Opinion 21-Jan-2020

Internet for Muslims: Is it a Foe or a Friend?

Muhammad Nassar
Muhammad Nassar
Columnist

The average adult spends 5.9 hours per day on digital media, up from 3 hours a day in 2009, according to Mary Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends Report.

How much time the average Internet user spends staring at a screen each day? Do you know how excessive screen time affects our health?

Despite this, however, the Internet is a marvellous tool that helps educate and inform society about what is happening in the world. But unfortunately, it seems to be slowly destroying our ability to properly connect with others in real life by compelling us to spend hours and even days in the cyber world.

The hours spent on the Internet are pretty frightening statistics for mature adult brains, but just imagine what the excessive Internet interaction could be doing to the developing brains of children.

Internet has taken up so much space in our daily lives (home, work, hobbies, knowledge, games, etc.) that it is important to assess the effects it has, not only on our future but also on the future generations that are going to come.

There is no escape from the Internet. And who would want to escape the luxury of being connected to loved ones, gaining knowledge from experts and knowing what’s going on in the whole world, just by sitting at home? It’s the bad content that we want to escape from which can only be done by applying the Islamic guidelines in the virtual world as well.

Moderation is required increasingly in the 21st century due to the excess bombardment of information and ease of accessing it. The information entering our brains and hearts in the form of words, images, videos and audios occur through a prime medium: the Internet. It is because of this that Internet usage needs to be controlled to keep our minds and hearts clean and focused.

Adverse effects can occur with little or no regulation of excess information. It’s not surprising to find regular Internet users being diagnosed with chronic disorders like anxiety, sexual addictions, depression, panic attacks and antisocial personality disorder among others.

You might have heard about or seen this phrase ‘digital detox’ before. It is mainly used massively in commercials to attract people to buy in the ideas of yoga retreat, meditation camp or spa packages, but to some extent it is also true that we need to take control of the Internet usage and prevent excessive information ‘intoxicate’ our mind.  For Muslims, the Internet is a world which is filled with temptations that affect adversely those who are not strong and wise in dealing with fitnah.

It’s a shame when we as Muslims impose Shariah in all aspects of our lives but forget to apply it to our virtual lives. Some of us may be fall victim to deviating from the Islamic faith and exposing ourselves to resultant adverse psychological effects.

Let’s see how we can apply Islamic rules in our virtual lives:

Prophet SAWS said: Be moderate in seeking worldly things, for everyone will be facilitated for which he was created.” (Saheeh, Sunnah ibn-Majah)

We as humans need some time for ourselves to help us focus but the world of internet has made us slaves to constant socialisation, preventing us from disconnecting even for short periods of time. We have instead gained a habit of multitasking (remember those 10’s of browser tabs that are always open?), which permanently reduces our performance and the quality of our accomplishments. It is worth noting here that multitasking is also against the sunnah of uni-tasking, which improves focus and performance.

We’ve reached the point as a society where there’s less argument about whether tech addiction is real and whether we’re spending too much time on digital devices. The conversation has shifted to what all of us—tech companies, parents keeping their children’s tech use in check and each user individually—should do about it.

All Muslims must remind ourselves applying Islamic rules in our virtual lives as well.

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