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The Screenshot Syndrome!

How to Reap Spiritual Benefit by Overcoming a Seemingly Common Misconduct

The Screenshot Syndrome!
If we are sharing conversations of people left and right behind their backs and without their permission, how then are we going to not fall into backbiting and slandering at some point, which are major sins?

I know this isn’t a big deal.

I know.

For God’s sake, there are wars, catastrophes, plights, traumas, psychological, emotional, spiritual, existential problems around the world… and you chose to write about this!

I know. Yes.

But for some reason, I still feel compelled to write about it. Maybe because it has become so common in my circles that I want to say out loud: ‘enough is enough’!

Maybe.

In all cases, all I’m hoping for is for someone to read this, get reminded about a bad habit they may be doing… and just stop doing it. That’s it.

Now, what’s the problem? What are we talking about here?

Well, many a times, I—and probably you as well- would receive a message from someone containing a screenshot of a *private* conversation they had with someone else. When I ask if the person took permission before sharing this with me, the person would most commonly reply, “Why? What’s wrong with that? I just want to show you what happened.”

Well, the problem is that this other person doesn’t know that his/her words will be shared with a third person. It is a violation of the trust they placed in you. When he/she were typing those words, they were only speaking to you, they didn’t have in mind that their words will be read and shared behind their backs without permission by other people. This is a violation of their privacy, honor– and again, the trust they placed in you.

Lately, I’ve been receiving screenshots containing private conversations between friends, siblings, employees/employers, married couples….etc.

Subhan Allah! Can you imagine the sanctity and privacy of what happens in a family, at work, between couples… being shared and exposed with other people like that!

A married couple have been divorced as a result of a ‘screenshot incident’- I’ve been told. The screenshot involved sharing family secrets with others, which aggravated familial problems beyond reconciliation.

Now, you might think that this is a trivial issue. You might think it is only a problem if this screenshot involves backbiting or exposing secrets—which we’re immune against somehow we might think!

But the problem is, if we are not training ourselves to control what seems to be a “small issue” how then will we be able to control ourselves when it comes to the bigger issues?

Take for example the verse from Surat An-Nur:

{Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do.} (24:30)

The major sin Allah is drawing our attention to here is falling into zina (sexual intercourse outside lawful marital boundaries). But Allah didn’t only say to not fall into zina. He ordered guarding the gaze… the seemingly small act that could remotely lead into the major violation.

Now, those innocent screenshots you might be taking/sending/receiving casually and uncontrollably might lead to major problems. In fact, they might be a sign of a major problem.

They might be a sign of a hard or heedless heart, a heart that isn’t conscious, concerned or compassionate enough to shield the honor and privacy of others. A heart that doesn’t observe Allah in what is being said or done.

If we are sharing conversations of people left and right behind their backs and without their permission, how then are we going to not fall into backbiting and slandering at some point, which are major sins? How then are we not going to fall into creating major disputes between people, which are major corruption on earth? How then are we going to guard the honor and sanctity of others?

See, there is an incredibly beautiful spiritual benefit that could be reaped from being conscious of an issue like that: Attaining Taqwa!

Attaining consciousness of Allah, fear of Him and mindfulness of Him.

Taqwa is a very precious attribute. It is a major quality of the believer.

The Prophet said:

“The fear of Allah (Taqwa) and good morals (Akhlaq) are the two major characteristics which lead to Paradise.” (At-Tirmidhi and Al-Hakim)

And he said:

“A Muslim is a brother to a Muslim. He should neither deceive him nor lie to him, nor leave him without assistance. Everything belonging to a Muslim is inviolable for a Muslim; his honor, his blood and property. Piety (taqwa) is here (and he pointed out to his chest thrice).” (At-Tirmidhi).

Do you see why this is beautiful?

Spiritual benefit comes from being deeply concerned about others, protecting and honoring them. He [saw] mentioned the taqwa of the heart, the deep consciousness of Allah, after talking about honoring our brothers/sisters, not lying to them or deceiving them or violating them in any manner.

Purification of the heart and attaining precious jewels like taqwa require discipline and training. These are not matters we simply read about or acquire suddenly. They require conscious effort and concern for the goodness of the self and others.

So, if you wish to avoid this seemingly viral screenshot phenomenon for the sake of attaining taqwa, then here are some tips:

1- Be conscious and in control. Don’t take a screenshot of a conversation you’re having with someone and share it with a third person UNLESS you have taken permission. If it happened between the two of you, it should remain between the two of you, unless that person gave you permission to share this conversation for a legitimate reason.

2- If you received a screenshot of that sort, please do not read it. Before you open it, ask the person, “Did you take permission before sending me this?” If not, then say “I’m sorry, I can’t read it.”

3- Remember that every time you do that, you might be doing dawah, reminding yourself and others of Allah; intending to spread peace and maintain peace and honor the sanctity of other people in every way possible.

4- Remember that it’s in our benefit to conceal not reveal each other’s faults, by doing that, we hope for our own faults to be concealed and not shared on the Day of Judgement.

“If anyone conceals a Muslim’s fault, Allah will conceal his fault on the Day of resurrection.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

5- Take intention of being from Al-Mutaqeen (Those who have taqwa. Those who are righteous, who fear Allah, who are mindful and conscious of Him).

Look what Allah said about them in the Quran:

{Indeed, Allah loves al-mutaqeen.} (3: 76)

{Indeed, al-mutaqeen will be in a secure place.} (44: 51)

{Indeed, al-mutaqeen will be among gardens and springs.} (51: 15)

{Indeed, al-mutaqeen will be among gardens and rivers.} (54: 54)

6- Next time you take a screenshot of a conversation you’re having with someone to share it with someone else, think again! Betraying the trusts is never the trait of a believer.

The Prophet said: “There are three signs of a hypocrite: when he speaks, he tells lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he is entrusted, he betrays his trust.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

When he is entrusted, he betrays his trust. We shall never break our trusts. Never. Not in any way.

Finally, remember that such technological advancements are supposed to be there to help people accomplish their purpose of spreading goodness and peace on earth, not division and corruption. We need to be in control of technological means, not let them control us.

Being conscious of these seemingly little details will inevitably help us become more conscious of Allah and more in control of our nafs.

May Allah make us among those who are conscious of Him in words and actions, not those who are heedless… not those who harm others with oblivious minds and hearts!

Please share with us your insights and experiences with this issue in the comments sections.


About Dina Mohamed Basiony

Dina Mohamed Basiony is a writer based in Cairo, Egypt. She is the Chief Editor of ProductiveMuslim.com. She specializes in Islam and spirituality. Dina holds an MA and BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from the American University in Cairo.

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