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Mobile phone users confused over religious texts

Mobile phone users confused over religious texts

Mar 20, 2011 - 13:19

KABULinfo-icon (PANinfo-icon): Mobile phone users in the Afghan capital have started receiving text messages warning them that if they do not send on the names of Allah to several other people, they will endure a lifetime of misfortune.

While most people in Kabul do not want to insult their religion, they say they cannot afford to send messages out to so many people.

Massoud, a resident of Qala-i-Wakil, said he had received four such text messages during the past month. Two days ago, he received an SMS which said: "TheBeneficent, the Merciful, the Eternal, the Majestic, the Powerful, and the all Inclusive. Allah is everywhere! Send this to nine people; you will hear good news tomorrow. If you don’t send it, you will be unfortunate for nine years."

Massoud said he usually sent on the messages as asked, but one night he was asked to send the SMS to another 24 people, but ran out of credit after he sent 19 messages. Because I was afraid of being sinful, I used my other mobile to send it to another five people."

The messages are being sent via all mobile phone companies, but the companies deny they have any role in the texts.

Sayed Bilal said in last two months, he received four such SMS which he sent on to others.

In a recent message, he was warned: "If you don’t send this message to 11 people, you will have dreadful dreams and will face problems, and if you send it, a big problem of yours will be resolved.”

Bilal blamed the mobile phone companies for exploiting innocent people.

Some people refuse to send on the messages, saying they know it is not sinful nor will they be affected if they don’t.

Ahmadullah said six months ago he received an SMS asking for him to send the message to 24 other people. "I did not send it to anyone but I sent an SMS to the one who sent me the SMS. “Don’t make business from the name of Allah; there are many other things through which we can get reward and the happiness of Allah," was what he replied.

Religious scholars say such texts using the name of Allah should not be permitted.

Muhammad Hassan Haqyar said that Allah’s name can be used for preaching or in exchanges between friends and people who know each other, but should not be sent to strangers. The reaction of the receiving party is unknown, and they could insult the religion, he said.

He also said it was not correct to use Allah’s name to scare people into thinking that something bad will happen.

Shams Rahman Frotan, another religious scholar, said sending such messages does not have any religious basis.

The messages could influence those with little educationinfo-icon, he said, as they would believe it was based on religion. "Whatever has been written in such SMS, there is nothing in Quraninfo-icon, Hadithinfo-icon or the Ulemma fatwas that if you do not do certain act, you will face tragedy or find misfortune."

He urged people not to send on such messages or fear that some misfortune would befall them.

He said the mobile phone companies should employ a religious adviser to help them with a situation like this. “The adviser should be asked whether such messages should be circulated or not," he said.

The Ministries of telecommunication and technology and hajjinfo-icon and Islamic affairs should also take necessary measures to avoid such messages, he said.

However the head of the telecommunication services at the ministry of telecommunication and technology, Khair Muhammad Faizy, said they had not received any complaints so far.

He said they would speak with the mobile companies.

Two private mobile phone companies, Roshan and Etisalat, have denied they are responsible for sending out the messages. Text messaging is person to person and the companies are not involved, they said.

“Every individual is responsible for his phone, and Roshan does not interfere," said Ghulam Dastgir Haidari, the regional affairs head at Roshan.

Roshan has 4.7 million customers and would be impossible to monitor all of the text messages they send each day, he said.

Etisalat said they have five million customers and it was possible but difficult to control all text messaging. However, an official, who wished to remain anonymous, said if the company was asked by the telecommunication and technology ministry, they would look into controlling messaging.

There are four, private mobile phone companies: Roshan, AWCC, MTN and Etisalat, and one semi-government company, Afghan Telecom, with a total 14.2 million subscribers.

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