And whatsoever He has created for you on this earth of varying colors [and qualities from vegetation and fruits, etc. (botanical life) and from animal (zoological life)]. Verily! In this is a sign for people who remember. The Holy Quran 16:13

Truthfulness

 

Transcript of the Friday Sermon delivered by Dr. Munawar Haque on May 5, 2017

 

Brothers and sisters! The topic of my khutba today is: “Truthfulness.” I will try to share some thoughts with you on the meaning of truthfulness as a moral virtue in Islam. It is well known that truthfulness and honesty have always been regarded as great virtues, and falsehood and deceit have always been considered as great vices. Hence Islam commands truthfulness and forbids falsehood and deception.  The Qur’an commands believers to speak the truth and to be with those who are truthful.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا

“O you who believe, be conscious of Allah and speak the truth.” (Al-Ahzab, 33:70)

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَكُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِينَ

“O you who believe, fear Allah, and be with the truthful.” (Al-Tawbah, 9:119)

Generally, people understand truthfulness to be restricted to truthful speech. Islam, however, teaches that truthfulness is far more than having an honest tongue. In Islam, truthfulness is the conformity of the outer with the inner, the action with the intention, the speech with the belief, and the practice with the preaching.  As such, truthfulness is the very cornerstone of the upright Muslim’s character and the springboard for his virtuous deeds. Among the various attributes of sincere believers, one is that they are truthful. We have in Surat al-Hujurat,

إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَرْتَابُوا وَجَاهَدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الصَّادِقُونَ

“The believers are those who believe in Allah and His messenger, leave all doubt behind, and strive with their wealth and their persons for Allah's cause. Such are the truthful ones.” (al-Hujurat, 49:15) One of the repeated descriptions of the prophets in the Qur’an is that they were truthful. 

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَّبِيًّا

“Mention Ibrahim in the Book. He was a man of truth and a prophet.” (Maryam, 19:41)

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِدْرِيسَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَّبِيًّا

“Mention Idris in the Book. He was a man of truth and a prophet.” (Maryam, 19:56)  

وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِسْمَاعِيلَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صَادِقَ الْوَعْدِ وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَّبِيًّا

“Mention Isma’il in the Book. He was true to his promise, and he was a messenger and a prophet.” (Maryam, 19:54)

People called the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) Al-Ameen meaning the truthful or trustworthy, even before he became a prophet. Even his enemies, such as Abu Sufyan, before he became a Muslim, when asked by Heraclius, the Byzantine Roman Emperor what Muhammad (SAW) taught them, Abu Sufyan answered that he taught them to worship Allah, to pray, to be truthful, to be chaste and to be kind to relatives. In a well-known hadith, the Prophet (SAW) said, “Truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to paradise. A man will keep speaking the truth and striving to speak the truth until he will be recorded with Allah as a Siddeeq (i.e., a truthful person). “Lying leads to immorality and immorality leads to hell fire. A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar.”

This hadith indicates that truthfulness leads to righteousness, (al-birr). Righteousness is an all-embracing concept that includes all kinds of goodness and different kinds of righteous deeds. Immorality is basically an inclination towards deviation from the truth, and the immoral person (fajir) is one who is inclined to turn away from the path of guidance. Hence immorality and righteousness are diametrically opposed to each other. Therefore, truthfulness is a characteristic which is to be cultivated till it becomes implanted in a person’s soul and disposition and is reflected in his or her character.

We learn through a hadith that the Prophet (SAW) said, “Guarantee for me six things and I will guarantee paradise for you: (1) tell the truth when you speak, (2) fulfill your promises, (3) be faithful when you are trusted, (4) safeguard your private parts, (5) lower your gaze, and (6) withhold your hands (from harming others).”  As for the next Life, through Allah’s grace and mercy, the obedient ones—the practitioners of truthfulness will reach a station in paradise alongside those most fortunate of souls that are mentioned in Surat an-Nisa.

وَمَنْ يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَالرَّسُولَ فَأُولَئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ وَحَسُنَ أُولَئِكَ رَفِيقًا 

“And he who obeys Allah and the Messenger -they shall be with those whom Allah has favored--the prophets, those steadfast in truthfulness, the martyrs, and the righteous." How excellent will they be for companions?” (an-Nisa’, 4:69)

The steadfast in truthfulness or the Siddeeq denotes someone who is utterly honest, someone whose devotion to truth has reached a very high point. Such a person is always upright and straightforward in his dealings. He supports nothing but right and justice and does so with sincerity. He opposes whatever is contrary to truth, and does not waver in his opposition to falsehood. His life is so unblemished and selfless that even his enemies, let alone his friends, expect nothing of him except goodness and justice.

In contrast to truthfulness, deception and lying are mentioned in the Qur’an and the hadith as one of the worst sins. A man came to the Prophet (SAW) and asked, “Which action makes the highest number of people the inmates of hell?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “Lying; when a believer speaks a lie, he becomes prone to commit every other sin; and when this happens, he commits kufr (disbelief) which then makes him enter hell.”

Indeed lying is a grave sin. Some false words lead to war between two tribes or two sections of the society. Some lies damage the honour of thousands of people or endanger their lives, or lead to economic disasters. Often due to lying, innocent people are sentenced to death, and their families destroyed.

We must be very careful and cautious when coming across fake news that has become so rampant. Fake news is a type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically, It is carried out via the traditional print or broadcasting news media or via Internet-based social media. Another expression called “alternative truth” or “alternative fact” has found its way recently in the political discourse. It is nothing but a misstatement of the truth—a lie.   A Qur’anic verse from which we can draw a close parallel in our social media invaded life is:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن جَاءَكُمْ فَاسِقٌ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوا أَن تُصِيبُوا قَوْمًا بِجَهَالَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَادِمِينَ

“O you who believe! If a known wicked person brings you news, investigate, to avoid harming people out of ignorance and later regret what you have done.” (al-Hujurat, 49:6) This verse advises us to verify any news before we take action. Today it is more important than ever to follow this advice. Viruses developed to infect computers can damage them. Fake news, alternative facts or just plain lies also act like viruses that can damage the human mind and can corrupt our societies in a far more diabolical way. And what does Allah say about the liars?

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ مُسْرِفٌ كَذَّابٌ

“Allah does not guide one who transgresses and lies” (Ghafir, 40:28)

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ كَاذِبٌ كَفَّارٌ 

“Allah does not guide one who is a liar and ungrateful.” (Az-Zumar, 39:3). In one of the hadith, the prophet (SAW) said, “The worst betrayal is to tell a lie to a brother of yours while he trusts you and believes in you.” In another hadith, he said, “Three are the signs of a hypocrite: When he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he is trusted, he betrays his trust.” This hadith should make us think that we should not be like hypocrites who say something that they don’t really mean. The most dangerous and highly condemned act of lying according to the Quran and Sunnah is to lie about Allah and to attribute things to Allah that He did not reveal. 

وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ كَذِبًا

“Who could be more wicked than someone who invents a lie against Allah” (Al-An’am, 6:93).

Also, any fabricator of a hadith has been warned by the Prophet (SAW) who said, “Whoever lies about me deliberately, let him take his seat in the hell fire.”  This factor contributed to the introduction of critical review in the science of hadith in order to determine the value and worth of the people through whom traditions of the Prophet (SAW) reached the later generations. The Muslim jurists also established this principle while considering the "law of evidence." The evidence of a corrupt person or a person of questionable character would be unacceptable.

اللهمّ أرِنا الْحَقَّ حقّاً وارْزُقْنا اتِّبَاعَه وأرِنا الْباطِلَ باطِلاً وارْزُقنا اجْتِنَابَه.

 O Allah! Show us the truth as true, and inspire us to follow it. Show us falsehood as falsehood, and inspire us to abstain from it.

أَقُولُ قَوْلِي هَذَا وَأَسْتَغْفِرُ اللَّهَ لِي وَلَكُمْ وَلِسَائِرِ المُسْلِمينَ وَالمُسْلِمَاتْ فَاسْتَغْفِرُوهْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ 

الحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على سيد المرسلين وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين

Brothers and sisters! What are the implications of truthfulness or the lack of it on a social and political level? The basic rule is that telling or spreading a lie is worst when it harms a greater number of people, which is why according to the meaning of a hadith, a person who lies and his lies reach out far and wide, will be severely punished on the Day of Judgment. This for example applies to demagogues, dishonest politicians or people who spread falsehood through the media and other devices. If people who are able to reach large numbers of people spread falsehood, then the harm would be great and as such the punishment of such liars will be great.

Concerning economic life, the Prophet (SAW) said that if people who buy and sell are truthful, Allah will bless their sale.  He also said that it is not lawful for a believer to sell an item while knowing that it has a defect without telling buyers about it. Even lying to children is not permitted. The Prophet (SAW) said, “If a person calls his child over in order to give him something and doesn’t, it will be written against him as a lie.”  Psychologically and morally, it is very important to be truthful with children. The basic rule with regard to lying is that it is not permitted, but there are certain circumstances in which Islam permits lying to serve a greater purpose or to prevent harm. Asma’ bint Yazeed said: “The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said, “Lying is not permitted except in three cases: (1) a man’s speaking to his wife to make her happy; (2) lying at times of war; and (3) lying in order to reconcile between people.” Needless to add, even while lying on these three occasions, Allah knows our intention and will judge us accordingly.

Truthfulness has been mentioned in the Qur’an as related to iman or faith in Allah. It is an attribute which enhances the moral character of the believer. May Allah make us among the truthful ones. Allahumma Ameen.

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