'A blatant lie is… a rumor circulating among the people.'

Shaykh Salman al-`Awdah

Ibn Mas`ûd relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Should I tell you what is a blatant lie? It is a rumor circulating among the people." [Sahîh Muslim (2606)]

Here the Prophet (peace be upon him) is telling us how evil it is to spread rumors. The Arabic word for rumor here is namîmah. It is a kind of rumor that is meant to foster animosity between people. Al-Râghib al-Isfahânî defines the word namîmah as follows [al-Nihâyah (5/120)]:
It is to relate to people what others say about them in order to bring about problems. It is said that this rumor-mongering also includes divulging secrets and exposing about people what they wish to keep concealed.
It is a serious sin to go back and forth between people with rumors of what they are saying about each other and what they are scheming to do. Hudhayfah heard about a man who was spreading rumors and he said: "I heard Allah's Messenger say: 'A rumor-monger will not enter Paradise'." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (6056) and Sahîh Muslim (105)]

Al-Ghazâlî states the following [al-Ihyâ' (3/156)]:
Those who circulate rumors say things like: "So-and-so said this about you" or "So-and-so did this against you." or they tell you that someone is plotting against you or encouraging your enemies or is working to worsen your circumstances.
He then goes on to make six excellent recommendations for dealing with such rumor-mongers and their rumors. These recommendations are as follows:

1. Do not believe him. This is because a rumor-monger is a sinner. He is a malefactor whose testimony is unacceptable. Allah says: "O you who believe, if a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth, lest you harm people unwittingly, and afterwards become full of repentance for what ye have done." [Sûrah al-Hujurât: 6]

2. Tell him that he should not spread rumors. It is good to advise the person who brings you a rumor that he is behaving wrongly. He should know that his conduct is unsavory. Allah tells us: "Enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong." [Sûrah Luqmân: 17]

3. Detest the rumor-monger for the sake of Allah. A rumor-monger is detestable to Allah, so one must detest the person as well.

4. Do not allow yourself to think ill of the person who is the subject if the rumor. It is wrong to thing ill of someone in his absence. Allah says: "O you who believe! avoid most suspicion, for surely suspicion in some cases is a sin." [Sûrah al-Hujurât: 12]

5. Do not try to verify the rumor by spying. Do not let your suspicions cause you to spy on the person the rumor-monger told you about. Allah says: "And do not spy." [Sûrah al-Hujurât: 12]

6. Do not fall into rumor-spreading yourself. You should be vigilant not to convey the rumor-monger's words to others. Ibn Mas`ûd relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "Should I tell you what is a blatant lie? It is a rumor circulating among the people." The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: "A man will continue to tell the truth until he is recorded among the truthful,or he will continue to lie until he is recorded among the liars." [Sahîh Muslim (2606)]

We can take a good lesson from how the eminent Caliph `Umar b. `Abd al-`Azîz handled a rumor-monger who came to him and told him something about someone else. The Caliph said: "If you wish, we can verify your story. If it turns out that you are lying, then you are one of those referreed to by the verse of the Qur'ân that reads: 'If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth.' Or if you wish, we could pardon you."

The man replied: "I beg your pardon, O Commander of the Faithful! I will never return to such conduct again."

Al-Hasan al-Basrî said: "Whoever brings rumors to you is surely also spreading rumors about you."

We will close with the following verses of classical Arabic poetry:

Do not accept the rumors that reach your ears
And be vigilant against the one who tells them,

Whoever gives to you the gift of a rumor
Will give to others, about you, an equal gift
.
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