In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Allaah [The Most High] said:
وَإِذَا جَاءَهُمْ أَمْرٌ مِّنَ الْأَمْنِ أَوِ الْخَوْفِ أَذَاعُوا بِهِ ۖ وَلَوْ رَدُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ وَإِلَىٰ أُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَنبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ ۗ وَلَوْلَا فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ لَاتَّبَعْتُمُ الشَّيْطَانَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا
When there comes to them some matter touching (public) safety or fear, they make it known (among the people), if only they had referred it to the Messenger or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have understood it from them (directly). Had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allaah upon you, you would have followed Shaitaan (Satan), save a few of you. [Surah An-Nisaa. Aayah 83]
Imaam Ibn Katheer [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: “In this verse, (there) is a rebuke against the one who rushes towards affairs and then gives news about it before verifying- circulates and disseminates it -and perhaps there is no credibility in it”.
Therefore, this ayah obligates verification and clarification when (news) is heard, as Ibn katheer mentioned, rebukes the one who hastens to transmit and spread (news) before verifying its credibility. This ayah guides to another affair and that is (important news touching public safety and fear) is to be relayed to those in authority amongst the Scholars and the rulers and not to the common people, because there is no benefit in transmitting it to the common people; rather what is of benefit is that it is transmitted to the people in authority because they are those with a sound understanding of the affairs and the benefits that are extracted from them. They are the ones with the ability to avert the harmful affairs.
Ibn Katheer then mentioned a number of narrations about being careful of hastiness and lack of verification, and from them is a narration by Abu Hurairah [radiyallaahu-anhu] that the Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] said, “It is enough for a man to prove himself a liar when he goes on narrating whatever he hears”. And Mugheerah bin Shubah [radiyallaahu-anhu] said, “The Messenger of Allaah [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] forbade Qeel Wal Qaal (i.e. so and so said)”. Ibn Katheer said, “It is the one who narrates a great deal of that which the people say without verification, contemplation and clarification”.
Then Ibn Katheer cited the hadith in Bukhaari and Muslim about Umar [radiyallaahu-anhu] that when told that the Messenger of Allaah [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] divorced his wives, he left his house and entered the mosque, where he found the people talking about it; so he could not endure waiting and ask for the permission of the Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] to speak to him; then he asked the Prophet, saying, “Have you divorced your women?” The Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] said, “No”. So Umar said, “I said Allaahu Akbar……” And in the narration recorded by Imaam Muslim, Umar said, “I asked, have you divorced them?” The Prophet [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] said, “No”. So I stood by the door of the mosque and shouted with a loud voice, saying,”The Messenger of Allaah did not divorce his wives”. Then the ayah (i.e. Ayah 83, Surah Nisaa) was revealed. Umar said, “I investigated this affair properly (i.e. whether the Prophet did divorce his wives)”.
Imaam As-Sadi stated about this Aayaah [i.e. An-Nisaa 83]: This is a moral conduct (commanded by Allaah) to His slaves that they do not (hasten to spread news), and it is obligated on them that when there comes to them an affair from the important affairs – matters related to a universal benefit for the people, public safety and those affairs on which depends the sorrow or happiness of the believers, or an affair of public fear which may bring about calamity upon them- they should verify and not to be hasty in spreading it; rather they should refer it back to the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] and to those in authority- the people of sound opinions, the people of knowledge, those who can give sound advice, the people of intelligence and those who approach affairs with calmness, and they are those who know what is of overriding benefit and that which is in opposition to it. So, if they see that disseminating such news will bring about an overriding benefit for the Muslims, strengthen them, bring about happiness and make them vigilant about their enemies, then they would disseminate such news; but if they see that there is no overriding benefit in disseminating such news, or that there is benefit in it, but more harm in doing so; then they would not circulate such news. That is why Allaah stated:
[وَلَوْ رَدُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ وَإِلَىٰ أُولِي الْأَمْرِ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَنبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ – If only they had referred it to the Messenger or to those charged with authority among them, the proper investigators would have understood it from them (directly)]- Meaning, they would have derived from it (the proper cause of action) through contemplation, correct opinions and rightly guided sciences.
Therefore, in this there is proof regarding a principle related to a moral conduct that when an (important affair) suddenly appears, it is obligatory to refer it to those who are competent in the affair and one should not put himself forward before them, because that is closer to correctness and safer in preventing mistakes. This also contains a prohibition against hastiness and a command to contemplate before speaking- to look into the affair, as to whether it is an affair of overriding benefit to be dealt with, or whether it should be avoided if it does not. [وَلَوۡلَا فَضۡلُ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيۡڪُمۡ وَرَحۡمَتُهُ – Had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allah upon you]- Meaning, by way granting you the ability to act upon righteousness, instructed you with moral conducts and taught you that which you never knew, then [لَٱتَّبَعۡتُمُ ٱلشَّيۡطَـٰنَ إِلَّا قَلِيلاً۬ – you would have followed Shaitan (Satan), save a few of you]. (1)
Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
It (Islam) is the religion that directs the servants (of Allaah) to every matter that is beneficial to them in their religious and worldly affairs, and warns them about every matter that is harmful to their religion and livelihood. It commands them to establish consultation in choosing the affair whose greater benefit is clearly established and repel the affair whose corruption is clearly established when there is an ambiguity between things that bring about welfare and things that are corrupt, and between beneficial and harmful things. (see ‘footnote a’ about importance of consultation).
Commentary: (One of the affairs that shows the) excellence and perfection of this mighty religion is that it directs the servants (of Allaah) to every beneficial affair in their religious and worldly affairs. It is a religion of upright rectification in every affair of the worldly life – urges towards everything that is useful and beneficial in the person’s worldly life, and rectification of a person’s Afterlife through every righteous deeds that will draw a person close to Allaah and attain a lofty status in the afterlife; and it warns them about every harmful thing in their religion and worldly affairs. Islam forbids every affair that harms a person’s livelihood, health and body, and forbids every affair that harms a person’s religion. Therefore, it rectifies the worldly affairs and afterlife of a person. It commands them to establish consultation – in order to safeguard against haste (see ‘footnote b’ about avoiding haste) – when there is an ambiguity between things that bring about welfare and things that are corrupt, and between beneficial and harmful things. So, a person looks at the affair based on the Sharee’ah principle which is Dar Al-Mafaasid Muqaddam Alaa Jalb Al-Masaalih – Warding off corruption (or evil) takes precedence over attaining some benefit. (see ‘footnote c’ about ‘warding off evil takes precedence over attaining a benefit’) (2)
Footnote a: Al-Hasan al-Basree [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: “By Allaah! Never have a people sought advice except that they were guided to the best of what was available to them.” Then he recited [the statement of Allaah]: [وَأَمۡرُهُمۡ شُورَىٰ بَيۡنَہُمۡ – And (the Believers) who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation].
Al-Allaamah Zaid Bin Haadee Al-Mad’khalee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] commanded His Messenger Muhammad [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] to consult his companions in some affairs. Allaah [Glorified be He and free is He from all imperfections] said: [وَشَاوِرۡهُمۡ فِى ٱلۡأَمۡرِۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمۡتَ فَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱللَّهِۚ – and consult them in the affairs. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah.
He [i.e. the Messenger] is the example to be followed by the Ummah, therefore when it is the case that Allaah commanded him to consult his companions, then there is even a greater reason that the Muslims are in need of consultation amongst themselves. When a difficulty that is related to a Muslim’s religious and worldly affairs occurs, then indeed it is fitting that he consults someone whom he considers reliable, wise, truthful and sincere. He examines [the advice] given by that person, then he makes a choice – either to take that advice or decides not to take it based on what he is satisfied with, in relation to his personal affairs.
The hadeeth places emphasis on the fact that consultation guides to the best outcomes, and due to this it is said: ”The one who consults [others] does not regret [thereafter InShaaAllaah] and the one who performs Istikhaarah will not fail [to achieve good]”. Both Istikhaarah and consultation are legislated and a lot of good is achieved by way of them, as opposed to when affairs are pursued in a rigid and haphazard manner, for indeed this might lead to regret and harm. [An Excerpt from ‘Awnul Ahadis Samad Sharh Al-Adab Al-Mufrad’ 1/285. slightly paraphrased]
Footnote b: Haste is from Shaytaan: https://atomic-temporary-194201713.wpcomstaging.com/2019/08/10/haste-is-from-shaytaan/
Footnote c: “Warding off corruption (or evil) takes precedence over attaining some benefit”. Imaam Abdul Azeez Bin Baaz [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: The scholars deduced this principle from the evidences- from the Sharee’ah evidences (Qur’aan and authentic Sunnah). A person avoids evil that is greater than the benefit he imagines and presumes. If his meeting with Zayd or Amr would result in evil, he abandons this meeting, even if he hopes for a benefit in it, that he will give him money or supplicate for him or something similar; but if it would result in evil suspicion- he harbours an evil suspicion of him that this man who loves to meet with him is famous for evil, or for drinking alcohol, or for engaging in what Allaah has forbidden such as sodomy, or the like, he stays away due to the evil suspicion held about this person. (see ‘footnote d’ about evil suspicion)
Likewise, if dealing with a certain commodity leads him to evil, he stays away from it, and similarly if going to one of the districts leads to evil, he stays away even if there is a benefit in it. He visits a sick person or gives charity to someone as long as entering this district would not result in being accused of evil and corruption. Warding off evil takes precedence over seeking after some benefit.
Shaikh Abu Iyaadh [may Allaah preserve him] stated: The wisdom of the Islamic Shariah: Cut off evils and harms to society from their very roots and enjoy the resulting freedom, ease and wholesome life. In contrast: the barbarity and backwardness of commercialising corrosive evils– usurious banking, alcohol, gambling–in order to profit from the masses through affairs in which their ruin and impoverishment lies–and then managing this commercialisation through legislation, policies, guidelines and so on to “limit the harms”. The result? Inescapable enslavement, bondage, disease and ruin of the masses for the enrichment of the few who peddle these vices. Where is the intellect?! http://www.shariah.ws/articles/suokooj-there-is-no-safe-limit-in-the-consumption-of-alcohol-and-the-prohibition-of-alcohol-in-the-quran.cfm
Footnote d: Allaah [The Most High] said: [يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اجْتَنِبُوا كَثِيرًا مِنْ الظَّنِّ إِنَّ بَعْضَ الظَّنِّ إِثْمٌ – O you who believe! Avoid much suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins]. [Surah Al-Hujuraat. Aayah 12]
Imaam As-Sa’di [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Allaah [The Most High] has forbidden much evil suspicion towards the believers, because some suspicions are sins. And that is like the suspicion devoid of reality and factual evidence, and like the suspicion accompanied by much forbidden speech and action, for indeed the settlement of evil suspicion in the heart does not restrict the one [in whose heart is that evil suspicion] only to that; rather, he does not cease until he utters and does that which is not permissible. [Tafseer As-Sadi]
Imaam Muhammad Ibn Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Not every suspicion is a sin and there is no harm regarding the suspicion that is based on clear indications regarding the validity of an affair. As for mere assumption, it is not permissible. For example, if a man – who is known to be upright – is seen with a woman by another man, then it not permissible to accuse him that the woman he is seen with is a stranger [who he should not be with], because this is the type of suspicion that is tantamount to sin. [Fataawaa Islaamiyyah 4/537]
[Ref 1: Al-Fitna Wa Mawqiful Muslim Minhaa’ 78-83]
[Ref 2: https://www.al-badr.net/detail/8LD6UgwQrZ – From 19mins 45secs to 22mins 28secs. paraphrased]