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Tell the Truth and Watch Your Relationships Shine

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By Wael Abdelgawad

“O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and be with the true ones.” – Quran 9:119

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The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,

“You must be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man will keep speaking the truth and striving to speak the truth until he will be recorded with Allah as a Siddeeq (speaker of the truth). Beware of telling lies, for lying leads to immorality and immorality leads to Hellfire. A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar.” (Muslim)

Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (ra) said: “The truth teller achieves three things: trust, love, and respect.”

You know the expression, “The truth shall set you free?” It might be amended to say, “Telling the truth shall set you free.”

Being honest is liberating. It might be difficult or emotionally uncomfortable at times, but it’s so much more freeing to the spirit than lying, or living a lie. We don’t have to try to remember what lies we told to whom, or whether someone will find out about something from our pasts. We don’t have to feel like hypocrites for speaking words we don’t really mean.

The Body Tells the Truth

Did you know that a liar is betrayed by his own body? We all know about the obvious signs that are monitored by lie detectors, such as increased body temperature (manifested visually as sweating), and raised blood pressure. But there are many other signs that are detectable visually. If you live in the USA you may have seen the television drama “Lie to Me”, about a scientist who specializes in body language and facial “micro-expressions” and functions as a human lie detector. This is based on real science.

For example, when people are lying, they generally avoid eye contact. Frequently, liars will gaze downward and to the right. Another sign is that liars often fidget, moving hands or feet, drumming fingers, or adjusting clothing. Also, liars may subconsciously try to “hide” the lie by covering their mouths, or making a motion that is symbolic of covering the face, such as touching the nose or an eye. These are all attempts to cover up the lie, and are a subconscious expression of shame. Lastly, the liar may fold his arms or cross his legs, which are defensive gestures, as if he is trying to cover himself up.

Subhan’Allah. Even when a person’s mind is willing to lie, the body is not. It’s as if a part of him is adhering to fitra, the pure nature of every human being, and is unwilling to go along with the sin.

The body is always in a state of submission to Allah, after all. The heart beats as Allah made it to do, the blood flows, the nerves fire, the cells generate energy, carry oxygen or process waste, white blood cells attack invaders… all of these autonomous processes go on without conscious thought, obeying the imperatives given to them by Allah. This is an expression of Islam at the most basic level. So even when a person’s tongue may commit a sin by lying, on a deeper level the body is still in submission.

In fact, everything in existence submits to Allah and praises Him, and functions as a sign of His power. Allah says,

“Do you not see that Allah is exalted by whomever is within the heavens and the earth and [by] the birds with wings spread [in flight]? Each has known his [means of] prayer and exalting [Him], and Allah is Knowing of what they do.

And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and to Allah is the destination.

Do you not see that Allah drives clouds? Then He brings them together, then He makes them into a mass, and you see the rain emerge from within it. And He sends down from the sky, mountains [of clouds] within which is hail, and He strikes with it whom He wills and averts it from whom He wills. The flash of its lightening almost takes away the eyesight.

Allah alternates the night and the day. Indeed in that is a lesson for those who have vision.

Allah has created every [living] creature from water. And of them are those that move on their bellies, and of them are those that walk on two legs, and of them are those that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.”(Quran 24: 41-45)

All of the things described in these verses exist in submission to Allah. Only we, children of Adam (and the jinn), have been given the ability to disobey. When we rebel – and that includes lying – we come into conflict with Allah, with society, with all other living creatures, with the weather that surrounds us, and even with the night and day!

Last but not least, we come into conflict with our own bodies. How could that be anything but harmful? Isn’t it a sign to us that lying is wrong on a very deep level?

Truth Builds Trust

My daughter Salma is three years old. She goes to bed at 7:30pm, and I remain beside her until she sleeps. On certain evenings I have a martial arts class, and I hope that Salma will fall asleep quickly so I can hurry to my class before it’s over (my mother watches her until I return). Sometimes Salma asks me, “Baba, are you staying home tonight or going to your class?”

I know that if I lie and say, “I’m staying home,” that will comfort her and she’ll fall asleep quickly, allowing me to go to class. On the other hand, if I say, “I’m going to my class,” she’ll deliberately struggle to stay awake, chattering and rolling around in bed, because she does not want me to leave.

So what do I do? I say, “If you fall asleep soon I will go to my class, otherwise I will stay.” I tell her the truth, even it means that I miss my class, because I could not live with myself if I lied to her for selfish reasons, even if it’s a “harmless” lie.

Some days I get to my class, some days I don’t.

I follow this same strategy in every aspect of my relationship with her. If she says, “Baba, can we go to the zoo on Saturday?” I never say, “We’ll see,” just to placate her and change the subject. Someone did that with me in my childhood and I always hated it because I knew that it really meant “no” and was just an obfuscation. So with Salma I might say, “If it’s sunny we can go to the zoo, insha’Allah,” and when the day comes and it’s sunny I will take her to the zoo no matter what, short of an emergency. Or I might say, “Sorry baby, we need to go shopping on Saturday and we won’t have time.”

My point is that I’m always honest with her even when the answer may upset her, and the result is that she trusts me. I see in my interaction with her that she accepts my word and believes me.

I know these are small examples. There’s nothing earth shaking about telling the truth to a little child. But you know, many people do routinely lie to their children for the sake of convenience.

Le’ts be ourselves and be honest. Le’ts take these small examples and perform a close examination of our interactions with all our family members, our friends, our work colleagues, and our business partners. Do we sometimes lie to simplify matters or to make ourselves look good?

Or do we always tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable?

If we were to adopt a policy of truth at all times, what consequences would that have? Really think about it. How would it affect our credibility, our friendships, and our work relationships?

I believe that, contrary to what our fears and insecurities may tell us, being honest in all our relationships would lay a deep and strong foundation and allow those relationships to flourish.

Tell the Truth Without Harm

There should be no exceptions to honesty, but telling the truth is not a compulsion to harm yourself, nor a justification for harming others.

For example, no Muslim should openly manifest his immoral actions or past. It was narrated that Saalim ibn ‘Abd-Allah said: I heard Abu Hurayrah say: I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) say:

“All of my Ummah will be fine except for those who commit sins openly. Part of committing sins openly is when a man does something at night and Allah conceals it, but in the morning he says, ‘O So-and-so, last night I did such and such.’ His Lord had covered his sin all night, but in the morning he removed the cover of Allah.”(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5721; Muslim, 2990)

In my capacity as an editor of IslamcAnswers.com, I have often been anonymously asked some version of this question: “I lived a sinful lifestyle at one point, including committing zina, but I have repented. Now I am engaged to be married and my fiancé wants to know about my past. What should I say? If I tell him/her everything, he may break off the engagement, but if I lie then I’ll be building a future on a foundation of dishonesty.”

My response is that one should give a reply along these lines: “My past is between me and Allah. For whatever sins I have committed, I have asked Allah’s forgiveness and continue to do so. I will not say more. Please judge me according to the person I am now, just as I will do with you.”

If that response is not satisfactory to the other person and he continues to pry, I guarantee you he is not good husband (or wife) material for you. If you don’t tell him everything, he will continue to harangue you endlessly. And if you do, he will be jealous and probably never forgive you. No one needs that kind of judgment in life.

Of course if something material has resulted from past mistakes – for example if one has a child from a past relationship, or has acquired an STD – then that must be revealed, as these are things that will affect a spouse in a continuing way.

Truth Builds Rock-Solid Friendships

As far as harming others, Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh): “Who is the most excellent among the Muslims?” He said, “One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

If you see your brother making a serious mistake, correct him in the kindest possible way. That is a form of honesty. If you have nothing good to say, stay silent. That too is is an aspect of truth telling. No matter what, do not be needlessly hurtful.

Telling the truth in this way creates strong and healthy friendships, because it builds trust. Real friends don’t just tell you what you want to hear. They don’t say, “Oh yeah, you’re great, that’s wonderful,” when inside they’re thinking, “What a crazy thing to do,” or, “What is he up to now?”

But they’re not cruel or harsh either. They tell you the truth kindly. If they think you’re doing something harmful, they tell you with compassion. When you have a friend like that, you know you can trust every word out of his/her mouth, so when your friend compliments or supports you it means something and lifts your spirit, because you know it’s from the heart.

Real friends are not saccharine-sweet liars, nor are they relentlessly negative. They see the good in you, they appreciate you and let you know it, but when you need some honest advice they are there with the right words.

And I’ll tell you something: most people respect truth-tellers, even if they don’t agree with what’s being said.

The other key component is that real friends are discreet. Many years ago I had two good friends – I’ll call them Ali and Mo (not their real names) – who were given scholarships to study at the Islamic University of Madinah. They left together. After some time I heard a rumor that Mo had gotten in some trouble in Saudi Arabia and had been arrested and jailed. I did not know the details. When Ali returned to California for summer break, I asked him, “What happened to Mo? Tell me the whole story.” To my great frustration, Ali would not reveal a single detail. All he said was, “The Saudi authorities are planning to deport Mo; when he returns you can ask him yourself.” Mo was my friend too, I was concerned about him. Plus, I admit that it was such a juicy piece of gossip that I could not resist. But Ali would not budge, even though I was several years older than him and had been like a brother to him for years.

One consequence is that I trust Ali more than most. I know that he’s as firm as a mountain. I know that if I tell him something in confidence he will not repeat it, and that he never backbites or gossips about my faults.

Real friends keep your secrets, don’t speak about you to others, don’t repeat rumors. Again, that builds a rock-solid foundation of trust.

I want to be a friend like that, don’t you?

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. farah

    February 17, 2011 at 3:29 PM

  2. Seeker

    February 17, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    Assalaamu alaikum,

    MashaAllaah a very important reminder. Can’t express how much I appreciate this. May Allaah reward you in the best of ways and help me and all who read this to be truthful and honest. Aameen.

    Wassalaamu alaikum

    • Ibn Nazim

      February 18, 2011 at 5:32 PM

      A.S

      My feelings EXACTLY mashallah!!!

  3. Anonymous

    February 17, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    I’m very very honest, too honest
    Was asked a small question, told the Truth
    Then-fiancee started thinking weird things about me that were untrue and my explanations did nothing
    Snowballed into a broken engagement
    She got re-engaged and married within a few months
    I still feel humiliated and pathetic
    Outwardly I’m fine and the same happy guy, but inwardly I had a breakdown
    Can have Sabr for a while, but weeks to months, months to more than year, and its still on my mind. she’s happily married and I’m still living the same pointless life like a 12-year old
    It wears on you, affected my Deen and Trust in God
    Heard all the “stock answers”, just hard to accept
    if someone said to me “Where’s your God now?” I wouldn’t know how to answer
    I wish I lied.

    • abu-a-bunch

      February 17, 2011 at 8:09 PM

      Years from now you will be very happy that you “lost” her. Your only regret will be that you wavered over this test. My father (non-Muslim) was at war (WW II) when he received a classic “Dear John” letter from his fiancee. He was deeply disappointed but refused to crumble. Having survived the war, he soon met my mother. Years later he came to learn of how his “lost love” turned out. He was almost horrified by the fact that he might have married her and missed out on my mom. He used this story to teach his sons important lessons about life, Islamic lessons, I would say.

      Now, turning to the present, and to you, recognize and celebrate the real lesson you have been taught. A fundamental weakness in your iman has been shown to you. And at a young age. And it has been concealed from others (who see you as happy). This weakness was there and would have come out over most anything: a health issue, the loss of a child, job, etc. The problem is not your honesty, this woman, the “loss” of her, and so on. The problem is your iman. Apparently, it is pretty fragile. And you should celebrate and be grateful for having been shown this in private (keep it that way) and at a young age (relatively speaking). Analyze yourself, even have some fun with it, learn, correct, and resolve that you will never, ever breakdown over anything in dunya again. Ever. And thank Allah (SWT) for having given you the opportunity to grow in that which is most important: taqwa. And resolve to benefit others from what you have learned.

      You’re going to do very well, insha Allah. But you do need to “E-man up”.

      • inqiyaad

        February 18, 2011 at 8:39 PM

        abu-a-bunch!!!! Ha ha, I was almost about to skip this comment. I seriously thought this was a troll. Glad I read it! BarakAllahu feek!
        Anonymous or anybody facing a breakdown over something material SHOULD READ THE COMMENT by ABU-A-BUNCH (I really like that).
        Anonymous, I would also suggest that you listen to Yusuf Estes’s conversion story. He almost lost his wife by lying. He regained her only when he spoke the truth. The truth being ‘la ilaha illaAllah’.
        Also, listen to Dr. Laurence Brown’s story at http://www.thedeenshow.com. He ‘lost’ his first wife when he spoke the truth, the truth again was ‘la ilaha illaAllah’. Do you still think that they (or for that matter you) should have lied? Dr. Brown is happy he got something much better. InshaAllah, you will also be in the near future.
        The point I am trying to make is, you could have lost her by lying (as in the case of Yusuf Estes). He got a second chance, you might not have been given that chance. Be glad that you were prevented from lying. I pray to Allah to bless you with something much better.
        To paraphrase a Hadith, One statement could lead a person to paradise or hellfire. I pray that this is the one statement you spoke that Allah blesses you with paradise as a reward.

    • Ramadan

      February 17, 2011 at 8:26 PM

      May Allah help you. Inshallah you’ll be alright, be patient and return to Allah.

    • Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

      February 18, 2011 at 12:14 AM

      The answer to “Where’s your God now?” is that He was looking out for you and protecting you from a woman who is suspicious and mistrustful. Do you imagine that if you had told the truth that you would have been married happily ever after? I guarantee you that she would have found something else to be suspicious about and to accuse you over. You cannot have a successful marriage without trust. You might look at her current married and think she is happily marriage but I doubt it.

      The pain of betrayal or lost love is very hard to deal with, I know. Yes, it can take more than a year. Be patient. In time it will lessen. If you trust in Allah, He will give you better than you lost, and then you will appreciate His plan for you.

      Don’t deprecate yourself or put yourself down. You are a worthwhile and valuable person. Give yourself time to heal. Hang in there, bro, and have faith in Allah.

  4. Abu Abdullah

    February 17, 2011 at 9:05 PM

    Salamualaikum,

    How could one recognize one is telling something a lie , general body language symptoms, while a conversation is going on?

    • Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

      February 18, 2011 at 12:10 AM

      Well, that’s a science and one would have to be trained to recognize these signs. For example, police interrogators and immigration officials are often trained in this, and I think that people who watch or listen to others for a living – for example psychotherapists – pick it up over time.

      I wasn’t suggesting that you become a human lie detector. Only that the fact that the body does tell the truth is a sign from Allah, and an indicator of how far out of sync the liar is with all of creation, including his own body.

  5. Shireen

    February 17, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PEICE OF WRITING!!!!…. ahhhh it’s so breath taking! SubhanAllah, I wish I could right like this, Masha’Allah (not in an envious kinda way, in a Masha’Allah good for you kind of way). *spread this message far an wide*,we are in an age where deception runs deep, May Allah subhanhu wa tala Protect us all…Ameen. After all, our relgion is founded on Truth, the Quran is Truth …. Glory be to Allah subhanhu wa tala! Thank you for this…

  6. deysi

    February 17, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    A beautiful article, ma sha’ Allah
    I really liked the part about paying attention to what we say to kids.
    Being a teacher, it is easy to respond to young children with ‘harmless half-lie’ to avoid disturbance in class, but if one were to take a few seconds out and explain to the students of why they can’t or can do something, then i m sure it will be beneficial to both the children and the teacher. Allahu ‘alam.

    O Allah! Purify my heart from hypocrisy, my deeds from any kind of Ria (boasting), my tongue from lying and my eye from treachery. For indeed only You know the treachery of the eyes and what lays hidden in the breasts.

    http://alhudapk.com/reading-material/duas/masnoon_dua/pg30.asp

    • Nayma

      February 19, 2011 at 9:08 AM

      Ameen to your duas. Beautiful article and great reminder. May Allah give us strength and patience to always tell the truth.

  7. Wael - IslamicAnswers.com

    February 18, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    Thank you to those who have responded with positive comments. I put my heart into my writing and I’m glad to know that it is appreciated.

    I’m also open to constructive criticism, as it helps me improve my writing.

  8. María M

    February 18, 2011 at 2:26 AM

    As salamu alaykum,

    I want to be a friend like that and I want friends like that, …to show so much respect for the others, brings in respect for ourselves and tell the others who really is this person.

    Being this way with someone that is tranparent we can see ourselves in them they are like mirrows. Good for us to realized who we really are. Many times we are not even conscious of our faults until we find someone that without even wanting to do it, point out our wrong behaviours or habits or whatever, this way if we want to improve we can take the highway to get it, insha´Allah.

    When we want to be in the Straight Path, all the people around gives us clues to stay there, with their own behaviour, we can always choose, and we do it all the time.

    Wael, the article is great, you have touched many aspects of how honesty affects us and the others, and you, yourself, are through all the article a live example of what you say. I don´t see a way of improving it. What I see is that I have to improve myself to follow it, insha´Allah.

    Thank you very much for sharing.

    María

  9. Hafsa

    February 18, 2011 at 7:50 AM

    MashaAllah, beautifully written. Jazakallahu Khayran.

  10. Zari

    February 18, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    jazakallahu khayran for sharing this thought provoking article.

  11. Sabeen Mansoori

    February 18, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Mashallah a very beautiful and comprehensive article!
    Allah (SWT) used the word ‘As-sidq’ for truth and ‘siddiq’ الصِّدِّيقُ for the true friend. A true friend is only the one who is truthful with you.

    • Wael - IslamicSunrays.com

      February 18, 2011 at 1:37 PM

      Sabeen, really nice point! I will add that to the article if you don’t mind.

      • Sabeen

        February 18, 2011 at 4:34 PM

        Not at all :)!

  12. Mks1982

    February 18, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    Assalam O Alalikum brother Wael,

    Great article Masha Allah and I totally agree that purpose of friendship should be to improve each other’s all aspects of personality. Alhamdullilah, I have two friends, they don’t know each other and live quite far away and I must say that they are more like brothers. We literally discuss everything and when ever one is in trouble or is in some sort of difficulty, the other one tries to help in all the possible ways. I wish I could write what one of the friend did for me when I was in school and had no one to look up to (even my cousins who were also my seniors at school at the time walked away), that very friend stood by my side and helped me through one of the most difficult situation in my life so far. I owe him a lot and I am so thankful to Allah swt to bless me with such a great friend. We have been friends for over 15 years and Alhamdullilah our friendship is still going strong.
    On the other hand, I think it’s good that our friends keep our secrets but what about the TRUST and HONESTY. If we consider someone our best friend then why are we scared to share any kind of problem we are in that, we can’t share with anyone else even our family members. I think this is not a sign of healthy friendship at least not from my point of view. Because, simple reason is that 2 brains or more think better than 1 when it comes to finding a solution for a problem.
    I absolutely agree with you that there is no point in having a friend who tells you that you are perfect and don’t need to change certain aspects of our personality or attitude towards others or improving in general. On the other hand a friend who always finds excuses/new ways of criticising you without any solid reason or if his criticism is not constructive/positive then I think IT’S BETTER TO BE ALONE THAN HAVING SUCH PERSON AS A FRIEND.
    So, I conclude that there are no secrets between the BEST FRIENDS and there is no shame in sharing something (like you friend ALI didn’t inform/tell you about what your mutual friend MO was going through hundreds miles away). He might have had help from other people like family members or other friends but WHAT ABOUT HIS TRUE BEST BUDDIES,
    ” A friend in need is a friend in deed”
    AT THE END, CONGRATULATIONS ON WRITING THIS EXCELLENT PIECE AND KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK BROTHER.
    Wasalam Mks1982:)-

    • Wael - IslamicSunrays.com

      February 18, 2011 at 7:22 PM

      You are fortunate to have two such good friends Alhamdulillah. Good friends are a treasure.

  13. "Delusional muslim?!"

    February 19, 2011 at 12:53 AM

    Dear Wael,

    Thank you very much for your insight on truthfulness. Unfortunately, this remains quite a neglected topic by our teachers/scholars. “To lie is also Haram”, generally, just does not make the list. Jazaak-allaahu khairan for the reminder.

    Now, the difficult part:

    You’ve used the title “Imam” for Ali Ibn Abi-Talib (may Allaah be pleased with him). There’s no justification for it unless one is a Shiite. If you still insist, then to be fair you must use the term for all the Companions because they were all our Imams. Only Shiee would have a “legitimate” reason for specifically using this term for Ali, Hassan or Hussein (RAA). Please do not have a knee-jerked reaction. Take a deep breath and think/research about it before responding.

    Besides, you’d asked for it man! “Constructive criticism.”

    May Allaah guide us all to the correct understanding of Ad-Deen-Al-Islaam. Ameen

    • Wael - IslamicSunrays.com

      February 19, 2011 at 2:58 AM

      You have a point. Perhaps I’ve just seen it written that way so many times from various Shi’ah sources that I did not think about it. I’ll correct it Insha’Allah. (I did not have to take a deep breath, lol).

      You’re right that lying is often neglected in a discussion of sinful behavior. I am also an editor at IslamicAnswers.com and we sometimes get questions from women who complain that their husbands secretly married a second wife and kept it hidden for years. Inevitably someone will chime in and say, “He did nothing wrong! Islam allows polygamy and there is no requirement to inform the first wife.” That may be true, but somehow these people overlook the act of deception that lies at the heart of these situations. When you are carrying on a deception for years, lying about your whereabouts, lying about where you spent the night, etc, how can that possibly be a halal situation?

      So yeah, I agree that deception, even when done only by omission, is not given the weight and discussion that it merits.

  14. Sammy

    February 26, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Aaah lies that don’t “hurt” anybody are the trickiest, aren’t they? :)

    Good article!

  15. !لاتعليق

    February 26, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow color-blind. ~Austin O’Malley

  16. Wael - IslamicSunrays.com

    February 27, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    I added a closely related piece here:

    Let’s Tell Our Children the Truth

    It’s short but worth reading Insha’Allah.

    Wael

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