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Of Parks, Maya Khan & the Concept of Privacy in Islam

I start with the disclaimer that I have nothing personal against Maya Khan, and actually respect some of the shows that she has previously done that brought up certain important social issues to light. But this time, she crossed a line, and I am plain irritated.

Privacy is a basic human right. A right which Islam respects and condones.

When Maya Khan, on the show “Subah Saveray Maya ke Saath”  (aired on 17th January 2012 on Samaa tv) barged into a park of Karachi to “check out” what people were doing and air that on tv, she violated this basic human right. It irritated me as a journalist, as a human and as a Muslim. While Islam is not against people advising each other to abstain from acts harmful to individuals and society, it is certainly against infringement of the basic right of privacy.

I write at the risk of being asked the question “But what does Islam have to do with it?” To that I would say, “Oh, but it does”. The society that we are living in today, everything boils down to either being the “mullahs” or the “liberals”. And the so-called fundos are assumedly behind every act of moral policing, of being the “holier-than-thous” and of judging. Many a times, they are not. But somehow, Islam will be hash-tagged in everyone’s mind alongside any violation of human rights. And that’s simply not fair.

What Maya and her team did falls neither under the umbrella of true Islamic values, nor liberalism. It is just reflective of today’s age of media’s voyeurism (please excuse my language here) which feeds upon any and everything that makes news and gets ratings.

Privacy, as a right, is so stressed upon in Islam, that the Qur’an says: ‘Do not spy on one another’ (49:12). This would apply also to trying and finding out details of another person’s life that we have nothing to do with……who is she seeing, why did she get a divorce, why is he still not married, how much does she earn, are they practicing family planning, why don’t they have children when it’s been 3 years since they married….. curiosity that gnaws with claws of evil pleasure at someone’s protective covering of privacy.

Ibn Kathir said in his Tafsir commenting upon Ayah 12 of Surah Al-Hujuraat: “Allâh said ‘and spy not’ on each other. Tajassus, usually harbors ill intentions, and the spy is called a Jasus….In the Sahih it is recorded that the Messenger of Allâh said: “Neither commit Tajassus nor Tahassus nor hate each other nor commit Tadabur. And be brothers Oh servants of Allâh.” Al-Awza’i said: ‘Tajassus means, to search for something, while Tahassus means listening to people when they are talking without their permission, or eavesdropping at their doors. Tadabur refers to shunning each other.’ Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this statement. [Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr, Vol. 9, pp. 201 / 202]

This hadith says it all: Abu Huraira reported Allâh’s Messenger (SAW) as saying: “Avoid suspicion,  for suspicion is the gravest lie in talk and do not be inquisitive about one another and do not spy upon one another and do not feel envy with the other, and nurse no malice, and nurse no aversion and hostility against one another. And be fellow-brothers and servants of Allah.”
[Sahih Muslim, Book 32, No. 6214]

Privacy as a right is so respected in Islam that Allah’s Messenger (SAW) who was generally known for his gentle and forgiving nature, went on to say: “”If someone peeps into your house, it will be no sin if you injure his eye with a piece of stone.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Yes, a park is a public place. Yes, in a public place a certain decorum should be observed. Yes, Islam encourages us to advise someone against doing something inappropriate or wrong. But should that not be a matter of context? How well do you know the person whom you are advising? How will that person take your advice? Is it solicited advice or unsolicited? And are you in a position to give that advice? What is your choice of words? Most importantly, even if we DO find out a grievous sin or mistake someone committed, shouldn’t we be covering it up? Look at this hadith: “Whosoever covers (the sins of) a Muslim, Allah covers (his sins) on the Day of Judgment. (Bukhari)

Hypothetically, even if someone were “sinning” in a park (and who has the right to judge that but Allah!), is an ambush with a brigade of cameramen that catch you in the act the way to stop someone?

Have we seriously run out of topics to discuss on Pakistan’s morning shows? Or are we so idle that we have nothing better to do than be part of or watch this atrocity?

Islam is beautiful, respectful and fair to everyone. And what was done on this show in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan makes no sense.

The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: “Of the beautiful things in a person’s Islam is to leave what does not concern him.” (Muwatta Imam Malik)

Need I say more?

About FarahnazZahidi

Journalist, writer, Communications practitioner, teacher, media trainer | Literature | Gender Parity | Peace | Islam | Very Desi | Chaai, not coffee.

17 responses »

  1. Really interesting to read an article regarding the issue, from an Islamic point of view.
    Also ‘Islam will be hash-tagged in everyone’s mind’ LOVE the hash-tag analogy

  2. Moazzam A. Amin

    Brilliantly written … some time or I would say lot of time the Media people do cross their limits.

  3. well i am totally agree with the writer and must say here is this girl maya khan is very clean who belongs to high class (we all know what girls doing in our high class)? who is now trying to spy on other people? 2nd our media is the worst thing which is happening in Pakistan and it is taking 100 % part to destroy our homeland more then any mulla or other person. did GEO tv who always criticize on government and always talk about people and their rights and poverty in Pakistan did they tell in news how the son of geo tv’s owner got marry it was grand marriage was held in Atlantis hotel Dubai and jumeria dubai etc so i must say here we better start talking about our media now to stop this all as they are the people who really destroying pakistan…..

    • Thank you for your encouragement.
      My point is not to point a finger at Maya or any media person. We just need to make sure we stay within limits as media persons. That is all. 🙂

      • no1 is against any1 but problem is why we don’t criticize about our media. i was in channel and they all are blackmailers and they talk about human rights but in reality they are = DON … i saw in reality so i am saying. further scroll down for more detailed comment… btw i appreciate your hard-work and keep writing about all issues:)

  4. very well written Mashallah. i found it after i finished my own blog post else i could have taken some more references from it. just to draw your attention on verse 27 and 28 of chapter 24 that talks about entering in houses, and if you are asked to go back you have no right to stay.
    these are simple things we ignore, and about our media what can i say when the so called “number one morning show” done this i am scared while thinking about the rest of them.

  5. I agree with most of what you said but what about enjoining good and forbidding evil?
    It would have been great if you could have also referenced the following hadith which states to the closest meaning:
    “If one of you sees something wrong, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; if he cannot, then with his heart and this is the weakest faith.”
    I am not ( like you) pointing fingers at Maya or any one person, but as a general rule… muslims are not “really” supposed to “mind their own business” all the time! We will be questioned on the day of judgement if we were able to stop a sin from happening and we didnt!

    It’s a different issue when someone wants to discuss your married life and your family planning, and when someone imparts unwanted advice on personal matters, or when they pry and eavesdrop which is clearly unrespectful and forbidden.

    • Thank you Mahwash for your feedback. Please understand that I am not against the concept of Amr Bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkir. Yes, that hadith I believe in and agree with. I have a problem with HOW this was done. Last year, another show had done a similar crackdown and it resulted in the girl caught on camera attempting suicide. Rasool Ullah (saw)’s way of correcting people did not involve publicly defaming them. If you read carefully, I have mentioned that it depends on WHO its is you are enjoining good to, the situation etc. I would highly respect if one advises someone one on one. As someone who has been part of (Alhamdulillah) Islamic classes, I have had people enjoining good to me & me doing the same in turn. But this attitude is about defaming people on public television. We simply cannot and should not do that.
      Once again, thank you for your feedback 🙂

      • You re welcome! I just feel that sometimes ppl just hold on to one hadith but infact there are several for a single situation. For example a common hadith I ve heard used over and over again is “actions are judged by intentions”. People use this to defend dating, figure revealing clothes, etc etc. It so easy to fall into this trap of shaitaan.

        The younger generation is using such things to defend their unIslamic actions. You blog post is very well written. The only missing element was the mention of Amr Bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkir. Ofcourse the sunnah way to do so is discreetly and with hikmat.

  6. true but she did it for the ratings.. and we fails to see how we’re the ones who gave it to her by offering free publicity by starting the trend to diss her..

  7. I agree “wheredreamscollide”. Nevertheless it is frustrating, & so for catharsis & also for awareness, this needs to be talked about.
    Thanks for your feedback

  8. I hate what she did, she has no right to intervene in peoples privacy. These media people can go to any limit for the cheap publicity . SHAME ON U MAYA KHAN

  9. everyone here is right in their own way as Mehwish gave a reference about Hadith & that is also correct if we see something is happening bad we must try to stop but here the main problem is these media people and all channels just need to increase their ratings and try to picturize these kind of programs and raise these kind of issues which are very sensitive as we all know in which society we live & most of us love to watch on tv with full enjoyment. no1 is against anyone here but first of all we all have to see our inner sides then go and start preaching people what and why you are doing this etc… i must say 1 more thing if we look about 10 years back things were much better why? caz we had only PTV and some people had dish tv etc but now every1 have cable at their homes and all kids who are just growing watch some very pathetic kind of drams / films and then implement in their own real life. i saw 1 drama it was on GEO i think i don’t remember and in that drama they were showing a man and women got marry and then their kids fall in love and got marry ( both parents got 2nd marriage ). they showed some mullah also told them in drama its legal in Islam etc but i am totally confused and if i am confused what about people who lives in villages and when they saw this kind of thing and didn’t even understand but they are thinking now it’s allowed in Islam so i must say please whatever our media do but don’t raise sensitives issues and don’t play with the emotions of innocent people these are the biggest sins which we are doing now a days secondly caz of this; all world is laughing at us is this Pakistan? this is Muslim country? and most of the time i really fight with them and tell them no its all media and its fake this is not what you people hear and see about Pakistan. Maya Khan, Sahir and his sister and many more all are same and from same class who will never understand the value of motherland and their own people.

    • I saw that drama too.It was shown right as the couple wanting to get married had totally different parents. even if ones mother and the other ones father got married that does not make them sister and brother(not even step siblings) as both had different set of parents.
      Maya Khan show was too much that was a pathetic and WRONG example of amr bil maroof wa nahi an il munkir. basic violation of privacy either it be a case of islamic values or non religieous social values.


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