Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Recently, there are various shocking news published through social media, all of which the validity of the articles is uncertain. This is a worrying matter for it could lead to disunity and disharmony among people in general and particularly towards the Muslim ummah itself. Hence, our religion has set several guidelines for us in our daily interactions and how we should respond in such situations. Thus, we are called to write an article in our Bayan Linnas section titled “The Dangers of Fitnah”. May Allah SWT save us all from any form of fitnah (fitnah).
Definition of Fitnah
Fitnah originated from an Arabic word which has several meanings. Among them are stated by al-Azhari, Ibn Faris and Ibn Manzur as having the meaning of ibtila’ or test. (See: Tahzib al-Lughah, 14/296] (See: Maqayis al-Lughah, 4/472)
Ibn Athir further added that the word fitnah is originally used by the Arabs to describe a test, but it is subsequently famously used as a word to define disbelief, killing, and fire. (See: al-Nihayah, 3/410)
On another hand, fitnah is a term which has several meanings depending on the situation in which it is used in. Ibn Hajar stated:
إِنَّ الفِتَنَ غَالِبًا إِنَّما تُنْشَأُ عَنِ التَّبْدِيْلِ وَالإِحْدَاثِ
“Indeed, fitnah usually made to change (something) and make up stories.” (See: Fath al-Bari 27/3)
In the Malay language, the word fitnah has a specific meaning. It refers to any claim or accusation made to disgrace, dishonor, humiliate, or harm someone or a certain party that will lead to misfortune. (See: Kamus Dewan Edisi Keempat). According to the definition, it is clear that fitnah is sinful and prohibited. The act of fitnah is criticized by the Prophet PBUH in a hadith narrated by Huzaifah RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
لاَ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ نَمَّامٌ
“The tale-bearer shall not enter Paradise.”
Sahih Muslim (105)
Imam Nawawi said: In another narration, the word قتات is mentioned. This also means slanderer. The meaning of نَمَّام as defined by the scholars is conveying people’s words either from an individual, or a crowd from one side to another in the intention of creating enmity between them. Al-Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali Rahimahullah said in his book, (Ihya’ Ulumuddin): Know that the attributes of a slanderer mostly associated with the person who transmits statements from a person to another, like one says, ‘A said and criticized you like this and that’. (Refer al-Minhaj Syarh Sahih Muslim, 2/112)
It is also including writings that are spread through mass media and so on.
The Characteristics of Fitnah in Today’s World
Today, fitnah is easily spread compared to in our previous time. The reason is, with the advancement of technology in telecommunications, any information can be circulated with ease. Fitnah can happen in two types of situations:
First, when someone make up stories about a person and spread it to others with the intention of dishonouring or disgracing the person.
Second, when someone receives news about a person and spread it to others without first verifying the information, with or without the intention of disgracing the person.
Both situations are considered as fitnah and it is a prevailing problem in today’s society. For example, Kasim made up a story stating that Harun committed adultery with his girlfriend and the story is published in his blog with the intention of humiliating and disgracing Harun. Then, Abu read the post and he shared it through his Facebook account without any intentions of disgracing Harun for he is just conveying a message, but he did not verify whether the story is true or false. In this situation, both Kasim and Abu have committed fitnah for they have acted as a tale-bearer towards Harun.
With the advancement of technology in this era, it is undeniable that every form of information can be delivered and spread easily through Whatsapp and the internet. However, other conventional media are just as effective in the widespread of false stories and fake news such as inaccurate news articles published in newspaper and television outlets, presumptuous sermons, thoughtless gossip in restaurants and coffee shops and imprudent conversations between co-workers. All of these media are still the preferred method to spread fitnah for it can easily form a perception of the people without needing to verify or validate the information.
Factors that Contribute to the Dissemination of Fitnah
There are several factors that contribute to the dissemination of fitnah depending on whether he is the one who makes up the stories or just a person who spreads the news. For a person who makes up stories, there are several possible reasons, such as competing to win a certain status or position, domination in business, political agendas, or envy towards another person. Basically, it all stems from a problematic and dirty heart of someone who does not have a firm belief in Allah SWT. Indeed, shaytan will never stop in his purpose to create animosity and conflict between humans. This is in accordance with the statement of Allah SWT:
إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاءَ
“Satan only wants to cause between you, animosity and hatred,”
Surah al-Maidah (91)
Although this verse intended upon the gamblers and intoxicants, but shaytan itself intended to create hatred and animosity between humans. It is due to the fact that general saying is taken into account rather than its generic cause of revelations.
Thus, fitnah is one of the beloved acts of shaytan for it will divide the Muslims and cause disunity among them.
For the category of people who spreads fitnah, the main factor for their actions is their carelessness in receiving and conveying the news that they heard without first validating it. This type of person is described by the Prophet PBUH as a liar. In a hadith from Abu Hurairah RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
كَفَى بِالْمَرْءِ إِثْمًا أَنْ يُحَدِّثَ بِكُلِّ مَا سَمِعَ
“It is enough of a lie for a man to narrate everything that he hears.”
Sahih Muslim (4482)
Al-Qadhi Iyadh said: The meaning of ‘narrate everything that he hears’ is one narrates everything that he hears whether it is true or false.
Furthermore, the act of spreading some news without first verifying it is rebuked by Allah SWT in the case of the fitnah towards Sayyidatina Aisyah R.Anha, where Allah SWT states in surah al-Nur:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ جَاءُوا بِالْإِفْكِ عُصْبَةٌ مِّنكُمْ ۚ لَا تَحْسَبُوهُ شَرًّا لَّكُم ۖ بَلْ هُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۚ لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مِّنْهُم مَّا اكْتَسَبَ مِنَ الْإِثْمِ ۚ وَالَّذِي تَوَلَّىٰ كِبْرَهُ مِنْهُمْ لَهُ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ ﴿١١﴾ لَّوْلَا إِذْ سَمِعْتُمُوهُ ظَنَّ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بِأَنفُسِهِمْ خَيْرًا وَقَالُوا هَـٰذَا إِفْكٌ مُّبِينٌ
Indeed, those who came with falsehood are a group among you. Do not think it bad for you; rather it is good for you. For every person among them is what [punishment] he has earned from the sin, and he who took upon himself the greater portion thereof - for him is a great punishment. Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of one another and say, "This is an obvious falsehood"?
Surah al-Nur (11-12)
Syeikh al-Maraghi said: Do not think that false news contains only evil and wickedness. Instead, it also holds some goodness, for you may receive great rewards (for being patience). This is because, false news is a clear test to show the glory one has in front of Allah SWT according to a verse revealed and widely read upon on freeing oneself from fabricated news: on the accused’s glory, a warning to those who said bad things to others, a praise for those who always have positive thoughts for others, as well as other religious and ethical rewards of those who take lessons.
Then, Allah SWT also explains the punishment of those who spread the fabricated news; all of them will be punished with punishments in accordance with their doings. (Refer Tafsir al-Maraghi, 9/4730)
The Punishment for Fitnah
In the Quran, Allah SWT states the punishment for fitnah in surah al-Nur:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ أَن تَشِيعَ الْفَاحِشَةُ فِي الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you do not know.”
Surah al-Nur (19)
Imam Ibn Kathir commented on the above verse stating, the verse is describing those who hear some false news, then convey it and spread it to others. (See: Tafsir al-Quran al-‘Azim (10/195))
The same stated in a hadith from Samurah bin Jundub RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
وَأَمَّا الرَّجُلُ الَّذِي أَتَيْتَ عَلَيْهِ يُشَرْشَرُ شِدْقُهُ إِلَى قَفَاهُ، وَمَنْخِرُهُ إِلَى قَفَاهُ، وَعَيْنُهُ إِلَى قَفَاهُ، فَإِنَّهُ الرَّجُلُ يَغْدُو مِنْ بَيْتِهِ فَيَكْذِبُ الْكَذْبَةَ تَبْلُغُ الآفَاقَ
“The angel that was escorting the Prophet PBUH said; A man is punished with an iron hook pierced through his cheek straight into and through his neck for his work is to spread lies from early morning to every corner of the earth.”
Sahih Ibn Hibban (655)
In another hadith from Abdullah RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
هَلَكَ الْمُتَنَطِّعُونَ“. قَالَهَا ثَلاَثًا"
“The extremists perished," saying it three times.
Sahih Muslim (2670)
Imam al-Nawawi commented on the above hadith stating that the extremists meant in the hadith are those who transgress in their speech. (See: Syarh al-Nawawi ‘ala Sahih Muslim (16/461))
The Opinions of Scholars Regarding Fitnah
The following are the opinions of scholars regarding fitnah:
- Syeikh Azhar Dr. Syeikh Ahmad Tayyib Hafizullah said: “Fitnah that happens in the Muslim ummah has given birth to those who are rigid in religion, and cultivate negative people who accuse others of disbelief and terrorism” 
- Syeikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradhawi Hafizahullah said: “The companions of the Prophet PBUH such as Abu Darda’ RA will run away to avoid fitnah in a certain place.” 
- Syeikh Saad bin Turki al-Khaslan Hafizahullah said: “The Muslim ummah should identify the roads that will lead to transgressions and evil deeds and avoid them as well as recognizing the roads towards goodness. Ignorance towards these roads that will lead to transgressions will lead to one committing these transgressions which will, in turn, lead to fitnah while he himself is unaware of it.” 
- Syeikh Abdul ‘Aziz bin Baz Rahimahullah said: “Fitnah happens due to syubhat (doubt) and syahwat (desire), how many fitnah has happened due to baseless doubts that lead to deviant teachings such as Jahmiyyah, Muktazilah, Syiah and Murji’ah, and the only way to save oneself from all types of fitnah is to hold onto the Quran and sunnah of the Prophet PBUH firmly.” 
The Effects of Fitnah
Acts of fitnah will have negative and detrimental effects on society and the country. Some of them are as the following:
- The feeling of envy and jealousy that will ultimately lead to murder, such as the incident of the murder of Caliph Uthman bin Affan RA.
- Divide and disunity in society that will produce dissension between those who are influenced by the fitnah and those who defends the truth. This will indirectly split the Muslims and it will be a great loss to the ummah.
- Fitnah could blind someone from the truth where a person will no longer be able to differentiate between what is the truth and what is false.
- Fitnah will drown Muslims in the conspiracy planned by the disbelievers to disunite the Muslim ummah.
- People who believe in fitnah are among those who choose to befriend the shaytan.
- Fitnah will distance someone from his religion.
Steps to Overcome Fitnah
Among the steps that could be taken to protect yourself, your family and the society from fitnah are as the following:
- Deepen our understanding of religious matters, learning and practicing the religion correctly.
- Remind ourselves that we are accountable in front of Allah SWT for every single thing that we do. Allah says in the Quran:
وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ فَتَرَى الْمُجْرِمِينَ مُشْفِقِينَ مِمَّا فِيهِ وَيَقُولُونَ يَا وَيْلَتَنَا مَالِ هَـٰذَا الْكِتَابِ لَا يُغَادِرُ صَغِيرَةً وَلَا كَبِيرَةً إِلَّا أَحْصَاهَا ۚ وَوَجَدُوا مَا عَمِلُوا حَاضِرًا ۗ وَلَا يَظْلِمُ رَبُّكَ أَحَدًا
And the record [of deeds] will be placed [open], and you will see the criminals fearful of that within it, and they will say, "Oh, woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great except that it has enumerated it?" And they will find what they did present [before them]. And your Lord does injustice to no one.
Surah al-Kahf (49)
Al-Sobuni said: The records (of deed) will be given and presented upon them. During that, you will see them be fearful of their sins and wrongdoings. (Refer Sofwah al-Tafasir, 2/1748)
- Motivate ourselves to internalize that fitnah is a form of deception and the place for a liar is hellfire, thus, it is obligatory for us to reject any form of fitnah.
- Approach and cultivate a relationship with scholars and pious people and avoid those who like to spread fitnah.
- Practise tabayyun and ask questions pertaining to recurring issues to the experts.
- Validate any information received before spreading the information.
- Learn to love others the way we love ourselves in order for us to feel remorse and develop a consciousness to protect the dignity of others regardless if they are friend or foe.
- Always increase our good deeds before fitnah is spread or getting bigger. The Prophet PBUH said:
بَادِرُوا بِالأَعْمَالِ فِتَنًا كَقِطَعِ اللَّيْلِ الْمُظْلِمِ يُصْبِحُ الرَّجُلُ مُؤْمِنًا وَيُمْسِي كَافِرًا أَوْ يُمْسِي مُؤْمِنًا وَيُصْبِحُ كَافِرًا يَبِيعُ دِينَهُ بِعَرَضٍ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا
Be prompt in doing good deeds (before you are overtaken) by turbulence which would be like a part of the dark night. During (that stormy period) a man would be a Muslim in the morning and an unbeliever in the evening or he would be a believer in the evening and an unbeliever in the morning and would sell his faith for worldly goods.
Sahih Muslim (169), Sunan al-Tirmizi (2121), Ahmad (11056) and al-Tabarani in al-Ausat (2881)
Imam al-Suyuti said: This hadith reminds people to increase and hasten in doing good deeds before turbulences and busyness occur due to a large number of fitnah swaying us consecutively like the darkness of night with no moon. The Prophet PBUH also says this as a test, which a Muslim in the evening may turn kufr by morning and vice versa. (Refer al-Dibaj ‘ala Muslim, 1/134)
Mufti of Federal Territories’ Statement
Alhamdulillah, according to our above statement, we will like to reiterate that we should avoid any form of fitnah and realize that our brothers are a part of ourselves. Fitnah is asleep as being mentioned by the Prophet PBUH:
الفِتْنَةُ نَائِمَةٌ لَعَنَ اللهُ مَنْ أَيْقَظَهَا
“Fitnah is asleep. Allah SWT curse those who wake it up”
Narrated by al-Rafi’e in al-Amali (2/83)
Al-Imam al-Munai said: Fitnah, tribulation, all hardships afflicted upon a person, and tests are considered fitnah. (Refer Faidh al-Qadir, 4/461)
In countering fitnah, one should stay close to Allah and always whispers prayers to Him. Hereby, we state some ma’thur supplications of the Prophet PBUH (supplications based on transmitted reports) upon facing fitnah, among them:
يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِكَ
“O Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion (Yā Muqallibal-qulūb, thabbit qalbī `alā dīnik)
Imam Ahmad (12107), Sunan al-Tirmizi (2140), al-Baihaqi in Syu’ab al-Iman (757) and al-Tabarani in al-Du’a (1261)
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ فِعْلَ الْخَيْرَاتِ وَتَرْكَ الْمُنْكَرَاتِ وَحُبَّ الْمَسَاكِينِ وَإِذَا أَرَدْتَ بِعِبَادِكَ فِتْنَةً فَاقْبِضْنِي إِلَيْكَ غَيْرَ مَفْتُونٍ
'O Allah! Indeed, I ask of You, the doing of good deeds, avoiding the evil deeds, and loving the poor. And when you have willed Fitnah for your slave, then take me to You, without making me suffer from Fitnah.'
Jami’ al-Tirmidhi (3233)
اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَجْعَلُكَ فِي نُحُورِهِمْ وَنَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شُرُورِهِمْ
"O Allah, we make Thee our shield against them, and take refuge in Thee from their evils."
Sunan Abi Dawud (1537)
لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ الْعَظِيمُ الْحَلِيمُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ رَبُّ السَّمَوَاتِ وَرَبُّ الأَرْضِ وَرَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْكَرِيمِ
"There is no god but Allah, the Great, the Tolerant, there is no god but Allah, the Lord of the Magnificent Throne There is no god but Allah, the Lord of the Heaven and the earth, the Lord of the Edifying Throne."
Sahih al-Bukhari (6345) and Sahih Muslim (2730)
اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ عَضُدِي وَأَنْتَ نَصِيرِي وَبِكَ أُقَاتِلُ
“O Allah, You are my `Aḍud and You are my Helper, and by You do I fight (Allāhumma anta `aḍudī, wa anta naṣīrī, wa bika uqātil).”
Jami` at-Tirmidhi (3584)
لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ سُبْحَانَكَ إِنِّي كُنْتُ مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
"There is no deity except You; exalted are You. Indeed, I have been of the wrongdoers."
Al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (1864)
اللَّهُمَّ رَحْمَتَكَ أَرْجُو فَلاَ تَكِلْنِي إِلَى نَفْسِي طَرْفَةَ عَيْنٍ وَأَصْلِحْ لِي شَأْنِي كُلَّهُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ
"O Allah! Thy mercy is what I hope for. Do not abandon me to myself for an instant, but put all my affairs in good order for me. There is no god but Thou."
Sunan Abi Dawud (5090)
Hence, as long as we love our brothers, then Allah SWT will love us. May Allah SWT place us among those who enter His paradise. We will end this article with the following supplication:
رَبَّنَا لَا تَجْعَلْنَا فِتْنَةً لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ وَنَجِّنَا بِرَحْمَتِكَ مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ
Our Lord, make us not [objects of] trial for the wrongdoing people. And save us by Your mercy from the disbelieving people."
Surah Yunus (85-86)