By Maria Zain
He’s on his mobile phone; one eye is on the TV screen. She’s just made dinner and is tapping away at the iPad. She’s posting: “Tonight’s dinner: lamb stew and mashed potatoes.” She uploads the picture. He sees the picture on his mobile phone through his newsfeed. There are “likes” already. Right, dinner is ready. “Going for dinner,” he updates his status. They sit down. They say “Bismillah.”
They eat. Tap, tap, tap… Tap, tap, tap, more screen tapping. They smile. They converse. So-and-so said this on this network, she says – while searching for the particular thread. So-and-so uploaded this-and-that picture. It was gross, he explains, between sips of water. More scrolling, more tapping. Answering e-mails during dinner. Tapping “likes” through a long thread of a popularity contest.
Is this a normal (or maybe a slightly exaggerated) scene between you and your spouse? Are your mobile phones constantly signaling updates and the two computers – the one in the living room and on the kitchen counter – in your house, logged into both your social network and email accounts so you don’t miss a notification if you have to move from the television to the fridge, and back?
While all these gadgets have been part of marriage, how much of your marriage is being spent speaking to each other… without a fancy piece of technology as an interface?
Without doubt, technology makes the world grow closer, sometimes even fonder. Facebook has done wonders for some in their fields of da’wah, parenting, the sharing of interests with like-minded friends across the globe, geared for positive interaction. But there’s the ugly flipside as well. Name-calling and reputation flaming, the inciting of racist threads, the uploading of pictures of enraged drivers on the road, are all common misuses of Facebook, which many Muslims are not alien to.
But closer to home, how are the streams of e-mails from work and notifications from a myriad of social networks affecting your relationship with the person who is meant to be your closest confidante.
Do the sparks of your marriage seem pale compared to the flavorful topics in public forum? Is taking time to speak to your spouse more energy consuming than tapping away at the Galaxy Tab? Are quiet evenings spent together mostly focused in front of different screens… chatting with other people?
While all these modern forms of communication enlist us the rights to speak to friends hailing from the four corners of the globe and complete our work assignments in a flexible manner. On the other hand, the overuse of “anything” in Islam, can lead to misconduct and affect our faiths, especially if we begin to disrespect the sanctity of marriage in lieu of the fun and fancies of Facebook.
And what about protecting the sanctity of marriage? We see it all the time. Brothers and sisters speaking of their spouses through status updates and comments; some may have something positive to say, others may not.
The uploading of pictures of one’s spouse taking a nap or playing with the children or the cat; this may seem as harmless to some but an insight into a private moment, to others. How about communicating in a “social” capacity with someone who lies outside ourMahram-ship? Is that all right, because it’s in public and your spouse can “see” the interaction or is it still an interaction that is “forbidden” even if it may be of a beneficial discussion.
God-consciousness in life is obligatory upon every Muslim. Would Allah be pleased with me if I did this? If Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would visit me today, would he walk away if he heard me speaking like this? If I were one of the Sahabah (companions), would one of these actions cause me to repent immediately?
These thoughts need to flood us constantly, and even more so with the advent of technology, as while we’re plodding away on our keyboards of touch screens, all of what we do or say are also recorded as our deeds. Sometimes we tend to forget that while sharing information, and we continue to share just because we CAN share.
Would Allah be pleased with me if I participated in this discussion? Would Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) – if he were alive – “like” my comment? Would a Sahabah respond to my email if I wrote it in this manner… (Maybe I should keep my spouse on cc)? But even more so, how would all this affect my marriage?
What Spouses Stand For
The Qur’an describes the role of spouses as being garments for one another; to protect each other and to beautify each other for the sake of Allah. How many pictures of our wife do you upload? and how many “friends” can look at her, even if she is covered? How much of your husband do you share with your “Mummy Groups,” when you consider commenting in a thread?
Like it or not, these forms of communication may make or break your marriage. Perhaps it is through mutual consensus that spouses share their accounts, but at the same time, it is still permissible for spouses to have friends mutually exclusive of each other, and sometimes this is necessary to avoid Fitna that could arise in non-mahram relationships. For example, a husband shouldn’t be friends with his wife’s best buddies and vice versa.
In the end, it boils down to control and maturity. Every adult should be discerning enough to put Taqwa and modesty first before the whims and fancies or socializing online. While there is no “shame” in asking questions, even relating to content which is sexual in nature (in the halal context), there is a line that is crossed if details of an intimate relationship are revealed in public. Every Muslim adult has to be aware of proper rules when interacting in public, and nowadays, social media content is no less private.
When it boils down back to the relationship though, do you feel that there’s a machine between you and a spouse and that it constantly harasses him or her for his or her attention? Are you suffering because you can’t communicate without some gadget-like sound going off? Or if you haven’t suffered as yet, do you feel like you haven’t spoken to your spouse properly as of late – with proper eye contact? Do you want to change that?
Turn Your Mobile Off
If yes, make a pact. Work on your time management. There is time for this, and there is time for your spouse. Turn it off. Time management is critical in Islam, and even more so to create time and space for husbands and wives; garments that were chosen for each other. Turn off those gadgets during meal times, during quiet times, and during “together” time. If it is work, it can wait for a schedule. If it is a social call… then that can also wait. Turn off those gadgets… or just ignore them.
Withdrawal symptoms may set in if you’re so used to being on a social network or reading emails every 90 seconds, but once that wanes, finding the sparks of romance would probably come second nature, and you’ll find there are plenty of creative ways to communicate with your other half once again.
Complimenting each other, actually talking to each other with eye contact, sending each other love notes and buying gifts for each other are probably normal means of couples of yore. And they did perfectly fine without technology. Spousal relationships are personal and require personal interaction. Things are not going to work out in the end if spousal priorities fall below the likes of Facebook. Go on dates or take a walk. If there are children already between the two of you, this is even a bigger reason to work on your family.
But again, it’s not all bad. Technology is a positive asset of life as long as it doesn’t interfere or compromise your faith, in which could compromise an important avenue of worship – your marriage. Remember that you have free will and control over these gadgets, and you owe your spouse a responsible outlet of communication, one that is personal, kind and caring in nature. With that, your maturity and integrity in interacting with others, with or without your spouse’s knowledge is also under your own control.
Once you’ve gotten some rational schedule down to place and worked leap and bounds (or with baby steps at first) to make changes for your relationship, you can always pick up your phone and text your husband a love-note. Technology can work in our favor too. LOL it out over emoticons or share pictures privately of the children, moments that the other half may have missed while he or she was away. Your wife may appreciate an e-card in her e-mail box are even a bouquet of roses. I’m pretty sure there’s an emoticon for that too.
Technology and communication do us a great favor, but they should not and must not get in the way of our personal relationships. Especially not the one between husband and wife; the garments that are made for each other, the one person you need to shower with kindness and undivided attention and praise. So let the frivolities of technology take the back seat for most of your marriage, unless you’re sending a virtual heart, and spend time with your spouse, talking, laughing, and planning for the future, all for the sake of Allah.