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Have Fear of Allah and Be With the Truthful

Have Fear of Allah and Be With the Truthful

Ask the average person to define truthfulness and the answer will most likely be restricted to something about truthful speech. Islam, however, teaches that truthfulness is far more than having an honest tongue. In Islam, truthfulness is the conformity of the outer with the inner, the action with the intention, the speech with the belief, and the practice with the preaching. As such, truthfulness is the very cornerstone of the upright Muslim’s character and the springboard for his virtuous deeds.

The great sage and scholar of Islam, Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, said:

“Truthfulness is the greatest of stations, from it sprout all the various stations of those traversing the path to Allah; and from it sprouts the upright path which if not trodden, perdition is that person’s fate. Through it is the hypocrite distinguished from the believer and the inhabitant of Paradise from the denizen of Hell. It is the sword of Allah in His earth: it is not placed on anything except that it cuts it; it does not face falsehood expect that it hunts it and vanquishes it; whoever fights with it will not be defeated; and whoever speaks it, his word will be made supreme over his opponent. It is the very essence of deeds and the well spring of spiritual states, it allows the person to embark boldly into dangerous situations, and it is the door through which one enters the presence of the One possessing Majesty. It is the foundation of the building of Islam, the central pillar of the edifice of certainty and the next level in ranking after the level of Prophethood.” [See Madarij as-Salikin]

By practicing truthfulness, a person betters himself, his life is made upright, and due to it, he is elevated to praiseworthy heights and raised in ranks in the sight of Allah, as well as the people. As the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, related:

“I order you to be truthful, for indeed truthfulness leads to righteousness, and indeed righteousness leads to Paradise. A man continues to be truthful and strives for truthfulness until he is written as a truthful person with Allah. And beware of falsehood, for indeed falsehood leads to sinning, and indeed sinning leads to the Fire. A man continues to tell lies and strives upon falsehood until he is written as a liar with Allah.” [Sahih Muslim]

So, truthfulness is something that is to be cultivated till it becomes implanted in a person’s soul and disposition and is therefore reflected throughout the person’s character. Ali bin Abi Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, mentioned the positive reciprocal effect of behaving truthfully with people in this worldly life. He said:

“Whoever does three things with regards to people, they will necessitate three things from him: whenever he speaks to them he is truthful; whenever they entrust him with something he does not betray them; and whenever he promises them something he fulfils it. If he does this, their hearts will love him; their tongues will praise him; and they will come to his aid.” [See Adab ash-Shari’a of Ibn Muflih]

As for the Next Life, through Allah’s Grace and Mercy, the obedient ones – practitioners of truthfulness – will reach a station in Paradise alongside those most fortunate of souls mentioned in the revelation. Allah said:

“And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, such will be in the company of those whom Allah has blessed: the Prophets, the truthful ones, the martyrs, and the righteous. And how excellent a company are such people!” [Quran, 4:69]

In fact, truthfulness is an essential attribute of every single Prophet who graced the earth. We are told in the Quran:

“And mention in the Book of Ibrahim (Abraham): surely he was a most truthful Prophet.” [Quran, 19:41]

“And mention in the Book of Isma’il (Ishmael): surely, he was a man true to his word, and he was a Messenger, a Prophet.” [Quran, 19:54]

“And mention in the Book of Idris (Enoch): surely he was a most truthful Prophet.” [Quran, 19:56]

We also read in the Quran how a man incarcerated alongside the Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) addressed him with the words:

“Yusuf (Joseph)! O most truthful one!…” [Quran, 12:46]

And that Maryam (Mary), the mother of Isa (Jesus), was also declared truthful in the Words of Allah:

“The Messiah (Isa/Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), was no more than a Messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother (Maryam) was a truthful one, a Believer….”[Quran, 5:75]

And the Companions of Allah’s Messenger, the “believers” mentioned time and time again in the Quran, also reached the lofty ranks of the truthful ones:

“The believers are but those people who believed in Allah and His Messenger without ever feeling doubt thereafter, and strove with their souls and possessions in the way of Allah; those are the ones who are the truthful.” [Quran, 49:15]

Hence, to tread the path of truthfulness is to tread the path of the most righteous of Allah’s creation. And as for ways and means to engender this most noble of virtues into our daily lives, then we have been left an ocean of teachings from Allah’s Final Messenger to humanity, the Prophet Muhammad, detailing and describing precisely what the virtue, nay!, the injunction of truthfulness requires. One from among these vast and numerous sayings of Allah’s Messenger is his plea:

“Guarantee for me six things and I will guarantee Paradise for you: tell the truth when you speak, fulfill your promises, be faithful when you are trusted, safeguard your private parts, lower your gaze, and withhold your hands (from harming others).” [Reported by Ubaadah in As-Sahihah]

And Allah confirmed the truthfulness of these words of His Beloved Messenger with His Own True Word. He said:

“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for truthful men and women, for patient men and women, for humble men and women, for charitable men and women, for fasting men and women, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise: for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and a great reward.” [Quran, 33:35]

Respected Brothers and Sisters! Just as truthfulness is the very cornerstone of the upright person’s character and the springboard for his virtuousness, falsehood, its opposite, is the foundation of a person’s depravity and the launch pad for his wickedness. Just as the truthfulness of a person starts from within – that is, it is a reflection of a state of true faith – a person’s dishonesty, lying and deceit is also a reflection of the inner state. This is why Allah mentions truthfulness as being the opposite of hypocrisy:

“That Allah may reward the truthful for their truthfulness, and punish the hypocrites if He wills, or turn mercifully towards them…” [Quran, 33:24]

And why He mentions sincerity as a mark of truthfulness:

“So that Allah might recompense the truthful for their truthfulness….”

Little wonder then that the most righteous and truthful of people, the Prophets of Allah and their true followers, were not belied, denounced, opposed, oppressed and rejected except by those who were given to dishonesty, deceit and hypocrisy.

“It is only those who believe not in the Signs of Allah, who fabricate falsehood, and it is they who are the liars.” [Quran, 16:105]

That is with regard to falsehood in faith. As for falsehood in deed, Allah states in the Quran:

“…that He may try you, which of you is the best in deeds.” [Quran, 67:2]

A great scholar from the early period of Islam, Fudail Ibn Iyad, commented on this verse, explaining:

“‘which of you is the best in deeds’ means ‘the most sincere and correct.’ If the deed is sincere and not correct, it will not be accepted, and if it is correct and not sincere, it will not be accepted. It will not be accepted until it is both sincere and correct!”

One everyday example of where sincerity and correction of action are often subverted by falsehood is in the buying and selling of goods. Hence we find the Prophet saying:

“If they (two parties meeting to trade) are truthful and clarify (any and all deficiency in their goods), their transaction will be blessed. But if they lie and conceal (any deficiency in their goods), the blessings of their transaction will be eradicated.” [Reported by Hakim bin Hizam, in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]

And what of falsehood in speech? Falsehood of the tongue, or what is more commonly referred to as lying, is a characteristic roundly rejected by the entire world – even if its inhabitants may fall into it from time to time. After all, if Allah would punish his last and greatest Prophet in case he were to lie…

“If he (Prophet Muhammad) had invented false sayings concerning Us, We would surely have grasped him firmly, and then cut off the artery of his heart, and none of you could have withheld Us from doing this.” [Quran, 69:44-7]

Then how could lying be acceptable from anyone else besides His Prophet?! And he, the Prophet Muhammad, the Truthful One, said:

“A slave’s faith will not be upright until his heart is upright, and his heart will not be upright until his tongue is upright, and a man whose neighbour is not safe from his harm will not enter Paradise.”[Reported by Anas bin Malik, in As-Sahihah]

Again, the Prophet said:

“A person lies and lies, until he is written with Allah as a habitual liar.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]

Thus, the habitual liar is despised, truly and thoroughly despised, by all – even his own kind – as no-one can trust a liar, not even other liars. And just as clarity in speech is a sign of truthfulness, so then ambiguity, innuendo, sarcasm and every other form of deception and trickery of the tongue is denounced in Islam. Even lying in jest has been condemned by the Prophet when he said:

“I guarantee a house in the middle of Paradise for the one who leaves off lying even if it be in jest.”[Reported by Abu Umamah, in At-Tirmidhi]

…and his saying:

“Woe to the person who lies to make people laugh (or to make people happy! Woe to him, woe to him!” [Abu Dawud]

The Prophet’s closest friend and immediate temporal successor, Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (i.e. the truthful – so named by the Prophet due to the truthfulness of his faith), further said:

“Beware of lying, for lying opposes (true) faith.” [Bayhaqi in Shu’ab al-Iman]

And the daughter of Abu Bakr, Aisha, who was the beloved wife of the Prophet, mentioned that:

“There was no trait more abhorrent to the Messenger of Allah, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him, than lying.” [Ahmad in Musnad]

Suffice as a deterrence from lying is its being listed as a trait of that most wretched of conditions: hypocrisy. The Prophet Muhammad said:

“The signs of the hypocrite are three: when he speaks he lies; when he makes an oath he breaks it; and when he is entrusted with something he betrays that trust.” [Reported by Abu Hurairah, in Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Not only do we learn about the abhorrence of directly lying itself, but Islam also mercifully educates us as to the dangers of all that which indirectly leads to lying and insincerity.

Again from Aisha we learn that the Prophet would invoke his Lord, praying:

“O Allah! I seek refuge with you from all sins, and from being in debt.” When asked: “O Messenger of Allah! You frequently seek refuge with Allah from being in debt!” The Prophet of Allah replied: “If a person is in debt, he tells lies when he speaks, and breaks his promises when he promises.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari]

In the same vain, the Prophet explicitly ordered his followers to:

“Leave that which causes you doubt for that which does not cause you doubt. For in truthfulness lies tranquility, and in lying lies doubt.” [At-Tirmidhi]

Striving for truthfulness then, in spirit, word and deed, is a matter which requires the utmost steadfastness from the believer, as well as the utmost vigilance against the dangers of falsehood, insincerity, deceit and hypocrisy:

“That Allah will reward the People of Truth for their truth, and punish the hypocrites if that be His Will, or turn to them in Mercy; for Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Quran, 33:24]

Everything that Allah has written for mankind from good and bad will definitely reach him and there is no escape from it:

“No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah. In order that you may not be sad over matters that you fail to get, nor rejoice because of that which has been given to you. And Allah likes not prideful boasters.” [Al-Hadid, 22-23]

“And if Allah touches you with hurt (calamity), there is none who can remove it but He; and if He intends any good for you, there is none who can repel His Favour.” [Yunus, 108]

This verse means: that Allah has decreed the good and the bad. So if harm befalls you, then no one can lift it except Him [Allah]. So if He wants good for you [from blessings], even if all the people on earth come together they will not be able to prevent that good from you.

And the Hadith of Ibn Abbas is in accordance with this verse:

“And know, that if all the Nation come together to benefit you with a thing, they will not be able to benefit you except with what Allah has written for you. And if they come together to harm you with a thing, they will not be able to harm you except with what Allah has written for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” [At-Tirmidhi]

The Qur‘an teaches that whenever the love, longing, loyalty and submission which are due to Allah, are focused upon other than Him, or others along with Him, then this is shirk – idolatry; setting-up partners with Allah. For as Islam sees things, whoever loves something, desires it, values it, and centres their hopes, fears, love and loyalty around it; submitting to it independently of Allah, then this, for them, becomes a deity, a god, an object of sacrilegious worship. There are some who make a god of wealth. Some make politicians to be their gods. Others make gods of celebrities. Still others make gods of their egos and desires. The Qur’an asks:

“Have you seen him who takes his desires for his god?” [Qur’an, 25:43]

Of course we have seen them!

It is in this same vein that Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali said:

“Whoever loves something and obeys it, loving and hating for its sake, then that is his god. Whoever loves or hates only for the sake of Allah, or forms allegiances and enmity only for Him, then Allah is his god in truth. But whoever’s loving or loathing revolves around his whims, forming enmity or allegiance on its basis, then these desires are his god that he worships.” [See Jami’ al-Ulum wal Hikam]

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our Noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.


The above passages are excerpts from the Jumu’ah Khutbah by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, from Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria