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Are Muslims Losing Their Empathy On Social Media?

It’s easy to let Satan allow us to feel let down by Allah and it’s natural to feel jealous regarding the blessings of others, but I promise that you’ll surely receive rewards for both your pain and your patience if you do your best to not let the negativity consume you.

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It’s easy to let Satan allow us to feel let down by Allah and it’s natural to feel jealous regarding the blessings of others, but I promise that you’ll surely receive rewards for both your pain and your patience if you do your best to not let the negativity consume you.

As I absent-mindedly scroll through my Instagram feed, I’m convinced more and more that the Muslim social media culture is becoming more toxic by the day and is enticing the closeted narcissists among us to creep out and show themselves.

From the young hijabi start-up influencers to Muslim celebrities, we can all agree that the majority of them are on social media to promote an ideal lifestyle and must-haves according to the ever-changing trends.

The few influencers I actually like to follow and work with are realistic, funny, real, focused on their work, and will share the bad aspects of daily life too, as well as the good, but I believe the others are causing a crisis for millennials and even those from the 90s generation.

A few weeks ago, I came across a post in which Mark Zuckerberg was talking about his new virtual reality project ‘The Metaverse’. The aim of this project is to get as many people as possible to “live their best lives” via a digital platform run by holograms and mind-blowing artificial intelligence.

At the moment, influencers who are “living their best lives” (or pretending to) are those who are simply being over-paid for the low-effort marketing they do because they have thousands of followers. Many spend less than a minute promoting various brands that give them enough money every month to spend on a luxury lifestyle, travelling, clothes, and “things”, which is what makes these people so admired and special, you could say, to their followers.

It has also encouraged a surge of young Muslim women in particular, as young as 16, to want to be influencers and they become obsessed about getting many likes and followers, because of the money they know they could earn from paid business collaborations. Not only can this obsession affect their mental health (because if they don’t get likes and follows on their posts they can become depressed and feel worthless), but also their personal relationships too with friends, family and spouses.

Some Muslim women lose their deen, morals, principles, and respect by posting what they believe is “necessary” to gain as many followers as possible and waste an incredible amount of time doing so. This can include a major over-share of their personal life, provocative photos, the removal of the hijab, and other things.

When the Metaverse project comes into action and everyone is able to live as digital beings in the way they wish, influencers will eventually lose their appeal, as people will be too busy exploring the world and enjoying this life in the way they please, now that they have “the privilege” to live like successful influencers too. 

We know the success of an influencer is based on the number of followers he or she has and so it’s in their best interest to post about things that appeal to people and that’s “the good life” (i.e., looking good, having lots of money to spend, eating the best food, going to the best places and having the best friends, families and/or partners).

The current obsession with following the lives of influencers is of course very worrying, considering how much time people already spend on their smartphones and social media and are distracted from more important things in life. So, you can only imagine what effect The Metaverse will have on people.

While it will have its advantages like everything else we use, it will definitely take the majority of people away from reality, from Allah, their purpose in life, and from their sense of morality too (your hologram will be able to do literally anything!). All you’ll need to do is wear glasses that’ll transport you to wherever you’d like to go, like some scene from a sci-fi movie.

Until that project comes to fruition (and before Muslim influencers start getting paid lots of money to promote it as a lifestyle), it’s important to take some time to think about our exposure to other people’s lives and how Muslim influencers and other Muslims who love to show off their financial status, blessings (rizq) and them “living their best life”, are being allowed by people to influence them and the way they choose to live.

I say allowed here, because it’s up to us who we choose to follow and give importance to. Without people’s follows, likes and comments, people lose their fame and status online. Abu Hurairah (ra) narrated that The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: 

“The worst of my nation are the garrulous, the braggarts, and the pompous. The best of my nation are those with the best character.” (Al-Adab al-Mufrad, 1308)

In Islam, showing off the blessings Allah has given has detrimental effects on the blessed individual and the mental health and faith of other people who may be jealous of their blessings and are generally struggling in life, which will affect society as a whole.

As a counsellor I often hear women and men say how they’re losing their faith in Allah and they’re starting to become resentful and angry with Him, because He hasn’t given them what He’s given other people – and those people aren’t helping by rubbing it in their faces. This is a dilemma for some practicing Muslims who try their best to live a pious life and work hard, but still don’t see the same results or get the same blessings as those who aren’t so practicing (or not practicing at all).

It is good to assume that the majority of people will be happy for us when we share our blessings, but unfortunately, not everyone has the same positive mindset as Tony Robbins and can restrain their feelings of jealousy, hate, bitterness, and anger towards others.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told us many times to keep our blessings private so that they aren’t taken away from us by people’s envy. Mu’adh Ibn Jabal reported that The Prophet (pbuh) said:

“Seek help in the fulfilment of your needs by being discrete, for everyone who is given a blessing will be envied.” (Al-Mu’jam al-Kabir, 16644)

So, even if you’re planning to do something good, don’t mention it until it’s done, as Allah may not will for it to happen and envy may take it from you.

Despite The Prophet’s (pbuh) repeated warnings, many narcissistic Muslims simply don’t care if they’re envied or hated for their blessings, as it makes them feel good when they receive such a reaction, not comprehending the extent to which their blessings can turn into hardships for them. Before they know it, their blessings are taken away from them, but they don’t show that on social media. They have a mission to continue showing others that they’re happy and successful even when they’re not.

I know someone personally who pretends to be successful but is spending from her overdraft because of the shame she wants to avoid, after all the bragging she did online when she had her blessings. These people need to keep up appearances and their followers are being fooled. If Allah hasn’t taken away their blessings after them deliberately teasing people and making them feel inadequate, then He’s delayed their hardships for a later time, i.e., divorce, bankruptcy, and loss of life and health.

Sometimes, these hardships are so great that it humbles an individual and brings them back down to earth, such as the death of their child or a disease. If someone is humbled by their hardship then it’s a sign of mercy from Allah, as He’s saved that person from being destroyed by their ego and arrogance. 

“Worship Allah and join none with Him [in worship]; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, the poor, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer [you meet], and those [slaves] whom your right hands possess. Verily, Allah does not like the proud and boastful.” (Al-Qur’an, 4: 36)

When Allah tells us to be good to others in this verse, it includes being compassionate and considerate of other people’s feelings, especially those who are less fortunate than us. It is the right of every Muslim that his or her feelings aren’t disregarded or belittled, otherwise narcissism will spread and that’s what we’re seeing now in our societies as people are losing their empathy towards others.

Here’s a list of the different types of obsessive showing off that many Muslims and influencers love to do on social media and how it’s affecting their followers.

1. Showing off the joys of owning luxury things.

While there are many people out there who work hard for their money and are entitled to enjoy it, there’s absolutely no need to share the designer clothes, cars, furniture, jewellery, and shoes you buy with the world for validation, attention, praise, and acknowledgment unless you have a personality disorder that makes you attach your value and level of success to material things.

Sometimes people will post a few things here and there to gain some harmless recognition for their achievements, but ultimately, they may not know (or do know) that the majority of people won’t be jumping for joy for them, even if they’re friends and family members.

Promoting a luxury lifestyle, such as filming the exotic places you go to, the grand house you live in, documenting all the luxury furniture you’re buying and the first-class cabins you’re travelling in all make people feel bad about the mediocre lives they’re living and believe they’re seriously missing out.

There are many hard-working people who are struggling financially, but for some reason are unable to reach financial success like others and so, if we say that the majority of people on social media aren’t financially successful and living a luxury lifestyle, then it’s realistic to assume that most of those people will be secretly and openly jealous and envious.

People must also remember that Muslims who live in poverty, in difficult war conditions, and under oppressive rulers are also watching what people are doing and it’s making them feel a lot worse. 

2. Showing off a beautiful face and body.

This is the most common form of bragging and involves the bombardment of posts on our home pages that sexualise and glamorise the hijab, of heavily filtered and photoshopped selfie photos and videos of people to make them “look better”, half-naked gym mirror selfies, shiny bodybuilders, faces full of heavy face-structure altering makeup and very frequent tightly-clothed body posts.

The vanity and narcissism some people display is truly nauseating and the follows and praise-full comments they receive not only encourage them to keep posting, but has caused many men and women (followers) to feel insecure about their own bodies, the way they wear hijab, the clothes they wear, their weight and how they look in general.

To add to this, many Muslim influencers, Arabs especially, are regularly posting about beauty trends, plastic surgeries, and beauty treatments, such as lip fillers that are pushing young women to have unnecessary procedures to change the way they look to resemble them and get some attention.

The sad thing is that most women who had these promoted procedures and surgeries, looked much better before. One of Satan’s promises to God is that he’ll get people to change His creation to prove that humans are ungrateful for what God gave them.

“… ‘I will command them so they will change the creation of Allah.’ And whoever takes Satan as an ally instead of Allah has certainly sustained a clear loss.” (Al-Qur’an, 4:119)

3. Showing off husbands and wives.

Muslims are meant to be protective of one another when they get married, to avoid fitnah (temptations from the opposite sex), and preserve a good relationship. However, many Muslims are using their good-looking partners as props and trophies in their photos and videos to add value to their self-esteem.

The “look how lucky I am to have such a handsome or beautiful spouse” is enough to make any normal person cringe. I’ve even seen video posts by hijabi women of their husbands sleeping, topless, swimming, and in the gym as an attempt to make other women envious of them.

Some men do it too with their wives, as we’re unfortunately living in a generation of many ‘dayooths’ (men who have no jealousy or feelings of protectiveness over their women from the male gaze). Their wives get endless likes and comments from male admirers and their husbands accept it, because the more social engagement they get, the more appealing their page will be to businesses that could collaborate with them.

More men are normalising the show of affection in their posts, with their wives clinging onto them like koalas and planting kisses on their cheeks. I never understood how people enjoy their quality time together when their main concern is making sure people see what they’re doing and constantly have their phones out to document their private lives and what goes on inside their homes to thousands of strangers.

I find it even more disturbing when strangers can see what someone’s bedroom looks like, especially when this behaviour comes from niqabi women too with their husbands who look like they don’t know what’s going on half the time. If Muslims aren’t posting about their partner’s good looks then they’re regularly posting about how happy they are, how in love they are, how great their partners are, what their partners have done for them, what their partners have bought for them and where they’ve been.

All this is great, when kept in private. If these Muslims had compassion they’d think of all their brothers and sisters who can’t afford to get married, who aren’t blessed with a loving and supportive partner, who are struggling to get married, who are going through a stressful divorce, who have partners betraying them, who have partners who don’t do anything or much for them, who are being abused by their partners and experiencing domestic violence and so on.

This creates problems in marriages too when people start to compare their relationships with bragging Muslims on social media and when people are encouraged to find love in unlawful ways to experience the same happiness quicker than if they were to get married.

4. Showing off sins.

Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more prevalent with Muslims openly sinning and normalising it.

An example that comes to mind are the numerous influencers who are taking off their hijab (for various reasons). Many Muslim men are also promoting tattooed bodies, having girlfriends, going to clubs, and drinking.

Abu Hurairah (ra) narrated that The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: 

“Everyone from my nation will be forgiven except those who sin in public. Among them is a man who commits an evil deed in the night that Allah has hidden for him, then in the morning he says: O people, I have committed this sin! His Lord had hidden it during the night but in the morning, he reveals what Allah has hidden.” (Sahiḥ Muslim, 2990)

The main reason why it’s so important to not publicise and normalise sins is to prevent others from being encouraged to do them too. When sins are normalised in a positive way, those people will become responsible for the sins of all who were influenced by them to commit them. Of course, many people don’t see them as sins or their consequences on society and this in itself is a big problem. 

“Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason [and follow their desires].” (Al-Qur’an, 8: 22)

5. Showing off engagements, weddings, new homes, pregnancies, baby showers, and beautiful healthy children.

It is always good to remind ourselves that not everyone gets the same blessings and that Allah tests our patience concerning what we love and want, so that when we get them, we appreciate them.

So, if people are struggling being single, chaste, and are unable to find a suitable marriage partner then seeing other people post endlessly about their engagements will sting and can trigger depression. The same goes for people who show off the amazing wedding they had, knowing there are many people out there who aren’t able to or didn’t have their dream wedding.

I saw a woman post her Nikah ceremony video recently to show off her diamond ring and how large her dowry was, which can cause many Muslim women to feel inadequate and undeserving of such things. Buying a first home or having a man provide a nice home for his wife will also hurt many women whose husbands can’t afford to buy a house, refuse to buy one, or didn’t make the effort to furnish it as nicely as other husbands did. 

Pregnancy and birth announcements are also very painful for couples who are unable to have children, are finding it difficult to conceive, have had a child die at birth or shortly after, have experienced miscarriages and who have children with disabilities or physical/learning problems.

I’ve seen some parents compare their children to more beautiful children on social media, which is incredibly sad. Many have also felt really bad and guilty for not being able to afford all the wonderful baby designer clothes and gear that other people are bragging about buying.

The common statement they hear, “We only buy the best for our children” can trigger enormous feelings of guilt and depression in mothers who also want the best for their children but can’t afford what these people promote. This causes marital problems too and men during counselling sessions complain that their wives are being more and more unsatisfied and demanding extra money and material things so they can be like everyone else.

I’ve also come across people who are angry at God for giving them premature children or children with health problems, because it’s affected their life and how much they’re able to enjoy them. They claimed that their intense jealousy towards women on social media who managed to conceive and give birth to healthy children have taken them away from Allah and prayers.

I even heard one woman say that her prayers are going to waste, as she believes Allah loves other people more than her, because even at gender reveal parties others get what they want and she doesn’t. She’s wanted a baby girl for so long, but is always pregnant with boys, so when she sees how happy women are when it’s revealed the gender of their baby is a girl, she slips into depression. 

She also said she feels deep resentment for her husband when she sees other Muslim women post about how hands-on their husbands are with their children, because he isn’t.  

6. Showing off a new high job position, academic position or business success.

This is more common among men who are the first to post photos of that £50,000 Rolex they spent years saving for. However, more and more Muslim women are doing it too, regardless of how practicing they are.

There’s a toxic sweep of jealousy and unnecessary competition between Muslim women, especially those who are in the stages of experiencing financial success in a new business. They absolutely must show how well they’re doing by filming all the orders their business receives and how they spend their profits (i.e., going for fancy dinners, holidays and buying Chanel bags).

A large number of Muslim women are very unsupportive of each other and I have experienced this myself in my own ventures. Emails and messages for collaborations get ignored, because they believe they’re better than you or don’t want to respond (at all) and help you grow and succeed.

The Muslim men and women who are bragging about their sales and profits are forgetting about their stressed brothers and sisters who lost their jobs and small businesses in the pandemic, who are unable to find jobs to feed and house their families, who are struggling with getting sales in their business, who have been evicted from their homes and who are working incredibly hard but not getting promoted by their employer. 

It is very important to note here that there’s a great difference between those who post their academic work and business achievements to motivate, benefit and help others to do the work and get the same results and those who are just bragging, because their egos need feeding with compliments.

If people aren’t telling you how they managed to make those sales, grow their business, and earn those cars then they just want you to be jealous and hasad (jealousy and envy) is among the most destructive emotions or feelings which someone can have towards others. It causes him or her to wish evil for others and to be happy when misfortune befalls them.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

“Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.” (Abu Dawood)

Sometimes you may even advise someone to “tone it down” so that people don’t envy them or feel sad and their (narcissistic) response is “that’s not my problem” or “why do I have to stop posting just because others can’t handle it?”  Therefore, our societies are riddled with mental health problems and feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and envy, because Muslims aren’t compassionate or considerate of one another.

People are putting their followers in a position where their spiritual hearts are being destroyed because they’re indirectly asking to be envied. This unfortunately won’t change, because those who are narcissistic gain great pleasure from this behaviour and they tend to over-share what they have regularly for a reaction.

Therefore, it’s their followers who need to decide about whether they want these people in their lives or not. If their self-esteem isn’t being affected by braggers then that’s a very good place to be mentally and spiritually but if it is, then a social media following list clean-up is urgently called for.

As Muslims, we know that Allah will give what He wills to whom He wills at the right time and only if He knows it’s good for them. If what people want isn’t good for them, Allah will keep it from them, as having lots of money, for example, may change them and take them away from Him and getting married to who they want may ruin their lives. 

“It could be that you dislike something, when it is good for you; and it could be that you like something when it is bad for you. Allah knows, and you do not know.” (Al-Qur’an, 2: 216)

Every blessing we receive is a test from Allah to see how we’ll use it, share it, and deal with it and people (online) overly-glamorise their blessings. However, as we all know, blessings come and go and aren’t in our control, as they’re in Allah’s possession.

It’s not possible for someone to be blessed during their entire lifetime, unless the blessing is found in their iman, because even our health will deteriorate as we age. Therefore, when someone who always brags about being blessed suddenly disappears or takes a “break” for a while from social media, know that it’s because Allah has either taken away a blessing from them and they don’t know how to deal with it or He’s given them an unexpected hardship.

“Surely We will test you with a bit of fear and hunger, and loss in wealth and lives and fruits, and give good tidings to the patient.” (Al-Qur’an, 2: 155)

Allah tells us to not follow those who are always following their desires and to not invest so much into this life, unless it’s in good deeds (that aren’t done for the sake of showing off).

Anyone who gives charity and help for the sake of being praised and acknowledged on social media and in real life won’t get the reward from Allah because it wasn’t done for Him, but for the people. Therefore, Allah will allow someone to only have their rewards in this life from those they sought to impress.

As for those who did their good for the sake of Allah, they’re promised blessings in Paradise that’ll never end. 

“And indeed, The Hereafter is better for you than the present.” (Al-Qur’an, 93: 4)

Ibn Omar (ra) narrated that The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: 

“Be in this world as though you were a stranger or a traveller/wayfarer. When evening comes, do not expect (to live till) morning, and when morning comes, do not expect (to live till) evening. Take from your health (a preparation) for your illness, and from your life for your death.’” (Sahih Bukhari, 6416)

For this reason, The Prophet (pbuh) used to be the most abstinent of people concerning worldly things and he was the greatest of them in his disregard for worldly matters. Why get depressed over not having a million pounds in your bank, when Allah already knows that you won’t live to see next week?

All our affairs must be left to Allah, as He knows that the less you have to be accountable for in this life, the better. 

“[He is] The Lord of the East and the West; there is no deity except Him, so take Him as a wakeel (disposer of affairs).” (Al-Qur’an, 73:9)

Many studies have also shown that wealthy people have the most health problems and don’t trust people or have peace of mind and those who have beautiful children struggle to raise them to be moral.

I remember my mother telling me, “What shines from far isn’t always gold.” I’ve seen people who were so desperate for twins and went well out of their way to have them (multiple stressful and expensive IVF attempts) and the twins they had are now making their lives a misery.

However, they’ll always post the best family photos and people don’t see the true reality. Instead, they get depressed because it reminds them of their own loneliness, not having a family of their own and sometimes their own failures too for not being married or a parent by a certain age. All these feelings of inferiority and self-hate can arise from an unhealthy mindset after viewing just one post, which makes this a serious problem to address.

Human beings want to share their joy and sorrow with others, so it’s natural that people would want others to witness them at their best. If sensitively done with the right people whom we know will be happy for us and when it’s not intended to make others feel small and inadequate, sharing blessings isn’t be a big issue.

However, when you share positive events and achievements from your life among thousands of strangers then you’ll be attracting the negative energy from those who don’t want the best for you. Being low-key and only sharing your successes with loved ones will make you more humble and pious. Those who are very insecure always need the extra validation and compliments from people outside their friend and family circle to feel special, worthy, important, and admired.

In my last note, I’d like to say that it’s easy to let Satan allow us to feel let down by Allah and it’s natural to feel jealous regarding the blessings of others, but I promise that you’ll surely receive rewards for both your pain and your patience if you do your best to not let the negativity consume you.

I highly recommend that you unfollow Muslims (and non-Muslims) who make you feel bad about yourself and your life, even if they’re friends or at least put their posts on mute, so you don’t see them in your feed.

The worst type of loss in this life is the loss of iman and connection with Allah, so we mustn’t let narcissistic people and serial braggers take that away from us, just because their sole focus is to enjoy this material life. We wouldn’t re-furnish a hotel room we stay in for a couple of days to make it better, because we know it’s not our home and we’ll be leaving it soon. The same applies to our mindset.

If we see this temporary short life in this way, we’ll be accepting of what we’re given, knowing that Allah has saved better for us in the next and there’s surely no comparison between the two.

“No amount of worrying can change the future. Go easy on yourself, for the outcome of all affairs is determined by God’s decree. If something is meant to go elsewhere, it will never come your way, but if it is yours by destiny, from you it cannot flee.” (Khalifa Omar ibn Al-Khattab (ra))

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