The Bad Consequences of Spreading Lies and Fake News In Society, By Murtadha Gusau

…in order to combat the spread of lies and fake news, Muslims need to remember the verse from Surah Al-Hujurat and avoid giving their ear to everything said. The intelligent person investigates what’s said, he asks for proof, and he asks questions. Whenever we follow this path we close the channels of mischief and fake news.

Sunday, Ramadan 23, 1438 AH (June 18, 2017)

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Bestower of Mercy

Brothers and Sisters! Today, the circulation of fake news is a growing problem in the world. Fake news is a type of yellow journalism that spreads misinformation via newspapers, satellite boradcasts, the T.V or online social media. Fake news is written and published with the intent to blackmail, mislead or sway opinion, and bring chaos and fear to the minds of ordinary and gullible people.

Today, the media is no longer in the business of reporting news, but instead they are politically driven for an agenda. The primary target of the news media is the cancer of terrorism connected with the spread of Islam. Allah the Almighty said:

“They intend to put out the Light of Allah with their mouths. But Allah will complete His Light even though the disbelievers hate (it).” [Surah As-Saff, 8]

The topic of terrorism hasn’t properly been defined other than the fact that whenever someone named Abubakar, Umar, Uthman, Ali or Ahmad commits a crime, it’s deemed an act of terror, which is Islamic. This is proven by the acts of those unethical journalists, who refuse to name all the acts of domestic terrorism committed by Christians as terror.

For example, there was the Planned Parenthood bombing, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1994; then the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008; and the suicide attack on the IRS building in Austin, Texas, on February 18, 2010, when Joseph Stack flew a plane into the Echelon office complex. Those atrocities were carried out by Christians and the media strategically avoided using the word ‘terrorism’ in their headlines or reference to Christianity. Moreover, no Christian group or church came out publicly to condemn these crimes. So why is it that Muslims have to strongly condemn and denounce another Muslim’s offenses every time those eye-catching headlines are printed?

If the Muslims followed the rules and guidelines legislated in their religion they could avoid a lot of the media’s hype.

Allah the Most High said:

“O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.”

Respected Brothers and Sisters! This verse lays the foundation for accepting or rejecting news reports. Allah mentioned that when a disobedient evil person comes with news we must verify it before accepting it.

The Arabic word used is “Fasiq”, which means a person who has deviated in his religion, in either his practice, his belief and his morality.

“News”: This represents all kinds of news, narrations and information circulated. An in today’s time, the news from all media outlets is included.

“Verify it”: Allah ordered us to verify it before we convey it to others and this shows that we shouldn’t outrightly reject the reports of the wicked and disobedient people, because the possibility lies that maybe what they are reporting is true. A sinner’s integrity is compromised given the fact that he’s not fully honest and trustworthy, therefore what he says regarding others remains in question.

Allah the Almighty said:

“Is then he who is a believer like him who is Fasiq (disbeliever and disobedient to Allah)? Not equal are they.” [Surah As-Sajdah, 18]

This verse defines that all people aren’t the same in their integrity. The Quran informs us that there are three kinds of narrators:

1. The sinners whose reports are put on hold until we can verify them by other means; that what they’re saying is true or not;

2. The trustworthy people whose narrations are accepted;

3. The nonbelievers (Islamophobes) whose news reports aren’t accepted.

When a sinner says something, we have been ordered to affirm his speech; and by avoiding this step a tragedy can occur in another’s right, such as in his wealth, his property and his honour. And if an honest righteous person comes to us with news, we can accept it without verifying it, unless there is a quarrel between him and the person he’s giving reports about, or there are other details in his story which indicate that what he’s saying isn’t true. In other words, just because an honest trustworthy person is narrating something, this doesn’t mean that what he’s saying is always correct. This is similar to the hadith, Shaaz. The Shaaz hadith is rejected and the narrator is reliable, but he contradicts others who are either more reliable than him or outnumber him in their narrations, which contradict his.

Similarly a trustworthy narrator’s report can be rejected or require further investigation if the narrator doesn’t understand the event properly or misunderstands the words of the speaker he is narrating against.

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said:

“Most reporters don’t intend to lie; however to share the actual meaning of the person’s speech by narrating it correctly is difficult for some people.” [Minhaj As-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah]

And Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim said:

“Among the greatest blessings from Allah on His servant is a sound understanding with a good intention. The sound understanding is a light that Allah places in the heart of the servant. Through correct understanding the servant is able to distinguish between what’s right and wrong, between truth and falsehood, between guidance and misguidance and between the correct path and the misguided one.” [I’ilam Al-Muwaqqi’in]

Furthermore, at other times, there’s the possibility that the news being conveyed is politically driven for an agenda. Or it’s news arranged carefully and intentionally to blackmail or defame the characters of a notable, revered and respectful person in the society.

After Allah instructed us to verify the news of the sinners, He mentions the possible consequence of not doing so. He said:

“Lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done.”

He (the Almighty) ordered us to verify the news in order to avoid harming others out of ignorance. When a person is hasty and runs with the news and information without verifying it from untrustworthy people, then this can result in him oppressing another. Additionally if a person narrates everything he hears about others without verifying it, then this can affect his credibility. The Prophet [Pbuh] said:

“It is sufficient that it’s a sin for a man to relate everything he hears.” [Sunan Abi Dawud and authenticated by Imam Al-Albani]

And in another narration the Prophet [Pbuh] said:

“It’s enough of a lie for the one who narrates everything he hears.” [Muslim]

Servants of Allah! These two admonitions from the Prophet [Pbuh] are included in the regret of the one that goes around saying and sharing everything that reaches him from either sinners, or disbelievers and sometimes from reliable people who base and share their speech built on bigotry, hatred, Islamophobia and desires. Perhaps something reaches you about an individual and you are unable to accept it since you know the person behind the story isn’t straightforward, or you have some doubt. In this case, you MUST check it out. This will help you determine if what’s being said is true. Use your intellect in this situation and avoid being speedy to pass a judgment or take a side, because later on you might regret what you said.

The Dangers of Fake News In Society

My people! Today, with the help of social media, the spread of fake news moves exponentially around the globe. There’s the T.V, satellite broadcasts, the internet, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp etc, all which we use. Look at how easy it is when something happens in one region for its news to reach another. The problem with this is the fact that most people just pass everything along without verifying if what is being reported really happened. In some cases the honour of another person is damaged. People have stooped as low as to share Photoshop images with yellow journalistic titles.

Now, in order to combat the spread of lies and fake news, Muslims need to remember the verse from Surah Al-Hujurat and avoid giving their ear to everything said. The intelligent person investigates what’s said, he asks for proof, and he asks questions. Whenever we follow this path we close the channels of mischief and fake news.

The Ways To Combat Fake News In Society

Brothers and Sisters! Some of the ways to handle the spread of fake news is:

● To verify the report.

To verify the report we have to begin by looking at the reporter to check the source. Following this, check the date and read beyond the title, and then look for supporting sources and references.

● Return to scholars and those well-grounded in the spread of news that causes fitnah.

Allah the Most High said:

“When there comes to them some matter touching (public) safety or fear, they make it known (among the people), if only they had referred it to the Messenger or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have understood it from them(directly). Had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allah upon you, you would have followed Shaytan (Satan), save a few of you.” [Surah An-Nisa’, 83]

Shaykh Imam As-Sa’adi said:

“Allah is showing His servants the proper manners. He is showing them that when a current event takes place or something about the general public of the people that involves the happiness or sadness of the Muslims then they must verify it and avoid acting rash. They must return it to the Sunnah and to those in charge with authority over them. These are the people of scholarship and intellect that are able to recognize if what’s occurred is in the best interest of the people or not.”

● Consider the content of the story.

There’s a saying:

“The people are quick to believe the bad things they hear, but are reluctant to accept the good things.”

Dear friend! When news reaches you pause and think about what’s being conveyed. Is it possible that the news and the things being said aren’t true? Allah said:

“And why did you not, when you heard it, say? “It is not right for us to speak of this.” [Surah An-Nur, 13]

The intelligent person knows that everything heard shouldn’t be said and everything known should be spread and made public.

● Weigh the possible outcome of spreading the news.

Is there any benefit in sharing the news that’s reached you or does the harm weigh greater? This is an important step that most people neglect to take into consideration, except those whom Allah has showed His Mercy to.

● Have the best thoughts of your Muslim brother.

Allah said:

“Why then, did not the believers, men and women, when you heard it (the slander) think good of their own people and say: “This (charge) is an obvious lie?” [Surah An-Nur, 12]

● Request proof when news and narrations reach you.

Allah said:

“Why did they not produce four witnesses? Since they (the slanderers) have not produced witnesses! Then with Allah they are the liars.” [Surah An-Nur, 13]

This step needs to be taken, especially when the rights and integrity of another person are at stake.

● Remain aware that everything you say and do is being recorded and will come back to haunt you.

Allah the Almighty said:

“When you were propagating it with your tongues, and uttering with your mouths that whereof you had no knowledge, you counted it a little thing, while with Allah it was very great.” [Surah An-Nur, 15]

Servants of Allah! From these principles decreed by Allah we are able to deal with news and stories that come to us from trustworthy people and sinners and reject those that come from atheists and nonbelievers. Allah the Most High said:

“It is only those who believe not in the signs of Allah, who fabricate falsehood, and it is they who are liars.” [Surah An-Nahl, 105]

Brothers and Sisters! in order for us to understand fully the dangers of spreading lies and fake news in society, let me narrate to you a lie and one of the fake news that happened and was spread very recently. In a series of tweets from his tweeter handle @realFFK, Femi Fani-Kayode, former Aviation minister and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, wondered why people say Nigeria is united when Christians cannot buy “lands to build churches in core north. How can anyone describe Nigeria as free and united when its almost impossible for a Christian to gain admission into Ahmadu Bello University, ABU Zaria, today?” He also frowned at the fact that federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari, replaced “Christian Religious Studies (CRK) with Islamic Religious Studies (IRK) in the educational curriculum of the country.”

The former Minister wrote:

“How can anyone describe Nigeria as free when Christian studies is removed from the curriculum and Islamic studies are made compulsory?”

“How can anyone describe Nigeria as free when Christians are banned from buying land to build churches in most parts of the core north?”

“How can anyone describe Nigeria as free when its almost impossible for a Christian to gain admission into Ahmadu Bello University, ABU Zaria today?”

This man, Femi Fani-Kayode is a liar and is not serious. I wonder which ABU is he talking about? And the North or the Islamic Religious Knowledge is he talking about? I wonder how in the first place a separatist like this man was appointed a minister in Federal Republic of Nigeria? This alone tells you how absurdly the country was once governed, and largely still operates.

This guy should be, as a matter of urgency, arrested and put behind bars for making such false, divisive and inciting comments. The earlier Femi Fani-Kayode is arrested, tried and punished, the better for the unity and progress of our beloved country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

My respected people! In any reasonable society, the speech of liar or those accused of lying is rejected. As conveyors of information, it’s time we become proactive and responsible for the information we pass on to others on our social networks. Don’t be so hasty to jump on the bandwagon with your opinion or try and defend Islam by speaking out about a story in which certain facts have been manipulated. We’ve seen Muslims run with the San Berndino shootings story, which was full of holes from the beginning, and the London attacker, Khalid Masood, story. The media fed people in the beginning that these guys were ISIS supporters while unknown witnesses claim they shouted Allahu Akbar before their actions, and then later on stories were published that they were drug addicts. Following this was the release of the histories of their criminal backgrounds. All in all, we know, the threat of terrorism is real and isn’t something only carried out by Muslims or those with Arabic names or Islamic names. Alhamdulillah, as Facebook and Google take steps to curb the circulation of fake news on their sites, we as Muslims have the Quran and the Sunnah which already illustrated the methods to use in stopping this.

Wassalamu Alaikum,

And Allah knows best.

Prepared by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, from Okene Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached through: +2348038289761.