By Mohammed Abdul Jawad
O, what a blessed month is this! Yea, of course, I mean ‘Ramadan’—the month of sublime patience, repentance, forgiveness and generous spending. It carries its unique beauty, virtues and rewards.
We ought to know the reality of fasting, the acts of worship, the manners of supplications, the essence of piety, the ways to achieve steadfastness and protection from deviations, the etiquettes of night prayer, the virtues of Laylatul Qadr (Night of Revelation) and the significance of charity.
But, the lives of modern Muslims are typically strange. Now-a-days, Muslims find it much easier to learn religion through social networking and smart phones applications. You don’t need a tutor, at all.
All you need is to get hooked up to Twitter and Facebook, and then, there’s flow of info that keep coming. Under the tutelage of instant communication and personalized mobile technologies, every person has turned himself like a reporter, conveying around the messages he has received from others.
Who cares to think about: What’s the authenticity of the information? Is it abridged or rewritten, with some changes? Does the info carry any source or citation?
It’s totally distractive and insensible when people spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter during Ramadan instead of spending their valuable time on worship, recitation and understanding of Qur’an or other righteous deeds. You shouldn’t believe anything that you may receive in the form of news, images, video or audio clips via Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp without checking the credibility of source.
According to one news report Saudi Arabia ranks seventh globally in terms of individual accounts on social media, with seven accounts for each individual. Saudi Arabia ranks 14th in terms of WhatsApp users with 56 percent of mobile phone users while Twitter is the 5th most visited website in Saudi and the average Saudi user tweets 5 times a day and the number of tweets on Twitter exceeds 500,000. Thus, Saudi Arabia accounts for over 40% of Twitter users in MENA region. One study showed that 26 percent of Saudi teenagers use Snapchat, putting Saudi Arabia in the eighth position globally, in terms of teenagers who use the website.
Muslims, in the past, would study the Quran by taking few verses of Quran at a time only. Then, they would study these few verses, with utmost sincerity. They would memorize those verses and apply its rulings to their lives. They would not move onto the next few verses until they had brought their lives into compliance with the first few verses. Thus, the Quran became alive and second nature to them, its knowledge was not wasted and not lost.
But, in present times, we see that Twitter has inspired many with the idea of sending a chosen verse from the Quran each day to their network of friends. It’s like just reading, and moving onto the next. No serious pondering, no interpretations, no explanatory notes. It’s just fast paced reading and learning through tweets, themes, topics, links, hashtags and info postings. With information overload, one forgets everything the next day.
Recently, Twitter has announced that it has launched several initiatives to help its Muslim users celebrate Ramadan. Twitter media partnerships director, Middle East Kinda Ibrahim said in a blog post that tweets about last year’s (2015) Ramadan were seen 8.4 billion times, on and off Twitter–adding that the most discussed topics include food, travel and shopping.
According to a news report published in UAE’s prominent English newspaper, the Arabic hashtag Ramadan Kareem is trending on Twitter, and the holy month this year has got its own crescent emoji on the social media site. The hashtag has been used over 20,000 times. Twitter users exchanged their wishes to one another, expressing their excitement over the new emoji. Ramadan-related jokes were surely part of the trend. Users shared the things they will be missing throughout the holy month with descriptive details (i.e the first sip of the morning coffee or the sight of a cigarette smoke). They predicted the fasting experience during this year’s long hours and summer heat.
Of course, there’s a possibility of users becoming afflicted with addiction, it seems that they cannot bear to be without it, and this is something apparent. While the essence and virtues of Ramadan is on one side, and on the contrary, Muslims are so fascinated by Twitter and Facebook that they portray Ramadan according to their whims and observances, and keep themselves engaged using Ramadan tie-in applications. It seems that the virtual and high-tech worlds has transformed Ramadan, the month of self-control and perseverance into interactive event and Ramadan festivals, and the Muslims young and old have become addicted broadcasters and campaigners.
And then, what a miserable state when social media, at extremes, lends itself to gossiping and vain talk! People become so glued to their devices all the time to the extent that they don’t talk to the one next to them or their families or to their children in their houses. Rather they enjoy being engaged online on those sites.
To sum up, let us not divulge too much on these sites from the beginning, and we will be safe and healthy if we adopt the idea of abstaining ourselves from our digital and consumerist addictions.