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Lessons from the Slandering Incident

The Unspeakable Slander (4)
By Sayyid Qutb
Muslim Intellectual — Egypt
lies

Allah wanted the Ifk incident to be a very hard lesson for the fledgling Muslim community, but in His compassion He did not inflict any punishment on them.

The offence itself merited stiff punishment because of the pain it caused the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), his wife, close friend and his other Companion of whom he knew nothing but good. It also merited a punishment equal to the evil that circulated within the Muslim community, violating all its sacred values, and equal to the hypocrites’ wickedness whose scheme aimed to undermine Islam by raising doubts about Allah, the Prophet and the Muslim community itself.

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This continued for a whole month which was a time of doubt, worry and confusion. But Allah’s grace was forthcoming, and He bestowed His mercy on those who were in error after having learnt their bitter lesson.

The surah gives us a picture of the period, when standards and values were placed on the wrong footing, and the community lost sight of its principles:

{You took it up with your tongues and uttered with your mouths something of which you have no knowledge, thinking it a light matter whereas in Allah’s sight it is grave indeed.} (An-Nur 24:15)

The picture painted here is one of recklessness and irresponsibility, showing little care for even the most serious of matters.

{You took it up with your tongues.} (An-Nur 24:15)

One tongue picks it up from another paying little heed to what is being said. There was an utter lack of proper examination of the report, as though people repeated it without ever thinking of its significance.

{You uttered with your mouths something of which you have no knowledge} (An-Nur 24:15).

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It is just like that: a mouth utterance without thought or consideration. Mere idle talk uttered and circulated even before it is understood. They thought it a light matter, although it was an accusation against Allah’s Messenger’s personal honour, causing him, his wife and household great pain. It was an accusation against Abu Bakr’s family which suffered no similar trouble even in pre-Islamic days when moral values were of little importance.

This false story also accused another Companion of the Prophet who laid his life down for the defence of Islam. It further had negative implications concerning the care Allah took of His Messenger. Yet, still they circulated the false rumour {thinking it a light matter whereas in Allah’s sight it is grave indeed.} (An-Nur 24:15). Nothing could be described as grave in Allah’s sight unless it is so serious that it shakes firm mountains and disturbs the heavens and earth.

A matter of such seriousness should have made people shudder just on hearing it. They should have been reluctant even to refer to it, and certainly been unwilling to accept it as a subject of conversation. They should have looked to Allah to protect His Messenger. Such falsehood should have been cast aside immediately:

{If only when you heard it you said: It is not right for us to speak of this. All glory belongs to You! This is a monstrous slander.} (An-Nur 24:16)

When the matter has thus been clarified, and those early Muslims were taken aback by the enormity of the affair and their role in it, they were given a very stern warning for the future:

 {Allah admonishes you lest you ever revert to the like of this, if you are truly believers.} (An-Nur 24:17)

The warning comes in the form of an admonition so as to be educative, choosing the time when the Muslim community is at its most receptive. But the admonition carries at the same time an implicit warning, and attaches their being believers to the heeding of this warning. Believers cannot retain their faith if they revert to the same type of action after they have been shown its enormity and after they have been given such a warning.

{And Allah makes plain to you His revelations.} (An-Nur 24: 18)

He has certainly shown the story to be plainly false, exposing the scheming behind it. He has also made plain the errors involved in this matter.{Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.} He knows motives, intentions, objectives, thoughts and feelings. His method of bringing out the best in people and providing proper restrictions and controls to set the community’s life right testifies to His wisdom.

Further Warnings, More Grace

The surah further elaborates its comments on this falsehood and its effects, repeating its warning against anything that may be of a similar nature. It reminds the Muslims of Allah’s grace and mercy, warning those who falsely accuse chaste women of committing indecency that they expose themselves to Allah’s punishment in the life to come.

Who knows the human heart better than the One who created it? Who can provide humanity with a better code of living than the One who originated it?
It also purges people’s hearts of the remaining effects of this confrontation, frees them of earthly restrictions and restores their purity. This is clearly reflected in Abu Bakr’s attitude to Mistah ibn Athathah, his relative who was involved in repeating the story.

{Those who love that gross indecency should spread among the believers shall be visited with grievous suffering both in this world and in the life to come. Allah knows, but you do not know.} (An-Nur 24:19)

The ones who accused chaste women of adultery, particularly those who made their accusations against the Prophet’s own family, really aimed to undermine the values of goodness, chastity and fidelity, so as to make it easier for people to commit adultery by implying that it was common practice. When people begin to think of it in this light, it will be practiced more frequently.

This is the reason for describing the false accusers of chaste women as people who love to spread indecency among the believers. Hence they are warned against a very severe suffering both in this life and in the life to come.

It is an aspect of the Qur’anic method of educating the Muslim community and a measure of prevention based on perfect knowledge of how people react and formulate their attitudes, feelings and lines of action. Hence, the comment at the end of the verse asserts: {Allah knows, but you do not know.} Who knows the human heart better than the One who created it? Who can provide humanity with a better code of living than the One who originated it? Who sees what is concealed as well as what is left in the open, and whose knowledge encompasses all things and situations? Once again the surah reminds the believers of the grace Allah bestows on them:

{Were it not for Allah’s favour upon you and His grace, and that Allah is Compassionate, Merciful. ..!} (An-Nur 24:20)

The mistake committed was grave indeed, and its evil was about to engulf the whole Muslim community, but Allah’s grace, mercy and care prevented this evil. Hence, Allah reminds them of this, time after time, as He aims this to be an edifying lesson. When they realized the extent of the matter that could have engulfed them all, had it not been for Allah’s grace and mercy, they were told that what they did was indeed following in Satan’s footsteps. They must not fall into this trap, since Satan is their avowed enemy, ever since the beginning of human life. Again they are warned against what this may entail in their life:

{Believers! Do not follow Satan’s footsteps, for he who follows Satan’s footsteps will only enjoin what is shameful and wrong. Were it not for Allah’s favour upon you and His grace, none of you would have ever been pure. It is Allah who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.} (An-Nur 24: 21)

When Allah’s light shines in a believer’s heart, it purifies it.
Nothing but a terrible fate awaits the believers if they take just one step with Satan. They should steer away from him altogether and follow a different way. The very thought of following Satan is repugnant to believers. Hence, drawing it in this way and holding it in front of them should make them always alert.

{He who follows Satan’s footsteps will only enjoin what is shameful and wrong.}(An-Nur 24: 21)

This false story is a stark and gruesome example of how Satan leads believers to something evil. Man is weak, susceptible to desires and whims which may leave him stained, unless he benefits by Allah’s grace when he turns to Him and follows His guidance:

{Were it not for Allah’s favour upon you and His grace, none of you would have ever been pure. It is Allah who causes whomever He wills to grow in purity.} (An-Nur 24:21)

When Allah’s light shines in a believer’s heart, it purifies it. It is only through Allah’s favours and grace that people grow in purity. Since Allah knows all and hears all, He certainly knows the ones who deserve to be purified and who are genuinely good. It is these that He helps to grow in purity.

References

Taken with slight modifications from the Author's Book: In the Shade of the Qur'an

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