Truthfulness is one of the Most Beautiful Traits
By: Ayatullah Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi Lari
There are as many advantages for truthfulness as there are disadvantages for lying. Truthfulness is one of the most beautiful traits and lying one of the ugliest. The tongue translates man’s internal feelings to the outside, therefore if lying stems from envy and or enmity it is one of the dangerous signs of anger; and if it stems from stinginess or habit, it is from the effects of the burning lusts of man.
If man’s tongue becomes poisoned with lying and its filth appears on him, its effects are like the effects of the autumn wind on the leaves of trees. Lying extinguishes the light of man’s existence and lights the fire of treachery in him. It also has an amazing effect in terminating the ties of unity and harmony between men and spreads hypocrisy. In fact, a great deal of misguidance springs from false claims and empty words. For men with evil intentions, lying is an open door to help them reach their selfish goals by concealing the facts behind their magical words and capturing innocent people with their poisonous lies.
Liars leave no time for themselves to think or reflect. They rarely think about the possible conclusions, claiming, “no one will ever discover their secrets.” In their words we find many mistakes and contradictions, liars will eternally become covered with shame, failure and disgrace. It is true, therefore, to say, “Liars have bad memories”.
One of the factors, which spread this resentful trait, which poisons social manners, is the saying:
“Constructive lying is better than the painful truth.”
This saying has become a veil to cover this lonely trait, and many people resort to it in order to justify their resentful lies. These people ignore what reason and jurisprudence say about this issue. Islam and reason command that if a Muslim’s soul, honor or essential belongings are endangered it is his obligation to defend them by any means possible, including lying. It is a valid maxim that say, “Necessities legalize the prohibited”. Necessary lying has its limitations; it must stop on the border of necessity. If men widen the circle of “constructiveness” to include their personal wishes and lusts, there would not be a lie without a so-called need behind it. One of the great scholars says in this regard:
"There is a reason for everything. It is possible for us to invent factors and reasons for all actions. Even the professional criminals have excuses for their crimes. Therefore, there are advantages and needs for every lie ever uttered. In other words, every lie that is told serves a purpose and the liar is good: if a liar gained, nothing from lying there would be any reason to hide the facts. This stems from the fact that it is man’s nature to consider everything that may be advantageous to him to be good. If man suspects that his personal benefits may be endangered by the truth, or imagines there are goodness in lying, then he lies without any hesitation for he sees evil in the truth and goodness in lying."
We should not ignore the fact that lying is a great evil, and that if some harm is removed by lying (when permitted), it is with the view of countering the greater evil with a lesser one.
The freedom of speech is more important than the freedom of thinking because if someone makes a mistake when exercising his freedom to think, only that individual is harmed. One the other hand, when exercising the freedom of speech, the welfare of the society is at stake. The advantages and disadvantages of freedom of speech affect the whole society.
Ghazali has said:
“The tongue is a beneficial gift. It is a delicate creature, which regardless of its small size performs an extremely important job when it comes to obedience and disobedience. Both disbelief and faith are manifested with the tongue, and they are the ultimate worship or disobedience.”
He then added:
“Only those who can confine their tongues to religion are able to avoid evil. These people never set their tongues free unless it is beneficial to their lives, faith, and eternal place of rest.”
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. Kimiyaye Sa’adat
It is important to avoid lying and contradicting the truth in front of children so that this evil trait does not enter their hearts. Children learn how to act and speak from their families and those around them. Therefore, if lying and/or contradicting the truth penetrate the family atmosphere, children will be affected and in turn be inflicted with the same illnesses.
Morris T. Yash said:
“The habit of thinking, speaking, and endeavoring to find the facts is only practiced by those who were brought up surrounded by it as children.”
Lying is prohibited by Religion
The Holy Qur`an explicitly categorizes liars as disbelievers:
“Only they forge the lie who do not believe in Allah’s communications, and these are the liars.”
It is understood from this verse that believers do not subject themselves to the filth of fabrication.
The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) stated:
“Adhere to truthfulness; for truthfulness guides to Paradise. Surely a man continues to tell the truth and searches for it until he is written as truthful near Allah. In addition, avoid falsehood; for it leads to the Fire. Man continues to lie until he is written as a liar near Allah.”
.Nahj al-Fasahah, p. 418
Among the characteristics of liars is that they only believe after annoying insistence. The Messenger (S.A.W.) said:
“Surely those who are most frequent in believing people are most frequent in telling the truth; and those who mostly doubt people are the most frequent liars.”
Dr. Samuel Smiles writes:
“Some people assume that their own lowly characteristics are normal to other’s natures while, in fact, we know that people are mirrors of their own manners. Hence, the good and bad that we see in others is not but a reflection of that which is in our consciences.”
Courageous people with good manners and conduct cannot bear falsehood nor can they accept to be polluted by such filth. Liars suffer from a mental disorder, which keeps them from speaking the truth. Those who resort to lying subconsciously feel weak and humiliated, for lying is the front of the weak and the cowards.
Imam Ali (A.S.) is quoted as saying;
“If entities were materialized, surely truthfulness would stand with courage and cowardice would stand with lying.”
Ghurar al-Hikam p. 605
Dr. Raymond Peach said:
“Lying is the best defensive weapon of the weak and the quickest way to avoid danger. Lying in most cases is a reaction to weakness and failure. If you were to ask a child, ‘Did you touch this candy?’ or ‘Did you break this vase?’ If the child realizes that admitting the mistake will result in punishment, his instinct tells him to deny it.”
Ma Wa Farzandane Ma
Imam Ali (A.S.) stated the clear benefits of truthfulness in a clear narration:
“The truth teller achieves three things: (other’s) trust, love, and respect.”
“Be not mislead by their prayers and fasting, for a man can become fervently used to prayers and fasting so that if he would abandon them he would feel lonely. Rather, try them when it comes to telling the truth and fulfilling trusts.”
Usul al-Kafi v.1 p. 460
Imam Ali (A.S.) has said on this subject:
“Lying is the most abominable trait.”
Ghurar al-Hikam p. 175
And Dr. Samuel Smiles writes:
“Lying is the ugliest and the most disgusting trait among all lowly characteristics. It is important that man makes his only goal throughout the various stages of life to be truthfulness and honesty, and not to give them up in any case for any other cause or goal.”
Islam based all its behavioral and correction processes on faith, and made faith the basis for man’s happiness.
“Manners without faith are like a palace built on mud ice.”
or as another scholar explains:
“Manners without faith are like seeds planted on rock or between thorns; they eventually wither away and die. If the noblest traits are not motivated by faith, they are like dead crops near a living person.”
Religion rules the heart and mind together; it is the arena for bringing harmony to them. Religious feelings reduce material wants, and create an impenetrable barrier between the believer and lowliness. Those who are comfortable by belief always have assigned goals and feel at ease.
“Surely with the remembrance of Allah the hearts feel at ease.”
The Holy Qur`an
Islam judges man’s character by the degree of his belief and his favorable traits, and fervently struggles to strengthen these two factors. For instance, Islam has made man’s faith a guarantee for the credibility of his statements when he executes an oath. According to the Islamic penal code, a Muslim’s oath can replace evidence, under certain circumstances. and is therefore decisive in settling disputes. Islam has also made man’s testimony a method for proving rights.
Thus, if lying appears in its red fearful shape-in any of the above mentioned cases, than it is clear how great damage can result form such behavior.
In the Holy Qur`an lying is considered to be an unforgivable sin.
“And never accept a testimony from them.”
The Holy Qur`an
The basis of the intensity of the sin of lying is distinctly related to how much damage is done by such a sin. Hence, because lying under oaths and in testimonies is more damaging, the punishment for such a sin is more severe.
Lying is a technique leading to all other evil traits.
Imam Hassan al-Askari (A.S.) said:
“All spiteful traits are placed in a house and the key to this house is lying”.
Jãmi’Sa’adat v.2 p. 318
In order to further clarify what Imam al-Askari (A.S.) said, we bring your attention to the following prophetic narration.
A man came to the Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) and asked him for some advice. The Prophet (S.A.W.) replied:
“Abandon lying and equip yourself with truthfulness.”
The man, who was an invariable sinner departed promising to never again commit another transgression.
Indeed, those who keep company with the honest and are habitually truthful, both verbally and practically will surely live a life free of sorrow and deprivation; their minds and spirits will shine with belief far from instability and fear, and far from vague thinking.
The slightest reflection on the result of lying whether related to religion or material gains will teach a most valuable lesson to anyone who craves to lead a life of honor and dignity. The after effects of lying are but lashes of warning.
Truthfulness can only be achieved under the shadow of manners and belief. Whenever these conditions are weak, human happiness does not have a chance of surviving.