It’s been a difficult time for our community with the unfolding of events involving Imam Nalla of Jamae Chulia Mosque. In February, Terence Helikaon Nunis uploaded Imam Nalla’s sermon on to social media. In it, Imam Nalla had said, “Grant us help against the Jews and Christians” in Arabic. Nunis stated the Imam was “supplicating as if we are all living in the Crusades”, ending his post by urging readers not to “encourage this sort of thinking (sic) or condone this sort of supplications”.
The sermon ignited heated debate, especially on social media. The range of reactions was wide. Some people expressed support for Terence’s whistleblowing, while others voiced their unhappiness about how the video was uploaded without any attempts to contact the Imam and advise him in private. It did not help that Terence already had a reputation for posting controversial views on his Facebook. We also saw many who resorted to name calling and insulting people on social media who had different points of view.
After an investigation by the authorities, it was found that Imam Nallah’s words were indeed not from the Quran and were taken from an old text from his village in India. He was fined S$4,000 on April 3, and will be repatriated to India.
Emotions are still raw. While we wait for the dust to settle, there are many things for us to reflect on. What can we learn from this incident? One of the most pressing issues that has arisen is social media etiquette – how should we, as Muslims, behave on social media? On 1 April, Mufti Fatris Bakaram delivered a timely, poignant lecture on this issue at Al-Iman Mosque. In his talk, Mufti Fatris acknowledged that we live in a different era, with the advent of social media. However, he reminded listeners that Islam is a complete, timeless and comprehensive religion. We can find all the guidance that we need within the Qur’ān and Sunnah. He then explained social media etiquette based on Surah Al Hujurat. The six main lessons we can learn can be summarized as follows:
1: Do not place your position before Allah and His Messenger and fear Allah
Before we react, take a step back and ask:
What does Allah say in the Quran?
What would Prophet Muhammad SAW do?
In answering the questions above, do we ask learned scholars or depend on information forwarded via social media?
2: Don’t raise your voice.
Nowadays, we hear people with little knowledge speaking the loudest voice. However, the companions were constantly reminded not to raise their voices over the Prophet SAW. Our Prophet SAW was not rough in his speech. He reached out to others, not by shouting, but by his softness and compassion. With his rahmah, he managed to open the hearts of countless people. How about us?
When we interact with people, let’s ensure that our intentions remain pure. Be polite. No matter how loud we shout, if Allah doesn’t open an individual’s heart, nothing will happen. Nothing will change. Let go and let God. He’s in control, not us. Don’t insult others. When we use rough language and belittle others, people feel hurt. Instead of being moved, they are driven even further away.
3: Research first.
“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” Surah Al Hujurat 49:
Before hitting the ‘forward’ button, do we verify the information first? If we keep sharing and forwarding news without checking, we may end up spreading misinformation. Because we are not careful, we may hurt others with our words. When we spread untrue information, we are not solving problems. In fact, we are causing more problems! We are adding our sins. Even if we pray and fast and complete our ibadah, we end up giving all our rewards away when we backbite, degrade others and hurt their feelings. When we commit a sin, we face the consequences for that one action. However, when we commit a sin and we spread it to others and they, in turn, spread it as well, we bear the consequences of their actions as well. We bear the burden of every like and share. Are we prepared for that?
4: We are brothers and sisters.
We are all brothers and sisters of one Ummah. Our responsibility to resolve issues and promote peace, not to antagonize others and cause them to alienate themselves from each other. When we see each other as family, don’t you think that the way we treat each other will change? “Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.”
5: Do not mock others.
Think of family gatherings when you hear someone humorously refer to someone as “si pendek”. In reality, Allah does not allow us to call each other by offensive nicknames, even if it is meant as a joke. What more intentionally insulting others? When we insult and ridicule others, who are we insulting? Them? Our brothers and sisters are part of ourselves. When we act in that way, we are insulting ourselves. We are the ones who are despicable in the eyes of Allah. It’s become a norm for us to exchange insults on social media. When you preserve your relationship with Allah, Allah will preserve your dignity. When others insult you, they are contemptible. Why do we want to stoop to their level? Will your heart be at ease? During prayer, will you feel peaceful or keep thinking the hurtful words? Focus on your relationship with Allah. Focus on your relationship with the Ummah for Prophet Muhammad SAW.
6: Avoid making negative assumptions.
Always think good of others. How can we easily label someone as a traitor? How can we easily call someone a Munafiq? Allah sees all that we do. When someone is a believer, it is not up to us to accuse people of being a Munafiq. We can’t change hearts by destroying someone’s dignity. This is also not our right or responsibility. Only Allah knows what is in his heart. Because of the guidance that Allah has already given to us 1400 years ago, Muslims should be the most mature users of social media. Unfortunately, that’s far from reality. Let’s do this together. Let’s not be a community that uses hurtful words. Let’s be a community that only uses words that please Allah. Let’s encourage ourselves and others to be civilized and well-mannered. Let’s not spy on and backbite others.
Imam Nalla has taken every opportunity to make up for his mistake. On March 31, he made an apology at the Harmony in Diversity Gallery at Maxwell Road, to Christian, Sikh, Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu representatives and members of the Federation of Indian Muslims. Two days later, he visited Rabbi Mordechai Abergel at a synagogue to personally extend his apology.
Yesterday, Imam Habib Hassan of Ba’alwie Mosque took the initiative to arrange for Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Imam Nalla to meet. Mr. Shanmugam said: “I accepted Imam Hassan’s invitation to meet Imam (Nalla) and have breakfast with him. I thought it would be good to meet and tell the Imam that I appreciated the sincerity with which he had shown his remorse.”
On 5 April 2017, Ustaz Hidayat Ismail had a heartwarming meeting with Imam Nalla to deliver donations from the public. May Allah ease his journey and our journey in developing a clean heart and the best akhlak on social media and beyond.
Photo source: Ba’alwie Mosque Singapore Facebook
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