by Shaykh Muhammad b. Salih al-Uthaymin
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Concerning the statement, adhere to the truth, it means hold firmly to the truth. The meaning of truth has already been mentioned previously. It has also been explained under the ḥadīth of Ka’b the excellence of speaking the truth and its good outcome. Those who are truthful will have a good outcome, while those who speak lies will have their deeds go in vain. It has been related that someone once said, “Telling lies is safe,” so his friend said to him, “but the truth is safer,” which is correct.
Information can be given through the tongue, which is termed as speech, or the limbs, which is termed as actions. [The question arises:] how can a lie take place through actions? This occurs when a person’s actions are contrary to that which is in his mind. For example, a hypocrite is a liar [through his actions] because he outwardly shows himself to be a believer to the people—he prays, fast, gives charity while being stingy, and may go for hajj—so that they may judge him to be righteous. However, his physical actions do not match that which is inside of him, so he is considered to be a liar.
The Prophet after enjoining truthfulness, clarifies its outcome by saying, “Truthfulness leads to piety (birr), and piety leads to Paradise.” Birr refers to excess of good deeds, and comes from Allah’s name al-Barru, i.e. the One who performs plenty of good and benevolence. Birr is one of the results of truthfulness. As for the Prophet’s statement, and piety leads to Paradise, means, the righteous ones shall be led by their righteousness to Paradise, which is the highest reward. People are enjoined to ask Allah for Paradise, and to seek refuge in Him from the Hellfire. Allah says, “And whoever is removed from the Fire and admitted to paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception.” (Q, 3:185)
The Prophet said, “A person continues speaking the truth until he is labeled as truthful by Allah.” In another narration it states, “A man will not stop saying the truth and searching for the truth until he is written with Allah as truthful.” [Muslim] A siddīq (truthful) is ranked as second among the entire creation whom Allah has bestowed His favor on. Allah says, “And those who obey Allaah and the Messenger, then they will be in company of those whom Allaah has bestowed His Grace, among the Prophets, the truthful, the martyrs, and the righteous” (Q, 4:69)
So the person who always seaches for the truth shall be written with Allah as a Siddeeq and it is known that being a Siddeeq is of great rank, it cannot be attained except by extra ordinary (righteous) people; it could be among the men and it could be among the women. Allah says, “The Messiah, son of Maryam, was no more than a messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother was truthful.” (Q, 5:75)
The most truthful of all without any exception is Abū Bakr ‘Abdullah b. ‘Uthmān b. Abī Quhāfah, who submitted himself completely to the Prophet when the latter invited him to Islam without the least bit of hesitation. He also believed in the truthfulness of the Prophet at a time when he was belied by his people. Likewise, he believed the Prophet when he said that he travelled to Masjid al-Aqsa and up to the seventh heaven during the night, while the Quraysh belied him. They said, “Muhammad, how could you travel from Makkah to the sacred house, travel up to the heavens and then return [to Makkah] in one night; this is impossible!” They went to Abū Bakr and said, “Have you heard what your friend is saying?” He asked, “What?” They said, “He says such-and-such.” Abū Bakr replied, “If he says that then he has spoken the truth.” Since that day he was nicknamed a;-Siddīq (the Truthful).
As for telling lies, the Prophet said, “Be warned of telling lies,” that is, beware of telling lies, which is in opposition to reality whether in speech or actions. If a person asks what day is today and you [intentionally] reply that it is Thursday or Tuesday, but that is a lie because today is Wednesday. In the same manner, a hypocrite is a liar because his outward appearance portrays him to be a Muslim whereas [in reality he] is a disbeliever, so he is a liar.
The Prophet said, “Falsehood leads to wickedness(fujūr).” Fujūr refers to disobedience to Allah. A person continues to sin until he completely goes away from the obedience of Allah to His disobedience. The greatest act of fujūr is disbelief, because the disbelievers are disobedient to Allah, as Allah says, “Such will be the disbelievers, in His Oneness, and in His Messenger Muhammad, the wicked.” (Q, 80:42). He also says, “Nay! Truly, the record of wicked is in the Sijjin. What will make you know what the Sijjin is? A register inscribed. Woe that Day, to those who deny. Those who deny the Day of Recompense” (Q, 83:7-11).
Concerning those who commit wickedness, Allah says, “And verily, the wicked will be in the blazing Fire” (Q, 83:14). Therefore, falsehood leads to vice and vice leads to Fire. We seek refuge with Allah from it.
The Prophet said, “A person continues to tell lies,’ and in another version, “A person will continue to tell lies and search for lies until he is labeled as a liar by Allah.” (Muslim) Telling lies is one of the prohibited acts and some scholars have said that it is a grave sin because of the threat of the Prophet of a person who tells lies to be written as a liar by Allah.
One of the lies that is perpetrated by some people nowadays is the fabrication of stories, knowing them to be lies, which they do to amuse people. There is a warning from the Messenger of Allah in telling lies [for amusement] in the following ḥadīth, “Woe to the person who lies in order to amuse the people; woe to him, woe to him.” (Abu Dawud) This is a warning against what many people consider to be trivial thing. All lies are prohibited, as they lead to vice, without exception except those reported in a ḥadīth, and they are the following: during a battle, when making reconciliation between people, and a spouse lying to the other in order to please them. However, Some scholars are of the opinion that the intended meaning of lying in this ḥadīth is tawriyah (equivocation) and not a direct lie. They say that tawriyah can sometimes be referred to as a lie, as in the ḥadīth of Abū Hurayrah in which the Prophet said, “Ibrahīm never told a lie except on three occasions, and two were done in the cause of Allah. [The first is] his saying, ‘Verily, I am sick,’ (Q, 37:89) and [second] his saying, ‘No, this one, the biggest of them [the idols] did it.’ (Q, 21:63) [The third] instance was in the case of Sarah.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
He did not tell a lie, but used tawriyah, therefore he was truthful. Whatever the case may be, according to the opinion of many scholars, telling a lie is not permissible except in these three scenarios. One of the scholars said, “Lying is absolutely impermissible whether it is done jokingly or seriously, and whether it involves the usurping of another’s rights or not.”
Another grave lie is to swear a false oath in order to usurp the wealth of people unjustly. For example, if the owner of an usurped property tries to establish his right against the usurper and the latter swears by Allah saying, “By Allah, you have nothing to take from me,” or the former lays claims to something that does not belong to him, saying, “You have such-and-such thing of mine in your custody.” However, he is a liar, and if he swears to this false claim, then it is referred to as perjury and places its doer in sins and then in the Hellfire. May Allah save us from this. It is authentically reported from the Prophet that he said, “Whoever falsely swears in order to obtain the wealth of his Muslim brother will meet Allah while He is angry with him.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
Therefore telling lies is forbidden for a person in all circumstance except in three, which have been previously mentioned along with the differences associated with them.