Rumours Or False Gossip In Islam

Faith calls upon us to bring out the best in ourselves and in others. Treating other people with integrity and respect is a sign of a believer. It is not permissible for a Muslim to spread rumours, gossip, or engage in backbiting of another person. Islam teaches believers to validate their sources, and not engage in conjecture. Repeatedly in the Qur’an, Muslims are warned about the sins of the tongue. Allah says:

 

وَإِذَا سَمِعُوا اللَّغْوَ أَعْرَضُوا عَنْهُ وَقَالُوا لَنَا أَعْمَالُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَالُكُمْ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمْ لَا نَبْتَغِي الْجَاهِلِينَ

 

“And when they hear vain talk, they turn away from it and say, “For us our deeds and for you your deeds. Peace (be) on you; not we seek the ignorant.” (Surah Al-Qasas 28:55)

 

We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our own souls [and from our bad deeds. Whomsoever Allah guides will never be led astray, and whomsoever Allah leaves astray, no one can guide. Islam encourages healthy discussion among its followers. It encourages an environment where the individuals in a group or in the society sit together and share their intellect as well as thoughts regarding the matters that concern the collective well being.

 

يُرِيدُونَ أَن يُطْفِئُوا نُورَ اللَّهِ بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَيَأْبَى اللَّهُ إِلَّا أَن يُتِمَّ نُورَهُ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْكَافِرُونَ

 

“They want to extinguish Allah’s Light with their mouths, but Allah refuses except to perfect His Light even if the disbelievers dislike (it).” (Surah At-Taubah 9:32)

 

However, Islam discourages any other undertaking that is not directed towards making the lives of other people better. One of such acts of conversation condemned by Islam is a rumour. Allah says:

 

يُلْقُونَ السَّمْعَ وَأَكْثَرُهُمْ كَاذِبُونَ

 

“They pass on (what is) heard, and most of them (are) liars.” (Surah Ash-Shura 26:223)

 

A Muslim should always verify and weight the news brought by such a person. Lying is the root cause behind the existence of rumour, therefore, those who know that the news comes from a layperson, should stop and verify it before spreading it to others. Any action undertaken on the news of a liar without any verification is definitely to cause an action that a Muslim would regret in future. Allah says:

 

لَّئِن لَّمْ يَنتَهِ الْمُنَافِقُونَ وَالَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ وَالْمُرْجِفُونَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ لَنُغْرِيَنَّكَ بِهِمْ ثُمَّ لَا يُجَاوِرُونَكَ فِيهَا إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

 

“If (do) not cease the hypocrites and those who in their hearts (is) disease and those who spread in the city, We will let you overpower them then not they will remain your neighbour therein except (for) a little,” (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:60)

 

Servants of Allah! Islam encourages healthy discussion among its followers. It encourages an environment where the individuals in a group or in the society sit together and share their intellect, as well as thoughts regarding the matters that concern the collective well being. However, Islam discourages any other undertaking that is not directed towards making the lives of other people better. One of such acts of conversation condemned by Islam is a rumour. The seriousness of gossiping and spreading a false rumour is addressed by Allah Almighty in the Quran in the following way:

 

Understanding the Impact of Rumors and Gossip:

  1. Gossip ruin reputations and even lead to ostracizing behaviour
  2. Gossiping reflects badly on you, even if you don’t realize it
  3. Gossip usually is intended to undermine another person
  4. Gossip leads to many of the hurtful effects
  5. Gossip and rumours can alienate friends
  6. Gossiping may humiliate the person
  7. Gossiping tarnishes your honesty
  8. Gossip spreads lies
  9. Gossip destroys reputations
  10. Rumours often involve speculation
  11. Rumours may change slightly as retold
  12. Rumours tend to unverified pieces of information
  13. If you constantly gossip, people will stop trusting you at all
  14. One of the worst effects of gossip is that you can hurt others
  15. One of the worst effects of gossip is that it will come back to you

These instructions may seem self-evident, yet consider how backbiting and gossip remain the main causes of the destruction of personal relationships. It destroys friendships and families and fuels mistrust among community members.

 

Islam guides us on how to deal with our human tendency towards gossip and backbiting:

  • Recognize that Allah sees and knows all things, while our own understanding and view is limited.
  • Recognize that nobody is perfect; we are all lacking in some way.
  • Recognize that Shaytan seeks to fuel doubt and mistrust among believers.
  • Speak well or keep quiet. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “One can greatly beautify himself with two habits–good manners and lengthy silence.” On another occasion, he said: “Let the one who believes in Allah and the Hereafter utter good words, or let him be silent.”
  • If you hear a rumour about someone’s misfortune, strive for compassion rather than continuing the gossip. Remind others not to gossip, and if they don’t listen, walk away. Allah praised such action in the Quran: “If they hear gossip, they walk away.” (Quran 28:55).
  • Avoid spying. Spying fuels the trading of secrets and misinformation, and it creates a climate of mistrust.
  • Seek to make excuses for others. If a person does something that you think is wrong in some way, try to look at the situation from another person’s point of view. If we do this, we are less likely to dwell on the negative and seek to talk about it with others.
  • Repent to Allah for any mistakes you make, and seek the forgiveness of the person you hurt.

إِذْ تَلَقَّوْنَهُ بِأَلْسِنَتِكُمْ وَتَقُولُونَ بِأَفْوَاهِكُم مَّا لَيْسَ لَكُم بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَتَحْسَبُونَهُ هَيِّنًا وَهُوَ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمٌ

 

“When you received it with your tongues and said with your mouths that of which you had no knowledge and thought it was insignificant while it was, in the sign of Allah, tremendous.” (Surah An-Nur 24:15)

 

Rumour is not some kind of gossip which one might undertake in leisure, rather rumour spreading is a form of lying and the way it is spoken or spread makes it blatant or obvious. Therefore, those who spread gossip and rumour are actually speaking a lie with boldness and without any fear. Ergo, a Muslim ought to differentiate healthy gossip from the one that turns into a rumour which in return is a form of lying spoken at a massive scale. Allah says:

 

لَّوْلَا إِذْ سَمِعْتُمُوهُ ظَنَّ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بِأَنفُسِهِمْ خَيْرًا وَقَالُوا هَٰذَا إِفْكٌ مُّبِينٌ

 

“Why not, when you heard it, think the believing men and the believing women good of themselves and say, “This (is) a lie clear?” (Surah An-Nur 24:12)

 

The spreading of a rumour is never trivial or casual that could be done for fun, rather it is always grave and has far-reaching implications. Islam detests it, therefore, a Muslim must refrain from spreading of rumour, which can only be done if a Muslim when hearing a piece of news verifies it firsts and then makes sensible use of his or her tongue. Allah says:

 

إِنَّمَا ذَٰلِكُمُ الشَّيْطَانُ يُخَوِّفُ أَوْلِيَاءَهُ فَلَا تَخَافُوهُمْ وَخَافُونِ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ

 

“(It is) only that the Shaitaan frightens (you) (of) his allies. So (do) not fear them, but fear Me, if you are believers.” (Surah Al-Imran 3:175)

 

Thus rumour is not some kind of gossip which one might undertake in leisure, rather rumour spreading is a form of lying and the way it is spoken or spread makes it blatant or obvious. Therefore, those who spread gossip and rumour are actually speaking lie with boldness and without any fear. Ergo, a Muslim ought to differentiate healthy gossip from the one that turns into a rumour which in return is a form of lying spoken at a massive scale. Allah says:

 

وَلَوْلَا إِذْ سَمِعْتُمُوهُ قُلْتُم مَّا يَكُونُ لَنَا أَن نَّتَكَلَّمَ بِهَٰذَا سُبْحَانَكَ هَٰذَا بُهْتَانٌ عَظِيمٌ

 

“And why not, when you heard it, you said, “Not it is for us that we speak of this. Glory be to You! This (is) a slander great?” (Al-Anam 6:68)

 

A Muslim should always verify and weigh the news brought by such a person. Lying is the root cause behind the existence of rumour, therefore, those who know that the news comes from a layperson, should stop and verify it before spreading it to others. Any action undertaken on the news of a liar without any verification is definitely to cause an action that a Muslim would regret in future. Be righteous, speak the truth, if you have no good speech to say, silence is your friend.

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