Spreading Rumors without Verification
According to ibn Abbas, Dahhak, and Abu Mu’adh radhiAllahu anhum, the ayah was revealed about the hypocrites; and according to Hasan and many others, this ayah was revealed about weak Muslims. [Rul al-Ma’ani]
After having reported events relating to this ayah, the famous commentator ibn Katheer has stressed on the importance of referring to the hadeeth of Umar ibn al-Khattab radhiAllahu anhu while considering the background in which this ayah was revealed.
According to this, when Umar heard that the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam has divorced his wives, he left his house heading for the Masjid. While still at its door steps, he heard that people inside there were also talking about the matter. Seeing this, he said that this was something which must first be investigated. So, he went to the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam and asked him if he had divorced his wives. He said, “No.” Umar says, “After having found out the truth of the matter, I returned to the Masjid and standing on the door, I made an announcement that the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam has not divorced his wives. Whatever you are saying is wrong.”
Thereupon, the ayah was revealed.
وَإِذَا جَآءَهُمْ أَمْرٌ مِّنَ الاٌّمْنِ أَوِ الْخَوْفِ أَذَاعُواْ بِهِ
“And when there comes to them a matter of security or fear, they spread it….”
This ayah tells us that hearsay should not be repeated without prior investigation into its credibility. Thus, in a hadeeth, the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said, “For a man to be a liar, it is enough that he repeats everything he hears without first verifying its truth.” In another hadeeth, he said, “Whoever relates something he thinks is a lie, then, he too is one of the two liars.”
وَلَوْ رَدُّوهُ إِلَى الرَّسُولِ وَإِلَى أُوْلِى الاٌّمْرِ مِنْهُمْ لَعَلِمَهُ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَنْبِطُونَهُ مِنْهُمْ
“….. But if they had referred it to the Messenger and to those having authority among them, surely those who can draw correct conclusion from it would have know about it….”
Literally, the latter word, ‘istinbat’ here refers to the act of drawing out water from the depth of a well. When a well is dug, the water that oozes out first is called mustambat water. But, the usage in this context means to get to the bottom of something and find out the truth of the matter. [Qurtubi]
As for the correct signification of the expression: أُوْلِى الاٌّمْرِ meaning “those in authority”, positions taken by scholars vary. Hasan, Qatadah and ibn Abi Laila say that this refers to the Muslim scholars and jurists. Al-Suddi says that it means rulers and officials. After reporting both these statements, Abu Bakr al-Jassas takes a general view and maintains that the expression means both. However, some scholars doubt the possibility that this phrase could refer to Muslim jurists because أُوْلِى الاٌّمْرِ in its literal sense, means people whose orders are carried out administratively.
وَلَوْلاَ فَضْلُ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَتُهُ لاَتَّبَعْتُمُ الشَّيْطَـنَ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً
“…And if not for the Bounty of Allah upon you and His Mercy, surely you would have followed Shaytan except for a few.”