Why did the believing men and women, upon hearing this, not think good of their people and say, "This is clearly slander?" (Surah Nur 24:12)
This verse was revealed when our beloved mother Ayesha (RA) was slandered on Zina and some of the companions of the prophet (pbuh) believed and spread this slander. Sadly, it seems that many Muslim have forgotten this incident and the verses revealed upon it, including the warning, "Allah admonishes you never to repeat a mistake like this if you are truely believers," (24:17) As it seems slander has become loose on the tongues of some Muslims, even against righteous people by other learned people.
A quick recap of the incident, the details of which are available in Saheeh Muslim and many other resources:
While returning from an expedition, Ayesha (RA) was searching for her necklace and mistakenly got left behind. A young male companion, Safwan, found her and offered her his camel so that he could take her home. The leader of the hypocrites, Abdullah Ibn Ubay, saw this as an opportunity and started spreading a rumor about the two of them. Ayesha (RA) fell ill and stayed in her home for a few days oblivious of the accusations being levelled against her. Eventually, the gossip reached her and she was shocked and perplexed.
The prophet (pbuh) did not speak to her for a few days while he investigated. He did not believe the rumors but he had to investigate in order to put his mind at ease. For accusations against one's wife are harder for a man to bear than being slandered of being a poet or magician.
During this period, Ayesha (RA) experienced great emotional pain and went to stay with her parents. It is narrated that she could not stop crying for two nights. Finally, Ayesha (RA) went with her parents to speak to the prophet (pbuh) who said, "if you have done something wrong, then tell me so that you can repent. if you have done something wrong, repent to Allah so that you can meet Him in a state of repentance," Ayesha (RA) firmly stated that she did not do anything. Her parents in turn asked her this question, and she replied the same.
Finally, she said, “The only thing I am going to tell you is the same thing Abu Yusuf (Yaqoob) told his sons when Yusuf was taken away… ‘fa sabroon jameel wallahul musta’anu ala matasifoon .’ “With good patience, Allah is the one who aids me in that which you are accusing me.. .” After saying this, she felt at ease and put her trust in Allah. Soon after this, Allah revealed verses 11-20 of Surah Nur declaring her innocence and putting an end to the rumors and gossip. It was due to these veres that she gained the title, "Al-Mutabarri'u Fee Kitaabillah" (The one whose innocence is declared in the book of Allah)
There are many lessons to be learned from this important incident in our history but I want to focus on the following:
1) Many a times, we take pleasure in discussing the faults of others and spreading gossip and rumors behind their back, yet we do not benefit from this rumor-mongering at all, rather we cause so much emotional pain to the one being slandered that can not be described to a person who has not experienced it. If Ayesha (RA), with all her spiritual strength, cried for two nights when slandered, imagine the pain we cause to people with less strength when we slander them.
2) Even if it is true and not slander, this does not justify talking about it. How do we benefit from discussing the faults of others? Don't we have our own sins and faults that we need to overcome first? Gossip is never justified in Islam, even the steps leading to gossip are prohibited as per the following verse:
"Oh you who believe, do not be suspicious of others because suspicion can sometimes be a sin, and do not spy on others nor backbite them! Would you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother? No! You would hate it! So fear Allah, indeed He is the one who accepts repentance and is Most Merciful," (Surah Hujarat 49:12)
From the above story, I hope we all realise that not only is it wrong and counter-productive to indulge in gossip, but it is extremely hurtful to the people being slandered, I would like to end with the following warning from Allah to those who enjoy juicy gossip:
"Indeed, Those who love to spread such slanders among the believers,will have a painful punishment in this world and the next. Allah knows (the truth behind such accusations) and you do not know," (Surah Nur 24:19)
And words of comfort from Allah to those being slandered, "Do not think it to be bad for you, rather it is good for you," (Surah Nur 24:11) if nothing else, the rewards of good deeds done by the slanderer get transferred to you and that alone is good for you.
NOTE: Do not mention any slanderers or slandered people by name is the comments to this post!