With regards to the student of knowledge being the foremost to silence rumour mongering in a way that has wisdom and good manners and not being one who spreads rumours, the scholar Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah advised the students:
And I advise you likewise to not squander your time with insulting and reviling, not (doing so) to the rest of the people nor to those in authority from the scholars or leaders.
We say: everyone makes mistakes, no doubt; and no one is rendered free from making mistakes except the one whom Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, has rendered immune (from that). However should we take errors upon ourselves by way of other people’s mistakes?
No. If someone other than us makes a mistake, we ask Allaah to grant him success in coming to what is correct. This is the most that we can do if we are not able to get to him in order to explain to him that he is upon error.
And therefore I say: always we hear about such-and-such a person that he said such-and-such statement which we hold to be an error and something not correct.
But do we accept this merely on the basis of hearing it, thus building our belief about this man (on that) – the person about whom we have heard that which was said?
The answer: you hear something which you disapprove of about a person, be he a person of knowledge or other than a person of knowledge, a leader or other than a leader. (It may be) something you disapprove in and of itself or it may be something which you disapprove of seeing occurring from this person (in particular). So do you grab hold of what you heard in this way right from the first instant?
The answer: No. So what then is it obligatory for you to do?
The answer: Firstly, before anything else, it is obligatory to verify the authenticity of the report – because it may be that something is reported about a person which he did not (actually) say or do. So it is a must that you verify the report in the first instance.
And I will give you a principle which Shaykh ul Islaam rahimahullaah mentioned in his refutation of the Raafidees in Minaaj us Sunnah: if a statement of a Raafidee was mentioned, he would say firstly in reply to it:
I want to know from you the authenticity of the narration.
And this is something correct because if the report is not authentic then you feel at ease – meaning you have been sufficed.
So when you hear something about someone which it is destested that it should occur from him, then you firstly verify the report.
Then if the matter is established in your view – that the person who has transmitted the report is a trustworthy person and he does not have desires (which he is acting on), then the next stage is binding upon you – and it is is that you verify: Is this statement or this action (actually) something evil?
So as long as this man (who is being criticised) is a person whom you hold to be a person of goodness, and it seems not possible that he would do the evil deed, then it is a must that you verify – is this action an evil?
This is because a person may consider something at first glance to be an evil action, then after reflecting it becomes clear to him that it is not an evil action. So we often hear about so-and-so something which makes our skin shudder and which the souls have an aversion to, but then when we calm down, we find that it is not (actually) an evil action.
Thus it is a must that you ponder – is this an evil action or not?
These are the two stages, and they are:
Then reflecting and pondering – is this an evil action or not an evil action?
The third stage – if you are convinced that it is an evil action, then upon you is to contact the person about whom this report has been transmitted, and you say to him:
O so-and-so, such and such has reached me about you; is it correct?
Because many of our zealous brothers, when he is certain about a statement that it is something evil, then he goes to the one to whom the statement or action was ascribed and says to him:
We have heard such-and-such about you. How can you say that? How can you do that?
We seek refuge with Allaah! Is this from respectful behaviour?
The answer: No! Especially if the one you are addressing is older than you.
So it is obligatory that you go to him and say:
It has reached me about you that such-and-such. Is this correct?
So you know that it is correct but you (still) say to him: Is this correct?
And it may be that he says: Yes, I did say that.
So you say to him: May Allaah give you good. What was (your) approach behind (making) this statement? What was (your) approach behind (doing) this action)? – before you pass a ruling that it is an evil act.
This is because it may be that there is an evidence for it which was hidden from you. Or he is in a situation which necessitates that he does this action, but you did not know.
So this (occurred with) ‘Abdullaah ibn ‘Umar radi Allaahu ‘anhu that he related from the Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam as to how a person should sit in his prayer. Then one of his sons saw him sitting cross legged in the prayer, in contradiction to what he had reported from the Messenger, so he said to him:
O my father, how is it that you sit cross legged?
He said to him: Indeed my legs are not able to support me.
Thus does he now have an excuse for going against the Sunnah or not?
The answer: He has an excuse because it may be that for this man to whom the evil action or the objectionable action is ascribed, he has an excuse which leads him to say this statement or do this action.
However this discussion should be with good manners and tactful speech. So then either it becomes clear to you that he is upon the correct position, so you give in – or it does not become clear to you that he is upon the correct position. And with that you have established the proof upon this man and fulfilled your obligation.
And if we were to proceed in our affairs upon this manner, then the affair would be good and the end results praiseworthy. However many of the people are overjoyed to hear something which they use to criticise so-and-so; and they fly off with it to the farthest lands to spread it; and this is a problem which it is obligatory to be on one’s guard against or to distance oneself from.
(Quoted in Wasaayaa wa tawjeehaat li tullaab il ilm p147 of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah, translated by Nasser ibn Najam)