Ustadh Salman Younas laments the way Facebook, Twitter and other social media have destroyed our connection to how the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and our pious predecessors conveyed the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
In his work “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, Neil Postman explains the dissolution of public discourse in America through an approach rooted primarily in the nature of human communication. The basic hypothesis he forwards is that the ideas expressed by a society will be dictated by the forms/mediums through which said ideas are communicated. The forms and mediums of discourse, in other words, necessarily dictate the type of content found in a discourse. In the Age of Television, all communication takes the form of entertainment and so all discourse will necessarily be presented as if the world were a stage for the amusement of others.
In traditional circles, this is nothing new. Our teachers, such as Sh. Nuh Keller, Sh. Hamza Yusuf. and Sh. Abdul Hakim Murad, have recommended the works of figures like Postman, Mander, and Nicholas Carr for quite some time now. But there is reading and then there is learning from what one reads. Many of us recognize these ideas when we complain about the increasingly low standards of study, the selfie-culture, the celebrity shaykhs, and the increasing commercialization of knowledge. Here, we are more than happy to invoke Postman, Mander, and Carr to explain our countercultural move against television, the internet, and technology in general. But there is a real and serious problem that all of us suffer from including those who self-identify as the upholders and defenders of tradition: the decay of our da’wa especially to other Muslims.
Petty, Simplistic, Angry and Demeaning
Our da’wa is increasingly becoming a social media da’wa that is unfortunately taking on the form of the medium through which its content is disseminated: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Youtube.. The consequence of this is not difficult to predict and even easier to see: it is petty, simplistic, angry, demeaning, aimed at riling up the mob, snappy, witty, and meant to entertain. We laugh at the mistakes of people. We talk about people as opposed to speaking to them. We try hard to speak in catch phrases and whimsical statements. We love to point out the wrong through sarcasm. We secretly revel in conflict and debate.
None of this is prophetic and none of it is what we saw from our teachers. The Prophet (God bless him and grant him peace) was not laughingly saying, “Lol, look at these misguided Muslim women supporting X.” He was not referring to people with offensive descriptions like “Hojabis” and slut shaming. He was not someone speaking sarcastically, “Next to come, topless Hijabis!” He was not condescending, demeaning, or scornful. He stood up for truth when he had to in the best and most effective manner he could. Sometimes this involved speaking frankly, showing clear discontent, even being “harsh”, but none of it was in the form we see today.
None Of It Is Like The Prophet ﷺ
Yet, today people use the anger the Prophet (God bless him) sometimes displayed to justify acting like annoying, irritating, condescending, sarcastic children. No, your anger is not like the Prophet, nor is your harshness, and nor is your da’wa. The way the Prophet corrected others incorporated a holistic approach: it was not simply a one-off pointing out of the wrong but also du’a for others, concern, care, love, and sincerity for all that the community around him could see.
God identified the Muslim community as the best community because it “enjoyed commanding the good and forbidding evil.” (3:110) But any da’wa that is non-prophetic is not da’wa. It is nafs, misguidance, and a cause for this community to lose divine aid. This salient feature that God identifies as a defining factor for our community being the best of all communities is slowly being eroded away from within. The failure to instill a sunnaic spirit in our da’wa unsullied by the anti-sunnaic features of the social media medium will only lead to the spiritual death of our community. This is a serious issue and all of us would be wise to consider how the new technologies of our age are altering our religious discourse.
And God is our only refuge.
Resources for seekers
- Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Doing Dawah
- How A Satanist’s Unusual Dream Led Him To God
- Just Be Muslim, Not A Brand Manager for Islam
- Who Should We Learn Religion From?
- Open Your Hearts, Before You Open Your Mosques
- Calling to Change: The Method of Giving Dawah
- The Etiquettes of Discourse and Disagreement
- Facilitating Our Global Connections
- The Prophetic Way of Teaching – Sayyid Muhammad Alawi al-Maliki
- In Peace: The Spread of Islam in Africa