Chat rooms awful or unlawful? [Archives:2007/1103/Culture]

November 19 2007

By: Nisreen Shadad
For The Yemen Times

Establishing Sharia legislation, prescribing law, laying down rules and regulations, and defining systems is a function specific to Allah alone.

Allah has provided articulate proofs and clear source-evidence in order that believers should have no trouble finding their way to the particulars of His legislation, with reference to some of this source-evidence.

The main source-evidences upon which the entire ummah (Muslim community of believers) fully agrees are the Qur'an and the Sunnah (or Hadith, the teachings and practices of the prophet Mohammed), ijama'a (scholarly consensus) and qiyaas, the process of analogical reasoning from a known injunction (nass) to a new injunction.

Muslims around the world face many problems, but the question remains of whether something is lawful or unlawful? Internet chat rooms are one recent issue scholars have been discussing.

According to Ahmed Al-Hadad, a Dubai mufti (a jurist who interprets Muslim law) and lawgiver, internet chat rooms are prohibited because they lead to immoral deeds. Speaking to, he said chat rooms are similar to prohibited places of privacy where people go to do that which is prohibited. Added to that, he says, it wastes time.

Islam protects the soul and body, prohibiting anything that may corrupt them; however, Muslims living in this “bad nest” are wasting their time, money and youth, Al-Hadad asserts.

However, Abdulaziz Atiq, assistant director of the Cultural Center for Foreigners' Call, notes, “We use chat rooms at the center to introduce Islam and many people get to know about it this way.”

As an example, Umm Mohammed, a student at the center, recalls, “Almost five years ago, I met a woman at the Cultural Center who had learned about Islam via chatting and subsequently, came to Yemen to convert and study it.”

Abdullah Al-Hashidi, professor of the Hadith at Iman University, says, “Based on the fiqh (understanding, especially of jurisprudence) principle 'al-wasaa'ilu lahaa ahkaamul-maqaasid' ('the means take on the same ruling as their aims') which the lawgiver has permitted and allowed, whenever something leads to that which is good, it is lawful. But at other times, when they lead to that which is evil, they are added to those matters that are prohibited.”

However, Atiq points out, “The problem is not the glass, but rather, the user of the glass.”

Al-Hashidi agrees, commenting, “Chat rooms, the internet and television are simply tools with two sides – good and bad. We are to avoid the bad and enjoy the good.”

According to Huda Ahmed, an Islamic law student at Sharqeen Mosque, prohibitions are to save the soul and the mind of Muslims, but many become angry upon hearing that something is banned.

In his book, “Islam Between East and West,” the great Bosnian Muslim intellectual Alija Ali Izetbegovic writes: “Morality was born out of prohibition and has remained so until today. Prohibition is religious in nature and origin. Of the Ten Commandments, eight are prohibitions. Morality is always a restrictive or prohibitive principle opposing animal instincts in human nature.”

Therefore, according to Ahmed, the purpose is not to prevent enjoyment, but rather to protect the purity of the heart and the house of faith.

“The importance of man's deeds rests in their effect upon the heart. Deeds are a building whose foundation is faith,” she says.

Ibn Al-Qayyim, one of the Islamic scholars, said that whoever wants his building to be tall, must consolidate its foundation and take great care of it, because it is according to the foundation that his building can reach the highest height and stand firm.

Therefore, Ahmed explains, deeds are considered like a building whose foundation is faith. If the foundation is firm, it will be able to hold the building and have more added to it. Likewise, if any part of the building is destroyed, it will be easy to repair.

However, if the foundation is not firm enough, the building won't be constructed properly or strongly and it will be unstable. If any part of the foundation is destroyed, the building either will collapse or won't stand long before it is destroyed.

Muslims should respect both sides, as certain rulings (fatawa) fit a particular country and need to be applied, but not in another. Understanding the Usool Al-Fiqh (the fundamental principles of Fiqh) principle causes man to understand the comprehensive evidence scholars use from the Qur'an and the Sunnah, said Ahmed.

Ahmed further explains that there are five ahkaam (rulings) upon which fiqh revolve: Waajib (obligation) is that for which the doer is rewarded, while the one who neglects to do it is punished. Haraam (prohibition) is the opposite of an obligation.

Masnoon (recommended) is that for which the doer is rewarded, while the one who neglects to do it is not punished. Makrooh (detested) is the opposite of a recommendation. Lastly, Mubaah (permissible) is where both its doing and its neglect are equivalent.

These five rulings differ widely according to their state, level and effect. Thus, whatever is pure or of overwhelming benefit, the shaari' (lawgiver) commands its performance by either an obligation or a recommendation. Likewise, whatever is pure or of overwhelming harm, the lawgiver ceases its doing with either an absolute prohibition or a dislike.