By Amina Salau
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
How do you react when you read a piece of news online or in the newspapers? Do your eyes skim across the pages, taking in the words without much reflection? Or do you ponder over them and how the reported events affect humanity?
A large number of news stories in the media are of importance to a Muslim. Indeed, a lot of news these days is Muslim-centric, with issues like migration and refugees on the forefront. Most news that keeps us up to date with current events or increases our knowledge about people and places, though, can be considered important. This leaves out news that is trivial or does not improve our knowledge in a positive way.
One thing, however, that may not occur to us as we read the daily news is our attitude towards the news as Muslims. How should we react to what we have read in a way that is similar to how the Prophet (sa) would have responded?
Is it the complete truth?
A lot of news is published daily, and it is written from the perspective of the reporter in line with the publication’s policies. This is why a piece of news is conveyed differently across multiple outlets. Because of this diversity, there is a danger of half-truths passing off as reliable information.
The Qur’an admonishes the ill-effect of failing to establish the truth of any matter (Al-Hujurat 49:6), but in a global world, it is nearly impossible to establish the truth of every single news item that we read or hear.
So, a pertinent question is: how do we verify the news since we simply don’t have the means to do so individually? Unless the news has happened locally and we have access to all players, we can’t verify the absolute truth in any news. What we may have read or heard is merely one account of an event, described according to the way that a reporter or his agency has chosen to report it. It is advisable, then, to stick with publications that have a reputation for fair reporting but still take what they say with a grain of salt.
Read different point of views
This resonates with the Quranic verse above, and it is also another way of establishing the truth. One way to know the facts of a story or news is to listen, or as the case may be, to be familiar with different versions of the same news. Read the same story on different websites and analyze the way each article is written. Reading something from more than one source can give us an insight into the possibility of the degree of truth there is to it, especially if all accounts are similar.
Discuss in a civil manner
What should our attitude be when we discuss the news that we read? Should we vent in the comment sections of news websites and blogs, hurling insults at people who do not agree with us? Definitely not! It doesn’t befit a Muslim to be vile, disrespectful, and unaccommodating of other people and their opinions. Even if the news is derogatory, it is desirable to simply state our opinion, correct the facts amiably, and move on. There is no need to keep checking back for ‘replies’ and then counter argue. It’s a waste of time and doesn’t benefit anyone.
These days, many issues that arouse our emotions are on the rise in the media. This means that more than ever before, our attitude towards the news that we read should reflect the peace and beauty of Islam.
Should the news be spread?
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when sharing a piece of news is the benefit it will give to other people. If we are sure that what we have read is true and well reported, and we think that it will be beneficial to other people, we can share it as much as we can via different social media channels or verbal discussion. I lay emphasis on sharing what is beneficial because sharing something that brings no benefit is a waste. Worse is when the information causes any form of harm to the receiver.
When sharing news, we must remember to convey it accurately, just as we have read or heard it. If possible, we should let people know wherever we have included our own opinion, so that the message does not change from what was originally intended. Being neglectful of this is one of the ways through which falsehood creeps into information. When a story has been embellished here and there, it becomes difficult to know the ‘original’ story.
Also, if we think that a piece of news is controversial or might evoke different emotions in people, it is best to refrain from sharing. We should not spread information that might cause discord among people. If we are not sure how people will react to a certain news item, it’s best to not share it.
Something I like to think of in terms of reading news, either online or offline, is the popular T.H.I.N.K principle which asks:
- Is it true?
- Is it helpful to other people?
- Is it inspiring?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
Following this will, inshallah, help ensure that we do not share anything that might have any negative impact or may only waste someone’s time.
Amina Salau is a freelance writer who is passionate about women’s issues in Islam
© IIPH 2016