Wednesday 16 September 2020

Believers, when an ungodly person brings a piece of news, carefully ascertain its truth

Most of the misunderstanding between people, societies and even nations occur due to false, concocted or unauthenticated news. This has always been since man came into existence and is so true today when lot of fake and unauthenticated news are fed on the internet to create unrest, enmity and misunderstanding between people and nations. In fact the main purpose of the much talked about fifth generation warfare is spread of false and intriguing news so as to brainwash people of target country and its armed forces to lower their morale and induce uncertainty and dejection so that they wear out mentally before the wars takes place.

A similar situation once arose in the times of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when a false news almost led to dispatch of an armed contingent. The following 6th verse of Surah Al Hujarat:

يٰۤاَيُّهَا الَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اِنۡ جَآءَكُمۡ فَاسِقٌ ۢ بِنَبَاٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوۡۤا اَنۡ تُصِيۡبُوۡا قَوۡمًا ۢ بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصۡبِحُوۡا عَلٰى مَا فَعَلۡتُمۡ نٰدِمِيۡنَ‏  
(49:6) Believers, when an ungodly person brings to you a piece of news, carefully ascertain its truth, lest you should hurt a people unwittingly and thereafter repent at what you did.

Most of the commentators have expressed the view that this verse was sent down concerning Walid bin Uqbah bin Abi Muait. Its background is this: When the tribe of the Bani al-Mustaliq embraced Islam, the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent Walid bin Uqbah to collect the Zakat from them. When he arrived in their territory, he became fearful due to some reason and without visiting the people of the tribe returned to Al-Madinah and complained to the Prophet (peace be upon him) that they had refused to pay the Zakat and had even wanted to kill him. On hearing this, the Prophet (peace be upon him) became very angry and he made up his mind to dispatch a contingent to punish those people. According to some traditions he had dispatched the contingent, and according to others, he was about to dispatch it. In any case, all agree that in the meantime the chief of the Bani al-Mustaliq, Harith bin Dirar, father of Juwairiyah, wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him), arrived at the head of a deputation, and submitted: By God, we did not at all see Walid; therefore, there could be no question of refusing to pay the Zakat and wanting to kill him. We are steadfast to the faith and have no intention to withhold the Zakat. At this, this verse was sent down. With a little variation in wording this incident has been related by Imam Ahmad, Abi Hatim, Tabarani, and Ibn Jarir, on the authority of Abdullah bin Abbas, Harith bin Dirar, Mujahid, Qatadah, Abdur Rehman bin Abi Laila, Yazid bin Ruman, Dahhak and Muqatil bin Hayyan. In the tradition reported by Umm Salamah this whole story has been related likewise but there is no reference to the name of Walid.

On this critical occasion when on account of believing in a baseless report a grave blunder was about to be committed, Allah gave the Muslims this guiding principle to be followed on receipt of news: Whenever you receive important news bearing upon a vital matter, you should not accept it immediately but should first examine the man who has brought it. If he is an evil man whose report is not authentic normally, you should inquire into it carefully to ascertain the truth instead of accepting it and acting on it immediately. From this divine command an important legal principle is deduced, the sphere of application of which is very vast. According to it, it is not permissible for a Muslim government to take any action against a person or a group or a nation on the basis of the reports provided by the secret agents whose character might be doubtful. On the basis of this very principle the traditionalists introduced the art of critical appraisal in the science of Hadith in order to determine the value and worth of the people through whom traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) reached the later generations. And the jurists established this principle in the law of evidence that in a matter from which a Shariah value can be deduced, or a duty imposed on a person; the evidence of an evil man would be unacceptable. However, all scholars agree that as far as the common worldly matters are concerned it is not necessary to ascertain the truth of every news and the reliability of every informer. For the word used in the verse is naba, which does not apply to every news but only to the news of consequence. That is why the jurists say that this principle does not apply in the case of ordinary matters. For example, if a person goes to visit somebody and seeks permission to enter the house, and a person comes out and conveys the permission, he can enter the house accordingly no matter whether the one conveying the permission from the master of the house was good or bad. Likewise, the scholars also agree that the evidence, as well as the report, of the people whose evil does not relate to lying and immorality, but they are regarded as unrighteous only on account of false beliefs, will also be acceptable. Only the falsehood of heir creed cannot be a hindrance to accepting their evidence or reports.
Ibn Kathir explains that Allah the Exalted ordered investigating the news that sinners and the wicked bring, to make sure of its authenticity. Otherwise, if the sinner's word is taken for granted and a decision is based on it, regardless of whether the information is true or not, the authorities will be taking the lead of the sinners. Allah the Exalted and Most Honored forbade taking the path of the corrupted and sinners. This is why groups of the scholars of Hadith refuse to accept narrations from narrators whose reliability is unknown, for they might be from among the wicked people, in reality.
Muhammad Asad Explanation:
I.e., verify the truth before giving credence to any such report or rumour. The tale-bearer is characterized as "iniquitous" because the very act of spreading unsubstantiated rumours affecting the reputation of other persons constitutes a spiritual offence. Thus, after laying stress in the preceding verses on the reverence due to God's message bearer - and, by implication, to every righteous leader of the community - the discourse turns to the moral imperative of safeguarding the honour and reputation of every member of the community, man and woman alike. This principle is taken up, more explicitly, in verse 12 of the same surah.

Yusuf Ali Explanation: All tittle-tattle or reports-especially if emanating from persons you do not know-are to be tested, and the truth ascertained. If they were believed and passed on, much harm may be done, of which you may have cause afterwards to repent heartily. Scandal or slander of all kinds is here condemned.

May Allah help us understand Qur'an and help us to act upon the commandments of Allah contained therein. Aameen.

For more Selected Verses, please refer to our reference page: Selected Verses from the Qur'an

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Reference: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. [2]  
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites.

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