While ‘Google’, the American multinational web search engine specialising in Internet-related services and products, celebrated its 17th anniversary recently, let us examine how it has affected our daily lives.

We have to admit that it has made a tremendous impact on our daily lives. For every problem that we encounter, be it an economical, social or health related one, for any reference that we want to make, every time we want to access the international news media for current news or go to the social networks like Facebook, Twitter etc or to open the video-sharing website like YouTube – and for umpteen other reasons – the first button our forefinger clicks is that of ‘Google’! It is the most-used search engine handling more than three billion searches each day! So much so that someone once posed this question: “Will historians look back at the pre-Google era as the Dark Ages of knowledge dissemination?”

Our attachment to Google is so much that we can safely say some of us are, in one way or the other, totally GOOGLISED! Remove ‘Google’ even for a day from our daily life and we would feel we are missing ‘someone’ very dear and very near.

There are negative upshots too! According to a recent study Google is having a damaging effect on our brain! The access to data anytime, anywhere, through Google, is taking a toll on human memory, ultimately altering the way the brain functions. With so much information available, there is less need to remember everything. The result – the Internet becomes an external memory for humans and the storage ability of the brain, which is undoubtedly one the most amazing bounties Allāh has endowed us with, is weakening as everything that we want to remember is literally at our fingertips and not stored in our brains!

However, the more disturbing part for us as Muslims is that Google can also be a means of displeasing Allāh Azzā wa Jal if not cautiously used. It has some ‘slippery avenues’ that can easily lead us into committing harām acts.

There are some websites that are not worthy of viewing, especially because of the images and other contents that they contain.

Then there is YouTube that has an endless number of videos that are almost pornographic and they can easily lead people into getting addicted to the porn stuff. YouTube does have its own set of Community Guidelines that prohibit people from posting things like sex, nudity, hate speech etc. but it is almost impossible to ensure that these guidelines are followed. When there are more than 100 hours of videos being uploaded every minute, some user-created porn videos are bound to creep in.

The major risk, however, is in the social networks. A recent study has revealed that women outnumber men when it comes to using the social networks. For instance, on Facebook, in the 18-24 age group, 63% of the users are women while 37% are men (Source: Rapleaf).

Our Muslim sisters remain shoulder to shoulder with the non-Muslim women in this matter. Unfortunately they do not realise the perils of these social networking sites. The photographs (including their profile pictures and at times even their selfies) and other information like their hobbies and interests and other personal facts they post on these websites can easily be misused (or even abused) by some evil-minded and ill-intentioned online predators.

When we are all aware that no other religion in the entire human history has accorded the status and the dignity that Islām has accorded to a woman then why should our sisters imitate the non-Muslim women and candidly display their pictures on these websites so that the ghair-mahram men can view them, with evil-intentions? Hayā (modesty) is one of the branches of Imān and in this respect our Muslim sisters should be the role models for the women of the entire world to emulate and not vice-versa.

This does not apply to our women alone. The rules of the Islamic concept of Hayā apply to both the genders – male as well as female – and as such even the Muslim men should not post their pictures and other information on these websites. These frivolous acts are all western oriented and we Muslims should distance ourselves from them. Also, we should dictate our terms when using these social networks (and also WhatsApp) rather than becoming their slaves!

Since Smartphones are easily available, WhatsApp has reached every nook and corner of the world. If not used to spread decency and righteousness, WhatsApp can become a major source of Fitnāh. There are so many undesirable messages circulating among Muslim men and women through this modern technology and they can easily put our Imān at risk. Besides being a means of circulating gossip, gheebāh (backbiting), unfounded allegations, objectionable images, shirk (polytheism) – the list is endless – it is also a means of interacting with ghair-mahram (men or women) and also of wasting our time. Every minute of the Muslim Ummāh is valuable and if it is not utilised as per the commands of Allāh Subhānāhu wa Ta’ālā and the Sunnāh of His Nabi (Sall-Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) it will become the means of us being denied Jannāh.

At times people get so carried away by these social networks that they start ignoring their responsibilities. A recent example is really disturbing. A UK woman, Claire Barnett, was jailed for five years for child cruelty. Her crime? Her two-year-old son Joshua Barnette drowned while she was in her lounge with her mobile phone chatting on Facebook.

Our children are also not safe from the sexual predators that are roaming all over the web to hunt for the gullible users of these social networks. Children should not be allowed access to these networks.

We have to admit some of us depend too much on Google for searching on Fiqh (Islāmic Jurisprudence) related matters. It is fine to search matters concerning the religion of Islām in Google but we have got to be vigilant. Most of us are not Ulamā (Islāmic Scholars) and as such depending solely on Google for Islāmic Fiqh and Shariāh based matters can easily lead us astray. No doubt internet has a tremendous amount of material on Islām but the issue is we do not know how much of it is bona fide or reliable. What we get in the internet is information only, it could be haqq (the truth) or it could be bātil (falsehood)! While there are many people trying to spread haqq through internet, there are even more people who are spreading bātil, knowingly or unknowingly. We all know Islām’s enemies are numerous and widespread and most of them have the aim of misleading Muslims. Large numbers of so-called Islāmic sites have been created by these enemies. So what means do we have to safeguard ourselves from these corrupt or shady sites?

Some of our brothers and sisters jokingly address Google as ‘Sheikh Google’. Quite a few of us have gone to the extent of considering Google as ‘Mufti Google’ while others have gone a step further and have conferred upon it the title of ‘Grand Mufti Google!’, nauzubillāhi.

The most distressing thing, however, is that a large number of Muslims nowadays have given Google the status of ‘Imām Google’, nauzubillāhi. They rely more on Google than any one of the Imāms of the four Madhāhib of Islām.

Subsequent to our frequent searches we may acquire some religious knowledge. As a result some of our brothers start judging themselves as Islāmic scholars. A few of them even go to the extent of issuing Fatwās on religious as well as worldly issues.

As stated earlier, what we get in the internet is information only, it is neither very reliable (unless authenticated by genuine Ālims) and nor does it contain the Noor and the blessings that the real, genuine Deeni ‘Ilm contains. The authentic Islamic knowledge can never be obtained by means of the PCs, Laptops or Tablets in the comforts of living rooms and nor can it come through our Smartphones, iPads, or ipods. Real Deeni ‘Ilm, the inheritance of the Anbiyā ‘alayhimus Salām (Prophets), is acquired as a result of going to the Deeni institutions, humbling ourselves and toiling there with all the required discipline.

Let us all pray to Allāh Rabbul ‘Izzat to save us from using Google in a way that would invoke His wrath…Āmeen!

News Flash

According to the latest reports Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister has engaged in talks with representatives of YouTube and Google with a view to censoring videos coming out of the region. So this is how biased Google is against Muslims in spite of the fact that it is the most popular search machine amongst Muslims.

… and Allāh Ta’ālā Knows Best.

a majlis article from december 1, 2015

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