By Dr Kartini Kamaruzzaman & Dr Mohd Yahya Mohamed Ariffin
The recent conflict between some local Muslims influential over humanitarian aid issues in Palestine has taught a lesson that everyone needs to consider. Deep self-reflection is also urged. While this demonstrates that the Internet serves as a multi-faceted medium for individuals to share messages and take a stance, it creates the possibility for information and interaction to be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and manipulated. It is also clear that a minor difference in opinion can become a major issue that circulates rapidly in cyberspace and makes conflict resolution a challenge.
Communication is the essence of such processes and activities. Although communication and interaction are generally used interchangeably, the two terms differ in meaning. Emory A. Griffin (2019), a professor emeritus of communication at Wheaton College, Illinois, regards communication as a relational process involving the actions of creating and interpreting messages that may draw a response. Additionally, communication process comprises the following elements: the message, message formation, interpretation, relational impact, and response. Meanwhile, interaction is defined as reciprocal action and the way people affect each other, for instance, by responding to a message, person, or situation.
Undoubtedly, various forms of digital media, such as those which use electronic devices and social media platforms, have provided tremendous social facilities and benefits. People from all walks of life have the opportunity to communicate, share, interact, and collaborate through the compression of space and time as well as beyond geographical boundaries.
Some positive aspects are that humans now have immediate access to information and can interact with a wider social network, while people can be brought together for a common good. Nonetheless, if information is misused, this can cause damage. Far more dangerous activities will be the result; for example, people may use social media irresponsibly to spread false information, fake news, abuse the privacy of others or even harm other users. Therefore, when interacting and communicating through social media, people tend to become exposed to serious harm, which may affect their mental, emotion and spiritual condition.
This also demonstrates that ineffective communication and interaction may result in conflict. For example, users who do not take responsibility for content they have shared online or users who make extreme comments may affect social stability. Moreover, communication and interaction failures may hinder mutual understanding, respect, and tolerance. Moreover, serious arguments may also result from various factors, such as differences in values, knowledge, principles, religion, or even socio-political backgrounds.
The Al-Quran specifically states that communication and interaction are aspects of human nature. As Muslims, we are guided by our religion, al-Quran and as-Sunnah. Therefore, Islamic etiquette requires consciousness, realisation, and commitment to adhere to God’s command. Muslim scholars such as Al-Ghazali and Hamka have made extensive efforts to outline the fundamental principles of effective communication, according to the Qur’an.
First, the command of ‘Qaulan Sadidan’ prescribes the need to speak the truth and be polite and accountable for what has been said, particularly in matters of orphans, descendants, and piety. Second, the command of ‘Qaulan Balighan’ refers to communication that consists of qualities such as comprehensibility, coherence, and intelligibility, which have the potential to affect human thinking and emotion positively.
Besides, the command of ‘Qaulan Maysura’ means communication that uses language that is understandable, concise, and precise so that it is easier for people to comprehend. Fourth, the command of ‘Qaulan Layyinan’ advocates the need for communication to instil qualities such as gentleness, friendliness, and forbearance.
Attention should also be given to the fifth command, ‘Qaulan Kareeman’, which encourages communicators to use noble words when communicating and interacting. This protects individuals’ feelings and shows deference and respect while at the same time one does not demean other people. The sixth command, ‘Qaulan Ma’rufa’, means communication and interaction that promote benefits, good intentions, and the responsibility to bestow enjoyment or welfare on others. This includes forgiving wrongdoings and maintaining good attitudes and morals.
Building a Peaceful Ummah
Conflict arises whenever two or more individuals display different opinions, beliefs, values, interests, and needs. Social conflict may have serious consequences, such as insults, mockery, criticism, and impoliteness, all of which can destroy social peace and harmony. Worse, some may show irreverent behaviour with outbursts of profanity.
As Muslims, we must play our part and attempt to maintain good morals, manners, and ethics when communicating and interacting in both offline and online environments. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) forbade us from being suspicious and looking for faults in others, as such activities will lead to slander and defamation. As these are examples of reprehensible acts, we must, therefore, always be careful and guard against committing such acts ourselves.
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (pbuh) 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” (Muslim: 6214).
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) also saying that, “Don't nurse malice against one another, don't nurse aversion against one another and don't be inquisitive about one another and don't outbid one another (with a view to raising the price) and be fellow-brothers and servants of Allah” (Muslim: 6216).
We must also be reminded of the importance of unity and the effort to re-establish peace and harmony by learning and appreciating our differences. Dialogue, discussion, and musyawarah are important methods of resolve conflicting issues or relations, given that we should be able to tolerate and endure difficulty with forbearance.
Resolving conflict also requires us to embed communication and interaction with patience, and to display positive values such as love, kindness, politeness, and compassion. All of these demonstrate our character (akhlaq) and morals (adab), as well as our collective duty and responsibility to reconcile broken relationships between humans.
In fact, settling for peace is a noble act, in which Muslims seek forgiveness and forgive each other for the sake of the Almighty. “A kind word and forgiveness are better than charity followed by hurt” (al-Baqarah:263).
Dr Kartini Kamaruzzaman is a Senior Lecturer, New Media Communications, at the Faculty of Leadership and Management, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan.
Dr Mohd. Yahya Mohamed Ariffin, is a Professor at the Faculty of Leadership and Management, USIM.