What should we do?
We draw to your attention the following verses of the Qur'an:
"Were it not for the grace and mercy of Allah on you, in this world and the Hereafter, a grievous penalty would have seized you in that ye rushed glibly into this affair.
Behold, ye received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things of which ye had no knowledge; and ye thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of Allah.
And why did ye not, when ye heard it, say? - "It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to Allah! this is a most serious slander!" Allah doth admonish you, that ye may never repeat such (conduct), if ye are (true) Believers.
And Allah makes the Signs plain to you: for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom. Those who love (to see) scandal published broadcast among the Believers, will have a grievous Penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: Allah knows, and ye know not."(Al Qur'an 24:19)
The above verses lay out the warnings and promises of Allah of severe torture to those who spread falsehood, or news, against even one person, without investigation, clarification, proof or evidence.
We all want to do good, but if we violate the sanctity of one person in the process through our lies and slander, the magnitude of that wrong is great in the eye of Allah. What if we are spreading wrong knowledge or understanding of Qur'an or Hadith, historical accounts of Islam, or even the daily affairs and news, which can cause major fitnah to thousands and millions, tarnishing the name of Islam and creating confusion to Muslims and non Muslims alike? What if this makes people turn against Islam?
We should not take this issue lightly nor spread "knowledge" without caring who the author or scholar is, whether the knowledge is sound, in the right context, manner and understanding, and whether or not for the benefit of others. It takes the smallest careless action to trigger a ripple effect that will affect many.
How many of us have initiated division and mischief between each other as an ummah or mankind, with the innocent intention that it looked interesting or might encourage a healthy debate? We should be aware, alert and vigilant about what we say, or post or promote on Facebook, email, Twitter, etc because the sharing of every piece of knowledge is an amanah or trust, for which we will be questioned. At such time, we face Allah with no one to defend our actions. We will be responsible for the consequences, and will then be made to severely account for those few hasty keystrokes which have led others to destruction.
Verify knowledge first with a learned person or persons you trust. When seeking a trusted and learned person, don't just look at that person's knowledge, but also to his character, credibility and style of life. A person's character lies in his conduct, not his words.
Consider if it is wise to pass on such information. Will it benefit or harm? Always ask yourself if what you are doing will be to elevate the name of Allah, Islam and Muslims, or if you are headed in the opposite direction, causing division, misunderstanding, confusion and mischief.
We are at the end of time and each one of us should guard his hand and tongue and think thoroughly, consult, and verify before disseminating everything we come across. We want to be on Allah's side, not the enemy of Allah, knowingly or in ignorance. Ignorance is not an excuse on the Day of Judgment because it is incumbent on all of us to seek authentic knowledge.
Certain individuals in Islamic history have contributed in the cause of elevating and spreading Islam. They created a wave of change for upcoming generations. We have plenty of such people, from the time for the companions up to today. Now think about your contribution to our condition today, and the effect to your family, society and mankind.
The Golden Advice
"Mankind were one community and Allah sent Prophets with glad tidings and warnings, and with them He sent the Scripture in truth to judge between people in matters wherein they differed. And only those to whom (the Scripture) was given differed concerning it after clear proofs had come unto them through hatred, one to another. Then Allah by His Leave guided those who believed to the truth of that wherein they differed. And Allah guides whom He wills to a Straight Path." (Al Qur'an 2:213)
"He did lead me astray from the Message (of Allah) after it had come to me! Ah! the Evil One is but a traitor to man!" (Al Qur'an 25:29)
And how many cities have We destroyed, and Our punishment came to them at night or while they were sleeping at noon. (Al Qur'an 7:4)
The above contain two major warnings. The first is for those who spread division after they gain knowledge, and the Qur'an is filled with warnings for those who do so.
The other, we see now unfolding before our eyes. The ummah is in a state of turmoil and distress. Division, killing, fitnah, oppression, aggression, greed and selfishness are on the rise. There is a spike in natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, hurricanes etc) and torture from Allah, as a wake-up call and warning to all of us to remedy our behaviour.
When the Companions of the Prophet SAW met each other, the following short chapter was their golden reminder and constitution between each other:
"By Al Asr (the time, or (the Token of) Time (through the ages), Verily! Man is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy. " (Surah Al 'Asr)
Some early scholars said that if Muslims learn this chapter and live it, and make it a constitution of their own lives, it would suffice for them. Please let us study and understand it thoroughly, and make it an essential constitution of our lives.
May Allah make us among those who stand for the truth, spread the truth and be the cause and keys of spreading goodness and locks of evils, ameen yarabb-ilalameen.