Updated: Jul 29, 2022
In fiqh or Islamic jurisprudence mubaah refers to things that are neutral as to permissibility. It's like a hammer, which is good or bad depending on how it's used. Consider if the internet, both in general or specific areas/uses, is mubaah (a different sort of "net neutrality"). Some contexts could actually be fard kifayah (obligatory on the community) in order to provide a Muslim presence or fard ayn (obligatory on the individual) as it would be harmful on a person to totally avoid. And other areas and uses are clearly haraam (forbidden, like any internet feature specifically designed for stealing, deceiving, or salaciousness). But is most of the internet and its common uses mubaah, neutral?
Consider the hammer again. If someone wraps their hand around the handle of a hammer, it neither pulls them to build a house nor to strike someone. It's also just as easy to let go of than it was to grasp. If the user is going to do either of those things, that's got to originate from inside the person and is not due to the nature of the object. So is the internet like that? And because the internet and its uses are so vast, let's at least now narrow it to sitting with a smartphone, computer, or tablet and there's an open browser.
Yes, what's inside a user will matter, and having a clearly defined intention prior to opening the device would make a big difference. But isn't there something terribly simple and quick about a person's movement on the web? It would be easy enough to just bemoan the evils of the internet, but what exactly is the danger we sometimes elude to?
Maybe it's like a stream flowing in the wrong direction, a force an internet user has got to resist and push against in order to do good and avoid harm or harming. That force is present well before outright harms, such as cyberbullying or pornography.
When in human history have we collectively bent our heads down for minutes or hours at a time or repeatedly sustained our gaze, day in and day out, upon flat, inanimate objects. These devices, these mediums of communication, change us. We have to pay attention to that and take precautions.
If you're interested to give more thought to managing the internet's role in your life, check out my detailed post on my other blog: "Uninterrupted Focus Heals & Teaches."