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What Allah says about honesty and truth!


When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour (the Day of Judgment).  These are the words of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). They paint a picture of the time leading up to the Day of Judgement, when righteous people will be sorrowful due to the lack of honesty around them. In the 21st century, we live in a world where honesty is valued and yet shunned at the same time. We expect people to be honest in their dealings with us yet we watch and applaud television shows and movies that promote and encourage lying and deceitfulness.


Without thinking, we teach our children that dishonesty is acceptable. When we expect our children to tell the caller on the telephone we are not home, this is a lesson in deceit. When we refuse invitations and pretend we are busy, this is lying. We admonish our children for lying, yet the reality is we have been their teachers. Whether we tell lies, or whether we allow our children to live in a world surrounded by deceit, the lesson is learned and the honesty begins to disappear from the hearts of the next generation.


Honesty incorporates the concepts of truthfulness and reliability and it resides in all human thought, words, actions and relationships. It is more than just accuracy; it is more than just truthfulness, it denotes integrity or moral soundness. Islam commands truthfulness and forbids lying.  Allah commands that a Muslim be honest.

Allah says: “O you who believe! Fear Allah, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” (Quran 9:119)


Ibn Katheer, the renowned Quran scholar, explained the meaning of this verse. He said, “Being truthful and adhering to truthfulness, means you will be among the people of the truth and be saved from calamity and that it will make a way out for you from your problems”. A true believer, one who is truly submitted to Allah, has many characteristics by which he can be identified. The most obvious of these noble characteristics are honesty of character and truthfulness of speech. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was a perfect example of honesty. Even before his Prophethood, he had earned the titles of Al Amin (the trustworthy one) and As Sadiq (the truthful).


Al Amin, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once gathered all the people of Mecca and asked them, “O people of Mecca! If I say that an army is advancing on you from behind the mountains, will you believe me?” All said in one voice, “Yes, because we have never heard you telling a lie.” All the people, without exception, swore to his truthfulness and honesty because he had lived an unblemished and extremely pious life among them for forty years.


Abu Sufyan described his honesty. When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sent a letter to the Emperor of Byzantium inviting him to Islam, the Emperor, Heraclius sent for the Meccan trader, Abu Sufyan. Even though he was, at that time, a dire enemy of Islam, he spoke the truth about Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) when he said, “He neither tells lies nor betrays others, he bids people to worship Allah Alone and orders us to observe prayer, honesty and abstinence”.

Allah says: “Allah commands you to deliver trusts to those worthy of them; and when you judge between people, to judge with justice. Excellent is the warning Allah gives you. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” [4 An-Nisaa:58]


Here the Muslims are forewarned against the evils which had afflicted the Israelites. One of the fundamental mistakes committed by the Israelites was that in the time of their degeneration they had handed over positions of trust (i.e. religious and political leadership) to incompetent, mean, immoral, dishonest and corrupt people. The result was that corruption spread throughout the nation.


The Muslims are directed to take heed of this, and to entrust positions of responsibility only to those who are capable of shouldering the burdens of such positions. The other major weakness of the Israelites was that they completely lost their sense of justice. In their pursuit of either personal or national interests, honesty and good faith were often sacrificed. The Muslims, in the time of the Prophet (PBUH), were themselves subjected to gross injustice at their hands. On the one side were the Prophet (PBUH) and his followers, to whose purity of life and conduct, the Jews were witnesses.


On the other side were those who worshipped idols, buried their daughters alive, married their step-mothers and circumambulated the Ka'bah naked. Despite this, these so-called People of the Book felt no shame in declaring that the latter were closer to righteousness than the Muslims. After informing the Muslims of the injustice of the Jews, Allah now warns them against committing similar injustices. They should rather declare what is right in the face of friend and foe alike, and judge between people with fairness and justice.


Allah says: “Believers! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those from among you who are invested with authority. Then if you dispute among yourselves about anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger if you indeed believe in Allah and the Last Day; that is better and more commendable in the end.” [4 An-Nisaa:59]


This verse is the cornerstone of the entire religious, social and political structure of Islam, and the very first clause of the constitution of an Islamic state. It lays down the following principles as permanent guidelines:

  • (1) In the Islamic order of life, Allah alone is the focus of loyalty and obedience. A Muslim is the servant of Allah before anything else, and obedience and loyalty to Allah establishes the center and the point around which, both the individual and collective life of a Muslim revolves. Other claims to loyalty and obedience are acceptable only insofar as they remain secondary and subservient, and do not compete with those owed to Allah. All loyalties which may tend to challenge the primacy of man's loyalty to Allah must be rejected. This has been expressed by the Prophet (PBUH) in the following words: “There may be no obedience to any creature in disobedience to the Creator.” (Muslim)
  • (2) Another basic principle of the Islamic order of life is obedience to the Prophet (PBUH). No Prophet, of course, is entitled to obedience in his own right. Obedience to Prophets, however, is the only practical way of obeying Allah, since they are the only authentic means by which He communicates His instructions and laws to men. Hence, we can obey Allah only if we obey a Prophet. Independent obedience to Allah is not acceptable, and to turn one's back on the Prophets amounts to rebellion against Allah. The following tradition from the Prophet (PBUH) explains this: “Whoever obeyed me, indeed obeyed Allah; and whoever disobeyed me, indeed disobeyed Allah.” (Bukhari, Muslim) We shall see this explained in more detail a little further on in the Qur'an.
  • (3) In the Islamic order of life Muslims are further required to obey fellow Muslims in authority. This obedience follows, and is subordinate to, obedience to Allah and the Prophet (PBUH). Those invested with authority include all those entrusted with directing Muslims in matters of common concern. Hence, persons invested with authority include the intellectual and political leaders of the community, as well as administrative officials, judges of the courts, tribal chiefs and regional representatives. In all these capacities, those 'invested with authority' are entitled to obedience, and it is improper for Muslims to cause dislocation in their collective life by engaging in strife and conflict with them.

This obedience is contingent, however, on two conditions:

  • First, that these men should be believers; and
  • Second, that they should themselves be obedient to Allah and the Prophet (PBUH).


These two conditions are not only clearly mentioned in this verse they have also been explained at length by the Prophet (PBUH) and can be found in the Hadith. Let us consider, for example, the following traditions:

A Muslim is obliged to heed and to obey an order whether he likes it or not, as long as he is not ordered to carry out an act of disobedience to Allah. When ordered to carry out an act of disobedience-to Allah he need neither heed nor obey. There is no obedience in sin. Obedience is only in what is good (ma'ruf). (For these traditions see Bukhari, Muslim)

There will be rulers over you, some of whose personal behavior you will consider good and others disgusting. Who even disapproves of their disgusting acts will be acquitted of all blame, and whoever resents them he too will remain secure (from all blame). Not so the one who approves, and follows them in their disgusting acts. The Companions asked: 'Should we not fight against them?' The Prophet (PBUH) said: “No, not as long as they continue to pray.” (See Bukhari)

This means that their abandonment of Prayer will be a clear sign of their having forsaken obedience to Allah and the Prophet (PBUH). Thereafter it becomes proper to fight against them. In another tradition the Prophet (PBUH) says:
Your worst leaders are those whom you hate and who hate you. Whom you curse and who curse you. We asked: “O Messenger of Allah! Should we not rise against them?” The Prophet (PBUH said: “No, not as long as they establish Prayer among you. Not as long as they establish Prayer among you.” (See Muslim)

In this tradition the position is further clarified. The earlier tradition could have created the impression that it was not permissible to revolt against rulers as long as they observed their Prayers privately. But the latter tradition makes it clear that what is really meant by 'praying' is the establishment of the system of congregational Prayers in the collective life of Muslims. This means that it is by no means sufficient, that the rulers merely continue observing their Prayers. It is also necessary that the system run by them should at least be concerned with the establishment of Prayer. This concern with Prayer is a definite indication that a government is essentially an Islamic one.


However, if no concern for establishing Prayer is noticed, it shows that the government has drifted far away from Islam making it permissible to overthrow it. The same principle is also explained by the Prophet (PBUH) in another tradition, in which the narrator says: “The Prophet (PBUH) also made us pledge not to rise against our rulers unless we see them involved in open disbelief, so that we have definite evidence against them to lay before Allah.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

(4) In an Islamic order the laws of Allah and the way of the Prophet (PBUH) constitute the basic law and paramount authority in all matters. Whenever there is any dispute among Muslims, or between the rulers and the ruled, the matter should be referred to the Qur'an and the Sunnah, and all concerned should accept with sincerity whatever judgement results. In fact, willingness to take the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger as the common point of reference, and to treat the judgement of the Qur'an and the Sunnah as the last word on all matters, is a central characteristic which distinguishes an Islamic system from un-Islamic ones.


Some people question the principle that we should refer everything to the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). They wonder how we can possibly do so when there are numerous practical questions involved, for example, rules and regulations relating to municipal administration, the management of railways and postal services, and so on, which are not treated at all in these sources. This doubt arises, however, from a misapprehension about Islam.


The basic difference between a Muslim and a non-Muslim is that whereas the latter feels free to do as he wishes, the basic characteristic of a Muslim is that he always looks to Allah and to His Prophet for guidance, and where such guidance is available, a Muslim is bound by it. On the other hand, it is also quite important to remember that when no specific guidance is available, a Muslim feels free to exercise his discretion because the silence of the Law indicates that Allah Himself has deliberately granted man the freedom to make his own decision.


Since the Qur'an is not merely a legal code, but also seeks to instruct, educate, warn and encourage, the earlier sentence which points out a legal principle is followed by another, which explains its underlying purpose and wisdom. Two things are laid down.

  • First, that faithful adherence to the above four principles is a necessary requirement of faith. Anyone who claims to be a Muslim and yet disregards the principles of Islam involves himself in gross self-contradiction.
  • Second, the well-being of Muslims lies in basing their lives on those principles. This alone can keep them on the straight path in this life, and will lead to their salvation in the Next. It is significant that this admonition follows immediately after the section which embodies comments about the moral and religious condition of the Jews.


Thus the Muslims were subtly directed to draw a lesson from the depths to which the Jews had sunk, as a result of their deviation from the fundamental principles of true faith just mentioned. Any community that turns its back upon the Book of Allah and the guidance of His Prophets, that willingly follows rulers and leaders who are heedless of Allah and His Prophets, and that obeys its religious and political authorities blindly without seeking authority for their actions either in the Book of Allah or in the practice of the Prophets, will inevitably fall into the same evil and corruption as the Israelites.


Allah says: “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!” [4 An-Nisaa:69]


In this verse the Arabic word ‘siddiq’ denotes someone who is totally 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 enemies, let alone friends, expect of him pure fairness and justice.

The Arabic term shahid (pl. shuhada') means 'witness'. It signifies one who attests to the truth of his faith with his whole life. He who lays down his life fighting for Allah is called a shahid, because by this sacrifice he confirms that his confession of faith was backed by a deep, genuine conviction of its truth, and that he valued it above his own life. The term shahid is also applied to those outstandingly honest people who are so trustworthy that their testimony, on any matter, is accepted without hesitation.


The Arabic term in this verse saalih denotes one whose belief and thinking, motives and intentions, words and deeds, are based on righteousness. In short, he is a person whose life as a whole is oriented to righteousness. He who enjoys, in this world, the company of the kind of people mentioned in this verse, and whom Allah judges worthy of the same company in the Hereafter is fortunate.


The fact is that unless a man's natural sensitivity has wasted away, the companionship of corrupt and wicked people is a painful punishment even in this transient world. Let alone that one should be subjected to the perpetual companionship of such people in the abiding life of the Hereafter. Good people have always longed for the company of like people, both in this world and the next.

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