith). If we don’t actively guard our modesty on the Internet, we may find that we are slowly losing our grip on it.
How Are We Exposing Our Haya Online?
This veil that the Internet represents is the sole factor that makes people act unashamedly online. When we freely mix with strangers who we most probably will never meet, there is a tendency to over-share information about ourselves or to say hurtful things to others, because we assume they don’t have an avenue to hurt us.
This is also what leads people to bullying, trolling, and writing hurtful comments on blogs. The freedom that the Internet gives one to get away with saying whatever you like is counterproductive to the concept of Haya. The moment you say something without a negative outcome, you slowly start to lose your humility.
How To Safeguard Our Haya Online
- Don’t engage in meaningless chatter. One of the easiest ways to lose your humility is to talk too much on the Internet. If you keep spending endless hours chatting with friends online, or you update your status several times a day, it may have a more negative impact on you than you realize. The Internet is great for learning, keeping in touch with old friends, and meeting new ones. Avoid excess use to safeguard your Haya.
- Beware of giving out too much information. Be it uploading a picture of your meals on Instagram, or updating your status with everything going on in your life, sharing too much of your personal details online goes against the concept of Haya. Modest individuals should keep their affairs private, and only tell others what is absolutely necessary. If you want to ascertain whether or not you have been over-sharing information online, do a quick assessment. Is there anything you’ve said about yourself that you would like to take back? If there is any, then chances are that it is private information you shouldn’t have shared in the first place.
- Be cautious and respectful. We may all be behind a veil that gives us the freedom to do whatever we want, but a good Muslim always remembers a hadith in which Abu Hurayrah (ra) who narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “Haya is from faith, and faith is in Paradise. Obscenity is from rudeness, and rudeness is in the Fire.” (Bukhari)
The Internet can never be an excuse for a Muslim to act poorly. We must always strive to portray Islam in the best possible light, through our modesty, humility, and uprightness.
Amina Salau is a freelance writer who is passionate about women’s issues in Islam.
© IIPH 2014