Can I Check What the Opposite Genders Posts?

Answered by Shaykh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question

Is it permissible to follow the opposite gender on social media?

There is a boy on social media (I don’t follow him) and I was wondering if it is permissible to check what he posts a couple of times a day? I don’t talk to him and I don’t plan to unless there comes an opportunity for marriage but he lives far away from me so I’m not sure. He seems nice. What is the ruling of this?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate

We need to understand how to use social media in a way conducive to our faith before we get to this exact question.

A wholesome and spiritually-conscious use of social media entails that before we engage something online, we ask ourselves two questions:

  1. Is there a good reason or beneficial purpose for engaging this content, whether worldly or other-worldly and
  2. What are the potential harms or setbacks in the short and long term?

When Social Media Can Be Beneficial and Good

If a social media account or page calls you to remember Allah and His religion, reminds you of other beneficial things, teaches you useful worldly knowledge, provides wholesome entertainment and comic relief, accurate social commentary, or anything similar that is clean and beneficial, there is nothing inherently wrong in following that. Naturally, excessive time spent consuming content is not good and moderation is important to observe even in beneficial things.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Be avid for that which benefits you…” [Ibn Maja]

Moderation in Use and Keeping a Balance

Beneficial social media should be balanced with other real-life responsibilities and kept in a healthy measure, as with all things that can benefit in moderate doses and harm in excess. This is if one feels the need to engage in social media at all. Checking an account multiple times without reason, however, can border on obsessiveness or wasting time. Wasting time is a huge downside to social media and enough of a spiritually-disliked element in it.

When an Aspect of Social Media is Harmful and Impermissible

However, if the social media account or the page has spiritually and morally objectionable things, promotes wrong ideas and causes, disseminates incorrect opinions or outlooks, envelops one in useless or angry debates, or causes us to fall into sin in some way or another (especially by looking at or reading what is impermissible), then this would be impermissible to consume and follow.

Included in this are any social media accounts which provoke sexual desires or tempt one to unethical behavior, and this could change from person to person. This goes for the opposite gender especially, but even the same gender’s accounts. Self-awareness is key for this.

If there is a mix of beneficial and harmful elements, and the likelihood is that one will sin eventually, one should still refrain and look for sources of content that are consistently reliable and beneficial. If one is not sure or feels doubtful, then it is best to avoid, and one will get the divine reward for observing safety in their religion. This doesn’t mean one cannot consume anything; they just have to develop awareness and discernment.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Leave that which causes you to doubt for that which does not cause you to doubt, for indeed, truth is peace of heart and falsehood sows uncertainty.” [Tirmidhi]

From Consuming Content to Developing Feelings

Finally, even if the content is beneficial and clean, one needs to watch out for innocent or wholesome private interaction with the opposite gender that can then turn into an attraction or the development of feelings for the other person. This is a sign to stop following that account well before these desires play out, and why personal contact should be avoided when without a clear purpose, modesty, and limits. The Shaytan stirs feelings between religious men and religious women through religion as well. This type of relationship rarely results in the blessing of marriage, but more often in heartbreak.

When in Doubt

In the end, there is a lot for a believer in modern times to navigate through when it comes to ethical and spiritually-aligned use of social media, and this is just a brief guideline. If ever the considerations and gray areas become overwhelming and one becomes confused, before consuming or engaging in content, the conscious believer should simply ask themselves honestly: what’s in it for Allah? If the heart feels safe and clear, then engage with moderation; if there is a nagging doubt, then stay safe and refrain in favor of something better.

Wassalam,
[Shaykh] Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdullah Misra was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1983. His family hails from India, and he was raised in the Hindu tradition. He embraced Islam in 2001 while at the University of Toronto, from where he completed a Bachelor of Business Administration. He then traveled overseas in 2005 to study the Arabic language and Islamic sciences in Tarim, Yemen, for some time, as well as Darul Uloom in Trinidad, West Indies. He spent 12 years in Amman, Jordan, where he focused on Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith Sciences, Prophetic Biography, and Islamic Spirituality while also working at the Qasid Arabic Institute as Director of Programs. He holds a BA in Islamic Studies (Alimiyya, Darul Uloom) and authorization in the six authentic books of Hadith and is currently pursuing specialized training in issuing Islamic legal verdicts (ifta’). He holds a certificate in Counselling and often works with new Muslims and those struggling with religious OCD. He is an instructor and researcher in Sacred Law and Theology with the SeekersGuidance The Global Islamic Seminary. Currently, He resides in the Greater Toronto Area with his wife and children. His personal interests include Indian history, comparative religion, English singing, and poetry.