Darul Uloom Abu Bakr

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Darul Uloom Abu Bakr is an Islamic institute of education established by Mufti Siraj Desai. The Darul Uloom serves as a base for coordinating various Islamic activities in Port Elizabeth and the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

Dealing with Rumours PDF Print E-mail
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In recent weeks world media has released a number of reports focussing on alleged terror threats to a major sports event that was hosted in South Africa. Needless to say, such threats are invariably linked to Muslims, and are designed to generate negative hype among the general populace.
It is common knowledge today that terrorism has become synonymous with Muslims, particularly the Al-Qaeda group. This is surprising as it is unfair, because terrorism as defined by the West was started by non-Muslims, perpetrated for decades by non-Muslims, is still committed today by non-Muslims, while even non-Muslim States are doing it under the charade of so-called military action. This attitude typically characterizes the kuffar method of dealing with rumours and alleged threats.
 
The purpose of this article is to juxtapose Shar’ee policy with the current trend among the West in dealing with rumours, unsubstantiated reports, and publicity hype to create tension, confusion, and above all, wide-spread suspicion and fear. Here is an important lesson for the followers of Islam, and highlights yet again the beauty of Shariah. Our Shariah is the combination of Quran and Sunnah.
 
The Holy Quran declares: “And when there comes to people a matter of danger or safety, they spread it (without verification); if they would refer the matter to the Messenger and to those charged with their affairs among them, then their investigators would discover its reality.” (Surah Nisaa) This verse of the Holy Quran presents a wonderful policy governing social and communal affairs. To really appreciate its beauty, let us enlist the emerging factors in this verse. A matter of danger is, in today’s parlance, a security threat. A matter of safety means either something ordinary related to our daily lives, or information that puts our minds to ease with regard to the danger mentioned previously.
 
The verse firstly points out the fault of people to just accept any rumour and spread it among the public before ascertaining its truth. The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (Salutations and Peace be upon him) said: “It is enough for a man to be branded a liar that he disseminates whatever he hears.” It is, therefore, strict policy in Islam not to spread any matter of public interest without first verifying its source and establishing its authenticity. To do this is creating fertile ground for chaos and corruption in social circles. Media, a forum that has set itself up to keep the public informed, has a sacred duty (in Islamic terms) to avoid the spread of unsubstantiated claims and wild rumours. On the contrary non-Muslim media in general thrives on such sensational reporting; after all media today is all about money. Muslim media should never stoop to such a despicable and base level of creating unnecessary furore and panic among the masses. This is what the Holy Quran has condemned in the above verse.
 
The next part of the verse very wisely informs how rumours and information should be assessed, investigated, and confirmed. “Refer it to the Messenger or those in Charge of Muslims affairs”. Here we have yet again another wonderful piece of evidence to proof the flexibility and relevancy of the Quran in all eras. During the time of the Messenger of Allah, a matter of public importance had to be referred to him for verification. After his demise, these matters were to be entrusted to those in charge of the affairs of Muslims. These are the Muslim leaders, or people delegated with the task of assessing reports and information. Ordinary people, or people not appointed by higher authority are not allowed to delve into such matters. It must be left to the specialists in this field. In the light of this verse it is quite clear that the current habit of ordinary people initiating their own channels of investigating matters of serious import without guidance or authorisation from higher authority is contrary to Shariah. Allah has clearly authorised a select group from among the Muslim community to research and ascertain the origin of rumours and dubious reports.
 
Non-Muslims should take a leaf out of the Book of Islam. Since they have discarded these golden principles, their mode of reporting has caused chaos among people, and a lot of hurt. As Muslims we pride ourselves on adherence to the incisive and effective principles of Quran and Sunnah.
 
This verse further advises that there should always be a team comprising responsible Muslims who are adroit at investigating matters with objectivity and sincerity and capable of assessing and evaluating information. In an Islamic state such a group will be commissioned in an official capacity by the state, whilst in the absence of an Islamic government this task-team must be appointed by a panel of ‘ulema. The term ulul-amr or those in charge of affairs has also been interpreted to mean ‘ulema. This suggests that the investigate committee will be appointed by ‘ulema and will also consist of ‘ulema who will head any serious investigation. After thorough investigation and research, if need be, the findings of this team will be communicated to the public in a responsible and honest manner.
 
From this verse, and the supportive hadith cited earlier, we discover a general precept that many of us lack in today’s times: not to act on information without first verifying its authenticity. Unfortunately, seldom do we find ourselves capable of adhering to this principle, in spite of the misery we know it has caused and continues to cause. People in positions of trust or those dealing with public affairs have an even greater responsibility to refrain from ‘acts before facts’.
 
A further wonderful gesture made in this verse is the use of the term istimbaat which is translated as thorough or in-depth research. Note that the Quran does not only refer to threats and danger, but includes rumours that arise even during moments of peace and stability. The emphasis is that any investigation carried out must be done thoroughly and exhaustively. This presupposes that the team commissioned for this job will have to be equipped with the necessary expertise required for such a task. On a more common or general level, unsubstantiated rumours have become the cause of untold grief and disharmony among Muslims. One wonders when people of intelligence and experience will take cognisance of the misery and disunity that result from acting on baseless rumours.
 
The Holy Quran has made it waajib on Muslims to dismiss rumours with contempt, and to maintain good, clean thoughts about their fellow Muslims.
 
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