بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم
Many times in the discussions I have seen taking place between my Muslim brothers and sisters, I have noticed many of them clinging on to what can only be described as conspiracy theories. We Muslims live in a difficult time in our history as an Ummah, and I can easily see that there are very many pressures on the modern Muslim person, and one might many times feel victimized and may also feel that Muslims at large are the target of non-Islamic forces swarming the Muslim world right and left.
From this point of view, it is understandable why I see many of my fellow Muslims clinging on to counter-narratives concerning the reason behind the major happenings in the world today – the most famous of such counter-narratives being that all “Muslim terror attacks” are in fact preplanned from Israeli and Western intelligence agencies, and that nominal Muslims have never carried out any act of violence in modern times at all.
Now, I am somewhat troubled that such counter-narratives, when presented to the world at large, are met with scorn and ridicule, apparently showing that we Muslims are not at all thorough with our methods for checking information, and that we will take up any narrative that deflects blame to the other.
(As an aside, it is true that the world order today is based on values inimical to Islam, and as such there will be a lot of effort to suppress the full implementation of Islam even in Muslim-majority countries. This much cannot be denied, nor can it be denied that there is a good amount of misinformation in the mainstream media. But the blameworthy “counter-narratives” held by some Muslims which I am referring to are those that suppose every single major event occurring in the world today – and in the Muslim world in particular – as being run and financed from a single, central planning bureau. Those who have some idea about formal political science know that the world is too complex for such a simple narrative to hold so neatly in every instance.)
However, what distresses me much more than the scorn or ridicule of the non-Muslims is that these “thought-processes” based on conspiracies and “secret counter-narratives” has made substantial inroads into how many nominal Muslims view the primary sources of Islam itself. This is a very serious issue, since the authenticity of Islam itself will be called into question, once people start believing that – for example – the Prophetic narrations were forged en masse in order to appease the rulers and other powers during the period of early Islamic history; or that likewise, the Sharia code of law was a total concoction in order to satisfy the elites in the Islamic world and in order to more easily control the masses. All of this is mention on the basis that there are supposedly many unbelievable things in the Hadith corpus or in the Islamic Sharia that cannot possibly be true according to such nominal Muslims.
Now, it is clear that the scope and elements within such varied “conspiracy theories” are quite different. But the idea that every aspect of reality before us has secret hands giving rise to it, hands which are unknown to most people is not something that can be casually applied to Islamic epistemology without a serious backlash from proper Islamic scholarship. This is because all the Islamic sources and sciences (such as jurisprudence, Prophetic narrations, Islamic belief, and even the Qur’an itself) have been meticulously handed down from generation to generation.
Yes, the injunction in the Qur’an is that we should verify any news report before believing it fully. But if such verification is carried out successfully, then no one has the right to reject the information and reports presented to us based on such corroboration. If anyone asks us as to how we can be so confident that the primary Islamic texts an the sciences derived from them are correct, we answer that the necessary verification is carried out through the formal study of Islam, its ideology and its epistemology, not by simply rejecting those aspects of Islam that seem strange to us at first glance. There are definitely various levels of certainty which can be attached to the different texts and sciences of Islam, but in this case, the desires of the individual Muslim have to follow the formal methodology, not the other way around.
With this is where the biggest irony of the whole issue comes to light. Those nominal Muslims who thought they were running away from the very tight grasp of the non-Islamic establishment by placing all major unfavorable events in the Muslim world in the lap of the non-Muslims, wound up adopting a very self-styled and non-scholarly approach towards the Islamic tradition, the same type of approach the non-Muslim “think-tanks” wish for the common Muslims to adopt towards the Islamic way of life, so that the implementation of laws contrary to the Islamic system may be pursued without much trouble or popular outcry.
So does this show that the non-Muslim powers-that-be have a chokehold on Muslims from every conceivable angle? I would say no, not really. What it does show is that the proper way for Muslims to move forward is to go beyond arm-chair opinions about the world at large and about Islam in particular, and to begin to formally and systematically look into the Islamic religion from the holistic perspective from which it manifests itself. We can only for Allah to guide all of us towards this goal, and through Him is our success.
 In this vein, it could be said that the great majority of news reports coming from mainstream media do not reach the level of “absolute certainty” as far as Islam is concerned, especially in terms of the number of witnesses that saw an event. We can note this fact without any problems, since there are very few news reports claiming anything directly contradictory to the fundamentals of the Islamic religion – they might mention that such-and-such act of violence occurred in the Muslim world, but the strict question of whether Islam is a correct religion, or even whether Islam formally allows violence, is not taken up by most news reports. So we see that even though news reports generally do not reach a level of absolute certainty, this fact does not prevent the Muslim from accepting it as probabilistically and practically true. Having noted this, we also would need to mention that the level of probabilistic certainty for the more outrageous “conspiracy theories” and “counter-narratives” is at a much lower level than that of common news stories, since the number of unique pieces of evidence to anything that may hold the conspiracy theory together are much fewer than that of the normal news story. So Muslims should keep this mind whenever they wish to examine any piece of evidence regarding the world at large.