Online versus Offline Selves

Vol 7 - Issue 1 online VS offlineBy Iqra Asad

“Internet: absolute communication, absolute isolation.” (Paul Carvel)

People are multi-layered. At the core everyone has a solid base, but they rearrange themselves on the outside to fulfill their many roles in life. Obviously, you cannot put on your family-time-face to go to work, neither is it healthy to carry your professional workplace attitude back at home. Similarly, when people translate their blood-and-flesh personalities into Internet form, there is a certain extent to which their digital version differs from their everyday selves. In order to illustrate this phenomenon in today’s youth, several Internet users have painted the picture by describing three ways, in which their online and offline selves are different.

Aisha Raees, anime fan and O Levels student

  1. My offline self has different facades when meeting people. But my facades vanish on the Internet, and I pour out my worries to my net pals.
  2. One may not find friends with similar interests in real life, but the Internet is full of people of every kind! One can easily share opinions, views, etc., with them.
  3. Then there is the thing of advice. You can easily find people on the Internet who may be complete strangers, but they can help you out! Whereas in reality there are many times one has nobody to turn to!

Faizan Zafar, 20, doing SSE at LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences)

My online self probably looks more impressive than my real self because:

  1. When online, we tend to use emoticons [smiley faces, etc.] too often. I now try to avoid using them, unless I honestly mean and feel them.
  2. Also because I get time to think and ponder over things and thus write out my answers in a proper and formal method.
  3. I’m trying to reduce the differences. I feel more confident on the Internet, no doubt, but I try to keep it restrained and chat with people only if I feel I would have chatted with them anyway, had they been standing nearby.

Arsh Azim, student of Bachelors

Online self

  1. I make fewer friends.
  2. I don’t share my secrets with them.
  3. I confuse people but also let them enjoy my presence.

Offline self

  1. I make many friends.
  2. I am open.
  3. I am possessive about my real friends.

Ammar Shafique, student at PAC (Professional Academy of Commerce)

On the Internet

  1. You talk to people you haven’t met since 1874.
  2. You don’t really show emotions online.
  3. You can act fake; you can lie.

Sundus Iftikhar, A’Level student at UCL (University College Lahore)

  1. Through the Internet, I know what is going on in my acquaintances’ lives. That provides material for online conversation, so I am friendlier with them and talk more confidently.
  2. Offline, I trust people, so I confide in them more easily and am a blabbermouth. If someone asks me something, I can’t hide my emotions or lie. On the Internet, I can’t tell what the other person is feeling; also, I have time to think before I speak, so I am more careful and share less.
  3. I have much more fun talking with friends in person instead of ’chatting’ with them via an online instant messaging service. Chatting is a words-only thing, so I feel limited. In direct interaction, I can express all those things, which are beyond the world of words.

Poll Questions

Fifty youths, ranging in age from mid-teens to early twenties, were polled regarding the online/offline divide.

1. Do you think people’s online behaviour differs from their offline one?

a) Yes – 82%

b) No – 18%

2. Do you get more out of an online or an offline conversation?

a) Online – 52%

b) Offline – 48%

3. Where do you express yourself better?

a) Online – 48%

b) Offline – 52%

4. In which life are you more open and expressive? (i.e., which life shows more of you to others?)

a) Online – 46%

b) Offline – 54%

5. A greater number of which of the following know the real you?

a) Online contacts – 10%

b) People you have met face-to-face – 90%

Let us end with this consideration: when is the online-offline divide the greatest? It happens when the Internet becomes an emotional lifeline, and people find online substitutes for things that are much more fulfilling in their offline forms, like friends and confidantes. Having a physically present shoulder to cry on is better than confiding in someone online, but what if you cannot find such a shoulder among your parents, siblings or friends? Are you – as a parent, child, sibling or friend – communicating properly with people in your life, or are you contributing to the online-offline divide? The Prophet (sa) said: “If any one of you loves his brother, then he should inform him.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Achieving a Peaceful Smile

Vol 7 - Issue 1 Achieving a peaceful adviceBy Aisha Siddiqua

I looked up at the mirror staring at the glowing face, recently pampered and serviced by the best parlour in town in exchange of a hefty bundle of notes. A wave of pride and excitement ran down my spinal cord, causing my lips to curve in a delicate smile, as I imagined the expression on everyone’s faces when they will see me in my new HSY dress at the party tonight.

The bubble of full-of-myself thoughts suddenly burst with a knock on the door. It opened to welcome not just my maid but my mom too, scolding her over anything and everything. As she silently proceeded to place the coffee mug on my side table, I could not help but notice the way she smiled. So calm and so content. Suddenly my smile seemed too shallow and my glowing face too dull in front of her dark, worn-out features.

“What’s so funny?” I snapped at her.

“Nothing,” she replied, still wearing that peaceful smile on her tired face.

“Amma is scolding you like crazy out there! Are you deaf? Or too stubborn to ignore the mistakes you make to bug her day and night?”

“Why were you smiling when I entered the room?” She suddenly challenged me. “If you could skip your Salah for your parlor appointment and go out in front of all those men without covering your head, knowing how much it will enrage Allah (swt), and still sit here peacefully and smile, why couldn’t I? Yes, the constant scolding I have to undergo everyday pains me, yet I smile. I know that if I forgive your mother today, He (swt) will forgive me on the Last Day.”

As she left the room, I quickly gathered my thoughts. There had to be something about what that 16-year-old uneducated, under-nourished and underprivileged girl felt. How could she be so content, when she did not even know whether she would even be able to feed her paralyzed and widowed mother for the day or when all her life was about this mundane routine of cleaning people’s houses and being mercilessly reprimanded?

It had to be something beyond this world. My Islamic Studies teacher had once told me that the Sahabah (rta) loved Allah (swt) so much that they could taste the sweetness on their tongues when they took His name. Did she feel the same way? Is it even possible?

I had once heard a story about Fatimah (rta). One winter night, after offering her Isha prayers, she made the Niyyah to offer two Rakahs of Nafal. The Tilawat, the Ruku and the Sujood gave her so much pleasure that when she finished, the time of Sahoor was at its peak. She started to cry thinking that Allah (swt) had decreased the length of the night so much that she could just say two Rakahs of Nafal the whole night! What did she ever feel in those Sajood?

Yes, she is the same Fatimah (rta) who settled happily on reciting the Tasbeehs, when her beloved father turned down her request to provide her with a slave who could take care of some of her chores. What made her work the whole day and worship the whole night?

It was all too disturbing. Suddenly I felt even more degraded than Abu Talib and Abu Jahl. The reason they did not accept Islam was because they actually knew what it was about. They knew what it took to be a Muslim and they weren’t ready to submit to Islam. Am I not worse? I am a Muslim, yet I live in ignorance about my identity.

I got up to take out the brand new untouched Quran from the shelf and witnessed in the reflection of the mirror the same glowing face but with a completely different smile this time. A few steps from the bed to the shelf – that’s all it took!

Interview with Abdullah, a Young Imam

Vol 7 - Issue 1 Interview with a Young imamAllah (swt) has bestowed honour upon Abdullah, an 18-year-old Imam, who has been leading the Taraweeh prayers for hundreds of men in Sad Bin Abi Waqas Masjid, Karachi.

Tell us something about your early education and your journey to becoming an Imam.

I started my education at Bright Star Academy. Simultaneously, I also began my Quranic education at Sad Ibn Abi Waqas Masjid. My father was an Imam there. Then, I enrolled into Madrassah Bait-ul-Islam as a full time student of Hifz (memorization of the Quran).

I studied in the Madrassah from morning till Isha and in the next 9 months, completed my Hifz programme. In 2005, I learnt to lead Taraweeh prayers with the help of another senior Imam. In 2006 and 2007, I was assisted by another Imam in leading Taraweeh prayers. Alhumdulillah, for the past three years I have been leading Taraweeh without any assistance.

How did you conceive the idea of leading Taraweeh prayers?

My father was my main inspiration and guide, who sowed the seeds of love for the Holy Book in me. Unlike other households, we never even dreamed of watching television or listening to the radio. Since the Quran was all that we ever heard as children, there were various Surahs and Ayahs that we learnt by heart, before even beginning our formal education of Hifz.

At the age of 9, my father encouraged us to practice leading as Imams in the Masjid. Alhumdulillah, mainly due to consistent auditory learning at home under my parents’ guidance, I developed an interest in all my exercises of the Quran and began leading Taraweeh at the age of 13.

What are your future plans? Would you like to become an Imam in a Masjid, following in your father’s footsteps?

I do not worry too much about my future. I have trust in Allah (swt), Who will guide me to the right path.

As for my career as an Imam, firstly, I wish to lead a life of a responsible Muslim now and in future too. Secondly, it is my desire to be associated with the Masjid. I don’t want to impose myself on anyone. If the Masjid requires my services, I will do that. I would love to be associated with it in any way I can to please Allah (swt).

Would you like to leave a message to our youth?

I would only like to say, what the Prophet (sa) said: “In the difficult hours of Yaum-e-Qiyamah, there will be seven kinds of people, who will be granted shade under Allah’s (swt) throne. One of them will be the youth, who committed their time to obeying and worshipping Allah (swt) and following His Messenger (sa).”

This doesn’t mean that a Muslim youth is expected to hibernate in the Masjid. Rather, our Messenger (sa) used to encourage and pray for young people to engage in trade and earn lawful means of sustenance.

Nowadays, youngsters forget that they are not here forever. They ignore the Shariah, indulge in forbidden stuff and use all available tools to acquire what they want, daringly disobeying the Lord.

Another important matter is to ensure that the good deeds done are in accordance with the ways of the Prophet (sa) and not self-created or prescribed by a certain spiritual leader.

May Allah (swt) grant inspiration to others to follow in Abdullah’s footsteps and give to our Ummah young, well-guided and dynamic leaders. Ameen.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Part 3

Jan 11 - 7 habits teenagers

Paradigms of others

Sean Covey shared a classical example of a paradigm shift in the following anecdote taken from the Reader’s Digest and contributed by Dan P. Greyling:

A lady, who was returning to South Africa from a long stay in Europe, had some time to spend at the Heathrow airport. She bought herself a cup of coffee and a small packet of biscuits. Laden with the luggage, she headed for an unoccupied table. While she was reading the morning newspaper, she sensed someone else helping himself to her packet of biscuits.

Fuming she ignored it and took a biscuit herself. The neatly dressed young man, who had joined her at the table, also took the next biscuit and quietly sat munching it. She still didn’t bother scolding him.

When they were down to the very last biscuit in the packet, he broke the biscuit in two, pushed a half across to her, ate the other half and left. Just then the lady’s flight was announced and she got up to catch it. Still bewildered at the audacity of the young man, she opened her purse to retrieve her ticket. Inside her purse, she saw a packet of biscuits. She had actually been eating his biscuits, having forgotten to take out hers from the purse.

Imagine her embarrassment which was just a few seconds earlier, a feeling of anger towards the stranger. What does this tell us? The way we perceive others can actually be inaccurate, incomplete or totally wrong. Don’t we judge others with our limited point of views and even fewer facts? We are simply not interested in looking at the other side of the picture. We can hardly wait before we have formed rigid opinions, labelled others or passed judgements against them.

In contrast, we should be open-minded and have the courage to change our paradigms, once we have discovered the truth. We should always consider new information, ideas and changes. It is just as if we are throwing away an old pair of glasses and replacing them with new spectacles with more accurate lenses.

We consider ourselves to be an expert on what others feel and think. If someone is rude to us, we automatically assume he/she hates us. If someone is trying to avoid us, we feel there is something fishy going on. We are always ready to jump to conclusions.

This is the way we handle all our relationships. We never bother to see the other person’s point of view. We never take our time to understand why a person behaves in a certain manner. Our messed up paradigms never let us give others the benefit of the doubt or an allowance that maybe the other person might just be having a rough day.

Don’t most teenagers think of adults as old-fashioned and out-dated losers? On the contrary, don’t most adults consider teenagers to be pompous, spoilt brats? They both never try to understand each other. They are only looking at things from their perspective. How can we ever be successful and happy with such narrow outlooks towards others?

Paradigms of life

Sean Covey explains that just as we have paradigms about ourselves and others, we also have paradigms about the world in general. We can find out what our life revolves around, by asking ourselves the following questions:

  1. What do I think the most about?
  2. What do I spend my time doing the most?
  3. Who or what is the driving force of my life?

Some of the more popular life-centres for teenagers include: friends, materialistic stuff, school, parents, sports/hobbies, and heroes, enemies, self and work.

They all have certain good points, but they are also incomplete in one way or the other. We will prove this one by one:

1) Friend-centred

Belonging to a great group of friends is simply the best thing that can ever happen to you. Similarly, being an outcast or feeling misfit is the worse imaginable plight one can go through, especially in his/her teenage years.

Friends are important, but do not build your life on them. It is an unstable foundation. Why? Occasionally, they prove to be fickle. They have their own mood swings. They can be fake or sometimes backbite. Old pals can also develop new friendships and forget yours.

Most importantly, at times, one compromises his/her identity just to be accepted as part of a popular or particular gang. It undermines your self-respect and breaks the standards that you have set for yourself. It also means to keep on changing your values to accommodate your friends.

It might seem impossible now, but a day will come when your friends won’t mean the world to you. After school, when you start your practical life with numerous challenges, the same friends will be the last thing on your mind. You will still meet them and associate with them but it will be seldom.

So make as many friends as you would like to but do not make them the centre of your life.

2) Material-centred

Think about this saying: “If who I am is what I have and what I have is lost, then who am I?” (Anonymous)

Sometimes, we see the world through the lens of possessions or material stuff. The materialistic world around us feeds us the message that you are worth anything only if you own the fastest car, the latest stereo system, the coolest mobile phone, the best hairstyle, the trendiest outfits, etc. Sometimes, possessions also come in the form of titles and accomplishments, such as head boy or girl, team captain, class monitor, prefect, lead in the play, etc.

Although it is fine to be ambitious and seek pleasure in enjoying one’s achievements, one should not centre one’s life on things. Why? Mainly because they have no lasting value in this changing world. Our confidence needs to come from within and not from outside.

You might have noticed that some people get confidence from their possessions. If they do not have the latest model of gizmo to flash or had to go in public with unwashed hair, they would lament for weeks upon such failure. They also judge others the same way. Their friends are only those who either believe in materialism as well or keep flattering them for their uncompromising attitude towards things.

Being material-centred can make you unhappy easily. It should never be the focal point of your life if you wish to be a confident and satisfied young adult!

In the upcoming issue we will discuss the remaining paradigms of life in detail and the ways in which they impact us.

What are habits?

They can easily be managed – only, you must be firm with them.

Show them exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons, they will do it automatically.

So form them wisely.

Dear Haadia


I am a teenage boy, who is very protective of my younger sister. Thankfully, she observes Hijab, and it makes me feel proud of her. The way girls are dressing up nowadays is highly provocative. And these are girls from reputed families, whose parents aren’t concerned about their Satar (portion of the body that has to be covered). I know many boys, who discuss such girls in a very indecent manner. I fear such talks can corrupt these otherwise decent girls. What can be done?

Answer: You are raising a very important issue, which is plaguing our society. While fashions have always come and gone – from tight, short shirts to baggy and long ones, from Shalwars and trousers to flappers – the recent influx of western-style designing is alarmingly changing the entire landscape.

Nowadays, we commonly see sleeveless shirts and capris on the Pakistani media. Many young and impressionable girls, as well as women, are enamored by this glitz and glamour and sadly, have assimilated such dressing into their everyday lives. For them, this is the face of progressive thinking, taking them forward to an advanced future. They do not realize that it only betrays an insecure sense of identity.

On the other hand, Islam has timelessly defined the parameters of proper clothing to be worn in public. At its most basic level, it specifies the need for women to wear non-sheer, non-fitted clothing which covers all parts of their body “…except only that which is apparent…” (An-Nur 24:31). Similarly, men are instructed to conceal themselves in loose, opaque clothing from navel to knee and preferably also the rest of their body, for the Prophet (sa) was rarely seen with his body uncovered.

In this context, it must be mentioned that men should also exercise caution. Body-hugging jeans/trousers and shirts are not allowed. Likewise, shorts must cover their knees whether out on a morning run, in the swimming pool or at the beach. Very often, men are more worried about women not realizing the fact that they too are stepping beyond their Satar and making women quite uncomfortable due to their immodest attire.

As far as boys talking indecently about such girls, the first question which must be asked is: does a person’s dress give someone else the license to backbite or slander? The answer, of course, is no. We are each accountable for our own acts to Allah (swt). If the girls are dressing in a revealing way, they are responsible for that. If the boys are gawking at them, they are answerable for that.

In fact, such behaviour of both boys and girls corrupts not only them but also the society at large. If anyone researches the marital relationship history within the United States, they will see that it all began with chaste courtships for marriage. Now, centuries later, the American society is beleaguered with such vices as premarital sex, teenage pregnancies, HIV/AIDS, same-sex relationships, abortions, etc. Unfortunately, we are jumping the gun by importing their culture indiscriminately, and we run the risk of spreading similar problems much faster.

The umbrella of Islam shades men and women from such corruption and provides a moderate lifestyle, in which men and women show respect towards themselves as well as others through modest dress, controlled talk and purified hearts. Yet, people will discern this only if they experience Islam in a positive way. For instance, trying to tell a non-practicing person not to dress a certain way because Islam forbids it always backfires, because the roots required for the flowering of Islam are missing. After all, they are already more or less aware of the Islamic point of view – but averse. We have to work on their hearts, before we tell them to cover their bodies. Indeed, the injunctions for Hijab did not come with the first revelation of the Quran. Rather, they came much later, when the novice Muslim women’s hearts had already been infused with the love of Allah (swt).

Active Dawah and education about the basics of Islam in a beautiful and pristine manner are the needs of the hour. At an individual level, you and your sister can attend lectures and youth-oriented activities currently taking place in the city. Then, both of you can encourage your respective friends to join in, too. Creating an awareness of the fundamentals of what’s right and wrong is always the first step toward adopting the right and rejecting the wrong. While it may seem difficult in the beginning, have the courage to calmly and politely advise those among your friends who indulge in gossip about girls; similarly, your sister can counsel her friends to dress more modestly.

Instead of name-calling or even pointing fingers at another culture, it is better to use simple logic to convince those around us of the dictates of Islam. Slowly, increase the circle of people, whom you are giving Nasihah (advice) to and Insha’Allah, you will feel that you are doing something about this epidemic. At the same time, do remember not to measure the worth of your actions only with results – after all, only Allah (swt) can change the hearts of people; our job is only to convey the message in a beautiful manner, full of wisdom. And on the Day of Judgement, Allah (swt) will not ask us about the actions of someone else, but what we ourselves did.

Let us rise to the challenges that our society faces and pray to Allah (swt) to help us in His cause.