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Caution with Content Designed to Pollute the Mind

By Fasih Malik


Apple’s Steve Jobs, prohibits his own kids from using his invention. This is something that the creators of these technologies were very well aware of. In a New York Times interview in 2011, Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple revealed that he prohibited his own kids from using the newly released iPad.

“So, your kids must love the iPad?” he was asked. “They haven’t used it,” said Jobs. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” This was a shocking discovery at the time. But current circumstances show that these CEOs were aware of the addictive elements and could foresee the dangers of these technologies.

A number of CEOs of tech companies practice similar things. There’s no denying that not all screen time is “bad” and harmful. But it’s the type of content that we are constantly exposed to. So, it’s important to make a distinction between educational and “mindless” or vain content. What each of us has to evaluate is how much of the content we consume is mindless. Experts have drawn the analogy of a diet. It is not merely about the number of calories. Rather, how many calories offer nutritional value and how many contribute to a health risk.

We are constantly bombarded with content that is vain and/or obscene. The type of content we consume affects our mood and the actions we take. This type of content adds absolutely no value to our lives. It makes us less productive and forgets about our responsibilities. And a byproduct of the onslaught of this type of content is an increase in depression and suicide rates. Research shows that the depression rate for a frequent Social Media user rises up by 27%. So, there is a clear correlation between the rise of technology over the last decade and mental health issues.

Another major downside of this type of content is that it negatively affects our moral and spiritual progress. This should come as no surprise to anyone. Our beloved Imam (aa) has addressed this issue over and over. “If the worldly desire increases so that one is engrossed in TV dramas and the Internet and is late in offering Salat, then love for Allah cannot develop. Gaining this love requires the sacrifice of desires.” (Waqfe Nau Class 08 October 2011 at Masjid Baitur Rasheed Germany.

Published AlFazl International 06 January 2012.) As Muslim youth, this brings us to the crux of the matter. How do we safeguard ourselves and take caution with the content we are exposed to? Going back to the diet analogy, we have all come across the growing trends of a gluten-free diet, veganism etc. A closer look shows that
these people are obsessed with their regimented intake and moral boundaries. So, what they do is
take caution with their diet. God tells us in the Holy Quran that a believer is one who shuns all that which is vain (23:4). The solution here becomes clear: refrain from anything that is mindless, vain, obscene etc.

Moreover, when it comes to the consumption of immoral content, the Holy Quran provides a practical and comprehensive solution, “And come not near unto adultery” (17:33). This stipulates that not only is pornography prohibited, but obscene movies, videos, music are all things that we need to stay away from. Of course, eliminating harmful content alone won’t be enough. Merely cutting down on the “bad” calories doesn’t make a person healthy. It is the consumption of nutritional calories that results in a healthy diet. So, it is equally as important to infuse the right type of content. The type of content that is educational enhances our morality. Only then do we become healthy mentally and spiritually.

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