Logos of US online social media and social networking service Facebook. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: For centuries, successive Grand Muftis of Egypt have weighed in on the lives of the nation’s citizens. The Muslim legal experts have issued fatwas, or religious decrees, that respond to questions seeking religious guidance on the most serious of issues, such as blasphemy, to the most trivial household matters.

Their bailiwick now includes how Muslims should act on social media.

This week, Egypt’s current Grand Mufti, Shawki Allam, ruled that buying “likes” on Facebook to falsely build up followers was “immoral” and “a fraud” - and hence prohibited under Islam.

Allam published his ruling on the Facebook page of Dar Al Ifa, the Sunni Muslim institution that is responsible for religious decisions that are primarily based on the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Allam said boosting content to promote an account, product or Facebook page is permitted under Islam as long as it’s done in a way that reflects reality.

But boosting social media interaction through fake “likes” or “comments” on a promotion is a clear violation of honesty, he said.

“If likes are fake, or electronically generated, and do not resemble real individuals, then that would be considered impermissible given that it’s a form of fraud,” the post on Dar Al Ifa’s Facebook page read.

Also calling such actions “deceptive,” Allam offered support for his ruling by citing the Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) saying: “He who deceives is not us.”

This is not the first time this year that Allam has ruled on the way technology is influencing lives.

Earlier this year, he issued a fatwa declaring that the buying and selling of bitcoin and any other cryptocurrency was equivalent to gambling, and prohibited under Islam.

He said that the digital currency was directly responsible for the financial ruin of people.

Earlier this month, Dar Al Ifta issued a fatwa prohibiting the playing of an online game called “Blue Whale” because it is believed to have prompted some participants to commit suicide. The game pushes players to go through dangerous tasks over the 50 days, including causing self-inflicted wounds.