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Mu’atta’ Imam Malik (9)
Hadith & Sunnah
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)

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.  

Explanation: 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 permitted.

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 satisfied.

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 disobeyed.”  

Explanation: 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 religion.

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 mentions بَرًّۢا بِوَالِدَیۡہِ (19: 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.  

Explanation: 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.  

Explanation: 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.

 Explanation: 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 Face 

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.  

Explanation: 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 be accepted.

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.  

Explanation: A 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 Ordinary
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.


Explanation: 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.  

Explanation: 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)






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