I got my first cell-phone in college mainly out of peer pressure and the heartfelt desire to be in the ‘in’ crowd. All popular kids had cell-phones with flashy charms and high-strung ringtones. It was fascinating to see them lost in the growing frenzy of text messaging or dejected in the wait of an expected call. But, with time, the situation has gotten alarmingly out of control: conversations are being constantly interrupted by ringtones, lectures are being ignored amidst jokes being sent across the classrooms, drivers are losing control of their vehicles and indecent content and images are corrupting minds.

However, the responsibility for the use of a cell-phone – whether good or bad – is on the person owning it. We wake up in the morning to the sound of our cell-phone’s inbuilt alarm, our loved ones can easily access us when we are away from them, we make important business correspondence, we check our emails, we conduct banking transactions, we pay bills – in short, we just cannot imagine our lives without our cell-phones.

Fortunately for us, Muslims, the Quran and Sunnah have laid down the basics of social conduct and self-control that can help derive etiquettes to allow Muslims to embrace advanced technology, without harming either their Dunya or Akhirah. Some of them are as follows.

Know when to switch off

How many times has it happened that you were absorbed in your prayers and were harshly pulled away from Allah (swt) by the cacophonic warble of your cell-phone? Your mind lost all its peace, and you were torn between concentrating on your prayers and considering, who could it be on the phone. Allah (swt) urges Muslims to pray with complete concentration. Allah (swt) says: “… And stand before Allah with obedience [and do not speak to others during the Salah (prayers)].” (Al-Baqarah 2:238) Men should switch off their cell-phones, especially when they go to the Masjid to offer their prayers, as ringtones distract not only them but others as well. In case they have forgotten to do so, and their cell phone rings in the middle of the congregation, they must switch it off immediately rather than waiting for the caller to abort the call himself.

Know when to attend calls

Attending calls or texting while conversing with a family member or having lunch with your close friend can be extremely rude and annoying. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “If you are three, two should not converse secretly to the exclusion of your companion, for that hurts his feelings.” (Muslim)

Moreover, people should not attend calls while driving, as such an action puts in danger not only their lives but also those of pedestrians and other commuters. Being Muslims, we are obligated to refrain from any action which can harm other Muslims, as Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands other Muslims are safe.” (Bukhari)

Mind your voice

Loud talkers are often poor listeners and come out to be rude and imposing. It can be jarring to converse with such people, and they are often labeled as attention seekers. People should keep their tone such that they are audible only to the person they are talking to. Allah says: “And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the ass.” (Luqman 31:19)

Know where to attend calls

People who talk loudly on their cell-phones in elevators, public transport or other public places should refrain from doing so, as they can incite people near them to eavesdrop on their private conversations. Allah (swt) says: “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, indeed some suspicions are sins. And spy not, neither backbite one another.” (Al-Hujurat 49:12) Here, spying refers to eavesdropping.

Use your gadgets wisely

Cell-phones are laced with gadgetry, such as high resolution cameras and video recorders. We see people casually taking pictures of their friends and colleagues via cell-phones, without prior consent, and sending them across via MMS. Some scholars maintain that taking pictures is impermissible in Islam, and such actions may offend people, who are strict in their religious values.

Lastly, one must be considerate and courteous whenever he/she uses his/her cell phone. The point is to refrain from creating nuisances for others in any way. As Muslims, we are expected to carry ourselves responsibly and wisely in every capacity.