“And follow not that of which you have no knowledge; for hearing, vision, and the heart all will be enquired into.” [17:36]
We are continuously bombarded by information from different sources and directions, including social media and networks. Since we base our convictions and decisions on such information, it is our responsibility to verify and ascertain the information that we receive through our ears and eyes and analyze them using the faculties of the heart: reasoning and critical thinking (يعقلون), reflection (يتفكرون), and anticipating the possible consequences and outcomes (يتدبرون).
Ascertainment or verification of information is a prominent Quranic virtue. It must be always exercised so that it becomes a social habit. It helps the community to move in the light, to behave with utmost wisdom, and judge in all matters fairly and squarely. Quran urged the community of believers to adhere to the habit of ascertainment three times.
“O you who believe! When you travel in the cause of Allah, investigate, and say not to anyone who offers you a salutation: you are not a believer; coveting the material things of this life: With Allah the profits are abundant. Even thus you were yourselves before, until Allah conferred on you His favors: therefore, carefully investigate.” [4:94]
“O you who believe! If a fasiq فاسِق comes to you with any news, investigate, lest you harm people out of ignorance, and afterwards become regretful of what you have done.” [49:6]
One wonders why people fail to use their faculties and do not investigate, verify, and ascertain the news and the information coming from the fasiq (فاسق), the ignorant, and the unjust. I did not translate the word fasiq into English because I prefer to stick to its practical definition by Quran.
“Those who break the covenant with Allah after it is ratified, and who sever what Allah has ordered to be joined, and spread mischief on earth.” [2:27]
Hastiness in judgment, rushing, and jumping into conclusions usually lead to the deepest regret or the mother of regrets, to dissension and mistrust among people, and to the disruption of the fabric of the society. “Man is a creature of haste. Soon I will show you my signs: do not then hasten me.” [21:37] The Prophet ﷺ said: “Ascertainment is from Allah, and haste is from Satan.”
Next time you hear or see something, stay calm, do not haste or rush, examine and verify the information. This way we differentiate between truth and falsehood, good and evil, guidance and misguidance as well as between the accused and the innocent.
Next time you want to decide about a significant matter, think and reflect on the possible consequences and outcomes associated with such a decision. The most enlightened among us is the one who always brings to our collective consciousness the social consequences of our actions. Such consequences can be described in a vivid way as if they are alive talking to us.
The habit of ascertainment, like the habit of saying things the best, will create other habits- the habit of reflective listening, the habit of asking good questions, and the habit of reading and exploring. In addition, the habit of ascertainment will also create the habit of consultation. Life has become very complicated. It is impossible for any one of us to be an expert in every field and discipline. Therefore, the habit of consultation must be revived in all our departments- at home, at work, in all our social, religious, and political institutions. For the believers to see the value of consultation, Quran sandwiched that concept and practice of consultation or “shura” in the Chapter entitled, The Consultation, between two important practices that resonate well in our life: prayer and giving and sharing with others. “Establish prayer, who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation, and spend out of what we bestow on them for sustenance.” [42:38]
The Prophet ﷺ in his state of being the seal of the Prophets and at the peak of the project of prophecy was the first to practice consultation and ask his disciples for advice so that consultations became part of their daily affairs. “And consult them in the affairs of the moment.” [3:159]
Let us work together to develop and add the practices of ascertainment without haste, and consultation for advice into our daily habits. The Prophet ﷺ said: “Whoever consults will not be disappointed.”
By Dr Walid Khayr