Region | Egypt

Facebook fatwa raises eyebrows in Egypt

Al Azhar's Islamic Research Academy has refuted reports that its fatwa committee issued a ruling against the social network

  • By Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent
  • Published: 14:34 February 8, 2010
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
  • In the fatwa, Shaikh Abdul Hameed Al Attrash, an ex-official at Al Azhar, said the Facebook is a tool of harm and time-wasting.

Cairo: A fatwa or a religious decree, passed by a prominent Muslim cleric branding the use of Facebook as un-Islamic, has caused a stir among the loggers onto the popular social networking website and other Muslim clergy.

Al Azhar's Islamic Research Academy has refuted reports that its fatwa committee issued a ruling against the social network.

"The committee hasn't issued any decrees regarding Facebook," said Shaikh Sa'eed Amer, head of the academy's fatwa, or religious-edict, committee. "We haven't even had any inquiries about the religious legitimacy of using it or not."

"Such fatwas give a very bad impression about Islam and Muslims," said Hussain Abdul Azeem, a commerce school post-graduate. "I use the Facebook to communicate with my friends worldwide and learn about the latest news. Do I really commit a sin as the one who issued the fatwa claimed?" he told Gulf News.

In the fatwa, the latest in a series of controversial fatwas in this predominantly Muslim country, Shaikh Abdul Hameed Al Attrash, a former official at Al Azhar, said Facebook is a tool of harm and time-wasting, and its users are sinners. Al Azhar is the Sunni Muslim world's influential seat of learning.

"The Facebook and other networking sites could result in the proliferation of illicit affairs," Al Attrash was quoted as saying by media.

"Surfing such websites makes it easier to develop forbidden relations with others ... While one spouse is away, the other turns to chatting online, thus wasting time and falls into the trap of illicit affairs. This is an instrument that destroys family and violates Sharia (Islamic law)."

He based his opinion on the findings of a recent study released by the state-run National Centre for Criminological and Sociological Studies, which showed that one in five Egyptian men, who divorced their spouses, had affairs through the internet.

"Generalisation is against logic as anything can be good or bad depending on how one uses it," said Abdul Halim Qader, a Muslim scholar from Al Azhar.

"One can use a glass to drink water or alcohol. By the same vein, Facebook can be a useful or harmful tool of communication. It all depends on how you handle it," he told Gulf News. "Accordingly, one cannot pass a conclusive ban on it."

A recent torrent of controversial fatwas, popularised by an explosion of Islamic satellite TV stations, have triggered calls to restrict their issuance and punish those who are not qualified to make such edicts.

In May 2007, Al Azhar University, Egypt's leading governmental Islamic seminary sacked a professor after decreeing on a TV talk show that it is permissible for women to breastfeed their male colleagues at workplace as a way around segregation of women and men at work.

According to his fatwa, if a woman fed a male colleague "directly from her breast" at least five times, they would establish a family bond and thus would not violate Islamic Sharia by being together at work. 

Do social networking websites make it easier for spouses to be unfaithful? Where does ultimate blame lie? Should religious authorities be involved in online regulation?

Comments (11)

  1. Added 09:54 February 9, 2010

    I think it is wrong to say that social networking websites makes spouses easier to develop illicit affairs. If we added anybody to our friendslist, who ever visits our profile can see who are there in it. So its like an open book to the public. I assume mobiles will do much better if anybody wanna do so. Its very easy to get mobile numbers during visits to malls, parks, beaches, etc . So, mobiles should be banned, if somebody is misusing it?? Anything can be good or bad according to its usage. Most of us use facebook to communicate with our friends, share our old memories, share our photos becuase most of us are staying at different locatiions of the world. These social network websites create an atmosphere like we are together again though we are far. Therefore, it is outrageous to say Facebook is to be banned. Our religious leaders should be more involved in using their fatwas against other matters like terror, ban on hijab, corrupted rulers, fighting between muslim brothers, etc which are defaming and weakening Islam throughout the world.

    Shaheed M.A., Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 08:57 February 9, 2010

    I use my facebook account extensively and exclusively to be in touch with my classmates from my school and college days. I enjoy being in touch with them after all these years. I am pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to find atleast 90% of them if it weren't for FB.So I am totally against the idea of any control, religious or otherwise, over the usage of sites like FB. Whether it is being used with good or bad intentions depends on the users. You could use a pen to write a good article or a blasphemous one too. You cannot blame the pen for the bad words that come off it.

    Laxmi Nair, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 06:59 February 9, 2010

    Social websites do not make spouses unfaithful, they were always unfaithful to begin with, social websites are just another way for them to do it. Social websites are just that, social websites. They are used to keep in touch with family and friends. Religion should not be getting involved in this, and i do not believe that religion should be getting involved in online regulations. I highly doubt a cleric is an online expert. If people want to be unfaithful they will, it's inside the person to be unfaithful, people are just that way sometimes, they don't suddenly become unfaithful because facebook exists.

    JP, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 05:39 February 9, 2010

    I wonder why people try to include politics, religion into social networking. It's one safe & simple tool for people to stay in touch with their loved ones who are miles away from them. I don't understand how it becomes a waste of time. What ever people have to learn in their life, they will provided they have the determination for it. Illicit Affairs are not just decided by one person itself, it often happens mutually. After all we are human beings, falling in love can't be called a crime.

    Sanish Cherian, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 01:22 February 9, 2010

    The fact is that all the communication thing which are developed are all sinner in my point of view regarding face book is waste of time and take the person in sinner (islam)i just kindly request whoevere is having face book erase it from your life.spend your life in reading book of islam.u will inshaallah come to know more. Thanks.

    Sana, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 00:52 February 9, 2010

    For me, its a real media through which I am constantly reminded and given knowledge in the Hadiths and the Quran's verses. Since facebook is the only social site that gives you the status updates as SMS.. its really convenient to constantly refer and keep our Imaan on check by many inspirational Hadiths. I wont mind banning facebook (since there are misuses also) if all the other aspects of our surroundings are treated with the same passion.

    Jabir Abdul Rahman, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 00:42 February 9, 2010

    Best comment in this case is no comment really !

    Halla, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 00:29 February 9, 2010

    facebook is also a tool to decieve and send messages to mysterious elements around the world. the pictures and statements/messages are not always representing. facebook is becoming highly malpractised by spreading ideas that are harmful to self-consience and politcal main-streams. there should be check-ups in facebook. wasnt email enough for message and files sharing? the more types of facebook strategies, especially in the name of democracy, the more difficult to understant how terrorism really operates. now a days, facebook is a really prosperous way to meet the wrong people without mom/dad finding out. --------it is also a great method to spread rumours therefore the students can get bullied or fall into emotions--- we do not want that to happen in U.A.E RIGHT?

    peoples in disguise, Darwin, Australia

  9. Added 23:47 February 8, 2010

    There's reason to be corrupt all around us and whats forbidden is the most tasteful, we speak of human rights and rise up for it all the time, is it not the right of each human to choose their path? Corruption begins and ends in one's mind.. if the willpower is there to control one's desire and differentiate between right and wrong, then no outside sources can influence that, no matter how alluring it may be its not for anyone to dictate to others and use their position as a power tool just coz they can; to control the lives of others, people should have the freedom to chose right or wrong. The right to choose is in the hand of each and every individual that walks this earth, and it should be left that way.

    Jennifer G, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 22:21 February 8, 2010

    Yes, online chatting is a tool for accessing to other person's life, but at the same time it depends on the user how they use it, either as a learning tool or to develop bad relations between others. And since everybody has the right to access online sites, anyone can comment on such sites usage. The restriction can be put to speakers by their country regulators nationally...For my case, I use Facebook mostly as a commercial media for my business activities.

    Syed Alam, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  11. View more comments

Gulf News