In a World of Lies, How Do We Find the Truth?
We live in a post-truth world. Post-truth is a philosophical and political concept for “the disappearance of shared objective standards for truth”. With the advent of mass media, fake news proliferating on social media, the spread of A.I. generated images and videos, and political parties that are willing to hire people who can produce completely false narratives, more and more people are beginning to face this reality. It seems like our ability to grasp the world for what it is and finding our place in it, is constantly under attack.
Is this a new phenomenon, only made possible due to recent technological innovations, or because politicians have become more dishonest? Or is there a deeper problem? And what should we as Muslims do to navigate this post-truth moment?
A Pervasive Lie
The reality is that manipulating the masses with lies has always been part of the power games played by unprincipled and selfish elite. Advancements in mass communications and technology have only intensified this approach.
Malcolm X (Elhaj Malik Al Shabbaz), may Allah (swt) have mercy on him, warned about trusting the media, commenting that it could make the oppressors seem like the oppressed.
Back when Pope Urban was calling for the Crusades in 1095 AD, he fabricated lies about all kinds of cruelty the Muslims were inflicting on Christian pilgrims in order to galvanize the masses against Islam and Muslims.
And we know that the elites (mal’a) would fabricate lies about all the Prophets (as), including and especially our Beloved Messenger (saw) who was called accused of being a soothsayer, madman, or poet (Audhoobillah).
The elite will always use trickery to subdue, confuse and disempower the masses, because when people are distracted from the truth, they will never be able to effectively unite upon anything other than what the elite have already decided for themselves and the society.
Falsehood as an Ideology
While many opportunistic politicians will assault the truth as a strategy, the ideology of Capitalism is built upon prioritizing pragmatism over truth. For example, if one party argues 2+2=4 and another party argue 2+2=5, Capitalism would advocate that both parties stop fighting, and accept that 2+2=4.5.
That is, both sides should compromise and split the difference – irrespective of what mathematical reality has to say about the issue!
To understand this, it is important to understand what Capitalism is, and how it came to be. It is an ideology that was formed when the intellectuals and the clergy of Europe were fighting about the role that religion should play in the public life of society. The intellectuals wanted to banish religion, while the clergy wanted to control every aspect of people’s lives without any need for justification. Instead of attempting to figure which side was right, both sides abandoned the truth and decided to compromise.
The clergy were allowed to manage religion as long as they removed it from public life, and the intellectuals were allowed to use science and their own reasoning to control society, as long as they did not interfere with people’s private religious practices.
Therefore, from the very outset, Capitalism was unwilling to objectively investigate and answer questions about the existence of Allah (swt), and the role His Revelation should play in society. Rather, they came up with a compromise that answered nothing, but ended the conflict by making both the clergy and the intellectuals partially satisfied. They chose compromise over truth.
The assault on truth did not stop there, rather this same ideology, in the absence of divine guidance, created a system that was built on maximizing the individual freedoms of each person. What this means is that each person is free to disregard any objective morality and create their own truth in order to pursue their own happiness, as long as they are not explicitly being violent to someone else.
This is why in Capitalist countries, a person can choose their sexual identity, their societal and gender roles, or even their own gender with a complete disregard for any moral, social, or biological realities.
What is more, a system built on such freedoms allows those who are endowed with the most money, talent or influence to rise to the top, as they can use all their resources to pursue their happiness, even if that means lobbying governments to make laws that benefit them, taking over agencies to make regulations that suit them, and even financing elections and media houses to influence people in ways that they want. In such a system, truth becomes whatever the powerful pay to say it is.
What about Science?
Science is the study of physical phenomena in the world. Through observation, experimentation, and repeated testing, certain physical realities can be identified. It is a useful tool. However, it can only describe physical realities that can be experimented upon. Consequently, it cannot help answering the fundamental questions of life because they are beyond its scope. Moreover, though the Capitalist societies promote it – they ignore its findings when it contradicts material benefit. For example, it came to light in the US in the early 2000 that tobacco companies concealed the scientifically proven connection between cigarette smoking and cancer, in order to protect their financial interests.
Why is There Such Confusion about the Truth?
All this confusion is caused by many not understanding what the truth is. The truth is not found in the words of philosophers, or in some academic text. It is not some pragmatic reality, where the truth is only that which is useful and productive to you. And it is not some relative and unknowable reality that changes based on who is looking for it. These are all ideas that are put forward by the Capitalist ideology because it abandoned the truth at its inception. That is, it goes back to the compromise made between the intellectuals who wanted to banish religion, while the clergy wanted to control every aspect of people’s lives without any need for justification.
Truth: The Only Arbiter
Truth is something that is accessible to all people and is the same for everyone. Specifically, truth is the only thing that we share as humans. Allah (swt) has equipped us with senses, a brain, and the ability to judge the reality. By assessing the reality correctly, we can answer the fundamental questions about life in a truthful manner.
We see everything around us – the earth, planets, humans, and so on – is limited, so it must have a Creator. The Creator, Allah (swt), is the only source of guidance because He has full knowledge of all things. In contrast, humans have limited knowledge and are incapable of defining a way to relate to Allah (swt) or establishing legislation to govern society. Consequently, we must follow the Messengers He sent. And the last and final Messenger is RasulAllah (saw), who Allah (swt) authenticated through a miraculous book, that even the most qualified and motivated enemies could not imitate, the Quran.
This is the truth that we can unite around. It provides the light to see through the darkness. It will, by the permission of Allah (swt), liberate us from the predatory, distracting, and isolating rule of men.
More importantly, this is the truth that we will be held accountable for implementing and sharing when we meet our Creator on the Last Day. And, with the help of Allah (swt), it is in service to this truth that we will be ransomed from the Fire and admitted into the eternal gardens of Jannah. May Allah (swt) keep us in His Company eternally. Ameen.
“And the Day those who disbelieved are exposed to the Fire [it will be said], “Is this not the truth?” They will say, “Yes, by our Lord.” He will say, “Then taste the punishment because you used to disbelieve.” [TMQ 46:34]