How should Muslims deal with conspiracy theories?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
Conspiracy theories are not a topic of Islamic scholarship or an issue of halal or haram. Talking about, believing in, and acting upon conspiracy theories is an issue of halal and haram.
As a general rule, one may not express in absolute terms historical or political facts that are not based on convincing evidence. For example, one could not say as fact or propagate that organisation X runs the politics of country Y unless there was a reasonable argument for that. One must rather say that it is possible or that one thinks that it is the case.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “If a man only repeated everything he heard, that would be enough of a sin [to enter him into Hell-Fire].” [Muslim] This hadith tells us that we cannot simply parrot everything we hear or read and that we can only repeat as fact information that we personally believe to be true. [Mirqat al-Masabih, Mulla Ali Qari]
As for acting upon conspiracy theories, then as long as what one does is in itself permissible, then it is up to the individual. If, for example, someone wants to sell all his dollars and buy gold because he believes organisation Z is trying to collapse the US economy, that is perfectly fine, because buying gold is in itself permissible.
If, however, one decides to act in a very defensive way that results in harming others or taking away their rights, one would have to have a very clear argument to legitimise one’s actions. For example, if one believed that all mobile phones were listening to all our conversations, and based on that you broke your friend’s phone because of the great harm you thought would happen if it got close to you, you would be sinful if the logic that you used to make such a judgment was not soundly backed up with concrete facts. (And whether or not you base your actions upon sound logic, you would be liable to pay for the damage.)
So one may act upon conspiracy theories at one’s own discretion, but one cannot change the default rights of others without clear evidence.
In general, though, we should not be so naive as to believe everything the media tells us, nor should we be so superstitious as to buy every alternative narrative that is suggested to us. Our religion teaches us to be scholarly, literate, and critical. That is how we work in our religious lives and that is how we should be in life.
I pray this helps.
[Ustadh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.