Harms of Spreading Hearsay

Illuminated Teachings of Islam

Harms of Spreading Hearsay

Muammad Uhud Raza Attari Madani

(Department of Language, al-Madina-tul-Ilmiyyah)

A teacher entered a class and wrote down the following on a note:

“A dispute occurred between two parties in Rawalpindi, and both sides struck each other with sticks. Gunshots were then fired, which resulted in the death of three people, and four individuals were wounded.”

He showed this to a student seated nearby to him, saying, “Now, each of you inform the person next to you about this incident by whispering it into his ear.” When this series concluded with the final student, the teacher asked him to convey what he had been informed in a loud voice. He said, “There was a dispute in Rawalpindi in which eight people were killed and three were severely wounded.”

This is a hypothetical account, but there are many lessons to be learnt from it. Perhaps something of this nature has occurred with us too where we have been informed of some gripping, shocking news which later turns out to be fake or the actual occurrence is found to be different due to the report being subjected to various changes in the process of its propagation. Reflect on the terrible, damaging consequences that are anticipated from the point of it spreading until it is proven false. Sometimes a false account can become the cause of a truly tragic incident.

Fake reports floating in society, which do not have the faintest connection with the reality, not only result in disorder, disputes and turmoil, but also harm people’s psychological well-being. Furthermore, people’s pointless commentary on such rumours further aggravates the alarming atmosphere. This affects societal activity and impacts on the pattern of daily life. Similarly, fictitious reports spread on the pretext of humour are sometimes the cause of severe harm. Examples of this are often heard annually in relation to April Fools’ Day.

In order to avoid all these societal and psychological harms, intelligence warrants that we neither blindly accept hearsay that spreads alarm in our communities nor transmit such reports onwards to others. If there is a need to inform others, one should first consider the sources for such news in terms of their reliability.

Dear Islamic brothers, our way of life—Islam—teaches us all of these matters. Allah Almighty states:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا  الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا  اِنۡ جَآءَکُمۡ فَاسِقٌۢ بِنَبَاٍ فَتَبَیَّنُوۡۤا  اَنۡ  تُصِیۡبُوۡا قَوۡمًۢا بِجَہَالَۃٍ  فَتُصۡبِحُوۡا عَلٰی مَا فَعَلۡتُمۡ  نٰدِمِیۡنَ )۶(

“O believers! If any sinner brings you some news, so you must investigate (it) in case you unknowingly cause suffering to some people then (later on) remain regretful for what you have done.”[1]

سُـبْحٰـنَ الـلّٰــه How beautiful are Islam’s teachings! Islam commands us to refrain from that which destroys the fabric of societal harmony and orders us to enact that which makes society a centre of peace and security. Therefore, at home, locally and on a societal level, a person should not undertake any step based upon news without verifying it, lest one incurs anxiety at a later point.

We have also been warned about this in the Prophetic Aādīth. The beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “It is enough of a lie for a man to convey everything he hears.”[2]

Similarly, sometimes Satan comes in human form and spreads false news. Sayyidunā Abdullāh b. Masūd رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ states: “Indeed Satan appears in the form of a man, comes to the people and narrates to them a false report. They depart, and then a man from among them says: ‘I heard a man whose face I recognise, but I do not know his name, narrating [such and such].’”[3]

Mufti Amad Yār Khān Naīmī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه mentions regarding the wording, narrates to them a false report” that it refers to a false report concerning an occurrence or baseless slander, corruption or evil about a Muslim.

He further states under this Hadith:

The Hadith is absolutely according to its apparent meaning; there is no need for any interpretation. It is repeatedly experienced. On Friday, 27th Ramadan (14th August 1947), Pakistan was established. On Eid al-Fir, at the time of the Eid prayer, news flared up in all cities and even villages that the Sikhs had armed themselves, launched an attack and drawn near. There was panic everywhere. People prepared themselves and came out from their homes, whereas this report was false. In every locality, people were saying, “A man just came and told us, but we do not know who he was.” The resultant panic was visible to all. May Allah save us! This continues to manifest; Satan secretly whispers into people’s hearts and also appears in a visible human form. Therefore, one should not spread every report without verification.[4]

May Allah Almighty make us from those that speak cautiously with intelligence and deliberation in accordance with the reality. May He make us a means of spreading good and protect us from spreading all forms of discord.

اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ خاتَمِ النَّبِیّیْن صلَّی اللہ علیہ واٰلہٖ وسلَّم

[1] Al-Quran, 49:6, Translation from Kanz al-Īmān

[2] aī Muslim: 7

[3] aī Muslim: 17

[4] Mirāt al-Manājī, vol. 6, p. 477




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