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Lying in Islam: Why Islam always discourages lying and encourages telling the truth?

Why Islam always discourages lying and encourages telling the truth?Noble Qur'an says: "O you who believe! Be careful of (your duty to) Allah and be with the true ones." (9:119)

Lying is one of the most common wrong acts that we commit throughout our daily life. Lying is a subject that we should all take some time to think and reflect on.

Lying is against human nature and physiology. Like any disease, it has its own signs and symptoms. The act of lying produces inner conflicts between various control centers of the brain. The moment one begins to lie, their body sends out contradictory signals to cause facial muscle twitching, expansion and contraction of pupils, perspiration, flushing of cheeks, increase eye blinking, tremor of the hand and rapid heart rate. These symptoms constitute the basis of lie detector instruments. In addition, you will notice that the liar is unconsciously performing some body movements, like covering the mouth, touching the nose, rubbing the eyes, scratching the side of the neck, rubbing the ear etc. One of the clearest signs is that the liar keeps their palms closed and eyes pointed to another direction rather than facing the person eye to eye when they are lying. A liar is fully aware of his body signals. Therefore they find lying easier when no one can see them, i.e. over the phone or in writing.

Most people would agree that lying is wrong but there can be exceptions when there's a good reason for it. This is then referred to as telling a 'little white lie.' Consider the case where telling a lie would mean that 10 other lies would not be told. If 10 lies are worse than 1 lie then it would seem to be a good thing to tell the first lie, but if lying is always wrong then it's wrong to tell the first lie.

However, the line between 'little white lies' and other types of lies is constantly being blurred. Why? Reason being is that it easier and sometimes quicker to simply lie rather than to engage in a more productive discourse as the saying goes ... "Constructive lying is better than the painful truth."

Dr. Raymond Peach states, "Lying is the best defensive weapon of the weak and the quickest way to avoid danger." Lying, in most cases is a reaction to weakness and failure. If you were to ask a child, 'Did you touch this candy?' or 'Did you break this vase?' If the child realizes that admitting the mistakes will result in punishment, then their natural instinct would be for them to deny it."

We can say, without any doubt that, lying is one of the most evil characteristics, of which all religions and systems of ethics warn against and which man's innate common sense (Fitrah) agrees that it is wrong. Any who possess normal chivalry and sound reason would also be obliged the same.

Truthfulness is one of the pillars on which the moral survival of the world depends. It is the foundation of praiseworthy characteristics, the foundation of prophethood, the result of Taqwa (God consciousness). Were it not for truthfulness, the rulings of all divinely-revealed laws would collapse. Acquiring the characteristic of lying is akin to shedding one's humanity, because speaking is an exclusively human trait.

Noble Qur'an says, "Truly Allah guides not one who transgresses and lies!" (40:28). Meaning, Islam rejects lying in all forms. However, there are a few instances where even Islam not only allows but recommends lying for the sake of brotherhood, which we will discuss later. Lying is something that almost everyone does both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We sometimes lie without even meaning to do it! A good example would be when an annoying neighbour calls on the phone and you tell your child to say that you are in the shower or otherwise indisposed so you don't get stuck on the phone for an hour. That's a lie. Other lies are more evil and salacious.

Lying in Islam: What is lying? Why Islam always discourages lying?

Lying is the opposite of the truth. So anything which is not the truth for sure is a lie. A lie can therefore be something oral or written, which could be totally or partially baseless, unreal, made-up, distorted or exaggerated. A 5 foot pole is described as a 10 foot pole. Similarly giving praise out of proportion to someone is a form of lie.

Lying is giving some information while believing it to be untrue, intending to deceive by doing so. Hence a lie has three essential features: (1) A lie communicates some information, (2) the liar intends to deceive or mislead, and (3) the liar believes that what they are 'saying' is not true.

Lying in Islam: What are the motives of a Liar? Why Islam always discourages lying?

A liar tells a lie for the purpose of: (1) concealing the truth, since they are afraid of truth or punitive actions by law or individuals once the truth is established, (2) for cheating and deceiving others and enjoying their misery like Satan did to Prophet Adam (pbuh), and (3) short-term worldly gains i.e., gaining their favors or monetary gains until the lies are not exposed as a lie.

Among the characteristics of liars is that they only believe after annoying insistence. Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) said: "Surely those who are most frequent in believing people are most frequent in telling the truth and those who mostly doubt people are the most frequent liars."

Dr. Samuel Smiles writes: "Some people assume that their own lowly characteristics are normal to other's natures while in fact, we know that people are mirrors of their own manners. Hence, the good and bad that we see in others are not but a reflection of that which is in our consciences."

Courageous people with good manners and conduct cannot bear falsehood nor can they accept to be polluted by such filth. Liars suffer from a mental disorder which keeps them from speaking the truth. Those who resort to lying subconsciously feel weak and humiliated for lying is the front of the weak and the cowards.

Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (pbuh) is quoted as saying: "If entities were materialized, surely truthfulness would stand with courage and cowardice would stand with lying."

Truthfulness and Trustworthiness: Why Islam always encourages telling the truth?

Truthfulness and TrustworthinessTruthfulness is a command of Allah (SWT), part of faith, and a quality of must for all prophets and is mentioned in 100 places in the Noble Qur'an. Therefore, there are two positive traits that Allah (SWT) wants the Muslim to acquire and be committed to in building his Islamic personality. Allah (SWT) wants the believer to aspire among the people they live with a feeling of trust whether in what they say or in how they deal with them. They would feel that the money or other trusts they have with him are safe, while the things he says to them are true.

Being truthful and trustworthy is among the greatest virtues any human being can possess on the other hand lying leads to corruption and deceit in any society.

Note: In the picture, Pinocchio is known for having a long nose that becomes longer when he is under stress, especially while telling a lie.

Prophet Mohamed (pbuh), as we are told by his sira (biography), was known in the forty years before he declare his Prophet Hood by his truthfulness and returning the trusts, to the extent that he was called: The truthful and the trustworthy. People use this phrase when they want to talk about him; the truthful and trustworthy said or did it, instead of saying Mohammed. Even his enemies confirmed that he was truthful as described by Abu Sufyan a leader of the tribe of Quraish and the arch enemy of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) in the court of Hercules, the Byzantine emperor of Eastern Roman Empire.

Imam Ali Ibn al-Hussain (pbuh) said: "Refrain from lying in all things, big or small, in seriousness or in jest. For when one starts lying in petty matters, soon he will have the audacity to lie in important matters (as well)."

For example a joke like April fool's is prohibited just the same as serious lying. If man starts by small lies then he will end up making big lies, as the saying goes ... "He that will steal an egg will steal an ox."

The Noble Qur'an explicitly categorizes liars as disbelievers; "Only they forge the lies who do not believe in Allah's communications, and these are the liars." (16:105)

Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (pbuh) has said: "Lying is the most abominable trait."

Imam Hassan Al-Askari (pbuh) has said: "All spiteful traits are placed in a house and the key to this house is lying."

In order to further clarify what Imam Hassan Al-Askari (pbuh) said, we bring your attention to the following prophetic narration.

Once a man came to Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and said, "O Messenger of Allah, I have many bad habits. Which one of them should I give up first?" Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) said, "Give up telling lies first and always speak the truth." The man promised to do so and never again commit another transgression and went home.

At night the man was about to go out to steal. Before setting out, he thought for a moment about the advice of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) and his promise. "If tomorrow Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) asks me where have I been, what shall I say? Shall I say that I went out stealing? No, I cannot say that. But nor can I lie. If I tell the truth, everyone will start hating me and call me a thief. I would be punished for stealing."

So the man decided not to steal that night, and gave up this bad habit of stealing.

Next day, he felt like drinking wine, when he was about to do so, he said to himself, "What shall I say to Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) if he asks me what did I do during the day? I cannot tell a lie, and if I speak the truth people will hate me, because a Muslim is not allowed to drink wine." And so he gave up the idea of drinking wine.

In this way, whenever the man thought of doing something bad, he remembered the advice of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) to tell the truth at all times. One by one, he gave up all his bad habits and became a good Muslim and a very good person.

If you always speak the truth, you can be a good person, a good Muslim whom Allah (SWT) likes and favours. If Allah (SWT) - our Creator - is pleased with us, HE will reward us with Heaven. This is a place of permanent joy and happiness.

Do you not know that Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) has said: "You must be truthful, for 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 (SWT) as a Siddeeq (speaker of the truth). Beware of telling lies, for lying leads to immorality and immorality leads to Hellfire. A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allah (SWT) as a liar." (Muslim)

Imam Mohammad Al-Baqir (pbuh) says: "Allah (SWT) has made locks for evil and made drinking the keys to these locks." Since drinking makes one loses his mind and ultimately commits evil. Imam Mohammad Al-Baqir (pbuh) added: "But lying is more evil than drinking." Drinking makes man loses his mind and unintentionally hurt others, but the liar commits evil deeds intentionally. That is why Imam Mohammad Al-Baqir (pbuh) says that lying corrupts belief and Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (pbuh) says: "A person will not know the true meaning of faith until he abandons all types of lying."

Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (pbuh) stated the clear benefits of truthfulness: "The truth teller achieves three things: (other's) trust, love, and respect." And warns at another place by saying: "Be not mislead by their prayers and fasting, for a man can become fervently used to prayers and fasting so that if he would abandon them he would feel lonely. Rather, try them when it comes to telling the truth and fulfilling trusts."

Lying in Islam: Why Islam always encourages telling the truth?

Lying in Islam

There are as many advantages for truthfulness as there are disadvantages for lying. Truthfulness is one of the most beautiful traits and lying one of the ugliest. The tongue translates man's external feelings to the outside. Therefore, if lying stems from envy and or enmity, it is one of the most dangerous sign of anger. If it stems from stinginess or habit, it is from the effects of burning lusts of man.

If a man's tongue becomes poisoned with lying and its filth appears on him, its effects are like the effects of the autumn wind on the leaves of trees. Lying extinguishes the light of man's existence and lights the fire of treachery in him. It also has an amazing reaction in terminating the ties of unity and harmony between and spreading hypocrisy.

As per the saying of Prophet Mohamed (pbuh): "The three signs of a hypocrite are: lying, betraying trust and going back on his word (not fulfilling a promise)." Therefore hypocrites are liars, because they lie to themselves.

Noble Qur'an says about them: "In their heart, there is a disease and Allah increases their disease and they shall have a painful chastisement because they lie." (2:10) "When the hypocrites come to you, they say: We bear witness that you are most surely Allah's Messenger; and Allah knows that you are most surely His Messenger, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are surely liars." (63:1)

For people with evil intentions lying is an open door for them to reach their selfish goals by concealing the facts behind their magical words and capturing innocent people with their poisonous lies.

Liars have no time for them to think or reflect. They rarely consider the possible conclusions, claiming that 'no one will ever discover their secrets'. In their words we find many mistakes and contradictions. Liars will eternally become covered with shame, failure and disgrace. Therefore, it is true to say that 'liars have bad memories'.

Islam and reason command that if a Muslim's soul, honor or essential belongings are endangered, it is his obligation to defend them by any means possible, including lying.

Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) said: "Lying is not permitted except in three cases: a man speaking to his wife to make her happy; lying in times of war; and lying in order to reconcile between people." (Tirmidhi)

Necessary lying has its limitations. It must stop on the border of necessity. Nevertheless, we should not ignore the fact that lying is a great evil, and that if some harm is removed by lying (when permitted) it is with the view of countering the greater evil with the lesser one.

Is Lying ever justified? Why Islam always encourages telling the truth?

Is Lying ever justified?There are no absolute justifications in Islam and Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) has asked us to tell the truth even under the harshest circumstances of oppression. However, one may choose not to tell the truth in the following situations:

a). He is under oppression and there is danger of losing his life if he told the truth. Shaikh Saadi narrates a story, "A cruel king ordered an innocent man from village present in his court to be killed because of his lack of manners. Hearing this, the villager started to curse the king in his native language. The king asked the prime minister, who understood that villager's language, to tell him what that villager was saying. The wise minister, instead of telling the truth, told the king this villager is sorry for his conduct, praising his greatness and asking for his mercy. The king was affected and he spared the life of that innocent villager." Shaikh Saadi calls this a "lie with wisdom."

b). To promote mutual relationship between spouse, i.e., if wife asks you, "Am I beautiful?" or "Do you love me?" there is nothing wrong with saying "Yes," even if this is not the case. While these types of lying are tolerated, it is crucial not to step over the bounds of what is and is not acceptable. For instance, if a wife asks her husband if he is having an affair and the husband lies and says that he isn't (when he is) to make her 'happy' is not a permissible lie. This scenario is not what the above hadith permits. This is a deceptive lie which the husband is engaging in to serve his own agenda.

c). this also applies during war. If a prisoner is captured by the enemy and perhaps asked how many soldiers are with his army, he can lie about the number in order to protect his own fighters.

d). While making peace between two quarreling parties, instead of igniting them against each other, i.e., "He said such and such bad thing about you," just say, "He says such and such good thing about you." Tradition: He is not a liar who tries to bring peace between two people by trying to tell the truth.

e). to make unbelievers realize the truth as described in Surah al-Anbiya (21:62-65) When Prophet Abraham (pbuh) broke all the idols except the biggest one, the unbelievers entered the temple. Prophet Abraham (pbuh) hid and put his ax in the hand of the chief idol. They asked, "Who broke our gods?" Prophet Abraham (pbuh) said, "Ask the chief idol, he has the ax." They said, "Don't you know he can't speak or do anything?" Prophet Abraham (pbuh) said, "That's what I have been telling you, so worship Allah (SWT), rather than these stones that cannot harm or profit you."

Lies often roll off the human tongue just as fast as the moths are attracted to an open flame. The consequences of both are sometimes equally flammable. Being truthful is an endearing quality that we all would be blessed to attain in our lifetime and is a commodity that is becoming more and more scarce in this present world as the hands of time relentlessly spin round and round.

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Islamic Moral Stories is designed by Akramulla Syed Last Updated: Thursday, May 12, 2011