Generally speaking, mass media are tools for the transfer of information or ideas to both the general and a specific public. As we are living in an age of information explosion, the role of mass media is even more important and crucial in setting the agenda and the representation of information and ideas.
Experts of the subject believe that mass media extend “people’s ability to communicate, to speak to others far away, to hear messages and to see things that would be unavailable without media.” The employment of mass media to disseminate news has in effect reduced the size of the world and now we call it a global village. Mass media tools are capable of facilitating short-term, intermediate and long-term effects on audiences.
Mass media reaches a large number of people with a common message. It has firmly entrenched its roots in our daily life and now it is hard to survive without it. Telecommunication, television, radio, phones and computers have brought people of the world close to each other. The globalised world today is witnessing the rapid growth of social media. All walks of life, whether young or old, children or adult, male or female, no one wants to be left out of the world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and many more. At present, around 65 percent of the world’s population has internet connection. Among these, India alone has 696 million users and according to statista.com the number will cross more than 820 million at the end of this year.
Islam does not impede on progress or modernisation. It has always been at the forefront of progress and development of human society and history is witness to it. However, it is not unreasonable to state that the blessing of social media today has pretty much flipped on its head, creating phenomena that are very worrying. Despite the overwhelming advantages of mass media, there are many things propagated through mass media which are disadvantageous to society. Elements of wickedness have surfaced, grown, spread, and plagued our society through social media. Not only the ‘awrah’ (intimate parts of the body, for both men and women, which must be covered with clothing) lie uncovered all over the place, but exposing and disgracing others openly has become common. Many ideologies which are harmful for society are being spread through both mass media and social media.
The Muslim ummah today spends a lot of time browsing through social media, compared to the time spent browsing on verses of the Holy Qur’an or any other related work. How many of us actually browse through material that pertains to spirituality, religion, and good morals? How much material or content that is related to dawah, advice, or noble akhlaaq is fed to us via social media?
Let us be fearful with the admonishment from Allah (S.W.T): “Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason (Sura Al-Anfal 8: 22).”
Day after day, this phenomenon is becoming increasingly worrying. Porn is easily accessible on the internet and more than 2.5 billion emails that are sent daily are actually pornographic material. According to research carried out by Indiatimes, none among the Muslim states are in top 20 countries on the planet that watch the most pornography, but India remains at 3rd position. The data was delivered by India’s leading news portal on basis of the search queries that originated from various countries.
There is credible research which concluded that 60 percent of teenagers committed zinaa (fornication) due to watching pornography on the internet. The reality in India and around the world today is that 90 percent of school and college students actually browse through porn sites unintentionally because those sites are hiding behind “appropriate” websites and terminologies.
This is the reality that must be confronted thoroughly so that the imaan that has been built for many years will not be easily torn because of a picture or news piece. In the wake of a multitude of news and stories spawning all over social media and its like, let us reinvigorate ourselves and those around us with the message from Allah that we remain cautious regarding every news that is conveyed to us. As far as the ethics of journalism are concerned, from the Qur’anic point of view the following guidelines may be taken into consideration, as Allah says in al-Qur’an:
“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 (Sura Al-Hujurat 49:06).”
Let us contemplate on the Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (RA), who reported the Rasulullah as saying: “A slave of Allah may utter a word without thinking whether it is right or wrong, (then) he may slip down in the fire as far away a distance equal to that between the east and the west (Sahih Al Bukhari: 6478).”
Allah (SWT) had also reminded us in al-Qur’an: “When the two receiving angles receive (every human act to record it), seated (one) on the right and (one) on the left, not a single word is uttered by one but there is a watcher near him, ready (to record) (Sura al Qaf: 18-19).”
The writer is a research scholar in Islamic Studies at IUST. [email protected]