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Islam and Honesty

Publishing Date : 11 September, 2018


What is honesty? The first thing that may spring to our mind is that honesty is restricted to what we say. This is not the case. Honesty must reveal and demonstrate itself in our actions as well as in our innermost state of being. 

Included in the package is: morality, trustworthiness, fairness, righteousness, honour, reliability and decency. This beautiful saying encapsulates what honesty is: ‘For honesty to be complete, it must exist in three things. It must exist in the heart as one’s faith, it must exist in the intentions behind one’s deeds, and it must be present in the words that one speaks.’

We have to realize that the Almighty watches over us and knows all our inner and outer actions and secrets of the heart. ‘..….for He knows well the secrets of all hearts…. And He knows all that you do……. for He is with His servants well acquainted and ever watchful. (Quran 42: 24- 28) And: ‘If he be a liar on him is the sin of his lie….then  will fall on you something of a calamity……Allah does not guide one who transgresses and lies’ (Quran 40: 28)

“When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour (the Day of Judgment)”.  These are the words of Prophet Muhammed (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. 
Honesty is one of the greatest of all moral virtues and every religion and faith promotes it. Therefore in Islam a Muslim is required to be honest, internally and externally, privately and publicly, whether observed by other people or not, whether he acts or speaks.

Take fasting as an example, when a Muslim fasts, he should abstain from any kind of food or drink from dawn until sunset. This means that a fasting Muslim should not eat or drink for several continuous hours, but let’s face it there are some errant ones who claim to be observing their fast but eat or drink when no one is around. 

This honesty, an essential ingredient of the human character, includes being truthful towards God by worshipping Him sincerely; being truthful to oneself, by adhering to God’s laws; and being truthful with others by speaking the truth and being honest in all dealings, such as buying, selling, social interaction, marriage, etc.  There should be no deceiving, cheating, falsifying or withholding of information, thus a person should be the same on the inside as he/she is on the outside.

This overall honesty makes the Muslim confident of himself, of his behaviour, and of his words and deeds. Honesty makes the person feel that he trusts others and is trusted by others. We all love the truth because it is one of the universal practices and principles which all civilized communities and peoples agree with. It is one of the greatest of moral virtues because from it comes forth many of the best of human qualities like integrity, sincerity, uprightness and morality.

Without it individuals and the society at large will live in suspicion of each other and can lead to turmoil in each of our lives. In the world that we live in today there is an erosion of some of the keys values of society, leading the pack is honesty – or let me say it has disintegrated into dishonesty. In every area of our daily lives today we come face to face with this ‘social disease’.

‘The virtuous are those who honour their trusts and promises and those who stand firm in their testimonies’ …..(Quran 70: 32-33) And: ‘O you who believe; stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin and whether it be against the rich or the poor….(Quran 4: 135).  ‘And cover not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth when you know what it is’. (Quran 2:42)

In the absence of honesty, many social diseases appear. Likewise when honesty is in abundance a great deal of human problems will disappear including lying, cheating, bluffing, stealing, forgery, and many other social diseases. If a person is dishonest, he is ready to tell lies, to bribe, to be bribed, to distort the truth, to cheat, to forge, to deceive others, and to break his promises.

A dishonest person is basically the ‘sum’ of diseases. He is ready to misbehave at any time. Each time he misbehaves, he causes a great disturbance or harm to one person or to a group of persons or to the whole nation, in some cases. In other words, honesty is something you give and something you take: others enjoy your honesty and you enjoy their honesty. ‘O you who believe be conscious of Allah and be with the truthful (Quran 9:119) “He that speaketh truth showeth forth righteousness.” Proverbs 12: 17

Let’s just take a very simple but common example of our excuses that we commonly make: Without thinking, we indirectly teach our children that dishonesty is acceptable.  When we don’t want to speak to the caller on the phone we expect our children to tell the caller that we are not home, this is a lesson in deceit.  When we answer the cellphone and say that we are busy in a meeting yet we very much relaxed and free, or we say we are out of town yet we are at home, etc. we are being blatantly dishonest.

We usually 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 people – in particular the next generation. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said: “There are four characteristics, whoever has all of them is a true hypocrite, and whoever has one of them has one of the qualities of a hypocrite until he gives it up: when he is trusted, he betrays (the trust); when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he disputes, he is vulgar.”

For those who wish to be among the truthful, Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) further left us with these words of guidance, “Let he who believes in God and the Last Day either speak good or (otherwise) remain silent”. He also informed us of the great benefits of living in an honest and truthful way and warned us of the dangers inherent in dishonesty and falsehood.  He said: “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. 

In addition, a person keeps on telling the truth until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very truthful person.  And falsehood leads to wickedness (and evil-doing), and wickedness leads to the (Hell) Fire. In addition, and a person keeps on telling lies until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very great liar”.

Several moons ago this column carried this little piece to remind us of honesty and truthfulness:
If you plant honesty, you will reap trust
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness
If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment
If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective
If you plant hard work, you will reap success
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation
If you plant faith in Allah, you will reap a harvest.
So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will reap later. "Whatever You Give To Life, Life Gives You Back"



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