Fiqh of Using Mobile Phones

Smart phone cartoon with thumb up
Smart phone cartoon with thumb up

NOTE: please share this post from ‘Shaykh Monawwar Ateeq’s page’ (on Facebook) and do not copy and paste it on to your status. Always remember you should make reference to the author of a work you are quoting.

I am currently researching fiqh issues related to mobile phones. I want to highlight some issues here for the immediate benefit of everyone. Please send any of your relevant questions in the comments below which I can address in the research I’m doing. I cannot however promise to answer any questions here. I pray that this research brings immense blessings to our lives and increases our knowledge.

1. Using a mobile phone has become a primary necessity (haajah asliyyah) for many people therefore its current monetary value will not be considered when calculating the nisab for zakah, sadaqatul fitr and udhiya (qurbani) and also when calculating whether hajj has become obligatory upon a person unless a mobile is not of such need and is not used for primary reasons then the rulings may vary. Primary reasons may vary according to the practice of people but in the west we can say that they include texting, calling friends and family, using the email service, making business calls, banking and shopping online.

2. Nikah via a mobile call or the internet (Skype etc.) is not valid as a primary condition for the validity of the nikah is that both parties be present in the same sitting (ittihad al-majlis) and that the witnesses hear the offer and acceptance together in the same sitting which is not possible via theses means. If someone has a genuine reason for not being able to travel from one country to another for example then the shariah has outlined other permissible means of conducting the nikah (Hashiya Ibn Abideen).

3. A divorce issued via a text message is effective right away whether the wife receives it or does not. The rulings are detailed depending on whether the husband directly addressed (idafah) the divorce to his wife by name in the message or did not (al-Badai).

4. Setting naats and recitation of the Quran as the ringtone is against proper etiquette. One major reason for its impermissibility is because the purpose (maqsad) of the ringtone is to make the possessor aware (i’lan) of an incoming call hence the word of Allah almighty and naat are not being used for their very ‘own purpose’ which is reflection and remembrance. Setting adhan on the phone to remind one about prayer is permissible as it is similar to ‘tathweeb’ i.e. reminder for prayer mentioned in fiqh books (al-Ikhtiyaar).

5. Touching verses of the Quran in one’s mobile without purity (taharah) is allowed due to two reasons a) what you are touching is not ‘the quranic verse’ but it is the screen and b) the words are in reality electrical rays.

6. If the Quran is saved inside the phone and is not visible on the screen, one can take the mobile phone to the toilet just as a hafiz of the Quran is carrying the Quran in his heart yet enters the toilet. There is no harm in this. However one must refrain from taking the mobile to the toilet if the wallpaper or screensaver contains religious images or words. Downloading Islamic apps on to your phone and carrying them in your pocket is allowed however one must check with reliable alim which application is not reliable as there are many groups creating apps in the name of Islam but are in fact destroying people’s views. Knowledge directly taken from an alim, a first hand source, is the best, proper and genuine way of learning.

7. Forwarding authentic religious messages containing hadiths and verses is lawful and desired. However one must always check with an alim whether the message is accurate before passing it on to others as you may be sinful for forwarding lies and untrue information attributed to Islamic teachings. Also, one must NOT forward messages saying “if you do not forward this you will be sinful” etc. or messages with similar threats as they are untrue, lead to unlawful disturbance of other Muslims and are a means of wasting time and money. Totally ignore them and people who forward such messages are sinful and must seek Allah’s forgiveness. Our Beloved Prophet (upon him peace and blessings) said: “it is enough for a person to be lying if he narrates everything that he hears”.

8. Turn off your mobile phone BEFORE entering the Masjid or put it on silent as your calls will distract you and other people in prayer. Do not even have the vibration on as this will lead to distraction in your own prayer if not in others prayers and the essence of humility will be lost.

9. If the mobile, in any rare case, does ring then one is permitted to enter one hand into the pocket and switch it off. This can be done up to three times in one whole act of prayer e.g. ruku, the third time ones salah will become invalid. If the phone is locked or cannot be silenced without looking at the button then with minimal movement as possible one can look at the mobile to turn it off. Any excessive movement in prayer i.e. that which onlookers look at from far and do not have doubt that you are not in prayer (they immediately think you are not praying due to your movement) invalidates the prayer (Hashiya Ibn Abideen).

10. If someone praying salah cannot switch off a ringing mobile by minimal movement then he should exit prayer, switch off the mobile and start again just as one is to exit prayer if he needs to go to the toilet because humility is lost by distraction (Hashiya Ibn Abideen).

11. Fixing the direction of the qibla via your android compass is permissible only if you have preponderate assumption (certainty is not required, Hashiya Ibn Abideen) that it is accurate. One usually knows from experience whether the compass on his/her device works properly or not however one should check and recheck to remove doubt. If one has such as compass he must not follow mere assumption of his heart during travels.

12. Taking pictures or making videos of permissible things is permissible. Hence making unlawful pictures such as of non-mahrams (people one can potentially marry and are not permanently haram upon a person) is not permissible. However there are three views regarding making images/videos of people via digital/electrical devices a) It is unlawful, b) it is lawful and b) it is lawful if the pictures remain in digital form and are not printed on paper. This matter belongs to the branches (furu) of fiqh and is open to difference of opinion with evidence among people of knowledge.

13. One must not charge their mobile using the masjid electricity as this is unlawful use of waqf money. This prohibition includes people who sit in itikaf during Ramadhan. If someone used the masjid socket, he must put a donation towards the masjid that covers his use of the electricity.

14. Saying hello when receiving or making a call is permissible but against the Sunnah. Also, one is deprived of the great reward (30 good deeds) of greeting someone by saying assalamu alaykum hence we should begin to make a habit of offering Islamic greetings when calling Muslims.

15. It is necessary (wajib) that a Muslim replies to the salaam of another Muslim. Hence if someone receives a salaam via text, it is like receiving it via a letter and the ruling is that one must either answer it in writing or reply verbally.

16. There is no harm in deleting Islamic messages just as a teacher writes quranic verses and hadiths on the whiteboard and is allowed to wipe them off.

17. If someone listens to the Quran via their mobile or any electrical device they do not have to perform the sajda of recitation if they hear the verse containing such sajda. Likewise one does not have to reply to any digital recording of the adhan via mobile or television even if it’s live as it does not hold the same ruling as the adhan made in real life. It is at least desired (mustahab) however to recite salawat when the name of our Beloved Prophet (upon him peace and blessings) is mentioned.

18. Spending excessive time playing games on the mobile or talking to someone without genuine need for long periods of time is impermissible as the Shariah prohibits wasting money and time. If a person plays a game to freshen his mind or plays mind games that sharpen one’s memory and intelligence and this he does sometimes and is not obsessed with them, there is no prohibition in this as long as they do not distract him from salah and other obligations. However if the games are offensive, contain indecent images and are criminal, one must abstain from them. Scientific research has shown that there is risk of cancer for people who do not use their mobile phones wisely due to the electromagnetic waves.

19. If someone purchases/rents a mobile phone for unlawful purposes, his contract is unlawful and he must not continue with the contract with this intention. Examples include having a mobile phone purely to download songs, other unlawful media including unlawful images and videos, and to unlawfully stay in contact with a non-mahram. I have heard of and seen many very upsetting cases where family relations have been severed, children have distanced themselves from parents and couples have separated due to unlawful use of social media and mobile phones. May Allah Almighty protect us all and our families from the tribulations of our era, ameen.

20. There is no zakah upon the monetary value of the call time and message quantity (tariff value) the mobile company grants its customer. The bill money that someone owes their mobile network in a monthly contract phone is a type of debt (dayn) that would be deducted from one’s total money when calculating zakah at the end of the year, in other words, if someone owes their mobile network some money, they are not required to pay zakah on that sum and neither required to add it to the rest of their money when calculating their zakah. This applies only to the unpaid bill of the month in which taking out the zakah is obligatory at the end of one’s zakah year or any previously unpaid bills at this time of the year.

21. It is against proper etiquette to use the mobile phone during tawaf of the kabah or performing sa’y. One should also refrain from calling others whilst standing in front of the blessed golden chamber in Madina Shareef. These are places of utmost adab and one must refrain from any action that causes destruction to his own deeds and displeases Allah Almighty and His Noble Messenger (upon him peace and blessings). The tawaf and sa’y however are valid if someone does use their phone whilst performing them. Taking a call during salah would obviously invalidate the prayer.

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