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Selected sermons of Imam Sayed Osman.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spreading False Rumors

from the January 21, 2011 sermon.

Allah, to whom all praise and glory is due, says:
O you who believe! If a rebellious, evil person comes to you with news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done.
Hafs ibn Asim narrated that Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "It is enough for a person to be judged as a liar that he spreads all that he hears."

What is meant by a false rumor? A rumor means spreading news without ascertaining its authenticity or checking its accuracy. It also means to fabricate news that is not true, and that may lead to misunderstanding between brothers, sisters, or spouses.


Allah has warned us from spreading unsubstantiated news and from judging against people without a strong basis of proof:
O you who believe! If a rebellious, evil person comes to you with news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done.
The situation behind this revelation is that Muhammad (pbuh) sent Walid to collect zakah (the mandatory charity given by Muslims each year, similar to tithing) from the people of Bani Mustalaq. When the people saw Walid, they advanced toward him. Walid, however, became afraid because of a previous enmity between himself and these people, so he rushed back to Muhammad (pbuh). Walid reports that the people had refused to pay zakah and left Islam. Muhammad (pbuh) sent Khalid and an army to the people and ordered Khalid to verify the news that Walid brought. When Khalid approached the people and heard the call to prayer, he realized that they did not leave Islam. He also learned that they were ready to pay zakah to Walid, but he assumed the wrong intention on their part and fled. So, Allah revealed:
O you who believe! If a rebellious, evil person comes to you with news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done.
Consider the above example carefully. It is quite possible for fighting amongst the people to erupt on account of one false rumor spread by a single person. Such a rumor may harm a person, a family, or the whole community, despite the fact that it was false or exaggerated to begin with. That is why Allah orders us to abstain from propagating false rumors or unconfirmed news.


Additionally, in Islam it is disliked that a Muslim engage in idle talk that has no benefit. Mughirah ibn Shubah narrated that Muhammad (pbuh) said, "Allah has forbidden to you to be disobedient to your mothers, to without (charity you should give), or demand (what you do not deserve), or to bury your daughters alive. And Allah has disliked idle talk, to ask too many questions (about matters which will be of benefit to no one), and to squander your wealth."

This hadith tells us that being disobedient and rude toward mothers is a grave sin, as is withholding someone's right or gaining unlawfully from someone, as is murdering unwanted daughters by burying them alive as Arabs used to do in the days of ignorance before Islam. It is also disliked to indulge in idle talk, meaning a person narrating on behalf of others that so and so said such and such as there is no benefit in it. Moreover, it leads to the sin of prodding into people's mistakes. It is also disliked that a person should squander wealth on things which are beneficial in this world nor the Hereafter.

It is similarly disliked to ask too many questions, meaning to inquire about issues that do not concern a Muslim. For example, some people like to discuss the problems of others just to be amused by them or perhaps to feel better by other's shortcomings. Other people inquire about the problems of another person with the intention to help him or her. In other words, inquiring out of necessity is permitted, but inquiring without a need is disliked.

Muawiyah wrote to Mughirah ibn Shubah, asking him to write back a hadith from Muhammad (pbuh), so Mughirah wrote, "I heard Muhammad (pbuh) say, 'Allah has disliked for you to indulge in idle talk, to ask too many questions, and to waste your wealth.'"

These days, magazines, newspapers, and television contribute greatly to the spreading of false rumors. These rumors often vilify or otherwise harm people and help in propagating crime and breaking relationships.

All of the prophets of Allah (pbut) faced many lies and false rumors from their people, who opposed them with lies in efforts to stop others from believing in them and following them. The people of Noah (pbuh), for example, spread lies that he was insane, in manifest error, and that he only wanted to gain a high position over them. Allah describes their behavior:
They rejected Allah's servant and said: "A madman!" and he was rebuked and threatened.
And Allah describes their response:
Said the eminent among his (Noah's) people, "Indeed, we see you in clear error."
And Allah described their accusation:
He is no more but a human like you, he seeks to make himself superior to you.
As a result of the mischief, after years of effort on the part of Noah (pbuh), only eight people believed in him.

Also, Moses (pbuh) had lies and rumors spread about him by Pharaoh:
Pharaoh said to the chiefs around him, "Surely this is indeed a well-versed sorcerer. He wants to drive you out of your land by his sorcery. Now what is it that you advise?"
Also, the children of Israel spread lies against Mary, mother of Jesus (pbut), that she was an adulterer, but Allah cleared her of their accusation:
Carrying the baby, she brought him to her people. They said: "O Mary! Indeed you have done a thing unprecedented! O sister of Aaron! Your father was not a man of evil nor was your mother an unchaste woman." Then she pointed to him (the baby). They said, "How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?" He (Jesus, the baby) said: "Surely! I am a servant of Allah. Allah has given me the scripture and made me a prophet."
And when the Jews claimed that they killed and crucified Jesus, Allah answered them in the Qur'an, saying:
 They say that, "we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, messenger of Allah." Neither did they kill him, nor did they crucify him, but (it was made) to resemble for them.
And when the chiefs of Mecca described Muhammad (pbuh) as a madman, a sorcerer, and a magician, so Allah answered them:
By the grace of your Lord, you (O Muhammad) are not a madman.
By the grace of Allah, you are neither a fortune-teller nor a madman
The prophets and the messengers (pbut) were the most noble in their nations and the best of human beings, still their enemies could spread lies and false rumors against them to stop people from following them. These rumors would have been heavy on the messengers had not Allah strengthened their hearts with His Deen.

Just because you hear it, doesn't mean you should repeat it.

False rumors are dangerous and they leave a lasting hurt on the affected person. For example, the honor of Aisha, the wife of Muhammad (pbuh), was questioned when the hypocrites spread false rumors that she had developed an illicit relationship with another Muslim man. This false news was spread in Medina and reached the ears of Muhammad (pbuh). Muhammad (pbuh) was disturbed for one full month until Allah revealed the innocence of his wife Aisha from above the seven heavens:
Surely! Those who brought forth slander (against Aisha) are a group among you. Consider it not a bad thing for you, but it is a good (lesson) for you. Every person among them (who took part) has earned a sin, and as for the one among them who had the greater share in it, shall have a great punishment.
Allah described this action as a rumor and a lie, which grieved Muhammad (pbuh), Aisha, and Aisha's father for a whole month until Allah cleared her name through revelation. In the time of Muhammad (pbuh), a revelation could clear the false accusation, but now there is no revelation so who will clear the oppressed from similar accusations? Surely, even if no one defends them in this world, Allah will defend them on the Day of Judgment and award their rights to them.

How does Islam help the Muslims escape rumors?
  1. Through developing a habit of verification of news. When news comes to you, it is necessary to authenticate it before passing it to others. "O you who believe! If a rebellious, evil person comes to you with news, verify it."
  2. By referring it to people in authority over us, if it is serious. "Whenever there comes to them a matter of security or fear, they spread it. But if they had referred it to the messenger and to those having authority among them, it would have been known by those who may infer (right conclusions) from them." Therefore, information concerning religious affairs should be referred to scholars in the religion, and information concerning worldly affairs should be referred to by the local authorities.
  3. By reflecting over the news before spreading it. Indeed, if one were to just reflect over the contents of a rumor, one would realize the rumor to be false.
  4. By learning and remembering how Allah has categorized those who spread rumors, in order to refrain from such an act.
I advise you and myself to save our tongues from spreading false rumors, so that we are not counted among the rebellious in front of Allah. Again I repeat the verse that Allah revealed to Muhammad (pbuh):
O you who believe! If a rebellious, evil person comes to you with news, verify it.
And Allah knows best.

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