Allah Almighty Says (what means):“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.”[Quran 49: 6]
Deception is a necessary tool for the success of wickedness. Fortunately, most of us are not so corrupted that we could support naked injustice and brutality, but must be, to one extent or another, fooled into supporting it once it is camouflaged in an illusion of justice and benevolence.
While it is certainly true that the art of deception has become tremendously sophisticated and indeed, pervasive, in modern society; it is equally true that the fundamental nature of deception, that is, the types of tricks generally used, the methods, the aims, and the qualities that make people susceptible to deception, have not really changed in millennia.
The various forms of deceit and manipulation that provide the basis for modern propaganda and public relations ruses are pointed out by Allah Almighty in the Quran in numerous passages, providing the believers of all eras with the means by which to inoculate themselves against being fooled, misled, and deceived into accepting a distorted version of reality.
Let us examine only a few select examples of the tactics of deceit exposed in the various stories Allah narrates in the Quran to warn and instruct the believers, and hence concentrate on only two particularly relevant and informative cases.
The treachery of Yousuf (Joseph) brothers
Two of the most audacious and sinister, and in many respects, modern, instances of lying occur in the story of Prophet Yousuf, may Allah exalt his mention, and these will be the focus of our analysis.
Yousuf’s brothers, envious of their father Yaqoob’s (Jacob), may Allah exalt his mention, great love for Yousuf, may Allah exalt his mention, plotted to kill or expel him. Allah narrates to us that they said (what means): “Kill Yousuf or cast him out to [another] land; the countenance of your father will [then] be only for you...” [Quran 12: 9]
Yaqoob, may Allah exalt his mention, apparently was wary of his other sons’ intentions toward Yousuf, may Allah exalt his mention; earlier warning the young boy not to relate to them the prophetic dream he had for fear that they would become jealous; and they themselves refer to Yaqoob’s, may Allah exalt his mention, destruct of them, and this provides our first example of deceit:
Allah Says (what means): “They said, ‘O our father, why do you not entrust us with Yousuf while indeed, we are to him sincere counselors?’”[Quran 12: 11]
This statement alone demonstrates two of the cleverest and most frequently employed techniques of manipulation, now apparent in persuasive media from governmental propaganda to product advertising, and is worth looking at closely.
The brothers begin by insinuating that there is something wrong with their father; not only suggesting that he does not trust them, but that this distrust indicates a flaw in his judgment and not in their trustworthiness. They then declare the purity of their intentions, as Yousuf’s, may Allah exalt his mention, “sincere counselors,” thereby, not only self-defining and defending their own characters, but also making the idea of their untrustworthiness all the more apparently offensive; intensifying the underlying rebuke of their father, may Allah exalt his mention, who, it should be mentioned, has actually said nothing until now about distrusting them. They have begun with an accusation, immediately seeking to create a defensive posture in their father, may Allah exalt his mention, a feeling perhaps of guilt, that will incline him to grant them their request if only to prove their accusation untrue.
This technique is so widely applied in modern society that it can scarcely be catalogued. Whether it can be observed on the scale on the national politics where, for instance, a population is perhaps persuaded that they are unsafe or threatened, and should acquiesce to certain restrictive policy measures of the state, which after all, is only tying to protect them; or whether it is applied in so mundane a matter as product advertising where consumers are convinced that they have bad breath, body odor, or insufficiently white teeth, all of which ‘faults’ can only be corrected by purchasing merchandise; the tactic is the same.
Having declared themselves to be good-intentioned and trustworthy, the brothers then suggest that Yaqoob, may Allah exalt his mention, allow them to take Yousuf, may Allah exalt his mention, away with them, to allow him to ‘play’ and ‘enjoy’ himself; more subtly affirming their status as ‘well-wisher’s’, even as they are seeking to create the circumstances that will allow them to harm Yousuf, may Allah exalt his mention. They reiterate to their father, may Allah exalt his mention, a more specific assurance that they are to their prophet brother, may Allah exalt his mention, “good guardians.” They have so framed their request to take Yousuf, may Allah exalt his mention, away that for Yaqoob, may Allah exalt his mention, to refuse would be a direct, and apparently unjustified, condemnation of their character.
The reason given by Yaqoob, may Allah exalt his mention,for not allowing Yousuf’s brothers to take him with them was that he, may Allah exalt his mention, feared they would neglect him and he, may Allah exalt his mention, would be left alone and attacked by a wolf. We will see that Yousuf’s brothers subsequently use this pre-existing fear to diver suspicion from themselves and what they have done to Yousuf, may Allah exalt his mention; unknowingly, Yaqoob, may Allah exalt his mention, has provided them with not only the means to carry out their plot against Yousuf, may Allah exalt his mention, but also the means by which to conceal it. After they have dropped their brother in the well, as we know, they return to Yaqoob, may Allah exalt his mention, and validate for him what he, may Allah exalt his mention, had feared; that Yousuf, may Allah exalt his mention, had been attacked by a wolf; thereby making even less likely the chances of being exposed. They tell him what he, may Allah exalt his mention, was ready to believe, activating the pre-existing fear, thus preemptively canceling out any inquiry into what happened.
Once again, this tactic of manipulation is an almost ever-present facet of modern social engineering and the propaganda system. An important difference, of course, is that the fear of the proverbial ‘wolf’ in modern societies is more often than not a manufactured fear, not one that is present naturally, but one that has been created, promoted in the public, unlike the quite realistic and rational fear of Yaqoob, may Allah exalt his mention. Nevertheless, the exploitation of this fear is identical.
We can look for instance, at the entire Cold War period to find numerous examples of the manipulation of fears, the utility of pre-existing fears as unquestioned explanations for subsequent events. We can also, of course, look at more recent history. Once a particular fear has been established in the public, whether it has been implanted in them or is in fact a rational anxiety, its existence can serve to mobilize necessarily irrational blame for nearly any unpleasant circumstance or happening.