I have been meaning to write about this very important issue since many months now. Somehow, it always got postponed. The core of purdah (or covering up - usually implying covering of Muslim women when they go out etc), is mostly restricted to the 'seen' or 'physical' form. Thus, the purdah factor taken in our ummah is based on the lines of :
1. Covering up with hijaab, jilbaab, or loose clothing that covers everything except hands and face (and for many, covering up the face as well)
2. Not 'hanging out' with the opposite gender in terms of friendship, dates etcetera. Also, not talking unless necessary.
3. Lowering the gaze and guarding modesty - this form of purdah is for both men and women.
My observation in the past umm, 12 years of internet-usage has been, that the hijaab and abaaya are all very well in the offline world, where the girl in question might be walking along the university corridors, clad in a black abaaya and white scarf, purity emanating from everywhere about her person - but the core of purdah lies in how she behaves when nobody (in the offline world) can see her.
And that is, when she is online. Amidst her on-line 'buddies' - and with parents/family members not really aware of what 'IM' means, or what in heaven's name is a 'blog'.
THAT is where the real test begins. The question is, how does one ensure that the purdah (offline) is also maintained online? Are there any guidelines or standards by which one should correct herself if in this situation. I have come up with a few DO NOTs and a few DOs and I believe the list is not exhaustive. Feel free to add more and subtract anything that is contradicting the Shariah.
1. Do not interact with na-mahram men idly
This rule is so obvious where Islam is concerned that it is amazing how difficult and uncommon it is to incorporate in our lives. The key here is 'interact' and 'idly'
- how would anybody define the 'idle-ness' of the conversation? Are we talking MSN, GTalk, Skype audio/video chats or are we just talking simple back-and-forth emails?
The answer to that is: We're talking every (ALL) mode of communication (be it chat, email, video) that is done with a na-mahram male, without ANY real reason or purpose.. for reasons like these:
1. Oh he's just a friend. Nothing more.
2. I'm bored. He's bored. This is called 'killing time'
3. We're just talking politics and about current affairs. I'm increasing my knowledge okay?
4. What's so wrong in asking about the weather?
5. We're all group chatting! It's not like I'm chatting alone with him.
6. He's about to become my husband next month isn't he? Get a life!
7. It's just a simple email exchange about haal-ehwaal!
8. Look. I'm talking about deen okay? I'm doing 'daawah' !!
9. I'm talking about academics !! In the middle, we might take a 'break and chat about other stuff' no? So what??
10. I am 'looking for a potential spouse' so I can only do so when I have 'friendships with people of the opposite gender!'
This list can be extended. But the fact is that these are the commonly used reasons (that a girl might be using to convince her own conscience) to convince others that whatever she is doing online is perfectly justified and complies with the purdah laws: Reason number 8 being most common. I'd like to add here that talking about deen is something very constructive YES, but not when you're chatting one-on-one with a brother and the chat might be happening at 4 am tahajjud time! Why not blog about the deeny topic you're chatting about? This very blog post is talking about something related to deen and it's also a means of 'daawah' no? Then why choose something that satisfies the 'nafs', pricks the conscience and has to have reasons and justifications for it? It doesn't make sense.
The conclusion of this point is: That if we're chatting, emailing, Skype-ing brothers for any trivial reason (even daawah), then it's not allowed and definitely prohibited.
1. Da’wah via private chat
2. Men and women talking in chat rooms
Personal Analysis: There was a time when I was a prolific emailer-chatter. The excuses (nearly all of those stated above) were my excuses for communicating. I was satisfied that if I was 'talking about deen', then the chat was justified. It took me quite some time to figure out that this interaction business (without valid reasons) isn't allowed. It's only this year (and the last year too - portion of it) that I managed to stop ALL communication (idle) and er, I wouldn't have dared write this post otherwise.
2. Communication Mode: Broadcast. Be careful of how you broadcast.
The social networking mediums like Facebook, Twitter (etc) and Blogging mediums (Blogger, Wordpress etc) allow us to send out a message/status/post which can be viewed by any, many, or 'just friends'. The communication (in any case) is a one-to-many broadcast (or a multi-cast too waisay).
The key questions here: What are you broadcasting, and how are you broadcasting it.
2a) What are you broadcasting?
The main questions to ask one-self before broadcasting any information/post/idea/status update/etc are:
1. Am I broadcasting something meaningful?
2. Is it going to benefit anybody?
3. Is it going to serve as a reminder to me or anybody else?
4. If it's a personal experience, does it contain a lesson for anybody?
5. Am I broadcasting something that is pure 'entertainment' and 'laughter worthy'?
6. If the internet and social networking was there at the time of the Holy Prophet (Salalla hu alaihi wasallam), would he broadcast such a message to the public?
7. Is it something on which I really need an opinion from my fellow bloggers, and isn't anything forbidden in Islam?
The answers to these questions will determine exactly how worthy of broadcasting your information is... (or how worthless). If it's only something that concerns you, your private life, your circumstances, and will have no impact on anybody other than you, why broadcast it in the first place?
Personal Experience: I started writing my blog in 2008 (regularly), and since then I feel there are a lot of posts, that are just THERE. For the heck of it. I know that it's only recently that I have tried to re-construct my posts in such a manner that they do benefit somebody, but the fact is that there is a lot to be 'deleted'
in here. Insha Allah, I have plans to revamp the content and make it more 'worthy' of being broadcast or 'blogged about'.
2b) How are you broadcasting it
One main concept in purdah is to 'not draw attention towards one-self' and also to 'not talk in soft tones so that somebody, in whose heart is a disease, might get attracted to it'.. the common implication being: Be strict in public, and not be too courteous for your own good. In the online world, the way to practice this is: To be brief, crisp, and not invite anybody to 'comment/reply idly'. If you use a lot of ':D:D:D:D:D:D' and ':P:P:P:P:P' and 'LOLOLOLOLO' and 'ROFL' and '*lote pote with laughter* (:$), and ':$:$:$:$:$' and o-Os, etc... then you can't expect people to take you as a serious person who is just trying to convey a point and not invite any further or irrelevant comments. The more you digress from your topic, the more you invite idle comments.
Note: If you do your best to compose the message/status/broadcast data in a serious/crisp manner and STILL it gets idiotic or 'free' comments, then this surely is not your fault. But if you do appear 'giggly', 'hyper', 'sensitive' etc in your domain, then you should expect any kind of 'free-ness' that comes your way.
Personal Experience: I have been a fairly free writer and even though the intention has never been to 'attract free comments/friends', the action itself is questionable, because it doesn't make sense to be so serious outwardly - so strict in public, and then so 'emoticon-ey' in the posts. Insha Allah, this will also be
improved from now on.
So ladies. Remember: if you blog in a forward manner, expect forward comments. If you tweet like a chirpy bird, then you should expect 'chirpy replies' and if you post status updates/tweets like 'I'll bet you $46,368.86 you can't guess how much I owe my Bookie', then you should be sure of receiving lots of RTs and 'laughter' all around. Think about it: What will guys be more attracted to?
A statement like this, "I truly believe that implementing purdah in the online world is challenging for everybody: male or female" ...
OR.. a statement like this, "In my opinion (upto you whether you accept it lol :P), implementing the purdah online is challenging; for females and hey!!, guys shouldn't be left out :D. They're also included. Ha! so there!!'
:). The choice is yours.
Fee AmanAllah folks.
PS: One main reason why I wrote from a girl's perspective is because I, being a female, know the female perspective only. It would be appreciated if guys can input their thoughts on whether the 'strictness' is challenging for them or not. And most importantly, if two statements like the ones mentioned above are in front of them, does the presence of 'informality' and usage of emoticons 'encourage them' in any way?
To be continued with the DOs Insha Allah.