Social media and boycotting relatives


BOYCOTTING relatives and sometimes parents is a major sin in Islam. When I say ‘boycotting’, I mean, it is a time when relatives do not call or visit each other or even ask about each other. They do not share good moments with them or even condole one another in the event of deaths in the family. In addition, the ostracizing, in nearly every case, comes with the harboring of great hatred against the other and his family with some even going as far as intending or just wishing harm on the other relatives.

The reasons that could lead to this great sin vary. There are those who simply envy their relatives, there are those who are so gullible that they are easily poisoned by rumors to hate other relatives, there are also inheritance or business problems between relatives and then there are those who make a mountain out of a molehill over trivial matters that leads to the boycott, in addition to many other reasons. While there were many reasons in the olden times for enmity and hatred, but, ironically, the one that is causing a host of issues in recent times is the smartphone. Recently, the social media applications that pervade the smartphone have played an important role in fueling hatred between relatives and even friends.

I am not making this assertion lightly. For only after observing the tendency to overuse our smartphones and hearing stories of how the smartphone had triggered spats between dumb people, who take everything at face value, I have come to the conclusion that it needs personal smarts to deal with this device that can prove a boon and a bane at the same time.

I was at a group gathering with friends of mine recently, and as usual it proved to be a platform for discussing various issues that bordered on the serious and to the trivial. As usual, during a brief lull, the discussion veered to the personal issue of a friend that was aired with suddenness and vehemence that caught most of us by surprise. One of my friends angrily shouted that he was done with his cousin, whom some of us knew in passing. When queried what happened our friend kept shouting that he would never greet him or ask about him or even sit with him in any gathering until he apologizes first.

We all thought that his cousin must have done something awful to him to deserve this much angst and hatred, even to the extent that our friend was ready to bring the issue out in the open, away from the family arena. When I asked him what he (the cousin) had done to him he said that he (the cousin) had kicked him out of a WhatsApp group. I could not believe how silly this reason was and how a petty issue could lead to this boycott and hatred between relatives. I learned later that this was not the only case but there are many and it is a growing phenomenon.

When I spoke about this to another friend, he too agreed that social media is slowly turning people anti-social, and relayed another example that, when thought about, would make everybody scratch their heads and wonder whether people are plain bonkers. The issue happened between two brothers, with the elder, after seeing an Instagram posted by his sibling about the food laid out at a party for friends, commenting that he was never treated to such lovely sight and food whenever he visited. This innocuous comment (without the smiley) was not taken as a joke, and the younger brother then broke out into a litany of complaints against the elder. That was the spark that lit a family fight that’s still raging, with relatives and friends taking sides. Food for thought, isn’t it guys.

But jokes aside, there are many a slip ups in these messaging services with wrong clips and messages going to wrong people, all because of similar names and pressing of wrong groups. Our instant gratification of sending these messages to many people could end up in the wrong place or viewed wrongly leading to major ramifications.

It has become common that in social application discussions rooms, such as in WhatsApp, or a message that was sent on Twitter could lead to close relatives or friends not talking to each other. I have witnessed and have seen and heard from my friends many times over the years on how relationships end because of silly issues, and lately add to the reasons — social applications. Instead of reconnecting people with each other, it is separating them.

Regardless of the reasons close relatives and friends not talking to each other — be it because of social media or any other real problem — there is no purity in the heart of people. It seems as if people are waiting for an excuse to distance themselves from close relatives and in extreme cases, even parents. Although in the past, there were mostly selfish people who distanced themselves from family ties, people were pure and asked about one another.

Whenever there was a misunderstanding, in olden times, the first thing they would look at is whether the statement is with good intention. Even if ill intention was meant with a comment or a behavior, they tended to ignore it, to prevent any cracks in the wall of relationships with relatives and, of course, seeking reward from Allah.

The Holy Qur’an states, “Would you then, if you were given the authority, do mischief in the land, and sever your ties of kinship?” The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him show hospitality to his guest; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him maintain good relation with kins; and he who believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak good or remain silent.”

My father always reminds me to connect with relatives even if they are boycotting me, and reminding me with the prophet’s saying, Uqbah ibn Amr reported: I met the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and he said to me, “O Uqbah ibn Amr, maintain relations with those who cut you off, give to those who deprive you, and pardon those who wrong you.”

As for my friend who had an issue with his cousin, I simply advised him to get a simple Nokia, if his mind was so narrow, so he would use the phone for what it was meant for — talking. Even with his cousin.

The writer can be reached at

Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng