Hoax and Perceptual Trap

Allah says: ” O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” (Surah Al-Hujurat: 6).

The verse above is the response of an incident related to the messenger of Rasulullah PBUH al-Walid bin Uqbah, the Prophet sent him to the tribe of Bani Musthaliq. Previously, one of the leaders of the tribe embraced Islam, his name is al-Hârits. The mufassir (an author of tafsir) explained the details, when al-Harith returned to his people, he collected zakat (obligatory payment made annually under Islamic law on certain kinds of property and used for charitable and religious purposes) from them according to his promise to Rasulullah PBUH. He waited for the emissary of Muhammad PBUH to take the treasury of the Zakat which he collected. The Apostle sent al-Walid bin Uqbah. The news of the arrival of the emissary of the Prophet PBUH was very encouraging to the tribe of Bani Musthaliq. They prepared to welcome the emissary. Al-Harith invited his people to rejoice, happy to greet him.

On the other hand, from afar al-Walid witnessed an unnatural noise. He perceived that al-Hârits refused to submit zakat. Instead, he called out his people to kill him. Al-Walid turned around, away from the tribe of Bani Musthaliq. Arriving in Medina he reported that al-Harith refused to submit his zakat, and he had prepared troops to kill him. The Messenger of Allah almost summon his troops. Fortunately, al-Harits swiftly took a stand. The strange behaviour of al-Walid immediately responded by coming to the Prophet PBUH and clarify the gathering of many people from his tribe. They were very happy and that’s how they expressed it. Descend Allah’s verse to rebuke the behavior of al-Walid.

Al-Walid was a right-hand man of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, but why the warning was so hard? Even the Qur’an uses word “fasiq” (an Arabic term referring to someone who violates Islamic law). It might not directly refer to al-Walid. But this careless attitude of al-Walid could lead to the wickedness that brings the danger of great division and disaster. The bloodbath was about to happen if the tribe of Bani Musthaliq did not give their clarification. Al-Walid caught in destructive negative perceptions.

Bani Musthaliq delighted by the excitement. They were proud of the Apostle’s messenger. But al-Walid perceived differently. He stuck in his mind framing. So unconsciously he driven by his subconscious to respond carelessly.

It seems, this is what happens in the midst of Muslims now. Especially, when we live in an era of telecommunication advancement that the social media base is very strong. Any information milling about at any time. Like or not desirable or not, the information is overwhelming. Mitchell Kapor quoted, “Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant”.

Lack of spirit of literacy exacerbates this condition, it makes the intellect people often trapped to consume and make viral an invalidated news. Many broadcast contents of social media allegedly contain hoax or fake news. Some of the facts and data taken to make framing and propaganda something objective, like a media cultivation theory.

It is time for Muslims to re-enact Surah al-Hujurat verse 6, to avoid the breakdown of ukhuwah (a bond or relationship). So that the knit of brotherhood is not faded by the slander and curiosity that leads to the investigation based on presumptions and prejudices. And to avoid the unpredictable trap as above.

Apparently, the above admonition is one of the tenth paragraph entry points on the essence of brotherhood. And the next contains restrictions on reproach and ridicule among fellow Muslims, as well as the prohibition of negative assumption and tajassus (curiousity). (to be continued)

Blessing Notes#55

Jakarta, 19.05.2017

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