Month 3: Truth

TRUTH

Truth means that which conforms to fact and relates the actual state or condition of a matter. Honesty means to always be attached to the truth, in words, deeds, and attitude.

Amongst the basic rights of human beings is to be told the truth, and Islam lays a great emphasis on truth and honesty in both speech and conduct.

  • Examples of honesty in speech include telling the truth in every situation and circumstance, and giving sincere, impartial advice to others;
  • Examples of honesty in conduct include keeping one’s promises and being loyal in carrying out a task that one is receiving payment for, even when unsupervised;
  • Examples of honesty in attitude include being faithful to one’s covenant with God and keeping in mind the duty of care one has to those who are in need.

The one who is mindful of these matters is called Ṣādiq or Ṣādiqah (Truthful). However, there is a higher level of truthfulness that stems from a heart which is connected to God. This person does not have to think about being truthful and honest, it is internalized in them. The only course that they consider instinctively is one of truth. Such people have reached the level where there are Siddīq or Siddīqah (Veracious). An example of Siddīqah is Lady Maryam (A), as mentioned in the Holy Quran, in Surah Māʾidah [5:75]:

مَا الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ وَأُمُّهُ صِدِّيقَةٌ

The Messiah, son of Marium is but a messenger; messengers before him have indeed passed away; and his mother was a most truthful woman

According to many narrations from the Holy Prophet (s) and the Aʾimmah (a), the highest manifestation of this noble quality is undoubtedly Lady Fāṭimah (A), which is why one of her titles is Siddīqah.

The Qurʾan directs the believers to speak the truth, for example, in Sūrah al-Aḥzāb [33:70]:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا

O believers! Have taqwa of Allah and (always) speak the truth.

In the next verse, [33:71], God speaks of His reward to such people in this world and the next:

يُصْلِحْ لَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ ۗ

He will amend for you your deeds and forgive you your sins…

The important status of truthfulness within Islam is evident from a narration from Imam Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn (as). When he was asked about the rituals and practices of religion, the Imam (as) replied: Speaking the truth, judging according to justice, and keeping promises. (Mustadrak al-Wasāʾil).

The reply of Imam (as) did not focus on prayers, fasting, Hajj or any of the other obligatory rituals, but instead identified the three principles based around truthfulness – because they include all the other qualities and practices in Islam.

The opposite of truthfulness and honesty is lying and falsehood. The habit of lying is strongly condemned in the Qurʾan and the narrations.

The Qurʾan describes lying as a sign of disbelief (kufr) in Sūrah al-Naḥl [16:105]:

إِنَّمَا يَفْتَرِي الْكَذِبَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ ۖ  وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَاذِبُونَ

The ones who invent lies are those who have no belief in God’s signs; indeed they are liars.

In Sūrah al-Zumar [39:3], God states that liars are no longer guided by Him:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ كَاذِبٌ كَفَّارٌ

…Indeed, God does not guide the liar, the ungrateful.

The habit of lying has also been criticized within the narrations; for example, Imam Ḥasan al-ʿAskarī (A) has stated: All evils have been locked in a room, and its key is lying. (Mustadrak al-Wasāʾil)

Imam ʿAlī (A) discouraged lying, even as part of a joke, when he stated: There is no merit in falsehood, whether in seriousness or in jest. Do not even promise your child something if you do not intend to fulfil it. Certainly, falsehood leads man to sin (fearlessly) and (this) leads to the Fire. (Wasāʾil al-Shīʿah)

From the words of the Qur’an and the Aʾimmah (as), it appears that a sure-fire route to success for a believer is to be truthful. The question, then, is how? Below are some ideas, using the easy-to-remember acronym IMAM!

In Sūrah al-Raʾd [13:11], God says:

…إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ…

‘Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition.’

Changing ourselves in an environment where the opposite is the norm is very difficult. Lying has become so normalised that it is something that most people do without even thinking about it. Definitions such as ‘white lies’ have been used to diminish the significance of lying, or justifications are used (for example, so as to save someone’s feelings, or as a joke) to make lying acceptable. To speak and act according to the truth is considered abnormal.

One of the ways of initiating this change from within, is to make a mental shift in our understanding and realisation of the damage that lying causes to our soul; and then commit to being truthful.

Even more difficult than being truthful in words, is to be truthful in actions. Allah tells us in Surah al-Ṣaf [61:2]:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَ تَقُولُونَ مَا لَا تَفْعَلُونَ

O you who believe! why do you say that which you do not do?

Some examples of how we may say what we do not do:

  • In every salah we say that Allah is Greater than everything (Allahu Akbar) yet when we commit a sin or rely on others, our actions are contrary to what we have said;
  • We tell our children not to lie, but then we lie when we are running late, or if we don’t want to talk to someone, we tell our children to tell them we are not at home, thus teaching them (through our actions) that lying is acceptable.

Thus, we need to make a conscious effort to try and align our words with our actions, and where we identify a discrepancy, take active steps to rectify it.

The Holy Prophet (s) was asked how the people could recompense him for bringing Islam to them; Allah told him to reply [42:23]:

… قُلْ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَىٰ …

Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but love for my near relatives…

To love the Ahlul Bayt (as) is to follow and emulate them. One of the characteristics that the Holy Prophet (s) and the Ahlul Bayt (as) had is that of the Noble trait of Ṣidq (Truth). Having this excellent Akhlaqi trait is the mark of a true follower of the Imam (af). We cannot on the one hand claim to love the Imam (af), and on the other, utter falsehood.

Here we are looking at building and maintaining a relationship with the Imam (af). In order to do this, we must be of the truthful ones as Imam (and all the Aʾimmah) are known as Siddīq. When we are truthful:

  • We honour our covenant to Allah (Shahadah);
  • We do not lie (not even white lies);
  • We keep our word;
  • We honour our promises;
  • We do not exaggerate.

Find out more!

See a compilation of all English-language resources on the Imam (af), view FAQs and ask your own questions!

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