Media nowadays has become incredibly powerful and is often referred to as the fourth branch of government. They play a vital role in accounting governments and shaping public opinion. For this reason, governments in the Muslim world impose strict controls on the media and many journalists and editors have been imprisoned for exposing government corruption.
The west prides itself on having a free press without the stringent media controls and censorship which exists in the Muslim world. However, the reality is that no country operates a completely free media or has unlimited free speech. Media in the west works for the interests of a tiny wealthy capitalist elite. Owen Jones in his book ‘The Establishment’ explains this point.
“There is not a free press in Britain: there is a press free of direct government interference, which is a different thing altogether. Instead, most of the mainstream media is controlled by a very small number of politically motivated owners, whose grip on the media is one of the most devastatingly effective forms of political power and influence in modern Britain. The terms of acceptable political debate are ruthlessly policed, particularly by the tabloid media; those who fall foul of them can face crucifixion by newspaper. The media, in other words, is a pillar of the Establishment – however much many journalists may find this an unpalatable truth.”1
Role of the Media in Islam
The government of the Caliphate does not have a monopoly on the media. Any citizen of the Islamic State is allowed to set up media whether newspapers, magazines, radio or television. Permission is not required to establish this type of media although the Department of Information (Da’irat ul I’laam) must be informed of their establishment.2
As is the case in any state there are limits to the general remit of the press and they must operate within the law. Sensitive information related to national security cannot be published without prior permission from the Information Department. Slander, libel, incitement, racism, insulting religious beliefs and the propagation of depraved and misguided cultures are not allowed by sharia.
The media within the Caliphate has full rights to account the Caliph and his government, investigate any government oppression (mazlama) or other issues that pose a danger or are in the interests of the society at large. The media can investigate and publish this without fear of any arrest or persecution.
The work of the media within the Caliphate falls under the general obligation of enjoining the good (Ma’ruf) and forbidding the evil (Munkar) which is a collective duty on society as a whole.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “By Him in whose hand is my soul, you must enjoin the good and forbid the evil, otherwise Allah will be about to send His punishment upon you. And then if you pray to Him (to ask Him), he would not answer you.”3
The Information Department oversees media in the Caliphate and also acts as the Media Office of the government. The foreign policy of the Islamic State is to propagate Islam to the world and the media strategy will be in line with this objective. Private media will also contribute to this work because the Caliphate is an Islamic ideological state which means all elements of society work towards achieving Islamic objectives.
Is there freedom of speech in the Caliphate?
The concept of ‘freedom of speech’ is derived from the Capitalist ideology that is based on the belief that God and religion should be separated from life’s affairs (secularism). Human beings define how to live their lives free of the constraints of religion which is why freedom of individual, ownership, religion and speech are essential cornerstones of Capitalism. The right to speak and what are the limits of speech are therefore all defined by human beings.
Noam Chomsky, summed up the western concept of freedom of speech when he said: “If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don’t like. Goebbels was in favour of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favour of freedom of speech, that means you’re in favour of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.”4
This view completely contradicts Islam. In Islam, it is the Creator of human beings Allah (Most High) who gave the right of speech to people and defined the limits on what is acceptable and unacceptable speech.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, then let him speak good (khair) or remain silent.”5
Khair in this hadith means Islam or what Islam approves of.6
Every word a human being speaks is recorded by the two angels called Kiraman Katibeen. Even the speaking of one bad word may lead someone to the hellfire.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “The person who utters a word which meets with Allah’s favour may think it has not been heard, yet for this Allah will raise him to a higher level of Paradise. Conversely, the person who utters a word that stirs Allah to anger may give no thought to what he said, only to have Allah cast him in Hell for seventy years.”7
Right of speech in the Caliphate
The west propagates to the Muslim world that freedom and democracy is the only way forward if they want to progress and rid themselves of their oppressive dictatorships. However, as Muslims we look to Islam and Islam alone for our political solutions. The Qur’an and Sunnah have given us all the answers we need to establish an Islamic political system that will free us of the current corrupt systems ruling over us. This is the Caliphate Ruling System discussed on this site.
In the Caliphate, it is the constitutional right of all citizens (men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim) to express their opinions freely without fear of arrest or imprisonment within the limits of sharia. The main areas where this right is exercised is through the Majlis, Political Parties and media. Accounting the government achieves the highest reward in Islam – martyrdom.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “The master of martyrs is Hamza bin Abdul-Muttalib and a man who stood to an oppressor ruler where he ordered him and forbade him so he (the ruler) killed him.”8
Is it allowed for the media to expose corruption?
Media in the west for all its faults has been pivotal in exposing government corruption and war crimes. The 2009 expenses scandal in Britain exposed widespread abuse of expenses by MPs, and CBS News in 2004 published photographs of torture and abuse by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Would such exposes be allowed within the Caliphate since in origin Islam prohibits spying or exposing someone’s sins?
A Muslim who commits a sin does so either secretly or publicly. The media should not expose the secret sins as we find many tabloid newspapers doing in the west.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Whosoever hides the defects of a Muslim Allah will hide the defects of that person in the Hereafter.”9
As for the one who publicly commits sin there is no question of hiding it because he himself has exposed it. Despite this, the media should refrain from publishing stories about those who commit sins publicly not to hide their defects but due to spreading lewdness among society.
This exposure of secret and public sins applies if the sin and corruption is confined to the individual and does not spread. However, if there is harm to the state or wider society then the corruption must be exposed and made public even if the sin was committed secretly.
This is derived from the hadith of Zayd bin Arqam who said: While I was taking part in a Ghazwa (battle), I heard Abdullah ibn Ubay saying. “Don’t spend on those who are with Allah’s Messenger, that they may disperse and go away from him. If we return (to Medina), surely, the more honourable will expel the meanest amongst them.” I reported that (saying) to my uncle or to ‘Umar who, in his turn, informed the Prophet of it. The Prophet called me and I narrated to him the whole story…”10
Zayd bin Arqam’s action is considered spying. However, this spying was obligatory because of the harm from Abdullah ibn Ubay who was head of the hypocrites in the Islamic State of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Abdullah ibn Ubay and his group used to secretly conspire against the state and therefore exposing their corruption was essential to the well being of the state and society.11
Media in the Islamic State of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
Media among the Arabs during the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was verbal not written and the medium was poetry. The head of the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ Media Office was Hassan ibn Thaabit who was the chief poet.
Hassan ibn Thaabit narrated: I asked Abu Huraira “By Allah! Tell me the truth whether you heard the Prophet ﷺ saying, ‘O Hassan! Reply on behalf of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ. O Allah! Help him with the Holy Spirit (Angel Gabriel).” Abu Huraira said, “Yes”.12
Other prominent poets were Ka’ab ibn Malik, and Abdullah ibn Ruwaahah. Together they worked in the service of the Islamic State in Medina.
Muhammad As-Salabi describes the effect of Hassan’s media campaign against Islam’s arch enemy Quraish.
“The main medium of spreading information during the Prophet’s lifetime was word of mouth, and given the ease with which good poems were memorized, the main information that was being spread by word of mouth was in the form of poetry. Skilled poets, therefore were a valuable commodity in Arabia.
After the Battle of Badr was over, the poets of the Quraish concentrated their talents on composing poems that honoured Quraish’s fallen soldiers and that expressed grief and resentment for the many losses their army suffered. After (the Battle of) Uhud was concluded, those same poets – such as Hurairah ibn Abi Wahb, Abdullah ibn Zab’aree, Diraar ibn Al-Khattab and Amr ibn Al-Aas – tried to overstate the signifance of their victory; but no matter, for Muslim poets – Hassan ibn Thaabit, Ka’ab ibn Malik, and Abdullah ibn Ruwaahah – were ready to refute them and to counter the effects of their poems.
On a psychological level, Hassan’s poems were like bullets being sprayed at the Quraish. Quraish’s victory, Hassan explained, was no victory at all. The Muslims, with a wonderful show of bravery, managed to kill the flag-bearer of Quraish’s army. Hassan mocked Quraish’s soldiers in his poems for being cowardly, an attribute of theirs that was attested to by the fact that they could not even protect their flag-bearer – one of the most protected men of any army. Furthermore, Hassan reminded them of how their flag ended up in the hands of one of their women, since all of the men had left it, being busy with the task of fleeing from the battlefield. With these insults Hassan wanted to remind Quraish’s nobles that they showed cowardice and that they went through many humiliating situations during the early part of the battle; in effect, Hassan was saying to them: “Do not be deceived by your victory; it was tainted, and we are still alive and as strong as ever!” To be sure, Arabs valued honour above all else. What honour then did Quraish’s nobles have left when all over Arabia poems were being circulated in which a description was given of how Quraish’s soldiers fled, which left one of their women with no choice but to pick up their flag for them. That a woman did what they were supposed to do underscored their cowardly actions.”13
During the Ummayad and Abbasid Caliphates poets continued to play a pivotal role as the media of the state and the Caliphs would reward them generously. El-Affendi describes the effect of this:
“This did not only contribute to the flourishing of culture, but became also an important instrument of state power, since poets at that time played the roles of today’s media, advertising the ruler’s (mostly imaginary) virtues, publicising his policies and shoring up the system’s legitimacy.”14
1. Owen Jones, ‘The Establishment,’ Penguin Publishers, Mediaocracy Chapter
2. Hizb ut-Tahrir, ‘Khilafah State Organisations,’ translation of Ajhizat dowlah ul-Khilafah, Dar ul-Ummah, Beirut, 2005, First Edition, Chapter al-I’laam
3. Musnad Ahmad on the authority of Huzayfah.
4. Noam Chomsky, ‘Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media,’ 1992
5. Agreed upon. Narrated by Abu Hurayra.
6. Hizb ut-Tahrir, ‘American Campaign to Suppress Islam,’ p. 23
7. Hadith At-Tirmidhi
8. Hadith Abu Dawud
9. Hadith Bukhari and Muslim
10. Hadith Bukhari and Muslim
11. Hizb ut-Tahrir, ‘The Essential Elements of the Islamic Disposition’, First Edition, Dar al-Ummah Publishing House p.143
12. Sahih al-Bukhari 453 https://www.sunnah.com/bukhari/8/102
13. Dr Ali Muhammad As-Sallaabee, ‘The Noble Life of the Prophet ﷺ,’ p.1214
14. El-Affendi, Abdelwahab, ‘Al-Shu’ra’ kanu Ajhizat I’lam al-Arab’ (Poets were Arab Media Organs), Al-Arabi, December 1976.