Imam al-Ghazali resigned from his teaching position at the height of his career after he realised his heart was preoccupied with seeking fame, prestige and attention. He abandoned everything and went on a journey to rectify himself, after which he authored his masterpiece on Islamic spirituality, the Ihya al-Ulum al-Din.
Centuries later we now have a number of Muslim social media personalities churning out a stream of inane, boring and self centred posts, all with the objective of drawing attention to themselves.
Some of the common themes are:
- “Me with Shaykh X”
- “Yet another selfie of me posing”
- “I can’t think of anything useful to say, so here is a video of me walking in a park reciting the Quran” or
- Bland commentary on a recent event which provides little insight or depth to the issue.
As a result these young people are inflicting significant spiritual damage on themselves and perhaps to others with their unqualified “influencing”. Young people who are – rightly in most cases – not allowed a platform to preach, teach or advise in any credible mosque or education institution are compelled to use social media for an attention fix.
What is more incredible is that some of these social media influencers claim to be sufi, despite the fact the vast majority of their online content is diametrically opposed to the advice of the Sufis to not seek attention. Dear Sufis: please follow in the footsteps of Imam al-Ghazali, go on a sabbatical from your social media influencing career until you are older and wiser.
Some practical steps for change I would suggest are the following:
- Only post if you think it is beneficial to do so, not because you need to post something in order to attract attention.
- Limit selfie sharing with your family and loved ones.
- Limit videos of yourself where possible, you really are not an expert on anything at your age. Likewise your commentary will not be insightful nor adding any depth to the topic.
- Turn off notifications for how many people have viewed your content. Yes, that includes those who looked at your Whatsapp status.
So then, once you have:
- Reached at least 35 years of age (what?!?)
- attempted studying your faith
- tasted the ups and downs of life
Then you can post freely. Before then, you are most likely doing more damage than good to yourself and others.
Wait till 35! Yes, a tough pill to swallow. If you cannot and feel you are sincere then post your “beneficial content” from a generic account for an organisation or charity (which others manage) without your name or videos of yourself.
Our Lord, we seek from you sincerity the like of which you blessed Imam al-Ghazali with. Amin