I can’t stop thinking about it. The concept of the “truth” is something I’ve struggled to understand for some time now. The truth is the truth is the truth is the truth. It’s simple—but is it really that simple? I think life would be a lot easier if it was, but as experience goes to show, life doesn’t work that way.
I heard a quote by some author—Gustave Flaubert, whoever that is—once that read, “There is no truth, only perception.” And it sounds insightful and philosophical but after having the concept in the back of my mind for some time, I’ve decided I don’t completely believe it. I’d say there is always truth, but it is more often altered by perception. Maybe I just don’t want to admit that everything is perception, but I’d like to believe that there are things I know correctly as truth or things that I can say I’ve perceived correctly. But I digress.
So now we have truth, and perception. There is the truth behind the way someone is, the way something is, why something has happened, etc. Some people might know the truth, and some people might not. Honestly, maybe only Allah (swa) knows the absolute truth. Whatever it is, there is some underlying right and wrong whether we know it or not. Then there is perception. Someone who knows all the details of the story probably perceives it more correctly than someone who doesn’t know the details. While it’s true that we might perceive something a certain way, it’s not necessarily true that our perception is correct. But it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking our perception is correct, which is a problem. Not everything is as simple as it seems to people on the outside, and this paves the way for backbiting and gossip. There are so many proofs from the Quran and Hadith that tell us backbiting and gossip are very serious and should be stayed away from:
Behold, you received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of God [Quran 24: 15]
O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is accepting of repentance and Merciful. [Quran 49:12)
The Prophet (Sallallahu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) is also reported to have said: “Shall I tell you about the most evil ones from amongst you?” They said, “Of course.” He said, “Those who go around with Nameemah [gossip]. They make enmity between friends and they seek problems for the innocent.” [Ahmad and al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad]
Ibn Abbas (Radhiallahu `Anhu) said: “Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) was passing by two graves and said, ‘They (the dead laying in these graves) are being tortured not for a major (sin), but in fact, it is a minor (sin). One of them used to carry Nameemah [gossip] and the other didn’t save himself from being soiled by his urine.'” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]
Why is gossip regarded so seriously in the eyes of Allah (swa)? He knows best, and it is not up to us to question His wisdom or take it lightly. In my 21 years living this life, it is clear to me that if anything, perhaps gossip is warned against because of the damage it can do to the person being discussed—damage that might not be warranted. Telling your friends in passing about a story you heard might not seem significant in impact, but when the number of people hearing and manipulating that story grows exponentially, it makes all the difference in the world—and you took part in it. The Prophet Salallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam said: “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” [Bukhari & Muslim]. So before you get involved in the transmission of a rumor that might ruin someone’s reputation, think about whether it is something you would want people saying about you, if you were in their place. Above all else, remember that not everything you hear from people is true—stories are shaped by perception and agendas and feelings that aren’t always justifiable. Think about what you might not know of the situation, and unless you can verify whatever you’ve heard, keep it to yourself. And even if it is something you can verify, that doesn’t mean you should share it with others. Use your judgment—love for your brother what you love for yourself. Abu Hurairah (Radhiallahu `anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) said: “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak what is good or be silent.” (Muslim)
From what I’ve seen, it is so easy to spread a juicy, jaw-dropping rumor, and ten times harder to inform people of the truth or clear up that rumor. We experience this everyday living in a world plagued by ignorance regarding our beloved religion. We want so badly for people to let go of the misconceptions and misunderstandings they have of us, and our beliefs and practices, but are we ready to do that for each other?
May Allah protect us from falsehood—backbiting, slander, and malicious gossip—and increase the love we have for our brothers and sisters in Islam, especially the ones in the #MSAfamily.
Back to my musings, I can’t help but wonder how many reputations and relationships have been ruined because of the lies people tell and the rumors that are spread based on false perception. I wonder how many people have been wronged and are fighting to tell their story, but have no voice. I think about all the lies I might have been told in the distance past, and I can’t really say they matter anymore—so will anything now matter five years from now? Probably not. If it won’t matter to us in this life, will we care at all in the next? Do we ever get to find out the truth about all the lies that are told—by people, politicians, professionals, and the like? I don’t know about the next life but I know about this one.
The truth about the truth is that in this life, you don’t always get to know the truth—maybe because it doesn’t concern you, maybe because it’s complicated, maybe because this is part of Allah’s plan—whatever the reason, it is not our place to talk about what we know nothing about.
By Umama Ahmed