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  • Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Verify facts to save yourself from fake news

Falling victim to fake news is often easy. Such fake news affects our opinions in all spheres of life, be it related to crisis situations, politics, media, and often in our personal and professional lives. The rise of fake news around the Covid-19 pandemic is unparalleled. Media houses, health advisors and government institutions have been working round the clock to provide accurate information on the disease. Fake news is usually meant to sensationalize issues, divert attention and create misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding is a common phenomenon of social life. People tend to believe everything that is reported to them without scrutiny. And it is a common experience for reporters always to report things selectively or in a partial manner. It is selective reporting or partial reporting that creates problems. Sometimes people fall into grave misunderstanding and the result is disastrous. Giving clear direction on how to save oneself from being a victim of such misunderstandings the Quran says:

“Believers, if an evil-doer brings you news, ascertain the correctness of the report fully, lest you unwittingly harm others, and then regret what you have done,” (49:6)

There is a background to this verse. When Prophet Muhammad established a city-state in Arabia with Madinah its capital, he sent one of his companions, Walid ibn Uqba, as a collector, to a tribe called the Banu al-Mustaliq. When Walid reached the tribal area, he saw that a crowd had gathered outside the town. He feared, due to some preoccupation, that the tribe wanted to kill him or beat him. After seeing this, Walid returned to Madinah, and told the Prophet that the Banu al-Mustaliq had rebelled and they must therefore send an army against them.

Then the chief of that tribe, Haris bin Zarar, himself came to Madinah. He said that they had gathered on the outskirts of their town only to receive the collector, Walid bin Uqba, but that without meeting them, he had returned to Madinah. The above verse was revealed in the Quran after this incident. By taking this example, the Quran gives the general direction that, before forming an opinion, we should scrutinize any news we receive. That is, before proper scrutiny, we should not accept its veracity.

The principle to be followed is that if you are going to form a positive opinion, then scrutiny is not essential. For there is no harm in believing that Mr. So and So is a very good person but, when you are going to form a bad or negative opinion about anyone, then you have to investigate the matter before forming your opinion. In such a situation, you have only two options: either to remain silent or, if you want to form an opinion, then you have to go into the matter in depth. Only then do you have the right to form a negative opinion.

We should scrutinize any news that comes our way prior to forming opinions on our own, and especially before sharing it with others. If we are able to do this then we can save ourselves from falling a victim to sensational and fake news.

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