Despicable traits

Reality TV, or reality shows, are the ‘in’ thing in today’s entertainment world. ‘American Idol’, ‘America’s next top model’, ‘The Apprentice’, ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, etc., are all very famous shows, mainly due to being reality talent hunt shows. But then there is another genre of reality shows that offer big prizes, but the contestants have to allow the cameras to invade their privacy. ‘Joe Millionaire’, ‘The Bachelor’, ‘Supernanny’ are just a few examples of this genre. One of the most famous shows in our part of the world in recent times is ‘Bigg Boss’ on Sony TV. These shows give the public a chance of spying into the lives of the contestants, as cameras are there to catch their every move!

Most people in this world are extremely curious about what is happening in the house next door or their relatives’ lives. Prying and meddling in other’s lives has become quite common. In an article published in USA Today, the writer says, “Robert Gortarez is no private eye. But with an $ 80 piece of software intended to track what his son was doing on the internet, the 36-year-old Phoenix real estate investor uncovered some information about what his wife — now his ex-wife — was doing online as well. Gortarez isn’t the only one. Husbands and wives, moms and dads, even neighbours and friends increasingly are succumbing to the temptation to snoop...” Even the Bush administration has been involved in spying on its own citizens after 9/11 for anti-terror purposes, a move that created quite a stir in the US. It is not only about using hi-tech gadgets to spy on someone, prying can be done through easier methods as well, as is done by relatives, neighbours, acquaintances, enemies, etc., all over the world.

Curiosity is a type of ugly prying into other people’s affairs, as it is the desire to know the secrets that others may wish to hide. Every human being has some secrets and has the right to keep them buried if he/she so wishes. Therefore, to spy on someone so that one can gossip and malign another person is a deplorable trait, to say the least. Islam discourages spying on others, unhealthy curiosity, and backbiting about others. The Quran says, “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, in deeds some suspicions are sins. And spy not neither backbite one another...” (Al-Hujuraat 49:12).

Backbiting is so widespread today that without gossiping (a relatively polite term for backbiting), a party or gathering is incomplete. The meeting place becomes an avenue for expressing anger, misgivings and jealousy at what other people are doing. People who indulge in such activity are in actuality hiding their own imperfections while harming others. They are oblivious to the fact that in the process, they are also harming themselves by showing their own insecurities.

Even though our religion forbids us from prying into others’ affairs, yet the mullahs have taken it upon themselves to be the moral police. If God forbid the infamous Hasba Bill is implemented, it would give the Hasba Police the right to enter anyone’s house to ‘check’ on suspicion of adultery. Such unethical laws are what the mullahs are vying for in the name of religion. As if sending our children to invade the ‘infidels’ in the name of religion was not enough, now they want to invade our bedrooms as well. It is not only highly outrageous, but also borders on being ludicrous. The reason why Islam has asked for four witnesses in case adultery has been committed is because it is nearly impossible that four people would witness such an act in normal circumstances, implying that a private matter between two consenting adults is better left private. Consensual sex between two people is a private matter. Whether it is a sin or not is between those two and the Creator, not the state. The critics of the Women’s Protection Act (WPA) are also those who want to invade the privacy of people’s bedrooms by making the matter of adultery a criminal offence and to be dealt with by the state.

Abu Haitham, the scribe of 'Uqbah bin 'Amir, a companion of the Prophet (PBUH) narrated, “I said to 'Uqbah bin 'Amir, ‘Some of our neighbours drink wine, and I am going to call the police and have them arrested.’ He said, ‘Do not do so, but advise them and warn them.’ I said, ‘I told them to stop it but they do not listen to me. I am therefore going to inform the police and have them arrested.’ 'Uqbah then said, ‘Woe to you! Do not do that, for I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) say, if one conceals the private affairs (of others), it is like reviving a girl who has been buried alive, from her grave’” (Reported by Abu Daoud' al-Nisai, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, and al-Hakim).

Prying into someone else’s lives should be limited to only when necessary. For instance, it is quite common for parents to pry into their children’s lives out of concern for their welfare. This is a necessary evil and should not be avoided. Conventional wisdom suggests that in order to safeguard the children, the parents must keep a track of their whereabouts, their friends and so on. This is only to avoid any unwanted danger, but it should not be done in a way that is claustrophobic for the children and should be abandoned as soon as they grow beyond a certain age.

One may justify investigation in case a spouse has suspicions about his/her other half’s activities. But this does not mean that one should unnecessarily pry into his/her life, out of simple curiosity. It may lead to misinterpreting certain things that have an entirely different meaning.

Gossiping for the sake of gossiping must be avoided. Not only is it a waste of time, it might wreck someone’s reputation as well. But if you happen to know that person A’s character is dubious and his/her advice may harm person B, you can warn person B about person A’s traits. This is not idle gossip or an attempt to slander someone’s reputation; instead it is the right thing to do as it would save person B from getting into trouble. Similarly any discussion/criticism/conversation that may have negative undertones for a particular group need not be discussed in front of them.

Instead of being curious about other’s lives – which in some cases can lead to misjudgement – it is better to politely clarify certain issues, as not all that one sees may really be well understood without the proper explanation of background or the understanding of the prior actions/experience of other people. It is always better to have open communication between two groups that have misconceptions about each other. For example, if a Sunni has some misconceptions about a Shia, he should discuss it with his Shia counterpart instead of just harbouring speculations.

If someone is curious about others and interferes in their affairs, he should not forget that others might well do the same and invade his privacy in turn – finding faults in his behaviour, spreading rumours about his actions – something which no one would enjoy. What goes around comes around. It has been scientifically demonstrated using controlled experiments that human beings regularly display reciprocal altruism. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” By only concerning ourselves with our issues, unless someone asks for our help, we would not only encourage others to do the same, we would become the change we want by promoting such values. Therefore, it is in our best interest to give everyone their freedom and privacy they deserve and earn it for ourselves too. Curiosity would be much better served if we seek and satiate our intellectual appetite by only indulging in active pursuit of knowledge. As Marie Curie puts it, “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”


Red said…
Umm, does this mean orkut voyeurism is bad?
Noemaun Ahmed said…
is this some friday sermon?

dont do this, dont do that. this is right, this is wrong. :D

when can u cross the line? when is it neccessary can u spy on ur spouse? when is it right for the govt to interfere between a illegitimate couple? only if things are in public?

the verse of the quran states "some suspicions". thanks for that, i did not know about the "some" in that sentence.
mehmal said…
Red, yes it is. But I am guilty of snooping around on orkut too *blush* (although not in any perverse way). And I think my actions didn't harm anyone, so yes the snooping part was wrong in principle, but I didn't hurt or malign anyone (although that's no justification for snooping around...)

Noemaun, although I am not a clergy or anything of the sort, but once in a while you get to a point in life where you really HAVE to remind people of what's wrong and what's right. 'Wrong' and 'Right' are arbitrary terms and my values can be different from yours, so that's another issue. But the thing is that when I wrote this, it was in reaction to some stuff that had been going on recently -- of people (some nosy relatives) really being a pain!!! I don't usually say anything but this was one way of venting for me hehe... sorry, if I bored you to sleep or anything :P

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