(80:31) A few careless words

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وَفَـٰكِهَةًۭ وَأَبًّۭا ٣١
and fruit and fodder

Ibn Kathir mentions in his Tafsir:

“Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (ra) was asked about the meaning of this verse. He replied:

`What sky would shade me and what earth would carry me if I said about the Book of Allah that which I did not have knowledge of.’ ”

Many of us are quick to interpret the words of Allah ﷻ with little study or knowledge, particularly when asked a question. No one was closer to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ or had more understanding of this religion than our Master Abu Bakr, yet he refused to answer without being certain in what he said. Imagine the weight the words our Master Abu Bakr (ra) would carry had he spoken; it would be taken with the utmost authority. He knew this, and he knew the responsibility it carried, so his choice to refrain from speaking came from knowing that a single inaccuracy, however small, would be taken, transmitted and amplified for generations to come. Anas ibn Malik (ra), another of the great companions of the Prophet ﷺ, commented on his hesitation in relating more hadith from the Prophet ﷺ, stating:

إِنَّهُ لَيَمْنَعُنِي أَنْ أُحَدِّثَكُمْ حَدِيثًا كَثِيرًا أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ مَنْ تَعَمَّدَ عَلَىَّ كَذِبًا فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ ‏”‏‏.‏
The fact which stops me from narrating a great number of Hadiths to you is that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Whoever tells a lie against me intentionally, then let him occupy his seat in Hell-fire.”
[Bukhari]

In the age of fake news, show restraint before speaking and ensure you verify anything before you say it or share it, particularly when it comes to interpreting the words of Allah ﷻ and His Messenger ﷺ. Nowadays, we can witness first-hand the impact fake news has across the world. Genocides committed, elections disputed and markets ruined off the back of half-truths or lies spread across social media. A single post can be shared and reshared so many times with no factual basis to it, destroying the lives of all those concerned. Once it is out there, there is no taking it back, forever in the ether of the internet. For this reason, the punishment of such people is so severe. One of the companions saw a dream of a man’s punishment in hellfire. The Prophet ﷺ explained:

وَأَمَّا الرَّجُلُ الَّذِي أَتَيْتَ عَلَيْهِ يُشَرْشَرُ شِدْقُهُ إِلَى قَفَاهُ، وَمَنْخِرُهُ إِلَى قَفَاهُ، وَعَيْنُهُ إِلَى قَفَاهُ، فَإِنَّهُ الرَّجُلُ يَغْدُو مِنْ بَيْتِهِ فَيَكْذِبُ الْكَذْبَةَ تَبْلُغُ الآفَاقَ
As for the man you came upon, whose sides of his mouth, nostrils and eyes were torn off from front to back, he is the man who goes out of his house in the morning and tells lies that are spread all over the world.
[Bukhari]

Our accountability should be like that of our Master Abu Bakr (ra), for our words can carry similar weight. Every word matters, and we must be cognizant of all that we say. A single thoughtless tweet or misspoken sentence can be your destruction, as the Prophet ﷺ teaches:

إِنَّ الْعَبْدَ لَيَتَكَلَّمُ بِالْكَلِمَةِ مَا يَتَبَيَّنُ فِيهَا، يَزِلُّ بِهَا فِي النَّارِ أَبْعَدَ مِمَّا بَيْنَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالمَغْرِبِ‏
A person utters a word thoughtlessly which causes them to fall down into the fire of Hell deeper than the distance between the east and west.
[Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim]

When you’re asked a question, hear some news, or read a tweet, get used to holding back and saying “I don’t know” unless you are certain it is the truth. Only speak if you are sure you are correct, and always reference where the knowledge came from to help other verify it later. Sharing knowledge is a burden, and it is enough of a sin to share things without due consideration. Imam Muslim, one of the greatest hadith narrators in our tradition, opens up his book with the hadith:

بِحَسْبِ الْمَرْءِ مِنَ الْكَذِبِ أَنْ يُحَدِّثَ بِكُلِّ مَا سَمِعَ ‏.‏
It is enough of a lie for a man to narrate everything he hears
[Muslim’s Introduction]

As the final days approach, we bear witness to the truth of our beloved Prophet ﷺ who foresaw the state we will live in, describing a people known as the Ruwaybiḍah; a term unknown by his companions. These people are leaders – or influencers – unqualified to lead or speak to people, yet are given a platform to do so despite their lack of qualifications. The hadith describes:

سَيَأْتِي عَلَى النَّاسِ سَنَوَاتٌ خَدَّاعَاتٌ يُصَدَّقُ فِيهَا الْكَاذِبُ وَيُكَذَّبُ فِيهَا الصَّادِقُ وَيُؤْتَمَنُ فِيهَا الْخَائِنُ وَيُخَوَّنُ فِيهَا الأَمِينُ وَيَنْطِقُ فِيهَا الرُّوَيْبِضَةُ قِيلَ وَمَا الرُّوَيْبِضَةُ قَالَ الرَّجُلُ التَّافِهُ فِي أَمْرِ الْعَامَّةِ
‘Years of treachery will come over people in which liars are believed and the truthful are denied, the deceitful are trusted and the trustworthy are considered traitors, and the Ruwaybaḍah will deliver speeches.’ It was asked, ‘Who are the Ruwaybiḍah?’ The Prophet responded, ‘Petty men with authority over the common people.’
[Ibn Mājah]

So how do you balance sharing knowledge with acquiring it? How do you reconcile between hadiths encouraging us to convey whatever knowledge we have with those warning us against speaking prematurely? How do we reflect on the Quran as commanded in the Quran whilst recognising we have little or limited knowledge? I will discuss these in detail in another podcast, but for now; always make sure you are telling the truth. The Prophet ﷺ breaks it down in a hadith:

بَلِّغُوا عَنِّي وَلَوْ آيَةً، وَحَدِّثُوا عَنْ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ وَلاَ حَرَجَ، وَمَنْ كَذَبَ عَلَىَّ مُتَعَمِّدًا فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ
“Convey (my teachings) to the people even if it were a single sentence, and share the stories from Bani Israel, for it is not sinful to do so. And whoever tells a lie on me intentionally, will surely take his place in the (Hell) Fire.”
[Bukhari]

We must spread the word of the Prophet ﷺ, but only if we are sure of what we are saying. It is better to share a single sentence we are certain of than to share many which risk being incorrect. Even if we share narrations we cannot verify like those from previous scriptures, so long as we are clear where they came from and serve a specific purpose of truth, it is ok. But never forget, intentionally lying on the Prophet’s ﷺ tongue is a guarantee of hellfire.

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