What Is The Status Of Your Status?

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Question:

Is it Islamically correct to say,”Happy Birthday!” On someone’s date of birth? I have noticed many people write such terms on their status message on multiple social networking sites!
I have also noticed many people put their nieces or nephews or worse their own photos as display pictures, especially females, is this permissible? If it’s not then how can I tactfully tell them so? Please advise! I would appreciate it, if there is a detailed answer to both these questions (if there are any ahaadith or quranic aayaat related to both questions) as it will help me explain my reasons to these people!

Answer:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
There is no doubt that social networking sites have become an important part of people’s lives. This is evidenced from the millions of users that are part of these online communities.

While social networking sites can be used for good and/or permissible works such as dawah, business promotions, and breaking news – they are more often than not used for impermissible purposes such as intermingling, browsing photos, chatting, and online relationships. As a result, only a minority refrain themselves from getting involved in impermissible uses of social networking.

In addition to the above impermissible uses, there are other serious harms of social networking sites – as you have correctly mentioned in your inquiry – such as the following:

Using status messages for impermissible things: An enormous amount of time is wasted by users in reading the status messages of their friends. In addition, revealing information about one’s personal activities allows others to make obscene comments, cyberstalk and spy on you. A number of documented incidents as noted later in this article prove that such harassment is increasing at an alarming rate on social networking sites.

What is the point of updating your status – when there are so many inherent risks to your person and reputation in doing so?

Posting photos on social networking sites: Many users add photos of themselves as icons and also upload and share photos of themselves while going about their day, or events they attend and so on.

This impermissibility of photos is further exacerbated when they include pictures of women due to numerous negatives:

a.) It allows mischievous people the ability to anonymously write obscene comments, cyber-stalk, and harass women. This is not hearsay or a mere conjecture. There have been a number of incidents where obscene comments have even driven some young women to take their own lives as well. [iii]

b.) According to numerous references, these photos are also photoshopped and modified to put them in embarrassing and compromising situations. [iv] [v] Would any decent person, male or female, want such pictures of them circulating online?

c.) The increasing prevalence of such online harassment has led to laws by even secular governments to punish such behavior. An example of this is the law in India, governed by the Information Technology Act, Section 67 which prohibits and punishes such actions. [vi]

d.) In fact, one book mentions a 17 year old Muslim girl who wears hijab, had her and her sister’s photo taken from her page and put on naked bodies in an effort to ridicule and harass her. [vii]

It is clear from the evidence cited above that in addition to being impermissible, it is not in the best interest of anyone to post their photos online. It is inconceivable that anyone, much less a Muslim, would want their photos to be cropped, photoshopped and displayed in obscene ways or ridiculed.

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.

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