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“Ethics and Voice”- [How Some Social Media Companies Permit Lies In The Name of Free Speech and Exchange of Ideas In order to Maximize Profit]

In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.

Some of them say, “Our social media platform is only providing a tennis court for robust discussion and exchange of ideas”. Others say, “If we want to safeguard free speech, then we must give room to those who are known to peddle lies, so that the viewers may make their own judgement”. Firstly, read:

Allaah [The Exalted] said: [يٰأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ آمَنُوۤاْ إِن جَآءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوۤاْ أَن تُصِيبُواْ قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُواْ عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ – O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with a news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done]. [Surah Al-Hujuraat. Aayah 6]

Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: This is also one of the moral etiquettes that are obligated on the people of (sound) understanding to adorn themselves with and put into practice. And that is if a rebellious sinful person informs them of some news, they should verify his news and not to merely accept it, because indeed there is great danger (in doing so) and (possibility) of falling into sin. That is because if his news is placed at the same level with the news given by truthful reliable person, one might pass a judgement based on that news and what it necessitates, so loss of life and wealth occurs without right due to that news and thus brings about regret; rather, what is obligated with regards to the news given by a rebellious sinful person is that it is verified and clarified. So, if the proofs and clear indications demonstrates his truthfulness, then it [i.e. the news] is acted upon and declared to be true; but if they demonstrate that he is lying, then it is declared to be lies and not acted upon. Therefore, in this (verse) there is a proof that news (given) by a truthful person is accepted, the news (given) by a liar is rejected and the news (given) by a rebellious sinful person is suspended as we have stated. (1)

Indeed, neither do the spiteful militant secularists want Muslim governments to employ robust safeguards against misinformation internally and external unless it benefits them nor prosecute their stooges in the Muslim lands, because this is one of those paths through which they destabilize Muslim societies. In addition to this, many of us have witnessed the double standards of some owners of social networking websites and microblogging sites when they – sometimes – refuse to remove the accounts of those associated with social unrest in Muslim societies, but would instead accuse Muslim authorities of dictatorship. However, when citizens of their nations seek to destabilize their countries, they permanently remove the accounts of those people considered to be rabble rousers as well as the accounts of those influential personalities who discredit and question the integrity of their important political and social institutions- one rule for themselves and another for other countries.

Some of them even seek to corrupt the concepts of “ethics and voice” when it suits their their ideologies and business interests, so you hear some of them saying, “If we want to safeguard free speech, then we must give room to those who are known to peddle lies, so that the viewers may make their own judgement”. Indeed, this is a corrupt statement because lying, deception, concealment of facts and disinformation are abhorred in every society. Lying destroys the very foundation of mutual trust between a man and his wife, children and parents, individuals and their relatives, employers and employees, rulers and their subjects etc. If liars and deceivers – regardless their social status – know that they have the same right to peddle lies just as a truthful person narrates truth, then there is no doubt that they will be empowered, so they plan and employ the best strategies at their disposal to manipulate the masses. This is why it is said, “The liar is a thief because the thieve deceives you with regards to your wealth and the liar deceives you with regards to your intellect”. (ref 2)

Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Beware of lies because indeed it corrupts one’s ability to illustrate information based on what it should be in reality- corrupts one’s ability to illustrate information and his ability to teach the people. The liar portrays what is non-existent as something present and what is present as something non-existent. He portrays truth as something false and falsehood as something true; portrays good as evil and evil as good, so this corrupts his conception and knowledge, which then becomes a punishment upon him. Then he portrays what is not true to the one deceived by him – the one inclined towards him- and thus corrupts his conception and knowledge. The soul of the liar turns away from the existing reality -inclined towards what is non-existent and gives preference to falsehood.

And when his conception and knowledge is corrupted, which is the basis of every willful chosen deed, his deeds become corrupt and are marked by lies, and thus those deeds would emanate from him just as lies emanate from the tongue. He neither benefits from his tongue nor his deeds. This is why lying is the basis [or foundation] of immorality, just as the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “Indeed lies lead to immorality (or wickedness) and indeed immorality (or wickedness) leads to the fire”. [Bukhaari 2606/2607]

First, lies emerges from the heart and then on the tongue, so it corrupts it; then it transfers to the limbs and corrupts its actions, just as it corrupts the statements of the tongue. So, it prevails over his statements, deeds and state of affairs; corruption becomes deeply rooted in him and its disease leads to destruction if Allaah does not grant him cure with the medication of truthfulness, which uproots it [i.e. lying] from its original source. This is why the basis [or foundation] of all the deeds of the hearts is based on truthfulness, and the basis of their opposites – such as showing off, self-amazement, pride, being glad [with ungratefulness to Allaah’s Favours], conceitedness, boastfulness, insolence, weakness, laziness, cowardice, disgrace and other than them- is lies. The origin of every righteous deed- whether carried out in private or public- is based on truthfulness; and the origin of every corrupt deed – whether carried out in private or public- is lies.

Allaah punishes the liar by preventing him from those affairs that will bring him well-being and benefit, and He rewards the truthful one by granting him the ability to attain the beneficial affairs related to the worldly life and afterlife. There is nothing similar to truthfulness with regards to the manner in which it brings about the affairs of well-being in this life and the next, and there is nothing similar to lying with regards to the manner in which it corrupts and harms one’s worldly affairs and the afterlife.

Allaah [The Most High] said: [يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَكُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِينَ – O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds)]. [هَٰذَا يَوْمُ يَنْفَعُ الصَّادِقِينَ صِدْقُهُمْ ۚ – This is a Day on which the truthful will profit from their truth].  [فَإِذَا عَزَمَ الْأَمْرُ فَلَوْ صَدَقُوا اللَّهَ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ – And when the matter (preparation for Jihad) is resolved on, then if they had been true to Allah, it would have been better for them].

وَجَاءَ الْمُعَذِّرُونَ مِنَ الْأَعْرَابِ لِيُؤْذَنَ لَهُمْ وَقَعَدَ الَّذِينَ كَذَبُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ
سَيُصِيبُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

And those who made excuses from the Bedouins came (to you, O Prophet) asking your permission to exempt them (from the battle), and those who had lied to Allah and His Messenger sat at home (without asking the permission for it); a painful torment will seize those of them who disbelieve. (3)

Therefore, there has to be verification and not the excuse that “Our social media platform is only providing a tennis court for robust discussion and exchange of ideas”. This is one of the absurd excuses presented by some of those ideologues whose only interest is to attract larger audiences and increase profit at the expense of honesty. There has to be verification as Imaam Muhammad Bin Saaleh Al-Uthaymeen [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “Verification is one of the most important affairs, if not the most important. Verifying what is transmitted from others is an important affair, because sometimes the transmitters harbour evil intentions, so they transmit intentionally and deliberately that which will tarnish the reputation of the one they transmit from. And sometimes they do not harbour an evil intention, but they understand something in a manner that is opposite to what is intended by it. Therefore, it is obligatory to verify. So, when the proof (sound source) of the transmission is established, then the one from whom the statement was transmitted is engaged in a discussion (or his statement is examined) before a judgement is passed as to whether it is a mistake or not. That is because it may become clear to you by way of discussion (or observation) that the one from whom the statement was transmitted is correct”. (4)

It is very sad indeed when we hear some of the owners of social networking websites, saying, “Viewers can make their own judgement”, even though they are absolutely certain that what they are allowing to be presented by the deceiver or liar is either an exaggeration, an outright lie or an ambiguity. This is why one witnesses the fact that sometimes the falsest claims have more shares and interactions, especially when biased demagogues and ideologues seek to make absurd judgements about Islaam. Therefore, there is no other solution but to verify before allowing liars to share their view and their posts must be removed when they are found guilty of deception or concealment. However, this can only be achieved if those in full control of their social media websites give precedence to honesty over profit.

Indeed, treacherous behaviour – in our era- is rife and there are those well versed in treachery! Some people know how to evade a question, change the subject matter and conceal their lies. Many times we’ve witnessed when a person behaves in a manner similar to those idle young people – those whose parents spend huge amounts and send them abroad to study at university, but they engage in sin and time wasting. So when a parent asks, “Are you up to date with your recent assignments”, he replies, “I have written an essay regarding such and such”. Yes indeed, maybe he wrote this essay many months ago, but he has not submitted his recent assignments due to partying on a Friday or Saturday night, so, he misleads his parents but at the same time telling the truth in a general context and conceals the specific details being sought from him. This is nothing but paltering – deception, which a person may utilize to deceive others and it is also utilized by some deceitful business men and women, ideologues and demagogues in their interactions with gullible and naive people on social media. The individuals who are deceived in this manner – in most cases – cannot differentiate between lying and paltering when interacting in person, so how about when the deceivers utilize such a strategy to deceive people on social media to sow the seeds of social discord, chaos, rebellion and instability in a country?!

Rather, lies and an absence of truthful verification – in our era – has even led to the invasion of other countries and this shows that some people make a living from lies and deception. Al-Allaamah Zayd Bin Haadee Al-Madkhalee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] stated, “And due to this, the scholars say that the tale carrier- the one who transmits speech from one person to another person, or from a group of people to another group, or from one country (or government) to another, in order to sow the seeds of corruption- causes more harm than a magician. This is because a magician might only harm one person, but as for the tale-carrier, he might harm many individuals and the trial that (emanates from this deed of his) will be prolonged. Therefore, it is forbidden for a Muslim to transmit speech (for the purpose) of causing corruption between those upon (sound) brotherhood and those who aid one another upon piety. And even if nothing like this (i.e. fighting, chaos, killing etc) occurs (from tale-carrying), it is still not permissible to corrupt the relationship between the people by way of lies- sowing the seeds of enmity and hatred between them. The Messenger of Allaah [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon nhim] went past two graves and then said, “Both of them [i.e. the two people in these graves] are being punished, and they are not being punished due to (committing the greatest of the major sins), but indeed they are great sins. One of them used not to protect himself from being soiled with his urine, and the other one used to go about with tale-carrying”. (5)

We also witness what is now called “Deepfake”, which involves an image or video in which a person or object is visually or audibly manipulated to say and do something that is fabricated. Yes indeed, many people would notice that these videos are fake, but Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] forbade us from telling lies in order to make others laugh. He said: “Woe to the one who tells lies to make people laugh, woe to him”. (6)

Finally, as Muslims we must fear Allaah and keep away from the deception and treachery. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said: “The best of the people are those living in my generation, then those who will follow the latter and then those who come after them. Then there will come after them people who will be treacherous and will not be trustworthy, they will bear witness without being asked to do so, and they will vow, but will never fulfil their vows, and fatness will appear among them”.

Al-Allaamah Rabee Bin Haadi [may Allaah preserve him] said: They give false testimony, act treacherously and deceitfully. They behave in a very sinful manner and follow evil desires, except those whom Allaah safeguards amongst the Taa’ifatul Mansoorah [i.e. the aided group of Muslims upon the straight path] -those whom Allaah’s Messenger [alayhis salaatu wassalaam] praised. Therefore, it is obligated on us to acquire knowledge for the sake of Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] and act upon it. Ignorance is a deadly disease and knowledge is a weapon that will destroy you if you do not act upon it, and Allaah’s refuge is sought. (7)

Imaam An-Nawawi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] stated regarding the statement: “They will bear witness without being asked to do so”. This can mean that they bear witness before being asked, or they bear witness based on falsehood, or they give witness without being from those who are worthy of it. (8)

However, there is another Hadeeth in which the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] stated: “Should I not inform you about the best of witnesses, they are those who bear witness before being asked”. The scholars say that what is intended by this hadeeth is for example: someone has a witness to give on behalf of another person based on truth, but the person does not know about it, so he [i.e. the one who should give the witness] informs the person about it; or for example, a person has already passed away and another person knows what the deceased person has left behind as inheritance, so he bears witness to that and makes it known. (9)

And regarding the statement, “And fatness will appear among them”- Meaning: These people give importance to the means of fattening themselves – food, drink and over-abundance. So, their only concern is their bodies and fattening themselves. As for being fat without choice, then one cannot be blamed for that, just as a person cannot be blamed for being tall, short, black or white…(10)

Narrated Umm Salamah [may Allaah be pleased with her]: The Messenger of Allaah [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “Indeed, I am only a human being and you people (i.e. disputants) come to me with your disputes. And it may be that one of you can present his case more eloquently than the other and I consider him truthful, and judge in his favour. So if I ever judge and give the right of a brother to his brother, then it is a piece of hell-fire and let him not take it”. [Saheeh Al-Bukhaari -Kitaab Al-Ahkaam (Book of Judgements): Chapter 29: Hadeeth Number: 7181]

Some Benefits Derived From This Hadeeth:

[a] The Ummah [i.e. the scholars and judges] have been commissioned to judge based on what is apparent; but the mere judgement of a judge cannot prohibit the lawful and allow the unlawful [i.e. because it cannot be taken if proven erroneous].

[b] This Hadeeth contains a refutation against those who say that the Messengers possess knowledge of the unseen.

[c] This hadeeth also shows that speech can be seen to be true based on what is apparent, but it is truly falsehood with regards to what is hidden within it.

[d] Also this hadeeth shows that the one who receives a judgement in his favour is more aware than every other person as to whether he is entitled to it or whether he is a falsifier. So, he takes it if he is entitled to it or leaves it if he a falsifier, because in reality a judgment cannot change an affair from what it was in origin [i.e. the original truth in the affair before its distortion or concealment].

[e] Also this hadeeth shows the sinfulness of the one who argues based on falsehood until he receives what he wants publicly, whilst he is upon falsehood.

[f] Also in this hadeeth is proof to show that a scholar can make a mistake and it is a refutation against those who say that every Mujtahid is correct.

[g] Also this hadeeth shows us that the Mujtahid is forgiven (when he makes a mistake). (11)

[Ref 1: An Excerpt from ‘Tayseer Al-Kareem Ar-Rahmaan Fee Tafseer Kalaam Al-Mannaan’. Slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 2: Adabun Dunyaa Wad Deen page 262]
[Ref 3: Al-Fawaa’id’ pages 202-203]
[Ref 4: Excerpt from Sharh Hilyatil Taalibil Ilm Pages 75-76]
[Ref 5: At-ta’leeqaat Al-Maleehah Alaa Silsilatil Ahaadeeth As-Saheehah’ pages 27-28]
[Ref 6: Abu Dawood 4990]
[Ref 7: Marhaban Yaa Taalibal Ilm pages 268-270]
[Ref 8: Sharh Saheeh Muslim 12/17]
[Ref 9: Fat-hul Baari 5/260]
[Ref10: Majmoo Al-Fataawaa 10/1056 -By Shaikh Uthaymeen (rahimahullaah)]
[Ref11: An Excerpt From ‘Saheeh Al-Bukhaari – Kitaab Al-Ahkaam (Book of Judgements) with Fathul Baari. Chapter 29: Hadeeth Number: 7181]

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