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The duplicity of slander – a preferred community feature? 

Mohamedarif-Suleman The writer, Mohamedarif Mohamed Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) is a digital marketing specialist and an Educator-cum-Trainer. He has involved himself in community organisations and matters from a young age, and through his writings, continues to speak of social and cultural reform to this day. He is also the founding moderator of this forum.

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retty much all writers and speakers involved in this theme, have and will hopefully present the positive side. The propensity for people to recall positive things more clearly than negative ones is known as the Pollyanna principle, sometimes known as Pollyannaism or positivity bias.
According to research, the subconscious mind prefers to focus on the positive, while the conscious mind prefers to focus on the bad.

However, since we are in general agreement that a coin has two sides, I am going to bring to the surface the obverse side – a horrific and horrendous mill that seeks to call out individuals, name and shame them, brand them, and then present them to the other members of society, while showing good faith in utter deceit. Mouthful as that sentence sounds, the ramifications of this ugly truth that has developed into mainstream social life over the years, are even more profound.

Ayatullah Naser Makarem Shirazi in his book ‘Life under the Grace of Ethics‘ defines slander in these words: “

One of the greatest and most dangerous,s and in the meantime most popular, corruptions of the tongue is slander. Slander indicates mentioning hidden weak points and faults of the others so that if they hear, they will be disturbed. These points are either concerned with religious, moral, spiritual and social aspects, or with corporeal aspects, including face, body’s limbs, corporal powers, actions and behaviours, or attachments, such as wife, child, and or clothing, house, etc.”

Let us be clear at the onset that there may be times when regular discussion may be branded as slander by, for example, leaders who clamp down on speech, or say family heads suppressing equality within the family while imprinting fear in its members, but these are for another day. The point of concern now is how we as a community, united as we claim to be, subservient to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Ahlul Bayt (AS) that we profess, are arrested by this most undesirable of traits, yet denying it completely. Dictionaries define slander as oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another, which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit.

Typically, slander starts with sharing the news of the life and events related to a third person, ordinarily one who is not present, and then catapults into opinions and endorsements about the rile nature of the ‘offence’ and how the subject is a ‘regular offender’. We see it happening all the time in front of us. It is very paradoxical at times how we repeat the words “all?humma inn? l? na?lamu minhu ill? khayra” (O Allah! We do not know from him anything but good) when rendering salaatul mayyit, then proceed to eulogise him or her in a speech thereafter, but are probably involved in their mistreatment during their lifetimes. This is tragic, per see.

Dominica Petric, a Clinical Pharmacological and Toxicology expert at the University Hospital Center in Spli, Croatia, advances a very interesting theory on why this may be happening to us, in The Knot Theory of the Mind

“Human thoughts can be imagined as a spectrum: on the one side of the spectrum are organized thoughts in healthy individuals and on the other side is severe thought disorder characteristic for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Between two opposite sides of human thought, the spectrum is milder impairments of thought quality that may sometimes occur even in healthy individuals, and more often in neurotic individuals…Animosity in interpersonal relationships is an antagonistic attitude between two or more persons or between two groups of people. It has an objective component, the factual reason for animosity, and a subjective component, envy or hatred. Hatred in antagonistic interpersonal relationships is one of the most common and powerful causes of mind knots. Hatred additionally complicates already complicated antagonistic relationships and it should be avoided. Love for the enemy means that you respect your enemy’s dignity, although you have to fight. That kind of love prevents the formation of mind knots.

It would appear, therefore, that unresolved issues at an emotional level within individuals, whether they be positive or negative, yield constructs of positive or negative emotions about self and others. Of course, self-interest is a top driver of slander, where the central ethos of moving and mowing others out of the way, is a proven strategy of advancement.

Ayatullah Shirazi outlines several motives for slander:

1- Malice and revenge: there is no easier and simpler way than to slander and damage a person’s reputation and character for extinguishing flames of spite and revenge, blazing in the heart of some people.

2- Envy: as the envious person always wishes for the end of blessings of the envied one, when he cannot achieve his purpose, for compensating it, he tries to damage the envied person’s reputation and credit through slander and reveal his weak points, and relieves the fire of his envy in this way.

3- Acquitting oneself from a committed sin: in other words, one tries to simplify or justify his action by mentioning the faults of others.

4- Mockery and deride: of course mockery and deriding others has several motives, and after rooting its factors in man’s entity, one of the ways of realization of this goal is slander.

5- Recreation and amusement: there are a lot of people who engage in mentioning the weak points and faults of others only for recreation and amusement or warming circles and meetings because no other sin is sweeter than slander for people.

It should be also noted that people not only enjoy recreation and amusement but also enjoy causing others to laugh.

6- Excitation of curiosity instinct: this instinct which is one of the most powerful man’s instincts, invites man to urge others to slander and reveal weak points of different individuals, and perhaps the sweetness of slander for some people originates from the false satiation of this instinct. Such people enjoy knowing the mysteries and faults of others and are curious about them, and therefore make others to slander more eagerly and enthusiastically.

This community means everything to us, and for most, there is nothing else apart from the community and its people. So it behoves us to investigate if our behaviour is engendering a systematic decimation of the very institution we claim to endear. It does not matter what our social, financial or knowledge status is, each in his or her own place, can contribute wholly or in part towards the semblance of a society that is at peace with itself.

O ye who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a crime. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Ye abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty (to Allah). Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful. (49:12)

One who says what he has seen and heard about a believer is among those that God has told about them: those who like the vices to spread among believers, there shall be a painful chastisement for them – As Sadiq (AS)

Do not envy and spite each other and do not slander each other, and O, God’s servants are brothers with each other. – Holy Prophet (SAW)

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