Segregated Blogging

Via Sister Soljah, I found a post on a blog titled Blogging: an Islamic perspective. I was intrigued.

The blogger divides all blogs into 3 categories: personal, topical, and a mix of the two. His criticism is directed at personal blogs.

For starters, all bloggers know that since their blogs are public, their entries are accessible by anyone and everyone. As such, every blogger (but specifically a Muslim one) should be extremely cautious about what he/she is divulging in the blog entries. Many times, the contents of a single entry don’t seem to be of much concern, but when read collectively with past entries, they can provide an entire profile on the personality, character, and even physical traits of a person.

This is a regular concern for everyone with a blog. He gives it an “Islamic” touch later.

Islam, with its emphasis on modesty and its cautious approach to gender interaction, strongly discourages members of the opposite sex from openly divulging their personality, character, and physical traits (among other things) to each other.

The old interaction between genders bugaboo!

Originally, when the concept of distant communication in real-time was non-existent, the prohibitions that were laid down were for physical, face-to-face contact. However, the advent of telephones, the Internet, SMS, digital cameras, and e-mail, has made it possible to have unhindered communication and interaction without any physical contact whatsoever. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between the two forms of communication (in terms of actual presence vs. distant) from a religious ruling point of view. Therefore, the entire concept of modesty, “lowering the gaze”, and “covering ones self properly” must be extended to all forms of contact. Thus, they must be applied in a holistic sense, to all our actions, and not only to physical interaction.

The author is stretching his logic too thin in my opinion. Interaction on the web is not the same as in real life, though some of the same norms do (or should) apply.

Similarly, bloggers must be careful about what they write, lest they divulge traits about themselves that they should otherwise not be making known to the opposite gender, while at the same time, leading the readers into sin by hooking them on to reading on and learning more about the things they really don’t need to know, and shouldn’t know. Some devoted readers even end up forming an affectionate, emotional attachment with the author.

The fact that the above is in fact possible has proven itself time and time again, with bloggers receiving marriage proposals and other suggestive comments through various means such as e-mail, the comments box on their blogs, etc. It is highly unlikely that a stranger would send off a marriage proposal unless he/she was able to get to know the author well enough to feel comfortable in taking such a step.

I guess he hasn’t read my post regarding commenters looking for marriage.

And is he saying that anything that leads to marriage proposals is banned in Islam? Where would that leave society?

As long as the readers of the personal journal can’t communicate with the author, it is a one-way communication. However, the negative aspects of personal journals are multiplied when a mechanism is made available for readers to leave comments for and interact with the author and with others, without any restrictions. As witnessed on some blogs, the ability to leave comments on the blog (either in the form of a ‘comments’ link after each post or a ‘shout’ box) can lead to unhindered communication between members of the opposite gender.

He comes out against blog commenting. Big surprise!

With the Islamic principles of modesty as a backdrop, it must be made clear that cross-gender interaction is permissible when needed, for as much as it is needed. Anything beyond that is impermissible.

May be TypeKey can provide the commenter’s gender as well which will allow bloggers to block comments from those of the opposite gender, just like spam.

In the end, he provides some alternatives to personal blogs.

As an alternative, one can have a private blog on one’s own computer. As well, a gender-specific Yahoo! group can be created for members of the same gender to post their entries. Some blogging sites allow for password-protected entries, through which one can restrict and limit who can read the entries. Soon, some Islamic sites may begin brother- and sister-only blogging services, Insha-Allah.

Great! First, our college MSA came up with separate mailing lists for guys and girls. Now, he wants to create gender-segregated blogging.

Author: Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer

23 thoughts on “Segregated Blogging”

  1. We need to tell Yasmine of ramblingmonologues that she is a walking haraami.

    I have trouble lowering my gaze when I’m at her blog. It is just so sexy. That font. Ohhhh THAT FONT! OH and that quote- it is like.. a houri typed it!

    Should I tell her, or do you want to?

  2. Yeah, anybody who’s been around mailing lists or discussion forums for Muslims has heard all of this before. I’ve got no problem if somebody wants to create a sisters-only blog or a brothers-only blog, or if they choose to only read blogs that are gender-appropriate in this matter, because they think that’s better for them, but making it a general rule for everybody, that’s what I don’t agree with.

  3. the solution is to make the internet segregated; Maleternet only provides users with suitable contents for brothers, and Femternet is for sisters. For example why brothers should have access to Victoria’s Secret ?

  4. Hijabman: You go ahead. Oh and “haraami” has some very different connotations in Urdu than how you are using it!

    Al-Muhajabah: Everyone is free to do whatever they want. It’s the idea that their interpretation is the only correct one and should be imposed on others that I find strange. Plus a very large proportion of discussion focuses on gender issues.

    Sheikh Thomas: May be these were the “Internets” Bush was referring to in the debate.

  5. This is a logical extention of the purdhah/burka/veil system followed by some Islamic sub-cultures.
    Non-relatives related Internet use by girls is also discouraged among Hindu Indians. The patriarchy knows that the Internet can lead to a loss of control over the mind, and potentially over the body.

  6. Blogging challenges the purdhah/burka/veil system followed by some Islamic sub-cultures.
    The patriarchy knows that the Internet can lead to a loss of control over the mind, and potentially over the body. Religion is an effective show-stopper.
    By the way, non-relatives related Internet use by girls is also discouraged among Hindu Indians.

  7. I am really really surprised. It seems so ridiculous, and am not sorry for using this word as no other could’ve conveyed my feelings.

    Things we write do affect people who read them and that is the fundamental rationale behind the idea of “writing” and letting it reach others. No one, whosoever, is able to isolate the biasing, his/her personality may impart on the work that he/she produces. And if you see from rather a closer perspective, thats is really what we intend to find out when we say we read someone.

    Feedback is the key to compensation of deviation in the writing. It has always been there and would remain so. Accelerating it (using comments, drop-boxes, etc.) would only refine the discourse in a faster way.

    Why is it so that things that might lead to marriage following a non-conventional approach are taken so negatively by some muslims?

  8. It is highly unlikely that a stranger would send off a marriage proposal unless he/she was able to get to know the author well enough to feel comfortable in taking such a step.

    Hah!

    That’s a pretty naive assumption he made. I could provide plenty of pre-blog, pre-web, early 1990’s evidence to the contrary.

  9. Come now Zack…the mailing lists are segregated for efficiency. There is no need for the boys to receive e-mails about women’s events.

    Dear HijabMan: “Haraami” means bastard, or illegitimate child =)

  10. Shareen: Interesting that Indians in general have similar issues.

    Asif: I don’t understand what these guys are thinking.

    Fazia: Definitely.

    Nida: Efficiency? It certainly is more efficient to have separate lists if the sexes have to have separate activities. But that’s another discussion.

  11. My my my ! ! ! I have all my life considered myself to be a conservative and far behind the present advanced world. I have also been against mixing of males and females. Now according to “Blogging: an Islamic perspective” I come to know that I have been doing just the opposite by reading and writing blog. What are we up to ?

    If this theory is taken up, just having a TV or radio or cassette player in the house is also a sin because any time one can switch on and possibly see the opposite sex person.

    Politicians generally talk of issues and non-issues. Now, I understand what are non-issues.

  12. HijabMan, don’t bring me into this drama, especially since you’ve gone and called me a bastard while you were at it. Thanks a lot.

    Anyway, amusement aside…

    Eat Halal Guy brings up some interesting points. However, I fail to understand what exactly would be wrong with divulging one’s “personality, character, and physical traits” through a weblog. I mean, okay, if we’re talking about sexually explicit photos or something, then yes, I can see where we could be crossing the boundaries of modesty or good taste.

    But the general rule I personally follow is that if I’m writing about something that would be really obvious or apparent to anyone I met in real life – whether male or female – then there is no reason why I should hold back from addressing it on the blog. (Hence the references to, for example, flip-flops, my height, headwraps, dangly earrings, or my skin tone.) I think my personality, and perhaps some of my character, is readily apparent to those whom I have real-life interactions with, whether they are strangers or friends, in which case I don’t mind if that comes across on the blog as well.

    Someone brought up the example of a mixed-audience in Sister Soljah’s comment box, saying that one should feel comfortable blogging about whatever topic one could modestly discuss in front of a mixed audience of both males and females. Of course, the interpretation of modesty and cross-gender interaction and the level of comfort may differ from person to person, but I think that sister’s point is one I try to go by as well.

    Sorry, Zack, I think I went off on lengthy tangents, but it was an interesting post to think about.

  13. I look forward with interest to men and women only blogs. Of course, on the internet, we can never be sure of anyone’s true identity. The administrators of the “Male Internet” will have to conduct DNA sex tests, just like the International Olympic Committee does. I’m not sure waht is to be done with transgendered and intersex (ambiguous genitalia) Muslims. Perhaps separate internets?

    Going further, Montreal’s own Sikander Hashmi surely knows that any form of artistic expression contains elements of one’s personality and character. Perhaps women shouldn’t read books written by men? And even cooking is a personal art form — men should cook for men and women should cook for women, n’est pas?

    Ultimately, the most conservative position is to sit alone in a dark room eating (homemade) bread.

  14. The discussion has brought up interesting points with fair diversity. I am an old man according to Pakistan standard (perhaps, young according to Japanese standard). All my life, I have been listening people’s comments on male – female mixing. Every time, I was more confused. Two extremities being
    (1) Mixing is when man and women are something like locked in a room
    (2) If women just steps out of her house.
    The in-betweens are also very interesting but let us confine ourselves to the blogging.

    My 50 years self-study of Islam tells me that most of the things depend upon the person’s imagination and desire. This equally applies to internet. Internet facility started in Pakistan hardly a decade back. In these less than 10 years, I have learnt a lot about health, science, history, geography, religion and politics through internet. Further I made friends with some high class journalists and religious scholars whom I have yet to see physically. Discussion with them provides me mental health. Blogging is serving to polish the assimilated knowledge through discussion. Of course there are blogs not even worth of the 5 letters of it. Why even think of such blogs ?

    Now, if somebody says, indulging in all this is un-Islamic, then he / she should study Qur’aan and Hadith once again and try to understand it because he / she has failed to get the message.

    On the other hand the best action goes waste if a person’s desire is other than to obey Allah and His Prophet or in his / her imagination he / she has something other than pleasing Allah.

  15. Leena: Thanks for that link. The discussion in that thread seems odd to me.

    Dad: So true. His logic would ban everything.

    yasmine: I think the true substance of the “blogging: Islamic perspective” post is what you have identified: How to behave online and how that relates to real-life interactions. Everyone has different views on that.

    Ikram: transgendered and intersex (ambiguous genitalia) Muslims

    May be Sikander Hashmi can declare them non-Muslims to make everything black and white?

    Soljah: There are lots more comments like that on all my marriage-related posts.

  16. Internet haram!

    While I have no problem with how others may interpret the faith for themselves, I feel obligated to point out the troubling subtext of the argument that blogging is not halal…

  17. I just recall a proverb in Urdu “Boora bayta aur khota Paisa waqt pay kaam aata hai”
    So this post has made me refresh my knowledge. I surfed my library of Qu’aan, Hadith and Fiqh to find some thing supporting the view expressed by “Blogging: an Islamic perspective” but failed.

  18. You know, contrary to what popular opinion in this comment section seems to think, this wasn’t a fatwa by Ziad. He never claimed to be an authority (as he isn’t).

    Anyone who had seen his blog before he wrote this would know that he rivalled yasmine for sheer number of words (yes, is possible).

    This was effectively a blog entry and some thoughts he was putting forward – attempting to remain objective.

    The crux of the piece, imperfect as it is, is that one should be wary of personal gender interaction in Islam. Fair enough, popular position. Blogs do have negative aspects and things we overlook when we post about our breakfast etc – notice there is nothing there against themed blogs or (and it’s possible) objective reporting (for example, he’s still going at his journalism blog: http://journalismjourney.blogspot.com/).

    Some people agreed, some disagreed. Some people realised they weren’t actually comfortable with all those sisters commenting on their blogs, some didn’t mind. Each to their own.

    Personally I disagreed with some of the things Ziad said, but I respect his right to have his view.

    Still, these type of discussions are always interesting, especially when the other side is there to discuss with you. Come on down to (shamelessplug) sunniforum and raise issues that you’d like to address (the structure of the forum was a compromise, really).

    Who knows, it may be interesting.

    Although I would say that some of your character assumptions are pretty far off the mark. Bad show.

  19. Mossy: this wasn’t a fatwa by Ziad.

    Technically true, but notice his statements:

    “Many Muslims have begun to wonder about the religious ruling regarding blogs. Armed with personal experience from being an avid blogger in the past, this humble servant will try to wrestle with that question in this article.”

    And also this:

    “If it makes sense, please join the Drop-the-Blog campaign.”

    So may be not a fatwa, but at least a religious campaign.

    Some people agreed, some disagreed.

    There wasn’t much disagreement at Sunniforum. I remember only one person disagreeing.

    Personally I disagreed with some of the things Ziad said,

    I would like to hear what you think about it since I couldn’t find your views on the two threads on Sunniforum.

    I respect his right to have his view.

    As do I.

    some of your character assumptions are pretty far off the mark.

    What character assumptions?

  20. I don’t know why so many Muslims are afraid of marriage… so what if someone reads your writings and digs your thought process and afterwards takes the proper steps in trying to get married… What’s wrong with that.. isn’t that better than scoping people out randomly at conventions and then following up on an interest developed solely based on one’s physical appearance?

    And checking out blogs is way better then checking out biodatas and CV’s…

    but now if peole are putting up photo blogs to solicit marriage… I can understand if thats seen as being undesirable for Muslims to do.

    [Check out my blog if you like what I have to say, or well even if you totally disagree]

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