Al-jawab billahi at-taufeeq (the answer with Allah's guidance)
we concur with the following answer:
Is it okay for brothers and sisters to chat online?
Islam has set down principles for the prosperity of mankind in this world and for their salvation in the hereafter. The early Muslims used to say, “This world is a harvest for the hereafter,” taking this from the words of Allah Most High, “Whoever desires the harvest of the Hereafter, We give him increase in its harvest. And whoever desires the harvest of the world, We give him thereof, and he has no portion in the Hereafter.” [Qur’an, 42.20]
Hence, a person must use his time beneficially in this world for the sake of the hereafter and take account of himself everyday. Each moment spent in useless activities is time away from the remembrance of Allah and other beneficial works.
The scholars have clear rulings regarding useless talk and gossip. Many hadiths have been related in this regard. The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “It is from the excellence of a man’s Islam to leave that which does not concern him.” [Tirmidhi, and others]
Furthermore, the limits of interaction between the sexes has also been laid down by the scholars. Recently, a post on the limits of mixing between the sexes very clearly concluded the issue, and must have quenched the thirst of many for a conclusive answer on the subject, among all the confusion that prevails regarding it. [See below.]
The same limits and rules would also apply to the informal exchange of letters between members of the opposite sex as well as through the new systems of MSN and Yahoo Messenger, which has made it supposedly “safer and more permissible” to converse with people while sitting in the safety of one’s home. People feel more safe in chatting this way than on the phone, since there is no physical sound that is being transferred and the whole issue of fitna from the opposite sex does not seem to be an issue here.
However, as research will show, addiction to chat rooms and cyber friendships is on the increase. Many people become besotted and fall in love with the person on the other end, without even seeing them. It is known that a lot of inappropriate, and often completely impermissible conversations take place among young Muslims, even religious ones, through such online systems.
It is impermissible to have an informal conversation over the Messenger services or through email for that matter, just at it would be over the phone or in person.
People get carried away in their chatting since most of the time there is not bill to be paid, no mummy or daddy waiting to use the phone, and no fear of a brother or sister picking up the other extension in the other room.
In this regard, having strange members of the opposite sex on one’s contact list, seeing when they log on, and having a quick exchange with them would also be strongly discouraged.
‘Allama ibn ‘Abidin writes in his Radd al-Muhtar, an indepth footnote commentary on the Hanafi fiqh text al-Durr al-Mukhtar:
“When a strange [i.e. non-mahram] women greets a man with salam, he should answer her verbally loud enough for her to hear if she is an elderly women. However, if she is a younger women he should respond within himself. Likewise, when a man greets a [non-mahram] women with salam, the ruling would be the same … (Radd al-Muhtar 5:236).
After this discussion, he mentions the undesirability of speaking to non-mahram women without need, and says that it is permissible to have informal conversation with elderly women, but not with younger women.
Likewise, the great Shafi’i scholar of hadith, Muhammad ibn `Allan al-Bakri (d. 1057 AH), has written a similar discussion on the prohibition of salam to ones non-mahrams in his great commentary on Imam Nawawi’s Riyad al-Salihin (see Dalil al-Falihin li turuq Riyad al-Salihin 6:343) and has concluded that this is the opinion of the Shafi`i scholars.
Therefore, if this is the ruling for salam and unneeded conversations then the ruling of holding “friendly informal chats” through the Messenger services or chat-rooms becomes quite clear.
And Allah knows best.
Abdurrahman ibn Yusufhttp://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=1&ID=1335&CATE=88