Sermon cautions against communicating by e-mail

Muslims have been cautioned about the dangers of communicating by e-mail because they can be misunderstood.


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ABU DHABI // Muslims have been cautioned about the dangers of communicating by e-mail because the lack of facial expression and body language can lead to misunderstanding. Sheikh Jihad Hashim, speaking at the Mariam bint Sultan mosque, was elaborating on a government-issued sermon which reminded worshippers that it was the duty of Muslims to help bring an end to conflict and reconcile differences in a spirt of forgiveness.

It was a sin for two Muslims to be in conflict for longer than three days, the sermon said. "God has facilitated all ways that can reach to reconciliation and absolved the facilitator of peace from the sin of lying." "The Prophet said: 'It is forbidden for a man to abandon his brother for longer than three days ? and the better one among them is he who initiates peace'. "The Prophet also said: 'He who reconciles differences between people cannot be a liar'."

The General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments issues the Friday sermon weekly. Individual imams can expand the message to suit their congregation. Sheikh Hashim, who preaches to an English-speaking congregation of predominantly educated professionals, said: "The reconciler between people has a good intention. What does he do? He stretches the truth just a bit in order to plant a good seed where the land is barren. He encourages people to think differently because often our assumptions about each other are wrong."

While encouraging his congregation to use technology, he warned that e-mail can cause a great deal of misunderstanding. "The worst way to exchange communication is e-mail because there's no facial expression or body language to put words into emotional context. One person might be more stressed than what comes through in e-mail, and then becomes upset saying, 'Why haven't you done what I've asked?'"

Using emoticons, symbols that represent the emotional content of a message, "does not make things better", he said. "Every time we rely on digital technology to communicate on our behalf, we become one more step detached from each other." One of the worst things a Muslim can do is to offend or mistreat a fellow Muslim, because God resents those who mistreat believers close to Him. "This is the definition of sainthood in Islam. We call them wali, someone who is close to God. A friend of God - implying loyalty, not necessarily friendship.

"And God said whoever shows animosity towards a wali, He will declare war against them. "The whole point of Muslim sainthood is that we don't know who they are. So be careful about who you deem unworthy."