بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله رب العالمين، والصلاة والسلام على سيد الأنبياء والمرسلين واله وأصحابه أجمعين أما بعد
We are all aware of the fitnah of al-ikhtilāt, which is the fitnah of free-mixing and intermingling between men and women. Yet, owing to the digital revolution we comprise, the analog doors to evil are now almost archaic. In place, however, are sinister and covert new ways that are currently working to destroy the fabric of our societies. More than ever, the time is rife to address them and bring them to the foreground so collectively we may find new ways to avert some of the degradation of this and the next generations.
The Islamic Shari’ah, which is the legislation of Allāh سبحانه و تعالى, came to bring about all forms of benefits. It also came to remove all types of harm and corruption. Therefore, there is no doubt that free-mixing between the sexes is a huge door towards evil. It is a key that opens up all types of tribulations within society.
The Messenger ﷺ said, “If a man and a woman are alone together in an isolated place, then the third is Shaitan.” Al-Bukhari narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “No man should stay with a lady in seclusion except in the presence of a mahram (those with whom marriage is impermissible).” A man stood up and said, “O Prophet of Allah! My wife has gone out intending to perform the Hajj and I have been enrolled in the army for such and such a campaign.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “Return and perform the Hajj with your wife.”
However, there are two issues here often conflated: Islam, as understood by the salaf and the khalaf, does not have any injunctions against men and women gathering together for noble purposes. What makes this impermissible are actually certain factors that are often overlooked – and the whole free-mixing issue is itself considered prohibited.
Presently, there lies vastly diametrical communal divides; while some consider it impermissible to speak to a Muslim woman to such an extent so to deny assistance when she is requiring of it, another community of men and women will freely engage in close proximity, enjoying each others company, in a manner otherwise exclusive to the matrimonial domain. Needless to be said, such avenues lead to the major vices.
Thus, the balance, like in almost everything in the Shariah, is quintessential. Not liberty, nor ghuluw – extremism.
Many would be surprised to learn of many an incident regarding the sahabah wherein female companions would interact with non-mahrams (those with whom marriage is permissible) in their daily lives. What was always guarded strictly – was their hijab – both vocal and physical – as well as khulwa (being alone together such that no person can enter upon them without their permission). Perhaps something that would be considered unquestionably wrong by many, Imam al-Qurtubi mentioned in his Tafsir: “Our scholars have said that it is permissible for a bride to serve food to her husband and his guests at her wedding.”
Similarly, Abu Juhayfa رضي الله عنه said, “The Prophet ﷺ established a bond of brotherhood between Salman رضي الله عنه and Abu al-Darda رضي الله عنه. Once when Salman رضي الله عنه visited Abu Darda رضي الله عنه, he found him to be absent. He, however, found his wife looking disheveled, so he asked her about what was troubling her”. [al-Bukhari]. Commenting on this hadith in Fath al-Bari, Ibn Hajar said: “This hadith contains some beneficial information … the impressibility of talking to non-mahram women and asking about what concerns them.”
Yet, the purpose of these reports are not to call for liberty, as Hafidh Ibn Hajar did condition his statement with “there is no doubt that this is only permissible when there is no fear of temptation …” as well as the specific rules of hijab, however, what we face today is not just a clash of perceptions, but a real and immensely disproportional importance, or plainly, a chaotic and deranged set of priorities.
In order to place the article into a defined context, we must embark on a voyage much less entertaining for its grim content than its statistics. But do, we must.
The rise of our current sexualised society is known too well. By the 1960s, young adults became even more sexually liberated, with the rise of feminism, widespread availability of contraceptives, and growth of sex-integrated college party events. Today, sexual behavior outside of traditional committed romantic pair-bonds has become increasingly typical and socially acceptable (Bogle, 2007, 2008).
Influencing this shift in sexuality is popular culture. The media has become a source of sex education, filled with often inaccurate portrayals of sexuality (Kunkel et al., 2005). The themes of books, plots of movies and television shows, and lyrics of numerous songs all demonstrate a permissive sexuality among consumers. The media suggest that uncommitted sex, or hookups, can be both physically and emotionally enjoyable and occur without “strings.” The 2009 film Hooking Up, for example, details the chaotic romantic and sexual lives of adolescent characters. Another film, No Strings Attached, features two friends negotiating a sexual, yet non-romantic, component of their relationship.
When it comes to real life, most of today’s young adults report some casual sexual experience. The most recent data suggest that between 60 percent and 80 percent of North American college students have had some sort of hook-up experience.
Even more surprisingly, 70 percent of sexually active 12 to 21 year olds have reported having had uncommitted sex. Similarly, in a sample of seventh, ninth and 11th graders, 32 percent of participants had experienced sexual intercourse and 61 percent of sexually experienced teenagers reported a sexual encounter outside a dating relationship; this represents approximately one-fifth of the entire sample (Manning et al., 2006).
As the world exponentially enters the matrix of the internet following the crisis of 2020, which is a mirage within a mirage if we consider this world itself a facade, more than ever, our lives, work, socialization, banking, shopping, tasking, organisation, note-taking, research and learning; practically every facet of our lives, is now vis-a-vis Zoom. The internet has become an irremovable facet of our everyday lives. You are also reading this article inside this Matrix (cue Twilight Zone theme).
Social media statistics from 2019 show that there are 3.5 billion social media users worldwide, and this number is only growing. That equates to about 45% of the current population (Emarsys, 2019). But it is our youth who are the most vulnerably exposed; compared with adults older than 25 years, youth between 12 and 24 years of age are the most extensive users of new technology and are more likely to be connected to the virtual world, regardless of socioeconomic status, race, or ethnicity.
In a recent published survey, Frank et al., reported that 75.8% of adolescent texters and 72% of social networkers sent messages or photos that they would not want their parents to see, while 56.4% admitted to using social networking to find a place to gather without parental supervision, for example, to drink alcohol (41.5%) or to meet for sex (27.4%).
Within the same survey, it was concluded that, “sexual risk behaviours” – identified as multiple factors including 1-3 sexual partners, use of contraception, among other things, as well as “unhealthy behaviours” such as alcohol use, or partner alcohol use, significantly increased with the amount of social media interraction. Most worryingly, this correlation was also observed among juveniles lacking parental supervision in the use of social media of all types.
Tens of millions share a single “internet room” speaking to one another without a mahram nearby. Are not the thousands of messages on private conversations happening in a digital “room”? While we fixate and liberate ourselves from the absence of a textual prohibition of a “digital khulwa“, what are we losing of the objectives of our textual prohibitions? Is not the spirit of the law infringed upon, when thousands of young men woo prospective young women either directly, unashamedly, or through a false pretext, often clouded under a facade of “learning” or “teaching”.
Observe, how a reputable, and dare I say, popular scholar, shares an article or a speech, calling on and bringing together not thousands, but millions of Muslims together from all walks of life and from almost every corner of the globe unhindered by Divine trials such as the present pandemic. Who could deny this is a great work? Yet, observe how a young attendee keen to learn the religion, finds himself drawn to the profile picture of an attractive other. Moments later, both are freely conversing away hidden in a digital enclosure – an internet ghurfah – away from any other except “shaitan” the third in this group, as promised by our Messenger sallallahu alaihi wasallam. And without the same level of bashfulness and hindrance of a face to face conversation, the young couple share words unconstrained. This often paves the way to illicit sex, adultery, and the ruin of marriages and families.
Given that the above statistics are but a shred of a large global phenomena rapidly rising at an exponential rate accelerated via more factors than is apparent, yet, a practial approach to address this issue within our Islamic domain other than calls for a strict ban, remains entirely absent.
This is not a call to dissuade the countless beautiful speeches, lectures, Qur’anic recitations, and online classes, among other beautiful and beneficial digital events. Rather, it is crucially asking two questions:
The first; what are we doing to safeguard the ummah from such an opportunity for Shaitan? By extension, what procedures have we in place in our own homes to safeguard our youth?
The second, and the controversial one, given the stronghold of social media upon us: is it neigh time to question social media as a platform for good? Can we not create alternative avenues for the distribution of knowledge?
These are the areas that we must now address in order to preserve the morality of our future and present generations.