Guide how to dispel rumours
In an age of rapid information dissemination through various channels, rumours spread like wildfire, causing anxiety, confusion, and division within Muslim communities. It is crucial for Muslims to understand the significance of dealing with rumours responsibly, both as individuals and as a community. In particular it is sadly common for those in positions of leadership.
Common pitfalls that people and preachers fall into
1. Haste and lack of investigation and verification
One of the primary challenges in dealing with rumours within Muslim communities is the tendency to hastily believe and spread information without proper investigation or verification. In the age of social media, where news can be shared instantly, it becomes crucial to exercise caution and refrain from hastily accepting and sharing unverified information. Islam promotes the importance of seeking knowledge and verifying facts before accepting them as true.
2. Belief in words without proof
Many rumours gain traction because people are inclined to believe what they hear without demanding substantial evidence or proof. In Islam, blind acceptance without evidence is wrong. Muslims are encouraged to apply critical thinking and to seek authentic sources of information, before accepting any claim as true.
3. Attacking others based on unauthentic information as if it is true
Being prone to launch attacks on others based on unverified information is a big problem in our community, even treating unsubstantiated rumours as unquestionable truth. Unfortunately, rumours can lead to the unjust targeting and attacking of individuals or groups within the Muslim community. This behaviour contradicts the principles of justice, kindness, and respect advocated by Islam. It is imperative for Muslims to be mindful of the potential harm caused by baseless rumours and to refrain from passing judgment or engaging in harmful actions based on unverified information.
4. Name-calling and accusations of impiety, deviation and treason.
Rumours often trigger a dangerous trend of name-calling, labelling others as impious, deviant, or even treasonous without proper evidence. Islam encourages Muslims to uphold the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” and to refrain from making accusations without proper proof. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) warned against the destructive nature of false accusations and reminded Muslims to be cautious in their speech.
The Shariah position on dealing with rumours
Understanding the Shariah perspective on dealing with rumours is essential for Muslims seeking guidance on navigating gossip. The Quran and hadith shed light on the Islamic way to prevent rumours and how to handle them so their damage is limited.
Human life and reputation is sacred
Harming or infringing upon someone’s life, property, or reputation is a grave violation of Islamic principles. Abu Bakrah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: Delivering the sermon during the Farewell Pilgrimage on the day of Sacrifice at Mina, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,
وعن أبي بكر ة رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال في خطبته يوم النحر بمنًى في حجة الوداع: ”إن دماءكم، وأموالكم، وأعراضكم حرام عليكم، كحرمة يومكم هذا، في شهركم هذا، في بلدكم هذا، ألا هل بلغت” ((متفق عليه)).
“Verily your blood, your property and your honour are as sacred and inviolable as the sanctity of this day of yours, in this month of yours and in this town of yours. Verily! I have conveyed this message to you.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
In Surah al Hujurat, Allah instructs believers to avoid excessive suspicion, as some suspicions can lead to sin. Muslims are urged not to hastily believe or act upon rumours without proper investigation and evidence. This principle serves as a foundation for dealing with rumours responsibly.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ ۖ وَلَا تَجَسَّسُوا وَلَا يَغْتَب بَّعْضُكُم بَعْضًا ۚ أَيُحِبُّ أَحَدُكُمْ أَن يَأْكُلَ لَحْمَ أَخِيهِ مَيْتًا فَكَرِهْتُمُوهُ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَوَّابٌ رَّحِيمٌ
O you who believe! Avoid most suspicion—some suspicion is sinful. And do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would detest it. So remain mindful of God. God is Most Relenting, Most Merciful. [49:12]
Innocent until proven guilty
In Surah an Nur, Allah highlights the importance of rejecting false claims. When the believing men and women encountered a slanderous rumour, they were expected to think well of one another and declare it as an obvious lie. Additionally, individuals spreading rumours about someone’s purity are challenged to produce four witnesses to support their claims. Failing to provide credible witnesses indicates falsehood.
لَّوْلَا جَاءُوا عَلَيْهِ بِأَرْبَعَةِ شُهَدَاءَ ۚ فَإِذْ لَمْ يَأْتُوا بِالشُّهَدَاءِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ عِندَ اللَّهِ هُمُ الْكَاذِبُونَ
Why did they not bring four witnesses to testify to it? If they fail to bring the witnesses, then in God’s sight, they are liars. [24:13]
Think well of others
Believers have been instructed to think positively of each other and to give their fellow believers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to rumours or negative information. It reminds believers to avoid quick judgments, suspicion, or negative assumptions about each other, especially in the absence of clear evidence.
لَّوْلَا إِذْ سَمِعْتُمُوهُ ظَنَّ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بِأَنفُسِهِمْ خَيْرًا وَقَالُوا هَٰذَا إِفْكٌ مُّبِينٌ
Why, when you heard about it, the believing men and women did not think well of one another, and say, “This is an obvious lie”? [24:12]
Do not consider rumours trivial
The Quran warns against spreading rumours without knowledge or evidence. In Surah an Nur, Allah cautions believers against spreading gossip and engaging in idle talk without proper understanding. Muslims are reminded that spreading falsehood is a serious matter, and they should refrain from repeating or endorsing such information.
إِذْ تَلَقَّوْنَهُ بِأَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَتَقُولُونَ بِأَفْوَاهِكُم مَّا لَيْسَ لَكُم بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَتَحْسَبُونَهُ هَيِّنًا وَهُوَ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمٌ
When you rumoured it with your tongues, and spoke with your mouths what you had no knowledge of, and you considered it trivial; but according to God, it is serious. [24:15]
Do not repeat everything you hear
In Surat an Nur, Allah Almighty warns us of the seriousness of spreading false rumours and gossip. The Quran encourages Muslims to engage in virtuous behaviour and avoid slander or backbiting. Surat an Nur advises individuals not to engage in publicising slanderous claims. The emphasis is on maintaining good character, speaking truthfully, and refraining from damaging the reputations of others.
وَلَوْلَا إِذْ سَمِعْتُمُوهُ قُلْتُم مَّا يَكُونُ لَنَا أَن نَّتَكَلَّمَ بِهَٰذَا سُبْحَانَكَ هَٰذَا بُهْتَانٌ عَظِيمٌ
يَعِظُكُمُ اللَّهُ أَن تَعُودُوا لِمِثْلِهِ أَبَدًا إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
وَيُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَن تَشِيعَ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
۞ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ وَمَن يَتَّبِعْ خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَإِنَّهُ يَأْمُرُ بِالْفَحْشَاءِ وَالْمُنكَرِ ۚ وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ مَا زَكَىٰ مِنكُم مِّنْ أَحَدٍ أَبَدًا وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يُزَكِّي مَن يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
When you heard it, you should have said, “It is not for us to repeat this. By Your glory, this is a serious slander.
God cautions you never to return to the like of it, if you are believers.
God explains the Verses to you. God is Knowing and Wise.
Those who love to see immorality spread among the believers—for them is a painful punishment, in this life and in the Hereafter. God knows, and you do not know.
Were it not for God’s grace upon you, and His mercy, and that God is Clement and Merciful.
O you who believe! Do not follow Satan’s footsteps. Whoever follows Satan’s footsteps—he advocates obscenity and immorality. Were it not for God’s grace towards you, and His mercy, not one of you would have been pure, ever. But God purifies whomever He wills. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. [24:16-21]
Severe punishment for repeating rumours
The Quran highlights the fact that no one can escape what they said and the damage they caused by what they uttered.
يَوْمَ تَشْهَدُ عَلَيْهِمْ أَلْسِنَتُهُمْ وَأَيْدِيهِمْ وَأَرْجُلُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
On the Day when their tongues, and their hands, and their feet will testify against them regarding what they used to do. [24:24]
Do not use bad language
Using vulgar or offensive language is discouraged in Islam. It is important to maintain good manners, respect, and decency in one’s speech and interactions with others. However there may be situations where speaking out against injustice or wrongdoing is necessary and permissible. In such situations one may use strong words or speak out and express grievances openly. Nevertheless, individuals should be cautious about their speech and ensure that it aligns with the principles of justice and righteousness.
۞ لَّا يُحِبُّ اللَّهُ الْجَهْرَ بِالسُّوءِ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ إِلَّا مَن ظُلِمَ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ سَمِيعًا عَلِيمًا
God does not like the public uttering of bad language, unless someone was wronged. God is Hearing and Knowing. [4:148]
Investigate reports before acting on them
In Surat al Hujurat, Allah advises believers to verify news before acting upon it, as acting out of ignorance can lead to harm and regret. Muslims are encouraged to promote understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation rather than perpetuating division through rumor-mongering.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ
O you who believe! If a troublemaker brings you any news, investigate, lest you harm people out of ignorance, and you become regretful for what you have done. [49:6]
Slander causes disunity
عَنْ أَسْمَاءَ بِنْتِ يَزِيدَ قَالَتْ: قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم: أَلاَ أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِخِيَارِكُمْ؟ قَالُوا: بَلَى، قَالَ: الَّذِينَ إِذَا رُؤُوا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ، أَفَلاَ أُخْبِرُكُمْ بِشِرَارِكُمْ؟ قَالُوا: بَلَى، قَالَ: الْمَشَّاؤُونَ بِالنَّمِيمَةِ، الْمُفْسِدُونَ بَيْنَ الأَحِبَّةِ، الْبَاغُونَ الْبُرَآءَ الْعَنَتَ. الأدب المفرد ومسند أحمد.
Asma’ bint Yazid reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Shall I tell you who is the best of you?” “Yes,,” they replied. He said, “Those who remind you of Allah when you see them.” He went on to say, “Shall I tell you who is the worst of you?” “Yes,” they replied. He said, “Those who go about slandering, causing mischief between friends in order to separate them, and desiring to lead the innocent into wrong action.” [Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Musnad Ahmad]
Keep good company
The Quran advises us to associate with those who do not partake in bad behaviour.
الْخَبِيثَاتُ لِلْخَبِيثِينَ وَالْخَبِيثُونَ لِلْخَبِيثَاتِ ۖ وَالطَّيِّبَاتُ لِلطَّيِّبِينَ وَالطَّيِّبُونَ لِلطَّيِّبَاتِ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ مُبَرَّءُونَ مِمَّا يَقُولُونَ ۖ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ
Bad women are for bad men, and bad men are for bad women, and good women are for good men, and good men are for good women. Those are acquitted of what they say. There is forgiveness for them, and a generous provision. [24:26]
Reconciliation and unity
The Quran emphasises the importance of maintaining unity within the Muslim community and resolving conflicts.
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ
وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ
Successful are the believers.
Those who are humble in their prayers.
Those who avoid nonsense. [23:1-3]
وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَشْهَدُونَ الزُّورَ وَإِذَا مَرُّوا بِاللَّغْوِ مَرُّوا كِرَامًا
And those who do not bear false witness; and when they come across indecencies, they pass by with dignity. [25:72]
The Quran encourages believers to speak kindly and gently to one another, even in times of disagreement or conflict. Surah al Baqarah highlights the importance of cooperative and respectful communication while promoting righteousness and avoiding sin.
وَقُل لِّعِبَادِي يَقُولُوا الَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ ۚ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَنزَغُ بَيْنَهُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلْإِنسَانِ عَدُوًّا مُّبِينًا
Tell My servants to say what is best. Satan sows discord among them. Satan is to man an open enemy. [17:53]
وَقُولُوا لِلنَّاسِ حُسْنًا وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّيْتُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِّنكُمْ وَأَنتُم مُّعْرِضُونَ
and speak nicely to people; and pray regularly, and give alms.” Then you turned away, except for a few of you, recanting. [2:83]
وَمَنْ أَحْسَنُ قَوْلًا مِّمَّن دَعَا إِلَى اللَّهِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِي مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
And who is better in speech than someone who calls to God, and acts with integrity, and says, “I am of those who submit”? [41:33]
Take the higher moral ground
The Quran advises believers not to stoop to the same behaviour as those who resort to falsehoods and accusations and insults but react with grace. Otherwise there is no difference between them.
وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
Good and evil are not equal. Repel evil with good, and the person who was your enemy becomes like an intimate friend. [41:34]
Stay united and cooperate with each other to build a strong community
وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
And hold fast to the rope of God, altogether, and do not become divided. And remember God’s blessings upon you; how you were enemies, and He reconciled your hearts, and by His grace you became brethren. And you were on the brink of a pit of fire, and He saved you from it. God thus clarifies His revelations for you, so that you may be guided. [3:103]
ۘ وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ وَلَا تَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابِ
And cooperate with one another in virtuous conduct and conscience, and do not cooperate with one another in sin and hostility. And fear God. God is severe in punishment. [5:2]
From the verses of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it is evident that Islam advocates for responsible behaviour when dealing with rumours. Muslims are encouraged to verify information, reject baseless claims, avoid spreading falsehood, uphold good conduct, promote unity, and engage in constructive communication. By adhering to these principles, Muslims can foster a culture of truth, justice, and compassion in addressing rumours within their communities.
Dealing with rumours requires a collective effort from both individuals and community leaders. It is essential to promote an environment of critical thinking, open dialogue, and verification of information. By adhering to the teachings of Islam, Muslims can counter the negative impact of rumours, foster unity, and strengthen their communities based on justice, truth, and compassion.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – 12th July 2023
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