A few years ago, the term “fake news” was not an expression many people were familiar with. Now it is a phenomenon many see as one of the greatest threats to news reporting in the fast-moving internet age.
But more than 1,400 years before “fake news” was seen as a problem by Western societies, Islam had promoted a strong ethic of seeking the truth at all cost.
In verse 70 of Surah Al-Ahzaab, God instructs Muslims to be always truthful: “O you who have believed, fear God and speak words of appropriate justice” (33:70).
In chapter 4, verse 135, the Qur’an states: “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, God is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.”
Ibn al-Haytham, an Arab mathematician and physicist of the Islamic Golden Age, said many years ago: “The duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and… attack it from every side.”
In Surah Al-Hujurat, God calls on Muslims to always verify news and not spread lies or information that they are uncertain of. The Quran warns that spread of inaccurate information and fake news will spark chaos and dispute among people which takes away the peace from the community.
God says: “Believers, if a troublemaker brings you news, check it first, in case you wrong others unwittingly and later regret what you have done…” (Quran 49:6-8).
This verse advises people to verify any news before they take action.
So, it is very clear that for centuries, Islam has been preparing humanity to fight a very 21st-century curse: fake news.