Narratives about Falsehood and Truth
1. It is narrated from Safwan ibn Sulaym
that a man asked the Prophet (sws) if he could tell a lie to
his wife. The Prophet (sws) answered in the negative and said
that there was no good in lies. The man asked if he could make
a promise or reassure her of something and would this be
acceptable. The Prophet (sws) answered that there would be no
harm in this.
Much effort is needed in order to maintain a happy married
life. Every wise man adopts a policy of compromise. Sometimes
one has to make excuses, divert attention or even exaggerate.
When the man asked if he could tell a lie to his wife, the
Prophet (sws) prohibited him from doing so, but when he asked
if he could promise her something or console her, he was
It seems that the
Prophet (sws) took the meaning of the first question to be
about the past and the second related to the future. There
should not be any lies told related to any incident of the
past, but, since the future is hidden, one can promise
something based on one’s expectations. In this case, there are
equal chances of the promise being fulfilled or not. Also, a
promise for the future contains the implicit condition that
the promise will be fulfilled if circumstances permit, even if
such a condition has not been stated in words.
This should not mean
that keeping the wife happy by making empty promises is
acceptable. However, one may adopt ways that are within reason
and with which a man can keep his marital life happy and
The word kizb used in
the Arabic narrative has very wide connotations which include
talking in a manner with dual meanings or exaggerating. Men
with families have to assume such ways at times in order to
maintain a happy home.
2. ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud (rta) used to say
that one should speak the truth because truth takes one on the
path to loyalty towards God, and loyalty towards God guides
one to Heaven. One should stay away from falsehood because
falsehood takes one towards disobedience to God and
disobedience of God guides one towards Hell. There was a
saying: “He spoke the truth and was loyal; he spoke a lie and
This narrative is also included in Bukhari, where it is in the
form of a mawsul one whereas here it is mursal. Whatever the
status of the narrative according to its authenticity of
narration, it occupies a very high status in the philosophy of
Ibn Mas‘ud (rta)’s
advice is that one should always be truthful because this will
lead to good, virtue and loyalty and loyalty will lead to
Heaven. The actual meaning of “bar” is loyalty; virtue is a
weak form of its meaning. The Qur’an
14) for a son who
is obedient and loyal to his parents.
بَرًّ is also an
attribute of God, because He will fulfil all His promises. Ibn
Mas‘ud (rta) advised protection against falsehood. If you do
not lie, Satan will have no power over you. If you make a
commitment to be always truthful, God will guide you. You will
utter those things which Luqman, the Sage, said.
If you deliberate
further on this, you will find that falsehood is always
hypocrisy in disguise and hypocrisy is the opposite of faith.
When nothing remains in the presence of hypocrisy, how can
faith survive? Falsehood is both in word and action. Falsehood
through action is, for example, when you perform your prayers
for the sake of showing off or under duress. The Qur’an says:
اِذَا قَامُوۡۤا اِلَی الصَّلٰوۃِ
قَامُوۡا کُسَالٰی. (142:4).
Offering prayers with laziness and without one’s heart in it
is a practical falsehood. Falsehood in word is when you say
something but you have the opposite in your heart. A hypocrite
has only one way in which he has full confidence. This is to
speak falsehood and to act out a falsehood. He will con you;
break his promises to you, but there will be no weight in his
words. A truthful person can never deceive others in such a
manner. It is not possible for him because he must speak the
truth. The only thing he can do is to exaggerate a little,
such as when Abraham (sws) talked with his nation, saying
things that could have dual meanings, in order to confuse his
people. But this requires extraordinary intelligence. A very
significant example is found in the life of the greatest of
our men, Abu Bakr (rta). Whenever I remember this, I always
admire it. He was accompanying the Prophet (sws) in his
migration to Madinah. The disbelievers of Makkah had their men
spread out all over to arrest the Prophet (sws). A man known
to Abu Bakr (rta) came along and asked him: “Who is there with
you?” Think of how difficult it must have been to answer this
suddenly and how dangerous it could have been had the Prophet
(sws) been recognised. But Abu Bakr (rta) answered very
simply: “He is a man who shows me the way.” How true was this
statement! No one can travel in the desert without being shown
the way. With this answer, anyone would think that it must be
a guide who been hired for this purpose. On the other hand,
who can be a better guide than a prophet? The man who asked
thought that the first was being referred to and the Prophet (sws)
was thus protected from any danger. Such a form of dialogue is
based on truth but it is spoken in a manner that confuses or
puts the mind of the listener on another track.
3. It is in the balaghat of Imam Malik (rta)
that Luqman, the Sage was asked how he had reached the high
status he was at. Luqman answered that it was through
truthfulness of speech; honesty of safekeeping and desisting
from anything that did not concern him.
The three things are absolutes in their own right. Luqman was
not a prophet but a wise man in Arabia. The Qur’an mentions
him with reference to his advice to his son. The above points
are not mentioned there. It seems that his sayings and related
incidents were famous in Arabia and people used to narrate
them. Imam Malik (rta) has taken one of these here.
Luqman attributes the
position of high wisdom which he reached to the result of
three qualities: truthfulness, honesty and being concerned
with one’s own matters. All three are highly noble attributes.
Truthfulness and honesty are basic qualities of all prophets
according to the Qur’an. Similarly, when a person has a goal
in front of him, he has no time to be interested in matters
that do not concern him.
This narrative, too,
does not come under the definition of a Hadith. Observing the
frequency of such balaghat in Imam Malik’s writings, we must
conclude that any good narrative would be given space in
earlier times, whether or not it was related to a prophet or
could be connected to a wise man or to a companion. Because
such sayings become popular with people, Imam Malik must have
taken these into the balaghat. In other words, authenticity
was not important for him. It seems that the extraordinary
importance that was given to authenticity came later.
4. Imam Malik said that the information
reached him that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud (rta) would say that
when a person keeps telling lies, a black spot appears on his
heart, until the latter becomes totally black and he is
written off as a liar with God.
This saying of Ibn Mas‘ud (rta) is true and according to
principles. The narrative about sinning says that when a
person sins, his heart develops a black spot that can be
removed by repentance. But if he ignores it and continues to
sin, his entire heart becomes black. The statement in the
Qur’an about sealing off hearts also shows that the heart
closes upon itself in such a manner that any ray of virtue
fails to pass through it. Because telling lies is the basis of
all sins, the sunnah of God about sinning would also be valid
for lying. Therefore, this statement by Ibn Mas‘ud (rta) is
absolutely correct, although the narrative is from the
balaghat and is also mawquf.
5. Safwan ibn Sulaym stated it was
inquired of the Prophet (sws) whether a believer could be a
coward. The Prophet (sws) answered in the affirmative. He was
asked whether a believer could be miserly. The Prophet (sws)
answered in the affirmative. He was asked if a believer could
be a liar. The Prophet (sws) answered in the negative.
As far as authenticity of narration is concerned, this
narrative is mursal, so it does not possess any significance.
But it is correct in its own right. If faith is of the highest
order, the person will neither be a coward nor a miser. But
even with such weaknesses, the faith of a believer could vary
in its levels. However, the Prophet (sws) denied that a
believer could be a liar. The reason is that lying is the
habit of a hypocrite and a hypocrite is not a believer but the
worst kind of a disbeliever. Because he lacks moral courage,
he claims to be a believer and this is why he will be placed
in the worst layer of Hell. The people of the Muslim ummah are
required to be witness upon the truth, so a believer can never
be one who does not possess this attribute.
Wastage of Wealth and maintaining a Double
1. It is narrated
from Abu Hurayrah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that God
likes three things for you and dislikes three things. He likes
that you worship Him and do not associate anyone with Him;
hang on together to His rope tightly and think well of those
who have been placed to handle your matters by Him. He
dislikes useless bickering and indulging in controversies;
wasting wealth and raising unnecessary questions.
The Rope of God refers to the Qur’an. It is the rope which is
the connection between God and our selves. Holding on tight to
it means that it will be the scale of distinction between
truth and falsehood. Whenever a dispute arises about something
being true or false, this scale will be used to assess the
difference. Whatever does not meet this distinction will not
People put in charge
of matters related to us are rulers. Wishing them well means
that we should give them good advice, not fool them through
sycophancy, not guide them wrongly and not agree with them
merely because our benefit is attached to them. These things
are completely opposite of good advice and good wishes.
Whenever possible, they should be given correct information
and respect and dignity should be maintained at the same time.
Verbal attacks based on the style of politicians and designed
to humiliate them should not be made. The aim should always be
to correct them because the protection of our honour, wealth
and life is their responsibility.
Qil-o qal means
nonsensical, irrelevant speech, useless talk, debates,
arguments and criticising for the sake of criticism. Wealth is
the basis of survival and sustenance and hence should never be
wasted. Asking too many questions does not mean querying, but
asking baseless and irrelevant questions. This has also been
prohibited in the Qur’an. Questions that really arise should
be asked; they should not be fabricated without purpose. Such
an attitude brings an Israeli approach to faith.
2. It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta)
that the Prophet (sws) said that the worst creation is a
double faced person who, when he comes to one shows one face
and when he goes to another, shows another face.
person should be the same inside out. It should not be that “I
drink; I am pious and offer prayers.” A person should be
frank enough that every intelligent person be able to assess
his views about a matter, the approach he is likely to adopt
and his response to anything said to him.
Narratives about Punishment descending upon
People as Consequence of Sins of Specific Individuals
1. Umm Salamah (rta), the Prophet’s wife
asked him if they would be killed even if there were good
people amongst them. The Prophet (sws) answered in the
affirmative, saying that this would be if evil spread too far.
This narrative is from the balaghat of Imam Malik. Ibn ‘Abd
al-Barr says that this Hadith from Umm Salamah (rta) has come
only from one source and that too is not strong. But, in my
view, it is based on the Qur’an. It appears that Imam Malik (rta)
has given this importance. Increase of evil means that
although good people may be present but they will be in a
minority and evil doers will be in power. When this happens,
the nation becomes eligible for punishment. During the times
of prophets and messengers, the practice was that the pious
would be separated from the rest, be attached to the prophets
and would thus be saved. This is no longer so. Thus, if evil
doers increase in numbers and a disaster occurs, the pious
will also suffer but if they continue to resist the
wrongdoers, they will find their reward with God. This means
that we should continue to resist evil and try to stop it
through our speech and action. It is said that the weakest
form of faith is to protect yourself from the evil of others.
Believing evil actions to be bad in the heart means that we
will not attempt to gain from them. But if we keep close to
wrong doers, seek their company; accept gifts from them, that
would not be even the weakest form of faith. But, if we
protect our selves from this even though we do not deny or
protest their wrongdoings, it is hoped that God will protect
us. That is, we will not be caught on the Day of Judgement.
However, in today’s world, if a calamity occurs, it will not
happen that some people are saved and others perish.
2. It is narrated from Isma‘il ibn Abi
Hakim (rta) that he heard ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (rta) say
that it used to be said that God will not punish all people as
a result of the sins of some, but if evil is practiced widely,
all will be prone to punishment.
This narrative states implicitly that if evil is being
practiced openly and no voice is being raised to deny it,
those who possess even the lowest level of faith may be saved
from punishment on the Day of Judgement, but they will not
escape punishment in this world. This is the same sunnah of
God which has been stated in the Qur’an.
(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)