Answered by Shaykh Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
Is it okay for brothers and sisters to chat online?
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious Most Merciful.
Islam has set down principles for the prosperity of mankind in this world and for their salvation in the hereafter. The early Muslims used to say, This world is a harvest for the hereafter, taking this from the words of Allah Most High, Whoever desires the havest of the Hereafter, We give him increase in its harvest. And whoever desires the harvest of the world, We give him thereof, and he has no portion in the Hereafter. [Quran, 42.20]
Hence, a person must use his time beneficially in this world for the sake of the hereafter and take account of himself everyday. Each moment spent in useless activities is time away from the remembrance of Allah and other beneficial works.
The scholars have clear rulings regarding useless talk and gossip. Many hadiths have been related in this regard. The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, It is from the excellence of a mans Islam to leave that which does not concern him. [Tirmidhi, and others]
Furthermore, the limits of interaction between the sexes has also been laid down by the scholars. Recently, a post on the limits of mixing between the sexes very clearly concluded the issue, and must have quenched the thirst of many for a conclusive answer on the subject, among all the confusion that prevails regarding it. [See below.]
The same limits and rules would also apply to the informal exchange of letters between members of the opposite sex as well as through the new systems of MSN and Yahoo Messenger, which has made it supposedly safer and more permissible to converse with people while sitting in the safety of ones home. People feel more safe in chatting this way than on the phone, since there is no physical sound that is being transferred and the whole issue of fitna from the opposite sex does not seem to be an issue here.
However, as research will show, addiction to chat rooms and cyber friendships is on the increase. Many people become besotted and fall in love with the person on the other end, without even seeing them. It is known that a lot of inappropriate, and often completely impermissible conversations take place among young Muslims, even religious ones, through such online systems.
It is impermissible to have an informal conversation over the Messenger services or through email for that matter, just at it would be over the phone or in person.
People get carried away in their chatting since most of the time there is not bill to be paid, no mummy or daddy waiting to use the phone, and no fear of a brother or sister picking up the other extension in the other room.
In this regard, having strange members of the opposite sex on ones contact list, seeing when they log on, and having a quick exchange with them would also be strongly discouraged.
Allama ibn Abidin writes in his Radd al-Muhtar, an indepth footnote commentary on the Hanafi fiqh text al-Durr al-Mukhtar:
When a strange [i.e. non-mahram] women greets a man with salam, he should answer her verbally loud enough for her to hear if she is an elderly women. However, if she is a younger women he should respond within himself. Likewise, when a man greets a [non-mahram] women with salam, the ruling would be the same (Radd al-Muhtar 5:236).
After this discussion, he mentions the undesirability of speaking to non-mahram women without need, and says that it is permissible to have informal conversation with elderly women, but not with younger women.
Likewise, the great Shafii scholar of hadith, Muhammad ibn `Allan al-Bakri (d. 1057 AH), has written a similar discussion on the prohibition of salam to ones non-mahrams in his great commentary on Imam Nawawis Riyad al-Salihin (see Dalil al-Falihin li turuq Riyad al-Salihin 6:343) and has concluded that this is the opinion of the Shafi`i scholars.
Therefore, if this is the ruling for salamand unneeded conversations then the ruling of holding friendly informal chats through the Messenger services or chat-rooms becomes quite clear.
And Allah knows best.
Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf
The article below by Mufti Zubair Bhayyat seems to be quite useful. It is followed by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adams answer on gender interaction:
WILL YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION DISCONNECT YOU FROM ALLAH MOST HIGH ?
by Mufti Zubair Bayat, South Africa
Is it sheer coincidence that the Internet and WWW (World Wide Web) contain the words NET and WEB? Read on and work it out for yourself. Now picture a person trapped in a net, battling to get out. Also try to imagine a fly caught in a web, struggling to escape. Since the crisis is visible and tangible in the above cases, sympathy is felt and help may be rendered if required. But there is another NET, a WEB, much stronger and highly invisible, which traps its hapless victim in such an enchanting way, the poor victim, far from wanting to escape, actually begins to enjoy and relish this captivity. Yes, this sticky WEB, this unseen NET is none other than what is called the INTERNET, its WWW and its chatrooms.
WHAT IS THE CURE FOR THE ADDICTION VIRUS?
Such is the terrible addiction and attraction to the NET and the WEB, it is difficult to say whether the surfer has been bit by a bug or is just on some kind of heavy drug. Many are concerned about viruses infecting their beloved PCs but what cure is there for the user who maybe infected by the addiction virus? Once on-line and into cyber space the user seems to have forgotten everything in the real world and enters into a kind of trance that is described as being in a state of virtual reality where everything is really unreal but appears to be so real! For many, once they enter this cyber world it is as if they are on another planet. Then gone is the concern for Salaah, good deeds, work, studies and other important chores in life. Now it is the sheer thrill of being connected and on line. A Muslim must be concerned that being connected to the Net must not disconnect him from Allah and being on-line should not take him off-track from the Straight Path.
SHARIAH PRINCIPLES GOVERNING THE USE OF INTERNET
Unlike medieval Christianity, Islam has never been opposed to technology and modern inventions – in fact it has encouraged the study of natural phenomena for the purposes of subjugating the forces of the universe for the benefit of mankind. Such inventions and technology are deemed beneficial so long as they enhance the purpose of mans creation on earth. If however, they obstruct and distract from this purpose, then Islam does not take a favourable view of such inventions.
The Internet and its use may be evaluated on the basis of the above principle. If it proves to be beneficial to its user, its use is permissible and in some instances, meritorious, especially for Dawah and educational uses. But if it provides the opposite effect, that of distracting its user from the purpose of his creation, then not only is its use frowned upon but may even be deemed unlawful in certain instances. As with every matter in life, the Internet comes with its collection of plusses and minuses. In the case of some users, the plusses weigh heavily. In the case of others, there are only minuses. For such people, the Internet is a bane and a curse. And unfortunately the majority of users fall in this category.
PARENTS BLISSFULLY IGNORANT OF INHERENT DANGERS
With the quantum leaps the IT industry has recently been witnessing, many parents and guardians of children and youth, the prime users of Internet, are in a total time-warp. They are groping in the dark with regard to the reality and nature of the Internet and what it is all about. They appear quite pleased and proud that their dear off-spring are such wizards of the web, little realising the potential dangers that the Internet holds within itself. It is with a view to enlighten parents and elders about this dark aspect of the Internet that this article is being presented.
Which decent Muslim parent would allow his child, especially a pretty, young daughter out in the streets, into dubious dimly-lit smoke-filled billiards rooms to meet and chat to complete strangers for hours on end, with a possibility of such unknown entities even being considered as prospective marriage partners by their innocent daughters? Any respectable Muslim parent would recoil in horror and shrink at the very thought. My daughter in such a horrible place? IMPOSSIBLE!
CYBERFRIENDS MEET EACH OTHER IN CHATROOMS
No, in fact it is very well possible. The decent and respectable Muslim parents of our time may well be in for a pretty rude shock! That innocent little girl (or boy), locked away safely in her bedroom for nights and weekends on end, may virtually be MEETING, TALKING to and BEFRIENDING all kinds of weird strangers for hours on end, under the very noses of their parents, without them ever suspecting a thing! How is this possible? Well the answer is clear and straight; thanks to Internet, this is not only possible but a REALITY in thousands of good Muslim homes all over the world! So when you find that teenager, uncannily quiet and seemingly busy dont be fooled and deceived. They could possibly be in intimate conversation with some stranger in one of thousands of chatrooms available on the Net!
Forget the days of penpals. That was rather innocent stuff. Nowadays boys (and girls) are known to have travelled (physically) around the globe, just to meet their cyber boy/girl-friends. Many cyber-friends, known to each other only by their nicks, arrange to meet each other in shopping malls, cinemas, rave clubs, bhangra bashes and so on. The Net has made possible the meeting of strangers on a scale that was unimaginable in the past. It may surprise people to learn that many prospective Muslim couples have had their first ‘meeting and intimate chat on the Net. This could have lead to physical meetings in real time and after a short romance on (and off) the Net, the knot was tied. Alas! The possibility of that knot being untied before long, is not just a matter of virtual reality. It is reality itself as proven by real-life cases.
VICTIMS OF SHAYTAANS WEB
But the young and innocent are not the only victims as age is of no consequence on the Net. If this is how easy and cool it is to hop onto the cyber-highway and disappear into virtual reality, it is not too surprising to hear of many married men who enjoy a very friendly chat with some exciting female (supposedly; it is difficult to make out male from female on the Net), without the poor wife suspecting a thing. The reverse of this could also be true. Well, Shaitaan is known to have many NETS and WEBS in his possession, and if this is one, then the final outcome of these chats is not difficult to imagine.
Even if the chat itself is clean and straight, this kind of chat with a strange (ghair-mahram) person is forbidden in Islam, whether it be by phone, mobile, CB, pen or electronic, it is simply not allowed. Then consider the filthy and rude language used by most persons in chatrooms – this cannot be evaded and one is bound to be affected by this rude language sooner or later.
GROSS WASTAGE OF ALLAHS FAVOURS
Hours and hours of good, useful and constructive time – the most valuable entity on earth – is squandered uselessly on the Net and in chatrooms. If only that time – and Almighty Allah swears an oath on the value of Time – was used to do some virtuous deeds, how beneficial and profitable it would have been! If only the hundreds of wasted rands in connection fees and phone bills could have been used to feed a hungry family in Ethiopia or elsewhere; if only it could have been contributed towards a needy and deserving Masjid or Madrasah project, how useful it would have proved? This is yet another serious drawback of the Internet for a good practising Muslim.
DANGERS TO AQEEDAH AND MORALITY
Then there is the deluge of Kufr sites, masquerading as good and informative Muslim sites and a plethora of sites by the myriads of deviated sects, all crouching like hungry lions at the water hole, hoping to pounce upon, savage and devour the unwary prey that may come out their way. How can one whose knowledge of Islam is nominal hope to come out unscathed in his Imaan after such encounters? Then the uncensored flood of the filthiest pornography and sleaze imaginable, that permeates every area of the Net, is yet another total no-go zone for any Muslim. The temptations to just take a peek are very compelling and once this slippery path is walked upon, it is very difficult for most people to turn back.
So before you or your innocent little ones connect (or reconnect) to the Net, think, think carefully! Is it for a pious or worthy purpose or is it just for fun and entertainment, to pass time! If this is so, you may have easily connected to the Net but you could end up, Allah forbid, disconnecting your Imaan, your Islam and your morality in the process! Is it worth it?