Therefore, it is sinful for a Muslim to backbite, slander, insult, or defame another. This is the case for when we speak and when we write, as well as when we are participating in forums online. The ruling remains the same. Internet forums are merely a means of expressing one’s words and one’s viewpoints. The forum, therefore, takes the ruling of the content that is found on it.
Some so-called Islamic forums are dedicated to defaming and discrediting scholars and encouraging people to do so. Participating in these forums – except to criticize what they are doing or to advise them to change – is prohibited, since participation takes the same ruling as the activities that are being carried out on the forum. In many cases, those who malign scholars of Islam do not usually do so for personal reasons, but because of the knowledge that they have and the good that they offer to others.
It is the duty of the one who hears or reads backbiting to condemn it and to explain to the perpetrator of the act that it is unlawful. If the admonition goes unheeded, then it is no longer permissible to continue in the discussion with the perpetrator.
Allah says: “Already has He sent you word in the Book: that when you hear the signs of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them unless they turn to a different theme: if you did, you would be like them. Allah will collect the hypocrites and those who defy faith all together, into hell.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 140]
Al-Razî says in his commentary on this verse [Mafâtîh al-Ghayb (5/415)]:
The people of knowledge say this verse indicates that someone who is pleased with unbelief is an unbeliever. Likewise, someone who is pleased with some sin that is witness to and keeps in the company of its perpetrators, then he is equally sinful, even though he abstains from the act himself. The evidence for this is that Allah says that they would be “like” the perpetrators. This applies if the person sitting among them is pleased with their sinful behavior.”
It follows that Internet forums where Allah, His Messenger, and His signs are mocked are forums that a Muslim should certainly not participate in. Allah says: “And if thou ask them (O Muhammad) they will say: ‘We did but talk and jest.’ Say: ‘Was it at Allah and His revelations and His messenger that you were mocking? Make no excuse. You have disbelieved after your (confession of) belief. If We forgive some of you, others of you We shall punish because they have been guilty.” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 65-66]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) warned us to be wary about saying dubious things that have consequences we might not be aware of: “A servant might say something to Allah’s anger that the servant does not pay any mind to, but on account of which Allah casts him into Hell.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (6478) and Sahîh Muslim (2988)]
It is impermissible to enter those forums or participate in them, partly because doing so gives those forums added strength and prestige by adding to their number of visitors.
There are online many Islamic forums dedicated to the remembrance of Allah and to providing guidance and good advice to the Muslims. These sites are not only lawful, they are desirable. These forums are a noble means to a noble end. A person who participates in these forums will receive the reward of all those who follow his good advice or exhortation. This is included in the Prophet’s promise: “Whoever establishes a good practice in Islam will receive the reward for it and the reward of those who follow him.” [Sahîh Muslim (1893)]
If the forum is focused on reminding people to engage in the remembrance of Allah and to offer their salutations upon the Prophet (peace be upon him), then all those who engage in such remembrances on account of the forum will be a source of reward for those who encouraged them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever guides someone to a virtuous act will receive the same reward as the one who carries it out.” [Sahîh Muslim (1893)]
If the forum focuses on the Prophet’s Sunnah and its revival, then those who are active on it will attain the reward of reviving the Sunnah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever revives my Sunnah is someone who loves me, and whoever loves me will be my companion in Paradise.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî (2678)]
Muslims who have knowledge need to participate in these good forums frequently in order to strengthen them and increase their benefit. Doing so will help in spreading righteousness. Muslims should make a habit of frequenting these sites, since the strength of a website is measured in the number of its visitors.
The Internet, including its forums, is nothing more than a means. It takes the ruling of whatever it is used for. We ask Allah to bless the Muslims to use the Internet productively in a manner that will please Him. May Allah bless us to use the Internet in the service of Islam.