The Online Affair


Let the games begin my friends! The Online World, the amusement park nearest you. Despite the clarity of the situation, it seems sometimes that no one can really figure out how things should work with Muslim brothers and sisters interacting in the real world, never mind the world wide web. So here it is, a chipped-chopped (and probably quite tamed) version of what awaits you online.

In some way, I am a veteran user of the world wide web. I probably first entered a chat room when I was 16 (a thing I've long ceased doing) and have come across some strange individuals. I'm not proud of this extended history, but I can tell you a little something about the way men and women interact, often laced with some story I'd prefer to deny knowing. On the bright side, I can say I've learnt a lot with little risk to maintenance of my dignity.

brother: salam, a/s/l?
-- The most annoying question anyone could ask me online. That's when I consider ignoring them, but feel obliged to answer their shortened prophetic greeting, despite its deviance from the sunnah.
me: Wa 'alaykum assalaam. Does it matter?
-- silence. Success. I don't have to be rude and eventually block this person who has already decided to leave me alone.

brother: Assalaamu'alaykum
-- Ooh, a full prophetic greeting, nice.
me: Wa 'alaykum assalaam
-- If he says a/s/l, I will have to ignore him.
brother: How are you?
-- Hmm.. surprise surprise. He's polite too.
AlhamduliAllah, well thanks, and you?
-- Maybe it won't be a/s/l, but the extended way of figuring the same thing out.
brother: AlhamduliAllah, pretty good. I was hoping there was someone who had something worthwhile to talk about. Do you know anything about the importance of the six fasts of Shawwal?
-- Ah, finally, someone who isn't trying to mack.

Henceforth, you enjoy discussing various issues with this person, who obviously seems to use his intellect, coupled with some decent manners, and most importantly an inclination to learn more about Islam. How bad can it be? He knows his limits, you know yours. It's all good, right? Actually, it's not all good. Shaytan's workforce is also employed on the world wide web. Emotions can be expressed, feelings can be shared, and a mutual sense of care can and will likely form. So what's wrong with that? Well, apart from the risk of having to later pick up the pieces of your broken heart and put it together again, it can lead to undisputed acts of haram. Game over.

You may try explaining this interaction to some of your real life friends, but they fail to understand how you can get along with someone who you have never met. You're not sure you can explain it yourself. Most likely the attachment occurs because it means that there is someone, somewhere who is taking the time from life to consider what you have to say and responds to it in a way that makes you feel worthwhile (this can be done with all sincerity, so it's not something that's easy to let go of). Humans are social beings, so there is no doubt some appeal in finding someone who you feel understands you. In fact, psychologists attribute the excitement of marriage (as understood in the West) precisely to the fact that someone has chosen another over every other potential in the entire world. Quite flattering, eh?

We're Muslims, so the bottom line has to come from Islam. The interaction between men and women in Islam is wisely guarded. Different cultures, though all Muslims, approach this situation in different ways. Suffice to say, adultery is common place in society, and we would be fools to think that it doesn't exist among Muslims. I'm telling you it does, as do other illicit relations. We have to set our standards above this.

Consider this. All the prophets and messengers of God came from legit relationships throughout their lineages. From the beginning of time, there is not a single illicit relationship that bore the prophets and messengers (may God's peace and mercy be upon them all). This is a proof of the importance and sacredness of marriage.

It's a bit ironic that I speak about the problems that sisters and brothers may have in figuring out online interactions when physical interactions in daily life itself has been put on the back burner. To each their own. For those who care, here's one way of looking at it. Men and women were created in pairs. When one marries, one becomes connected to an eternal partner. It may be that your spouse goes to Heaven and doesn't find you there and asks for you; and God, in His infinite mercy, removes you from the fires of Hell and unites you with your spouse. That's the greatness of the relationship. That's the honour of it. Why cheapen it by allowing yourself to get involved with others who have not made noble intentions when interacting with you?

You must admit, for a man to engage in close discussions - including but not limited to jokes, expression of his current feelings, life problems, etc. - with a woman that is not his wife is wrong, no? (The same would be true if it were a woman talking to another man who is not her husband.) This type of interaction becomes too intimate for a wise person. Wouldn't it be wronging one's spouse through a form of betrayal? I would say that it is wrong. The same can be said of a single person towards that person's future spouse.

The take home message is this, "If you have no shame, do what you will." But if you do have some shame, assess the situation as objectively as you can. Sometimes it gets tough, so if you have some trouble, consult one whose opinion you respect. Don't follow your nafs, and when that red light goes off, pay attention and respond appropriately. It's completely okay to consider marrying one who you have met online, but I warn you to consult people of wisdom and to continue the process in the right way (by the book, that is, inform your families and proceed through a third party).

Keep in mind, mixed-gendered relationships are sneaky. Sometimes the other person is emotionally moved by the interaction, where you may not be; but you are duty bound to correct the situation and take steps to terminate the interaction when you sense trouble.

Finally, I remind myself foremost, and ask that you, too, remember this: Illusory trust is a secured foe. You deserve better than an illusion.

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Anonymous said...

As salaamu 'alaykum Dear Sister Farzeen. The words you posted moved me so much. After the words of Allah and His Messenger I've never been so touched. jazakAllah Khairan. Please send my regards my salaam and shukr to however wrote these beautiful yet painful words of wisdom.
May Allah bless you always.

Farzeen said...

Wa 'alaykum assalaam wa rahmatuLlah

Thank you for stopping by and jazakAllahu khayran for your message.

I guess sometimes we hear the things just when we need them the most, and the khayr in it is from Allah alone. May Allah make things easy for you and guide you to that which is best for your soul and for the greatest of your relationships -- with the Almighty, His words, His teachings, and His way, ameen!

"Do you think that you will enter the Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried: 'When (will come) the help of God?' Ah! Verily the help of God is (always) near!" [2:214]



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"Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole world were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God has already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried."
--Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]