Think twice, verify information before sharing

By Ahmad Faizuddin

Today people are sharing almost everything online from photos, pictures, memes, opinions, thoughts, and information to status updates. In its natural sense, sharing includes emotional communication whereby we share our experiences and listen to others. This is like what’s being practised by American pre-schoolers in which they sit in circles sharing and listening to different occurrences.

Powered by social media and online apps, the acts of sharing has now become pretty much easier. At this point, does sharing really mean caring?

Sharing is one of emotional concepts that lead to deep human connections. Nicholas A John wrote in the introduction part of his book The Age of Sharing (2017), “Sharing is the basis for authentic human relationships dates back no further than the 1930s, when city life, and especially advertising, were raising profound questions about authentic personhood.”

According to Nicholas, the altruistic sense of sharing or sharing as caring only really took root from the 1970s. The meaning of “sharing” is then changing in mid-2000s due to what we do online through Internet and social media. Hence, sharing consists of three spheres: intimate relationship, social media activity and economic behaviour.

In this age of sharing, people become more connected to each other. As Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook said, sharing makes the world a more connected place. With the advancement of technology, sharing is considered a keyword for the digital age. Today, the practices of sharing are becoming the acts of caring. People simply said, “sharing is caring.”

However, we should be aware of the trends towards greater sharing agenda like personal information. People may make profits and money from our information sharing. The idea of sharing has become a useful term for marketing purposes. Thus, we are supplied with the jargon like the more we share, the better the world will be.

In January 2012, Mark Zuckerberg attached a letter to Facobook’s IPO (Initial Public Offering), “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected, and that Facebook’s objective is to strengthen how people relate to each other. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world and ultimately derive long-term happiness. Moreover, sharing more – even if it’s just with their close friends or families – creates a more open culture and leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others.

Manuel Castells in his book Communication Power (2009) posited that, “In our society, the protocols of communication are not based on the sharing of culture but on the culture of sharing” (p. 126). It shows that sharing has become the culture of today’s society. As we experience directly in our daily life, we share and receive almost everything from messages, photos and videos through WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and many other technological media platforms that are connected to the Internet.

From the Islamic perspective, sharing is always encouraged especially sharing knowledge about religion and this worldly life. It is a blessing for those who spread the knowledge as the Prophet SAW said: “Allah, the angles, the inhabitants of heaven and earth, even the ant in its hole and the fish in the sea, send blessings upon the one who teaches the people good” (H.R. At-Tirmidhi: 2609, Sahih al-Jami’ by Al-Albani: 1838). In another hadith, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr RA reported that the Prophet SAW said: “Convey from me, even if it is a verse” (H.R. Al-Bukhari: 3461). From these hadiths, we can learn that it is not essential to have vast knowledge and know the entire religion to teach people. However, Muslims should have a proper understanding and not being ignorance of what they do not know yet.

On the other hand, the information shared must first go through the process of verification or investigation known as tabayyun. This process is important especially when the one who share the information is not very reliable. Allah SWT mentioned in the Qur’an: “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” (Q.S. Al-Hujurat/49: 6). For that reason, it is advised to keep in mind that the information shared is not faked and think twice before sharing unauthorized contents.

To keep the information trustworthy, Islam also has a strong tradition of adding reliable sources to any information. The main references in Islam are Qur’an, Sunnah (the sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad SAW), Ijma’ (Islamic scholars consensus) and Qiyas (analogical inference or interpretation of particular things). For the worldly information, it is our responsibility to check the facts and accuracy of any information. Thus, Muslims are encouraged to verify any information before sharing it to remove misconceptions and create confusions among people.

Allah SWT firmly warned in the Qur’an: “And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned” (Q.S. Al-Isra’/17: 36). It means that we cannot follow blindly any information of which we have no direct knowledge about it. In addition, we must verify the knowledge by using our faculties of perception and conception for we will be held accountable in the Court of Allah in the hereafter.

In another verse, Allah SWT mentioned: “When you received it with your tongues and said with your mouths that of which you had no knowledge and thought it was insignificant while it was, in the sight of Allah, tremendous. And why, when you heard it, did you not say, “It is not for us to speak of this. Exalted are You, [O Allah]; this is a great slander”? (Q.S. An-Nur/24: 15-16). It implies that we better keep our mouth shut if we do not have complete knowledge about anything. We might think that it is a trivial matter. But in fact, it might have grave consequences.

In Islam, the act of sharing is significant and important. Today, many of us are spreading information abundantly without thinking if the materials are right or wrong. The intention might be to gain good deeds and rewards from Allah SWT by spreading the messages of Islam. Yet, as Muslims, we should be very careful and follow the right track as practised by the Prophet SAW, his companions (Sahabah) and the those who followed his footsteps (Tabi and Tabi’ Tabi’in).

No matter if our intentions are sincere and good for sharing, we are still responsible for spreading information, especially if it is wrong and fabricated. ***

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