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CHARACTER ASSASSINATION

During the Prophet’s time, there were certain people in Madinah who wanted to defame a member of the Prophet’s family. It was a case of character assassination. At that juncture, some verses were revealed in the Qur’an, which appears in the chapter Al-Nur (Light). The translation of one of these verses is quoted below: Those who desire that indecencies should spread among the believers will have a painful chastisement in this world and the Hereafter. God knows, and you do not know. (24:19)

According to Islamic teachings, character assassination is a heinous crime. An act of this kind is against humanity, against ethical values, and against Qur’anic teachings. Those guilty of any ethical crime of this nature will be severely punished by God Almighty. If you criticize someone on the basis of undeniable facts which stand up to objective scrutiny, you are acting lawfully and are exercising your moral rights as set forth in the divine book. If your intention is good, your action will be treated as promoting reform. Moreover, you will receive a reward from God Almighty.

But if you are abusing someone, or using unethical or immoral language without any evidence to support what you say, then you are committing a crime. The use of abusive language against anyone, which has no factual base, is an act of character assassination. No one has the right to use such language. Criticism based on facts is constructive, but making allegations without any basis in fact is the worst kind of crime. In this regard, two courses are open to all: if an individual has an accusation to make against anyone and he has undeniable proof in support of what he has to say, then he is allowed to express his views. If, on the other hand, he has an adverse opinion about anyone, but has no evidence to support his negative remarks, then he has to remain silent. No one is allowed to make damaging remarks against anyone if he cannot produce irrefutable proof of the truth of his statement.

The Prophet once said: “If you make a negative remark against someone while that person is innocent, then it will have a boomerang effect. Your negative remark will turn back upon you and you will find that remark being applied to you.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 6045)

According to Islamic teachings, character assassination is a heinous crime. An act of this kind is against humanity, against ethical values. The practice of character assassination is injurious to the whole of society; it spreads the feeling of mistrust. It causes misunderstanding and the result is very dangerous, for everyone becomes suspicious of the other members of society. In such a society, no healthy activity is possible and no positive planning can be done. The habit of character assassination is bad for all and good for none. The whole of society must be alert to anyone indulging in this kind of activity and the wrongdoer must be openly condemned. Indeed, social ostracism is the only check by which this kind of baneful habit can be eliminated from society. Character assassination is more dangerous than physical assassination. Any society that ignores this heinous practice is callous and inhuman.

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