With the advent of Internet today, production and distribution of multimedia is all in digital form. From the slabs of the initial printing press for the elite class to the widespread availability of complete libraries and reading material for anyone with an Internet connection, we have come a long way. Initially people used to copy books by hand and had to refer to mentioning whom they copied it from for authenticity and security purposes, but today the transfer and use of digitized media is on the increase. This frequent usage and transfer of digital media has created the need for verification and authentication of that which is being shared.
This information, if tampered and distributed amidst the public could cause chaos and loss to all parties involved. the focus of concern has shifted to social media. Alcott and Gentzkow (2017) comment on how social media platforms such as Facebook have a dramatically different structure than previous media technologies. Content can now be relayed among users with no significant third party filtering, fact-checking, or editorial judgment. Any individual user with no track record, authority or reputation can in some cases reach as many readers as huge news corporations like Fox News, CNN, or the New York Times. From an Islamic perspective our rich tradition is filled with how the Science of Hadith was developed to check for the authenticity and verify not just the text that was being transmitted but also the chain of the narrators and if they had actually heard the text in the first place. Fabrications and lies were rooted out from the core. This paper aims to bridge the gap between the rise of fake news and how the science of Hadith can help counter this tide of misinformation.
Fake news boomed onto the international stage and took the media by a storm in the recent US Presidential elections held in 2016. Lazer et al (2018) define fake news as “fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent.” We see that fake news has played a major role in polarizing the society and duping them into believing narratives that didn’t even exist in the first place.
An interesting fact comes to mind when we analyze the data involving the US elections regarding the rise of fake news:
- 62 percent of US adults get news on social media (Gottfried and Shearer 2016).
- The most popular fake news stories were more widely shared on Facebook than the most popular mainstream news stories (Silverman 2016).
- Many people who see fake news stories report that they believe them (Silverman and Singer-Vine 2016).
- The most discussed fake news stories tended to favour Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton (Silverman 2016). Putting these facts together. A number of commentators have suggested that Donald Trump would not have been elected president were it not for the influence of fake news (for examples, see Parkinson 2016; Read 2016; Dewey 2016).
A glance at most news outlets today and it looks as though they are more of a reality show rather than a credible news organization. Most people today get their news from their social media rather than the news or the newspapers.
Given the prevalence of this new phenomenon, “Fake news” was even named the word of the year by the Macquarie dictionary in 2016. (Shu et al., 2018)
Not just fake news we see a huge rise of misleading headlines known as click-bait in many media outlet social media pages. The idea is to get people intrigued enough to read more and click the link provided. Clicking the link generates revenue for the company. For many social media users who are just scrolling by without reading the actual article, the misleading title itself acts as a source of information which can be in many cases be classified as fake news.
We find that people tend to share stuff without verifying it as long as it looks official enough. O. Varol et al (2017) find that by liking, sharing, and searching for information, social bots (automated accounts impersonating humans) can magnify the spread of fake news by orders of magnitude. By one recent estimate—that classified accounts based on observable features such as sharing behavior, number of ties, and linguistic features—between 9 and 15% of active Twitter accounts are bots. Facebook estimated that as many as 60 million bots may be infesting its platform. They were responsible for a substantial portion of political content posted during the 2016 U.S. campaign, and some of the same bots were later used to attempt to influence the 2017 French election (Ferrara, 2017)
While it is commendable that Facebook is attempting to mitigate the fake news problem, it does not seem to be working (Levin, 2017). Even if an article is debunked, the “disputed” flag often does not appear, and reliance on manual fact-checking by a select few organizations means that only a fraction of fake news can be adequately debunked and labeled. One of the most critical issues, however, is that the manual process takes too long given how quickly fake news spreads. If a third party debunks a fake news article, there is an approximate 13-hour lag between its initial release and the release of the third party response (Shao, Ciampaglia, Flammini, & Menczer, 2016). This is not accounting for the additional delay caused by Facebook’s implementation, where the content must first be flagged by users and then reviewed by at least two fact-checking organizations. This process is far too slow; it has been shown that a news article is viewed mostly in its first 36 hours, and it can peak in views in just a few hours (Dezsö etal., 2006), so once Facebook responds to the fake news, most of the damage has already been done. The issue is compounded by the fact that there is no available data to show that Facebook’s flagging and tagging policy reduces views and shares of fake news articles.
We do know that, as with legitimate news, fake news stories have gone viral on social media. However, knowing how many individuals encountered or shared a piece of fake news is not the same as knowing how many people read or were affected by it. Evaluations of the medium-to-long–run impact on political behavior of exposure to fake news (for example, whether and how to vote) are essentially nonexistent in the literature. The impact might be small—evidence suggests that efforts by political campaigns to persuade individuals may have limited effects.
The Internet has not only become a medium for spreading fake news but it also provides platforms for propagating it further into the masses. In the fast-paced world that we live in today social media has become part and parcel of our daily life. We get majority of our news and updates from sites like Facebook or micro-blogging giant, Twitter. Recently Facebook came out to say that they were working to fix their algorithm so that it would filter out fake news, click bait and other such things and promote a more holistic content for the users.
Shu et al. (2017) spoke on the volatile nature of social media by commenting, “Social media for news consumption is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, its low cost, easy access, and rapid dissemination of information lead people to seek out and consume news from social media. On the other hand, it enables the wide spread of fake news”, i.e., low quality news with intentionally false information.”
Fake news intentionally convinces the readers to accept biased or false beliefs. Fake news is usually propagated by those out to convey some political messages, influence, or in some case just to cause instability. Fake news changes the way people interpret and respond to real news. For example, some fake news was just created to trigger people’s distrust and make them confused, impeding their abilities to differentiate what is true from what is not. (Shu et al, 2017)
As Wang (2017) mentions, the worst real-world implication of fake news is that it seems to create real-life fears among the consumers. At the very least what can be done is to detect what really is fake news. The problem of fake news detection is more challenging than detecting deceptive reviews, since the political language on TV interviews, posts on Facebook and Twitters are mostly short statements. However, the lack of manually labeled fake news dataset is still a bottleneck for advancing computational-intensive, broad coverage models in this direction.
Fake News and Islamophobia
In 2016, from a leaked cable of WikiLeaks, it was revealed that, Pentagon paid a UK PR firm; to produce fake videos of Al Qaeda Attack while the Iraq war. The amount of payment was huge amounting to $540 million (Black & Fielding-Smith, 2016). They used similar territories to film the false videos with crews having make up like Muslim terrorist and uploaded those videos on internet which reached millions, creating hatred towards Muslims. Hence, the questions come now, all the videos that we see today, of the beheadings and other propaganda videos of the terrorists’ groups are really of theirs? Or those were created by the firms paid by US government, to demonize the entire Muslim community. Even doubts arise whether all the news that we hear about terrorist activates, and published by the media in lucrative way of condemnation are true or just fake news on the basis of false flag attacks.
Muslim Terrorist vs White Mentally Ill Shooter
Al Mannan, & Shamrir Al-Af (2017) note that it is the usual strategy of the media in promoting Islamophobia that, whenever an attack is carried out by a Muslim, it is labeled as terrorism. But if the attack, of whatever magnitude that be, is carried out by a white Christian, they are labeled as mentally ill. In USA the number of people died since 9/11, in gun violence, school shooting exceeds thirty thousands, but not a single of those incidents were labeled as terrorist activities unless they were committed by any Muslim.
As the Fox News channel commentator Brian Kilmeade said, all the Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims (Awn, 2016). This is a perfect example of how the media is promoting Islamophobia. In fact religious terrorism is there in every religion, there are extremist, like Haganah from Judaism, Lord’s Army from Christianity, Shivsena from Hinduism, Hans of Xinxiang from Buddhism, Islam is no exception from that, the problem lies with those wrongdoers not the religion itself (Allen, 2015). But labeling only Muslims with terrorism shows the biasness and hypocrisy of the media.
Sciences of Hadith
What is a Hadith? Hadith is part of the Prophetic legacy also known as the Sunnah. A hadith is basically the words, actions, tacit approval and description given by the Prophet Muhmmad ﷺ. Hadith literally comes from the Arabic word ‘Haddatha’ which means ‘story’ and ‘news.’ (Yusoff, Y., Ismail, R., & Hassan, Z, 2010)
From an Islamic perspective, for any classical works or texts to be widespread among the people it needs to be authenticated and verified by the scholars of that discipline. It should be based on original and reliable sources of information which are the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
In the Science of Hadith, as per the Ode of Bayquniyyah, written by a well-known Shafi’ite scholar of Syria, 5 specific conditions are needed for a narration to be graded as Sahih:
- اِتِّصَالُ السَّنَد – The chain of narration, from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ to the final narrator, must be connected in such a way that every single person in the chain has himself heard or received this narration from the person he is narrating from.
- اَلْعَدَالَة – All the narrators in the chain must be upright meaning that they must be:
b) Has attained the age of accountability (puberty).
c) Sane of mind.
d) Not an open sinner.
e) Free from bad habits.
- ضَبْطُ – All the narrators must possess the ability to preserve the hadith precisely.
- عَدَمُ الشُّذُوْذ – The hadith should not contradict other hadiths which have come from more reliable narrators.
- عَدَمُ العِلَّة – There are no other hidden weaknesses such as a hidden gap in the chain of narration. (Bayquni, A., Abu Hashim., & al-Mashat, H., 2015)
Imam al-Shaf’i writes in his magnum opus al-Risaalah, “Evidence cannot be established on the basis of a report narrated by a few unless several factors are present, such as: The one who narrated it is trustworthy in his religious commitment, known to be truthful in his speech, understanding what he narrates, and knowledgeable about the wording and possible interpretation of the hadith; and he should be one of those who can narrate the hadith exactly as he heard it, not based on the meaning but with the exact wording, because if he if narrated on the basis of meaning and not with the exact wording, and he does not have knowledge of possible interpretations, he may inadvertently change what is Halal into Haram. But if he narrates it exactly, there is no fear that it may be changed.
And he should know the hadith very well, if he is narrating from memory or he should take get care of his book if he is narrating from his book. If he checks what he knows with the scholars of hadith, he should be in agreement with them, and he should not be mudallis, i.e., one who narrates from one who met (a narrator) but did not hear it from him, or who narrates from the Prophet ﷺ something that contradicts the narration of authentic scholars from the Prophet ﷺ. The same must be true for the narrators who came before him (in the isnaad), who narrated it to him, until the hadith ends with an uninterrupted chain all the way back to the Prophet or to the one who narrated it from the Prophet. (p. 370-371)
Siddiqi (1996, pp. 72-73) stated: “In order to check the isnad (the chain of transmitters), it is necessary to know the life and the career as well as the character of the various persons who constitute the various links in the chains of the different isnads. And in order to understand the exact significance of the matn (text), and to test its genuineness, it is necessary to know the meaning of the various expressions used (some of which are rare and out of common use), and also to learn its relation to the text of the other traditions (some of which may be either corroborated or contradicted by it)”.
The Sciences of Hadith which have developed over 1400 years of meticulous scholarship is one of the strongest verification and authentication methodologies known to man. In this paper we aim to compare the lessons from the Science of Hadith to battle and stem the increasing tide of fake news in social media as well as other avenues using points like content verification, reliable transmission, transmission method and charge of custody etc.
What really is Fake News?
It can be said that fake news is authentic material used in the wrong context. It may include imposter news sites designed to look like the everyday brands we already know and trust. Such sites are then infested with fake information, manipulated content and parody content etc.
Similarly in the Sciences of Hadith we see that people used to attribute their own words and meanings to the Prophet. Like the trusted news sites, they used to use names and kunyah’s (nicknames) of the trusted narrators and make additions to the people in the chain of narration and modifications in the text to further their agenda. In the Sciences of Hadith such topics are tackled by اِتِّصَالُ السَّنَد and عَدَمُ العِلَّة. This includes checking if the chain of narration is connected and the hidden defects in the narration. The Arabic language is such that the slightest of changes in the way a word is written or pronounced changes the entire meaning of what is to be relayed. This concept was exploited by the enemies of Islam to sow doubts and misinformation into the narrations to misguide the people. This is where the scholars of Hadith have meticulously put in years of effort to sift through and check where any such changes have been made, hence preserving the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ and safeguarding it from the plots of the enemies of Islam.
How does Fake News spread?
We know that the creators of fake news and fake news sites check verified news sources. They use facts from these verified news outlets and layer it with misinformation to confuse the reader. When confronted by both the fake news and verified news, people tend to discount both the misinformation and the facts. That’s the power of fake news.
Today we see the phenomenon where we get up in the morning to our WhatsApp and other social media filled with messages or rather forwards from friends or family where an Islamic looking reminder masked as a hadith is sent with some weird demand at the end like, “If you forward this or don’t forward this to x number of people you will get Jannah” etc. For the gullible, uninitiated and ignorant person this is what makes them keep the chain alive and forward it further.
Scholars of Hadith have graded many narrations like these before also. This is not a new phenomenon. We know how the Prophet ﷺ spoke and the kind of wordings he generally used. One of the special gifts the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was graced with was جوامع الكلم (Jawami al-Kalim), speech that was concise, yet comprehensive and full of meaning. For a man who is called the best of orators and whose speech touched the hearts of both Muslim and non-Muslim alike, such words as are found in WhatsApp forwards are nothing but an insult. From the Sciences of Hadith we again find that such changes and fake narrations can be tackled by عَدَمُ العِلَّة which is searching for hidden defects in the narration which generally misses the eye of the average reader.
Fake News in the Seerah
A narration from Umar Ibn al-Khattab says, “Beware of fitnah, for a word at the time of fitnah could be as devastating as the sword.”
A glance at the Seerah shows the danger of rumours, fake news and the impact it had: ng the ummah. There follow some examples of that:
- The companions of the Prophet ﷺ migrated from Makkah to Ethiopia, to save themselves from the persecution the Quraysh was inflicting upon them for believing in the message of Islam. They found a safe abode in Ethiopia under the patronage of Negus. Then a rumour spread that the people of Quraysh in Makkah had become Muslims. On hearing this many of the companions of the Prophet left Ethiopia and travelled until they reached Makkah. Here they found that the report of the Quraysh accepting Islam was not true, and they met with persecution at the hands of Quraysh.
- During the Battle of Uhud, when Musab Ibn Umair was martyred, there was a rumour spread in the camp of the Muslims that it was the Messenger of Allah ﷺ who had been killed, so the army of Islam withdrew because of a rumour, and some of them fled to Madinah and some stopped fighting. The tide of the fight nearly turned against the Muslims because of fake news being spread amongst the believers.
- There was the rumour of the slander incident (al-ifk), when our mother, the pure, Aishah was accused of immoral conduct, which led to the distress felt by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and the Muslims with him. The Hypocrites, Jews and other enemies took this as a chance to question the honour of the House of the Prophet ﷺ. All of that was because of fake news spread amongst the people. This is where many an ayat were revealed to the Prophet ﷺ rebuking those who spread news without verifying it and to have good thoughts about their brothers and sisters.
Here are a few steps amalgamated from the teachings of the Sunnah and ICT to battle the virus of fake news that is plaguing our society:
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Deliberation is from Allah and haste is from the Shaytaan.” [Al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 1795]
From this we learn that when we wait, deliberate we may meet some of our needs and requirements whilst the one who is hasty may slip.
Allah says in the Quran:
“O you who have Believed, if there comes to you a disobedient (troublemaker or questionable person as per other translations) one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” [Surah al-Hujuraat, 6]
Here it’s important to learn why this ayah was revealed:
The Prophet ﷺ sent al-Waleed Ibn Uqbah Ibn Abi Mu’eet to Banu al-Mustaliq, to collect the Zakat from them. When news of that reached them they rejoiced, and they came out to meet the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.
When al-Waleed heard that they had come out to meet him, he went back to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and said, “O Messenger of Allah, Banu al-Mustaliq have withheld the zakat.”
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ became very angry at that, and whilst he was thinking of launching a campaign against them, the delegation came to him and said, “O Messenger of Allah ﷺ, we were told that your envoy returned after coming only half way, and we were afraid that he came back because he received a message from you saying that you were angry with us. We seek refuge with Allah from the anger of Allah and the anger of His Messenger ﷺ.” [al-Silsilah al-Saheehah, 3085]
It was here then that Allah revealed the above ayah to forgive the tribe of Banu Mustaliq.
What is meant by verifying is making the effort to find out the truth of the matter, so as to establish whether this can be proven or not. Verifying means making certain of the truth of the report and its circumstances.
Al-Hasan al-Basri said: “The believer reserves judgement until the matter is proven.”
We see from the Sciences of Hadith the importance of verifying matters and not to rush to pass on news until there is absolute surety to it being truthful, even if the news is good news, because if it becomes apparent that the one who passed it on is mistaken, he will lose credibility before the people. In the Sciences of Hadith such a person is graded as a weak narrator, or one with bad memory or even an outright liar.
Think and Verify before you Share – Read the entire piece before you decide whether or not to share that information or from that source.
Allah tells us in the Quran,
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ
“O you who have Believed, if there comes to you a disobedient (troublemaker or questionable person as per other translations) one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” [Surah al-Hujuraat, 6]
Furthermore, it was narrated that Hafs ibn ‘Aasim said: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “It is enough lying for a man to speak of everything that he hears.” [Muslim]
One of the great scholars of Islam, Imam al-Nawawi commented on this and said, “Usually a person hears truth and lies, so if he speaks of everything that he hears, he is lying by telling of things that did not happen, and lying by speaking of something other than the way it happened; and he does not have to do that deliberately (in order to be regarded as telling lies).”
Stemming the Tide
The Internet is a bane as well as a boon. It depends on how it is being used. As much as it can be used to propagate fake news, it can also be used to oppose it and nip it from the bud. Of the technical steps and actions that can be implemented include:
- Installing S. Detector – This is a browser extension that identifies stories from sites that produce clickbait, fake news, and other suspect stories. We can liken this to checking the isnad of a narration.
- Digital Polarization Initiative
- Screen and filter what and whom you hear from. The news diet intake needs to be restructured. Expand your information network to include diverse perspectives from quality sources. This can be likened to grading different narrators in a chain of hadith according to their strengths and weaknesses.
- Evaluate the news or reports using IMVAIN – This method involves deconstruction of the narration. The source in the report is evaluated using the IMVAIN rubric which includes:
I: Independent sources are better than self-interested sources
M: Multiple sources are better than single sources
V: Sources who Verify with evidence are better than sources who assert
A / I: Authoritative / Informed sources are better than uninformed sources
N: Named sources are better than unnamed sources
- Fact Checkers Factcheck.org – This website fact-checks claims made by Presidents, Members of Congress, Presidential candidates, and other members of the political arena by reviewing TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases.
- Snopes – Snopes.com was originally founded to uncover rumors that had begun cropping up in chain emails and message boards and is now highly regarded as one of the best tools available for fact-checking and debunking fake news.
- Verification Handbook: An ultimate guideline on digital age sourcing. Handbook is a step by step guide for verifying digital content initially created for reporters and emergency responders.
- Wayback Machine – Web archive that captures websites over time and can be used to verify content history and edits.
At this point we note that we now have tools where images, audios and videos can be manipulated in such a manner where a completely different person can be passed of as another. This brings an important highlight where we note that the scholars of Islamic jurisprudence and law have stated that images, audios, videos etc don’t stand as valid proof in an Islamic court since it can so easily be manipulated.
Whenever there is a doubt with regards to such pictures, it can be checked for any digital manipulations by using tools and concepts like:
- FotoForensics – This tool helps identify parts of an image that may have been modified or “photoshopped”.
- Google Reverse Image Search – Using this tool a user can upload or use a URL image to check the content history or to see similar images on the web. This could be likened to checking various different chains of narration to verify the authenticity of the narration.
- Google Street View – This tool helps in identifying the location of a suspicious photo or video and has become a crucial part of the verification process.
- Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer – Using this tool a user can upload or enter the URL of an image and view its metadata.
- TinEye Reverse Image Search – Similar to the tool by Google, this tool can upload or enter an image URL to the search bar and see a list of related sites.
Other important techniques are to check the “About” page of unfamiliar news sites. If it cannot be found then that is where the alarm bells go off. Even if it does exist but is vague or shallow with regards to the information provided, then that is also a bad sign.
There’s another lesson here: Headlines from both traditional and non-traditional news media sites will not sound like those of the fake news. They will have a higher element of click bait in them. As the famous saying goes, “If it sounds too ridiculous to be true, it probably is.”
Another important point that we can learn from the Sciences of Ahadith is Mutawatir Ahadith. These are those narrations which are narrated from multiple chains from multiple people at different levels of the chain are considered Sahih.
From this we learn to not completely trust on stories that are based on a single, unverified source. Instead a reader should rely on reports with multiple sources or verification. That kind of journalism will indeed take more time, but it is more often right. It’s better to remain a trusted person and convey to others substantial information a bit late, than to be at the forefront of reporting everything to others, but nearly all of it is shaky. The most important time when a person needs to be on his guard his when news breaks. Patience and scrutiny is the key.
Breaking news situations are breeding grounds for some of the most widely spread fake news stories. Every time a major event occurs, bizarre incidents are reported from the site which are never true. These are the times when a reader should heighten their skepticism.
From the Sciences of Hadith we learn that at this moment of time, where the number of weak and fabricated narrations are many, we stick to those who are strong in their narration.
In the real world media, a person should follow credible journalists and media houses which are of repute. Despite this, it should be kept in mind that the initial reports, even from the best sources, are often incomplete and sometimes wrong.
We can conclude our paper by quoting a few pointers shared by the esteemed Sheikh Abdul Wahab Ibn Nasir al-Tareeri on how to handle and disseminate fake news within our societies:
- We must be certain about the news we accept, and we should not accept it simply because it happens to coincide with our hopes and wishes. We have our own methodology of verifying matters, and we should be consistent with regard to what we like and dislike. It is not right for us to doubt news accompanied by pictures from the battlefield, or to shed doubts on it, when the bottom line is one’s senses. At a time when you see news going around through mobiles from some internet web sites, there are some people who may accept such news but it should be noted that there are people who will never believe it. So they should beware of exposing themselves to being called liars. An old proverb says, “Whoever pursues weird news will be disbelieved.”
- We have to be cautious about the fact that the source is anonymous. There is no information more important than that of the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ, yet despite that it is not part of the Muslims’ methodology to accept reports of the Sunnah from people who are unknown. Hence news must be taken from authentic sources; if it is not authentic then it should at least be known, so that people may be able to find out for themselves whether it is authentic or not. What a bad habit it is for a man to say, “I heard” or “they said.”
- If there are people who permit the fabrication of rumours, basing that on some kind of ijtihaad, we must refuse to be the means of transmitting that by believing it and propagating it. (Whoever narrates a saying knowing it to be a lie is one of the liars).
- One of the reasons used by the fabricators to justify making up these rumours is that it is a kind of lying in war, which is permissible. They ignore the fact – of which they are not ignorant – that the only kind of lying that is permitted in war is that which misleads the enemy, not that which creates illusions and deceives the Muslims.
- If we have lost some aspects of the battle, we must not lose truthfulness which is our capital in our dealings with others. People will be astounded and amazed if they find out that this false news was transmitted through a good man. Whoever is known to have lied or to have transmitted lies will no longer be in a position to be considered trustworthy.
- Similarly the righteous will be astounded and will become suspicious of a narrator who appeared to be righteous because he was telling this news and confirming it to them. At the same time, others will express joy, those who took the opposite stance to these youngsters and said, “This is their news, this is their credibility!” Everyone who was upset by the Muslim revival will find an opportunity to generalize this mistake and accuse all the pioneers of the revival of behaving like that. Please, for Allah’s sake, do not make the enemy rejoice or give them a reason to attack.
- If truthfulness is an Islamic virtue and part of Arabic chivalry, then telling lies is an obscenity that Islam has forbidden. Even the mushrik Arabs refrained from telling lies, as Abu Sufyaan – when he was still a mushrik – said: “Were it not that I am afraid that people may find out that I had told a lie, I would have told lies about him.” That was when he was speaking to Heraclius (about the Prophet (peace and blessings of Alaah be upon him)). He did not want to have even one lie to be found in his history, even if it was a lie told against his enemy Muhammad ﷺ to Heraclius (the Roman ruler). We are concerned that the propagation of these rumours may lead people to record a lot of lies against us.
- Fabricating rumours and believing them readily is a form of escapism in the face of a reality which one dislikes and with which one does not feel comfortable.
- The soul finds consolation in denying that which it does not like and in fabricating and disseminating rumours, but in the end it will have to submit to the authority of overwhelming reality. But this psychological trick is not fit to be the means of escapism for the followers of Muhammad ﷺ who taught them the virtues of truthfulness and commanded them to strive their utmost to be truthful. He said: “Truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man will continue to speak the truth and strive to be truthful, until he will be recorded with Allah as a speaker of the truth. And lying leads to immorality and immorality leads to Hell, a man will continue to tell lies and strive in telling lies, until he will be recorded with Allah as a liar.”
- Delaying recognition of realities and veiling reality with illusions, the greatest form of which is believing and disseminating rumours, will only multiply the amount of losses, and the greatest loss will be the loss of values. The highest and most precious of those values is truthfulness. “then if they had been true to Allah, it would have been better for them” [Surah Muhammad, 21]
- Recognizing the truth is the first step towards dealing with crises and overcoming them, but not admitting them and concealing them are among the greatest means of reinforcing them, renewing them and repeating them.
- Our advice is not to transmit this news. We must advise those who transmit it with the best of intentions and present them with the real facts, we should not try to spare their feelings at the expense of our reason and the transmission of truthful news, and we should try to rescue them from the anxiety of illusion and point them in the direction of reality, because truthfulness brings peace of mind and lies bring suspicion.
- Sayyid Qutub said: “The reality of a thing defeats the outward appearance of another thing, even if it is the reality of kufr.”
How I wish that I did not have to talk in this manner, but the problem is there and must be addressed. I have tried to be truthful when speaking about truthfulness, for the dearest of speech to Allah is that which is most sincere.
“O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds)” [Surah al-Tawbah, 119]
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