By Annisa Essack
Have you been on the receiving end of a doubtful and unverified WhatsApp or Facebook post from well-meaning friends or relatives? Perhaps you were the one who sent out such a post, only to find out later that the information was not even barely truthful. In the age of social media and communication technology, the spread of information and misinformation happens at lightning speed.
With the age of social media, the truth becomes collateral damage. Islamic teachings, however, promote seeking the truth at all cost. “O you who believe! Keep your duty to God and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth.” (Surah Al-Azhab, Verse 70).
Ibn al-Haytham, considered by many, as the first scientist said that we shouldn’t just take writings and explanations at face value but to always verify it. Critical thinking and a demand for proof was and should remain as a must within Muslim practice. The Qur’an and Sunnah provide us with lessons which we can take heed of to avoid being fooled by fake news and worse causing others to be fooled along with us.
Tabbayoun, to verify the truth of information beforehand. The responsibility of sharing truth lies with each one of us, so ensure that you check your sources before deciding to forward a message. This should be done so as not to cause harm to others. After all, we will be questioned regarding our own deeds and actions.
“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” (Surah Al-Hujurat, Verse 6).
Husnuzzoun, to think well of others. One of the traits of good character for people of faith is to think well of others and the first step to avoiding sin. The Prophet (SAW) has said that the individual who has good character has qualified to enter heaven, thus, we should live a life of positivity and invite others to goodness. “
Indeed, those who came with falsehood are a group among you. Do not think it bad for you; rather it is good for you. For every person among them is what [punishment] he has earned from the sin, and he who took upon himself the greater portion thereof - for him is a great punishment.” “Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of one another and say, "This is an obvious falsehood"?” (Surah An-Nur, Verses 11 – 12)
Assess Usefulness and Benefit - It is of absolute importance that before sharing any piece of information, we should weigh its usefulness and benefit, even if it may be good news. Ask yourself before clicking the “SHARE” option: Is it really necessary to share it? Always revert to tabbayoun and husnuzzoun when making that decision.
“Mu'adz (RA) observed: He (SAW) said: “Mu'adz (RA), do you know what right Allah has over His bondsmen and what right His bondsmen have over Him?”
Mu'adz (RA) added: I replied: “Allah and his Messenger know best.”
Upon this, the Holy Prophet (SAW) remarked: “The right of Allah over His bondsmen is that they should worship Allah and should not associate anything with Him, and the right of His bondsmen over Allah, Glorious and Sublime, is that He does not punish him who associates not anything with Him.”
Mu’adz (RA) added: I said to the Messenger of Allah: “Should I then give the tidings to the people?”
He (SAW) said: “Do not tell them this good news, for they would trust in it alone.” (Bukhari and Muslim).
The Prophets (SAW) companion, Mu’adz (RA), only narrated this hadith towards the end of his life despite it being good news, which shows how careful he was about sharing it.
It is more challenging than ever to differentiate between legitimate and fake news due to the speed that information is now being exchanged. But, it is hardly impossible.
Stop and ponder the impact of forwarding a post which may negatively affect your scales when standing before Allah (SWT). Be less anxious to share information, rather be more critical of the contents and the source to avoid fooling oneself and others again and again. Remember, we can’t get away with “Posted as Received” when standing in front of our Creator.