Allah the Most High said:
ﭽ ﭟ ﭠ ﭡ ﭢ ﭣ ﭤ ﭥ ﭦ ﭧ ﭨ ﭩ ﭪ ﭫ ﭬ ﭭ ﭮ ﭯ ﭰ ﭼ الحجرات: ٦
Meaning: “O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” (Q49:V6)
Verification of reports is vital in any community or State for the avoidance of conflict and the maintenance of peace and harmony. Since there are people in any given community with varying degrees of character, it is inevitable that some may contribute to the smooth running of a community, while others may create discord. Therefore, if a person's integrity is questionable, the veracity of any news or report conveyed by such a person must be put to the test in order to ascertain its validity and credibility.
The historical background of this verse can be traced back to the incident when Al-harith bin Dirar Al-khuza’ee from Banu Mustaliq came to Madinah. The Prophet invited him to Islam and to pay zakat. He accepted and said to the Prophet: I shall return back to my people and invited them to Islam. Whoever accepts I will collect their zakat. After so and so period send a messenger to collect what I have gathered. He returned back to his people and did as he said. When the time reached for the Prophet to send him a messenger to collect the zakat, no messenger came. Al-harith became apprehensive. He called his people and said: the time has reached for the Prophet to send a messenger for the zakat but he has not sent anyone. Perhaps we have done something wrong and the Prophet is angry with us. Let us go and meet the Prophet and so they set out in a journey to Madinah. The Prophet, on the other hand, had ordered Walid bin 'Uqbah-may Allah be pleased with him, to collect zakat from Banu Mustaliq. Because of strained relationships that existed with this tribe during the pre-Islamic era, Walid was reluctant to undertake the task at first. However, since it was the Prophet's instruction, he had no other option. As he came near to where the tribe was residing, he saw an overwhelming majority of people from that tribe advancing towards him. He was under the impression that they had come out to kill him. Thus, he returned to Madina without collecting the zakat from them. He informed the Prophet that Banu Mustaliq refused to give zakat and wanted to kill him. Hence, the Prophet dispatched a group of companions led by Khalid bin Walid to investigate the incident, and deal with the Banu Mustaliq tribe. When the two groups met, it was confirmed that:
a) Walld bin 'Uqbah was guilty of transgression for he misconstrued the reason why Banu Mustaliq tribe had sent out a delegation to the Prophet.
b) This tribe was innocent, for its leaders had sent out a delegation to the Prophet to enquire the reason for the delay in the collection of zakat. They feared that the Prophet did not contact them because Allah (SWT) was displeased with them.
This particular verse was revealed to confirm the sincerity of the actions of Banu Mustaliq, and to advise the Prophet not to take hasty decisions, but to thoroughly scrutinize any information coming from questionable sources. It is through this injunction that believers are provided with guidelines on how to exercise judgments when any information is received from a person whose integrity is questionable. The principle laid down in this verse is the avoidance of judgments which could be detrimental to others, either intentionally or unintentionally.
This incident is a good example of the application of this verse by the Prophet.
Had he not, in compliance with the requirements of this verse, made thorough
Investigation of what had actually transpired, the report presented by WalId bin 'Uqbah would have resulted in warfare, disunity and disharmony.
Thus, the Treaty of Hudaybiyah that was ratified would have been violated in view of the fact that one of its terms was that warfare should be suspended for ten years in order to maintain peace between Muslims and the Quraysh. The Arabian Peninsula would have been in turmoil, and as result, a distorted view of Islam would have emanated.
Hence, the direction given in this verse is quite expedient, especially when a state of war is imminent. The principle of investigation enshrined in this verse is immutable and applicable at all times.
Source: Abridged from Major themes from Surat Al- Hujurat