How to balance digital media usage during the holy month

Hundreds of Muslims joined by local Politicians and Political aspirants break their fast along a street at Mombasa's Majengo Kingorani area in Mvita , Mombasa County. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

We cannot escape the digital media reality as it has increasingly become a necessary part of our day to day life.

Yet as we navigate through the Holy month of Ramadhan, Muslims also have a duty to reflect on what matters more. Do we wish to fully reap benefits of Ramadhan or spoil our fasts thanks to our digital media culture?

Fasting is an act of worship, and needs to be jealously guarded by desisting from conduct that would negate its benefits. Concepts like ‘social media fast’, although tough to observe today, would be better off during this period for those who can pull it off. But for many who cannot, there are still ways to work around it, though pitfalls are plenty.

Social media for instance gives Muslim users the illusion that some practices associated with it are permissible because it all happens in a virtual space and that maybe they haven’t been directly forbidden in Islam. The fact is Islam has very specific guidelines applicable to today’s hyperactive digital social activities. Sheikh Ashbal Karama of Masjid Memon in Mombasa uses the example of the smartphone, perhaps the one multi-media device so popular and the basic entry point to the myriad online and offline platforms in existence.

“These are things which give Muslims countless beneficial opportunities in terms of enriching one’s spirituality during Ramadhan, but they also have potential to ruin your fasting experience,” said Sheikh Karama.

“So my call to action is let’s take control of our digital media indulgence in line with the spirit of Ramadhan instead of allowing technology to govern us,” he said. Take for instance the widespread ‘epidemic’ among digital media users today to share fake stories or reports just because it has reached them. Sheikh Karama explains that spreading of unsubstantiated information has explicitly been forbidden by the Almighty and His Prophet (SAW).

“In the Quran the Almighty says whenever information reaches a Muslim then they have a duty to verify its authenticity before spreading it because lack of verification might cause harm.” (Chapter 49 Verse 6)

In other words, such social conduct simply amounts to committing sin. So before you hit that button to either produce, share, forward or comment on pieces of questionable news circulating on social media one needs to remember their obligation as a fasting Muslim and desist from it. The same applies to participating in gossip and backbiting. Again these are actually the ‘currency’ of social media users.

Other common pitfalls that would ruin one’s fasting experience courtesy of digital media activities are habits such as sharing of other people’s recordings or information without their express permission, digital blackmail for example by threatening to ‘expose’ someone’s personal information via viral sharing, defamation, accessing pornographic content among others.

Sheikh karama says while accessing religious lectures digitally is permissible, there are immeasurable benefits of attending traditional Darsa sessions that cannot be substituted through virtual participation.

And Allah knows best.