As Muslims, the concept of us being one body is emphasized greatly and is something we take great pride in – We are the Ummah of Rasoolullah (saw). The strength of our brother/sisterhood is evident in our masajid and community events, and although not perfect, it’s an aspect we all notice the importance of.
Most of us have no problem engaging with the opposite gender in person; we know how to hold ourselves and where the lines are drawn. However with social media now being a massive part of our social life, many of these lines are now blurred when online. Firstly, being behind the veil of your laptop screen means it has become easier to vocalise your opinion in an inappropriate and immature way. And secondly, being able to interact online means our etiquettes with the opposite gender aren’t as clear to us as they are offline. Combining the above two problems means it often looks like we’re both at war with each other.
So I’ve broken down some of the problems I’ve seen, and shared some pointers on how we can avoid them
Excessive generalisations and stereotyping
I think it’s fair to say we all know a woman doesn’t just belong in the kitchen, and her only use isn’t to iron your clothes. But yet these ancient stereotypes still seem to get pulled out of the bag for the sake of online ‘jest’. We’ve somehow plastered the internet with slogans such as ‘men are trash’ and ‘women are weak’ every time we disagree with someone. Not only does this reflect how we perceive women/men offline, but it reflects our inability to hold a mature conversation without delving into secondary school politics. Hurling insults at our own friends has somehow become a norm amongst our generation, but we shouldn’t let these things overpower our Islamic principles. Instead of lowering ourselves so that we become like animals attacking each other, we should cloak ourselves with our modesty and speak with humility and hikmah.
“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk humbly on the earth, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace” 25:63
Rejecting advice based on ones gender
Again, I don’t think these ideas have appeared out of a vacuum but rather reflect the ideas that are pushed at us in society. Somehow, we’ve all decided that we can only accept advice from someone depending on their gender, regardless of how learned they are, or what point they’re making. And although this is understandable in some cases, when discussing issues related to our deen, we must draw a line. Neglecting good advice as ‘judging’, is assuming bad intention behind the advice, and so the accuser is guilty of their own accusation. Instead of seeking to know the intention behind the adviser and focusing on their gender, we should be looking to see whether the advice is sound or not, and acting accordingly. That being said, when giving advice, again, we should use our own hikmah to know how and when to speak.
Acknowledging our own faults
Both brothers and sisters should be willing to acknowledge the faults we have amongst us, instead of dismissing an issue and turning it into a ping pong match of who-can-insult-the-other-better. Instead of pushing the blame, we should be trying to work on the problems others have identified. Whether it be the unfair favouritism men in traditional households receive compared to women, or the misrepresentation of hijab amongst muslim women, these are all valid issues that need to be tackled.
Backbiting and slander
Disliking someone does not give you the right to slander them on every platform you can get your hands on. Spreading false information about your fellow brother/sister without even confirming it is a great injustice and should not be taken lightly. Rather we should be safeguarding our tongues and having husn adh dhan (good thoughts) of each other.
Highlighting our similarities and acknowledging our differences
Whilst our deen clearly establishes that men and women are equal, it does recognize that they are not identical. Allah created men and women with unique physiological and psychological attributes. These differences are embraced as vital components to a healthy family and community structure with each individual contributing their own distinctive talents to society. Islam has granted both men and women individual identities, and a constant comparison between the two is futile. Each plays a unique role to mutually uphold social morality and societal balance.
At a time when our deen is being attacked left, right, and centre, we should be standing firm to our principles and defending it rather than spending our time in frivolous arguments. And at the end of the day we all want the same goal – To have Allah be pleased with us and enter Jannah, and we can either help each other achieve this goal, or hold each other back.