In 2006, during summer vacation in grade 11, I had just finished an online course and had 1 month left before grade 12 started. At that time someone suggested I try something called Facebook. When I looked into it, apparently it was a service that was only open to University students before but a few months ago, it was opened to High School students. I joined it and within a few months my entire high school had dived in this service. My friends and even my acquaintances were my friends on Facebook. Poke this, like that, write on this wall, comment on that picture, etc. During the next 5 years, Facebook went through many changes (sometimes on a daily basis) which didn’t affect me, nor did they concern me. I would say I only wrote on my wall once in a while, commented on someone’s status, and liked a few images here and there. My relatives also joined Facebook. I also friended a few people from my childhood. I wasn’t a heavy Facebook user by any means but did spend enough spare time on it for sure. So far, I have not even explained the title of this article so let’s dive in that.
I am part of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The community that believes that the Messiah predicted for later days by Islam and all other major religions arrived in India in 1800’s by name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as). After his demise, a system of caliphate (Khilafat) was started in the community and currently we are on the 5th caliph (Khalifa), Mirza Masroor Ahmad (atba). Unfortunately, many fail to understand the purpose of a Khalifa. It is hard to comprehend and I by no means understand fully about Khilafat. I was taught when I was young that whatever the Khalifa says, that is what one must do since a Khalifa is divinely appointed by Allah and divinely guided in the period of their Khilafat. Many question whether this person is truly divinely appointed arise, I think asking this question is nearly equal to asking whether God exists. This isn’t the point of this article.
Now to tie what I have said so far. There was always an unofficial caution against Facebook by Ahmadiyya Muslim Community based on all the harms that come out of it but finally in January 2011, an official policy was released to allow members of the community to use Facebook cautiously. This was great because finally there was an official word on how to use Facebook and what one is allowed to do or not allowed to do (create pages on behalf of Community officials or Community itself). At this time, the community released an official Facebook page where they posted important news or videos pertaining to the community. Many people commented, liked the videos. Although, I realized that sometimes people pressed like or commented within a few seconds of a 60 minute video being posted. Either all those people had seen the videos before or they were just doing it out of love for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
In June 2011, during the annual convention in Germany the 5th Khalifa (atba) stated that “an example of shamelessness is Facebook…such things lead to shamelessness or invite towards the path of shamelessness. One is given an invitation to comment on an inappropriate picture. If this is not an example of distasteful behaviour, then what is?…On one side, we claim that we are in the community of Promised Messiah to propagate true teachings of Islam. On the other hand, we claim why are we being forced to give up our freedom by being told to stop using Facebook? These two claims can’t work simultaneously. We have to decide which of these do we have to follow. A path that takes us close to Allah or a path that leads to self-destruction. Only an Ahmadi can give a true teaching of Islam. An Ahmadi should not engage in distasteful behaviour. We did bai’at (pledge of allegiance) so we can rid the world of shamelessness but if we ourselves are engaged in this distasteful behaviour, we are essentially nullifying our bai’at”
These are pretty strong words and I personally don’t think I need to say anything anymore. Before starting to write this article, I listened to the Jalsa speech again and these words hit me even harder than before when I watched this speech on MTA live. A few days after this address, www.alislam.org (official website of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) released an official policy stating that individuals are no longer allowed to maintain accounts with a bunch of FAQ’s. The policy again emphasized that to view the official Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Facebook page, an account is not required. Within 2-3 days of the official policy being released, I deactivated my account. During those 2-3 days, I asked a few others what they are planning to do and majority came out with a straightforward no to deactivating account. My only guilt now is that I did not deactivate my account as soon as our Khalifa (atba) told us to.
During those 2-3 days where I was debating on what to do, I imagined life without Facebook. It felt really strange because I communicate with most of my relatives, my childhood and, my high school friends only through Facebook. Many tried to find loop-holes in the policy such as educational accounts are allowed or business accounts are allowed but I knew this is not what a true believer is supposed to do. I hope most realize that their closest friends are on instant messaging service and/or on twitter (which is still allowed). One can probably live without those friends, relatives who are not on instant messaging websites.
Then those words came to my mind where our Khalifa (atba) said to decide if we want to follow the path of self-destruction or the path that will please Allah? It became a no-brainer decision and it was clear that Facebook had to be deactivated. I remember it was a Friday. After completing a major course project, I deactivated my Facebook account. That sudden moment sort of hit me because I knew I am not the kind of person who will sneak back onto Facebook for a minute or two and then deactivate. Hence, this was a final bye for Facebook from my side.
The few days after Facebook, I realized I had a lot of free time. More time to spend on studying, tweeting, and most importantly remembering my God. In University, I saw people had Facebook open all the time but I had already lost interest in it within a few days. It has been nearly 2 months since I deactivated my account and honestly, I don’t miss Facebook at all which even shocks me at times considering I was on it for roughly 5 years. The purpose of this article isn’t to show that I am proud of myself for abstaining from Facebook for 2 months. I am actually grateful to Almighty Allah for giving me the opportunity to obey my beloved Khalifa (atba).
Some argue that they are using Facebook to spread message of the True Islam, Ahmadiyyat. I was once on it and I know eventually majority of academic discussions on Ahmadiyyat turn into a barrage of verbal abuse but hey, don’t take my word for it. The official Facebook policy covers this topic and explicitly states “high potential for misuse or abuse even in personal or tabligh use”, and hence the prohibition also applies to people who are trying to spread the message Islam Ahmadiyyat.
Just a few final remarks, earlier I mentioned that some people are ‘liking’ or commenting on official Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Facebook page without actually seeing the content. To substantiate my claim, when the Community posted the official Facebook policy in July, I recall someone commenting that we should use Facebook keeping these policies in mind. That was pretty clear that person had not even bothered clicking on the policy. Also, instead of number of people liking the official page going down because people are deactivating, the number has increased almost a 1000 more users. Personally, since I don’t have Facebook, I don’t know how many people have deactivated but the noise that comes from the outside world indicates that slim to none have deactivated which is quite disappointing especially when I recall our beloved Khalifa (atba)’s speech pertaining to Facebook.
To those who think Facebook is a necessity, I know enough non-Ahmadi’s who may have a Facebook account but do not touch it for months because they find it unappealing. At the same time, I know some non-Ahmadi’s who are planning to close their social network accounts because they are fed up of and are starting to realize these websites have lost all meaning.
I believe taking the initial step is probably the hardest and fully committing your heart that you will leave this path of destruction forever is hard but once you take a dive, it feels great. It feels like your bai’at has a meaning. In the bai’at, there is a line that you will always abide by any “Mahroof” (good) decision. I did not find any harm in this decision and within 2 months, I only see that our beloved Khalifa (atba) was absolutely correct in telling us to stop using Facebook. I will end by a quote of my beloved Khalifa (atba), “Accepting everything said by the Khalifa is real obedience rather than seeking clarification. Indeed, if needed, things can be dealt with at a later stage but the essence is in prompt obedience.”