I appreciate WhatsApp for its group chats and broadcast lists, but when they facilitate mindless sharing, not so much. Sharing religious encouragements and reminders, hadith and ayaat, is inherently good, Alhamdulillah. But is it good when we share things irresponsibly? Receiving and sending things that are misleading, without context, or even fabricated isn’t doing ourselves or each other any favours in understanding the religion.
It is narrated in Sahih Bukhari, and a similar meaning in other Sahih hadith, that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said, (translated meaning) “Do not tell a lie against me, for whoever tells a lie about me (intentionally) then he will surely enter the Hell fire.”
We can consider the importance of the meaning of intentional here but even so we must take a lot of care in what we share when it comes to sayings and actions ascribed to our Prophet, may Allah bestow peace and blessings upon him.
How many times have you seen hadith posted in a group chat or Facebook group and then someone informs the group that actually, it’s fabricated? If we mindlessly share sayings of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam then surely we take some responsibility for what we’ve shared if it is a lie.
If we’re not sure about it, we can ask for references. As a minimum we can search multiple online hadith databases before passing it on. What excuse do we have for being so careless?
Then there’s the situation of sharing a quote, whether that be a fatwa or even hadith or ayah, or an opinion about a fiqh issue but with no knowledge to support it and therefore no true understanding.
Fiqh is important. We should know how to practice our religion and we should make an effort to have an Islamic education. Islamic education isn’t gained from forwarded messages or from reading a website.
What is a fatwa? A fatwa is an Islamic legal ruling. This means they are given by people who are qualified to do so.
What is fiqh? Fiqh means Islamic jurisprudence, it’s how we practice the teachings of the Quran and sunnah. Like fatawa, fiqh is determined by people qualified to do so.
This means people who have extensive knowledge of everything within the Quran and sunnah, including context and linguistic understanding, pertaining to an issue- who then came to a consensus. There were other principles used when the fiqh of the four main madahib was determined, but that is the basis.
Both fatawa and fiqh are exhaustive. For this reason, and because of the mercy of Allah subhana wa ta’ala, we will find different and even conflicting rulings and positions. Particularly if it applies to specific people, which may be the case of fatawa especially.
It’s important to understand this. It’s irresponsible to think we, as Muslims who do not have the knowledge to make our own rulings in the presence of people more suited to do so, can attempt to impose a particular ruling onto another when there is a completely valid alternative that person may follow.
How many debates have you witnessed or had around issues of fiqh in some Islamic group chat or friendship group?
Someone shares a text that’s been taken out of context or is valid within one school, or even no school at all, but the person sharing it insists that we all must adhere to it else we are not following the correct path. SubhanAllah.
If we want to adopt those things within our Islam that is our decision, but if we lack a comprehensive understanding, how can we attempt to teach (or, dictate) it to others?
If we aren’t able to explain it, we should be careful before accepting new information as a fact and before passing it on to others. So many positions and opinions have been recorded about the religion; anyone can screenshot an isolated, minority view from any website or make a YouTube video and present their own opinion as fact. That doesn’t make it so.
Even if we’re sure of it’s context (eg. whether it’s valid within a certain school or are aware of exceptions), the people receiving it may not be as informed. Shouldn’t we be thoughtful of who we are sharing it to and what their capacity to understand it is?
Otherwise we may end up being a source of misinformation and a reason people incorrectly perceive the religion as harder than it is. Islam is not hard, Allah tells us:
Strive hard for Allah as is His due: He has chosen you and placed no hardship in your religion, the faith of your forefather Abraham. Allah has called you Muslims- both in the past and in this [message]- so that the Messenger can bear witness about you and so that you can bear witness about other people. So keep up the prayer, give the prescribed alms, and seek refuge in Allah: He is your protector- an excellent protector and an excellent helper.” Surah al-Haj , ayah 78.
Allah make us of those who are granted knowledge and understanding of the religion, and allow us to be diligent in seeking and sharing it. Aameen.
Want to learn more about the four madhabs? Read this post.