Musa Kâzım GÜLÇÜR
Honesty and being straightforward are characteristics that are manifested both in thought and deed. The honesty of a true believer can never be compromised. The Qur’an very clearly declares the greatness of honesty and integrity. God’s Word says; “O you who believe! Act in reverence for God and piously, without doing anything to incur His punishment, and always speak words true, proper and straight to the point” (Ahzab 33:70).
This verse tells us that a person of faith must always be honest; even when we have done something wrong, we must never lie to cover it up. Instead, whenever we make a mistake, we should immediately apologize and try to compensate for the wrong.
A person who has internalized the fundamental moral quality of honesty would never lie, not for any reason whatsoever; they never see telling an untruth as an option or a solution. Therefore, a person who practices the morality taught in the Qur’an does not have to bear the burden and consequences of lying.
Those who say, “Our Lord is God” (Fussilat 41:30), and steadfastly pursue the right way, according to this verse, will be visited by angels who say, “Do not fear or grieve; but rejoice in the glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised)” (Fussilat 41:30). People with integrity and sincerity will live a peaceful life, as they can be trusted.
Moreover, one who adopts this admirable way of life while in the world will experience even better rewards in the next life. God has promised such rewards to those who are righteous and honest:
God will say, “This is the Day when their truthfulness (faithfulness and steadfastness) will benefit all who were true to their word (to God). For them are Gardens through which rivers flow, therein to abide for ever. God is well-pleased with them, and they are well-pleased with Him. That is the supreme triumph.” (Maeda 5:119)
The essence of being righteous is to “Pursue what is exactly right (in every matter of the Religion) as you are commanded (by God) …” (Hud 11:112; Shura 42:15). God sent the Prophets as examples of righteousness and integrity. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and all the Prophets sent before him were the quintessence of righteousness. The Qur’an also mentions righteousness and truthfulness when describing the qualities of Abraham, Ishmael, and Enoch, peace be upon them all (Maryam 19:41, 54, 56).
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, also taught about honesty in some hadith. Ibn Mas’ud explains, “God’s Messenger said, ‘Loyalty and truthfulness will lead a person to do good things that please God, and these in turn will bring that person to Paradise. For he will speak honestly and seek after righteousness and in the end will be recorded as eminently truthful in the presence of God. But lies will lead a person to overstep the bounds, and this in turn will bring him to the Fire. A lying person will pursue lies and, in the end, he will be recorded as a great liar in the presence of God.” [Bukhari, Adab, 69; Muslim, Birr, 102–3/2606–7; Muwatta, Kalam, 16/2, 989; Abu Dawud, Adab, 88/4989; Tirmidhi, Birr, 46, 1972.]
In another hadith from Abu Musa, the Prophet spoke of the reward of a truthful Muslim who is worthy of being charged with protecting someone else’s property: “The faithful trustee who gives what he is commanded completely and in full with a good will (takes good care of what is entrusted to him), and who delivers it to the one whom he was told to give it, is regarded as one of the two (i.e., God gives him reward like the owner of the trust) for giving charity.” In a different version of the same hadith, Nasai adds, “A believer is like a wall for another believer; they can lean on and rely upon one another.” [Bukhari, Zakat, 25; Wakalat, 16; Ijara, 1; Muslim, Zakat, 79, 1023; Abu Dawud, Zakat, 43, 1684; Nasai, Zakat, 66, 5, 79–80.]
Honesty in Speech
An important fundamental of Islamic morality is truthfulness and making every effort toward achieving transparency (this applies to business and personal relations on every level).
The Messenger of God showed great care to ensure that children acquired the ethic of always speaking the truth. In order to prevent parents from making the mistake of lying to their children or perpetrating any such type of dishonesty with them, the Prophet taught general principles that guide the parent–child relationship. For instance, he said it is unacceptable to mislead or deceive children under any circumstances and warned parents against any type of carelessness in their relationship with their children. There is an interesting hadith about this. ‘Abdullah ibn Amr recalls, “One day my mother called me. God’s Messenger was sitting in our house. My mother told me, ‘Come here and I’ll give you something.’ God’s Messenger asked her, ‘What are you going to give him?’ She answered, ‘I’m going to give him a date.’ So, the Prophet said, ‘Be warned, if you had not been planning to give him something, it would have been written in your book of deeds as a lie, a sin.” [Abu Dawud, Adab, 80; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 3/447.] Abu Hurayra also relates a similar narration: “God’s Messenger said, ‘Whoever says to a child, “Come here, I will give you something,” and then does not give them anything will be accountable for lying.” [Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 2/452.]
Honesty of Character
A Muslim’s inner conformity to his or her outer appearance is also critical for integrity. Just as we are to refrain from harmful words, so too must we restrain ourselves from hateful feelings or thoughts. In other words, a Muslim should speak as they think, and act according to their word; there should be no difference between who they are inside and who they appear to be. The following hadith addresses this aspect of integrity: “A person whose heart is not correct cannot have correct faith. If the tongue does not speak truth, the heart cannot be right, and if the person’s neighbours are not safe from him, he cannot enter Paradise.” [Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 3/198.] Here the Prophet teaches that the heart and the tongue should be consistent with each other, and both should manifest integrity.
Honesty in Business
When there is consistency between a Muslim’s inner self and outer actions, they will always be honest, both at work and in business. A Muslim must be careful never to cheat or deceive others to gain greater profit or for any other reason.
A hadith handed down by Abu Hurayra reports, “One day the Prophet saw (a man selling) a heap of wheat. He put his hand into the pile and found that, while the top was dry, the bottom was damp. He asked the seller, ‘What is this?’ The man said, ‘The rain wet it.’ The Prophet responded, ‘You should put the wet part on top (so people can see it). One who cheats us is not of us.” [Muslim, Iman, 43.]
One of the most unique characteristics of the blessed Companions of the Prophet —perhaps their most important characteristic— was their unfailing integrity and righteousness. These qualities brought a deep atmosphere of peace and security to their inner lives as well as to their interpersonal relations.
Once Abu al-Hawra asked Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abu Talib, “What have you memorized from God’s Messenger?” He answered, “Turn away from whatever gives you doubts or misgivings and look at that which does not! For righteousness gives the heart rest but lies bring uncertainty and suspicion.” [Tirmidhi, Kiyama, 61, 2520; Nasai, Ashriba, 8, 327, 328.] In a similar narration, Sufyan ibn ‘Abdullah al-Sakafi said, “O Messenger of God, give me such knowledge of Islam that it will suffice me, and I will never need to ask anyone else about Islam.” He answered, “Say, ‘I believe in God,’ and then be completely honest in everything.” [Muslim, Iman, 62, 38]
Translated by Jessica ÖZALP