Have you ever been on the receiving end of forwarded messages with rather dubious content or sources from well-meaning family members or friends? Like that one video claiming that certain foods that we eat have plastic in them – proven by setting them on fire?
Or perhaps, you were guilty before of forwarding such revelatory news with others with good intentions, only to find out later that the information was, in fact, not even the slightest bit true.
Today’s age of social media and communication technology has made the spread of information (and misinformation) possible at lightning-speed. However, as the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
What lessons can we take heed from the Quran and sunnah to avoid being fooled by fake news over and over - and worse, causing others to be fooled along with us?
This means to verify the truth of information beforehand. The responsibility of sharing the truth lies on each one of us. So, check your sources, folks. Preferably, we should do this before we cause harm to someone else. After all, we will be questioned regarding our own deeds and actions in the end.
“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.”
This is to think well of others. For people of faith, doing so is one of the traits of good character, and the first step to avoiding sin. The Prophet s.a.w has said that the individual who has good character has qualified to enter heaven, insyaAllah. Thus, we should live a life of positivity and invite others to goodness.
“Indeed, those who came with falsehood are a group among you. Do not think it bad for you; rather it is good for you. For every person among them is what [punishment] he has earned from the sin, and he who took upon himself the greater portion thereof - for him is a great punishment.”
“Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of one another and say, "This is an obvious falsehood"?”
3. Assess Usefulness and Benefit
Before sharing any piece of information, we should weigh its usefulness and benefit, even if it may be good news. Is it really necessary to share it? At times, sharing it may be more appropriate only after ensuring point 1.
He (Mu'adz) observed: He (the Holy Prophet) said: “Mu'adz, do you know what right has Allah over His bondsmen and what right have His bondsmen over Him?”
Mu'adz added: I replied: “Allah and his Messenger know best.”
Upon this he (the Prophet remarked: “The right of Allah over His bondsmen is that they should worship Allah and should not associate anything with Him, and the right of His bondsmen over Allah, Glorious and Sublime, is that He does not punish him who associates not anything with Him.”
He (Mu'adz) added: I said to the Messenger of Allah: “Should I then give the tidings to the people?”
He (the Holy Prophet) said: “Do not tell them this good news, for they would trust in it alone.”
The Prophet s.a.w.’s companion, Mu’adz, only narrated this hadith towards the end of his life despite it being good news, which shows how careful he was about sharing it.
It is more challenging than ever to differentiate between legitimate and fake news due to the speed that information is now being exchanged. However, it is hardly impossible.
By being less anxious to share information forwarded to us, and being more critical of its content and sources, we can avoid being fooled (and fooling others) again and again. May Allah s.w.t reward our sincere efforts, no matter how small. Amin.
Adapted from an article in Malay titled “Pertimbang kesan kongsi maklumat yang diterima” (Consider the effects of sharing information that is received), published in Berita Harian on 7 Jan 2018.