Lying is the complete opposite of truth. So, anything that is untrue and deliberately intended to mislead another person is a lie. A lie, therefore, can be anything spoken or written that is totally or partially baseless, unreal, made-up, distorted or exaggerated; for example, if someone were todeliberately state that a five foot pole was a ten foot pole, then this would be a lie. Similarly praising someone out of proportion is a form of a lie.
A Disease of the Heart
Lying and falsehood are widespread problems and are roots of other problems that occur on an individual and public level. Lies are spoken and written in the media and in politics, in business and in personal dealings, by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, although the degree, magnitude and frequency may vary.
Lying is against human nature and physiology, and like any other disease, it has its own unique signs and symptoms. The act of lying produces inner conflicts between various control centers of the brain. The moment one begins to lie, his body sends out contradictory signals to cause facial muscle twitching, expansion and contraction of pupils, perspiration, flushing of cheeks, increased blinking of the eye, tremors of the hand, and an increased heart rate. These constitute the basis of lie detector instruments. In addition, certain unconsciously made movements are noticeable in those who lie, like the constant covering of the mouth, touching of the nose, rubbing of the eye, scratching the side of the neck, rubbing the ear, etc. One of the clearest signs is that the liar keeps his palms closed and his eyes in another direction to the person he is lying to, in an attempt to avoid eye to eye contact. A liar is aware of his body’s signals and finds lying easier when nobody can see him, such as when he is on the phone or writing.
What are the Motives of a Liar?
A liar tells a lie for the purpose of:
a) Concealing the truth, as he may be afraid of the truth or its punitive consequences by the law or certain individuals.
b) Cheating and deceiving others and enjoying their misery, as Shaitaan (Satan) did with Prophet Adam.
c) Short-term worldly gains, such as gaining the favors of others or monetary gains.
Forms of Lying
The worst form of lying is to do so upon Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) and His Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) which is to falsely attribute things to them. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Almighty, says in the Quraan (what means):
وَلَوۡ تَقَوَّلَ عَلَيۡنَا بَعۡضَ ٱلۡأَقَاوِيلِ (44) لَأَخَذۡنَا مِنۡهُ بِٱلۡيَمِينِ (45) ثُمَّ لَقَطَعۡنَا مِنۡهُ ٱلۡوَتِينَ (46)
“Had he (the prophet) forged some statements in Our name,We would have certainly seized him by the right hand, and then severed his life-artery,” (Al-Haaqqah 69:44-46)
Allah (Subhaanahu WaTa’aalaa) also says:
وَلَا تَكۡتُمُواْ ٱلشَّهَٰدَةَۚ وَمَن يَكۡتُمۡهَا فَإِنَّهُۥٓ ءَاثِمٌ قَلۡبُهُۥ
“….And do not conceal testimony. Whoever conceals it, his heart is surely, sinful.” (Al-Baqarah 2:283]
He further says:
وَلَا تَلۡبِسُواْ ٱلۡحَقَّ بِٱلۡبَٰطِلِ وَتَكۡتُمُواْ ٱلۡحَقَّ وَأَنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَ (42)
“and do not confound truth with falsehood, and do not hide the truth when you know (it).” (Al-Baqarah 2:42]
Hypocrites are liars too, because they lie to themselves. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says about them (what means):
إِذَا جَآءَكَ ٱلۡمُنَٰفِقُونَ قَالُواْ نَشۡهَدُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُ ٱللَّهِۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡلَمُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُهُۥ وَٱللَّهُ يَشۡهَدُ إِنَّ ٱلۡمُنَٰفِقِينَ لَكَٰذِبُونَ (1)
“When the hypocrites come to you, they say, ‘We bear witness that you are indeed the messenger of Allah. — Allah knows that you are really His messenger — But Allah testifies that the hypocrites are actually liars.” (Al-Munaafiqoon 63: 1)
The Quran on Liars
Allah (Subhaanahu WaTa’aalaa) says (what means):
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَهۡدِي مَنۡ هُوَ مُسۡرِفٌ كَذَّابٌ
“Indeed, Allah does not give guidance to anyone who is transgressor, a liar.” (Ghaafir 40:28)
And He also says (what means):
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَهۡدِي مَنۡ هُوَ كَٰذِبٌ كَفَّارٌ
“Surely, Allah does not guide anyone who is liar, highly infidel.” (Az-Zumar39:3)
Almighty Allah (Subhaanahu WaTa’aalaa) also says (what means):
لَعۡنَتَ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيۡهِ إِن كَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡكَٰذِبِينَ
“Allah‘s curse be on him if he is one of the liars.” (An-Noor 24:7)
The Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) on Lying and Liars
Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “Indeed, truth leads to virtue and virtue leads to Jannah (Paradise), and a truthful person continues to speak the truth until he becomes the most truthful person. Lies lead to evil and evil leads to Jahannam (Hell), and a liar continues to lie until he is listed as a high ranking liar before Allah.” (Bukhari)
Hadhrat Yousuf bin ‘Abdullah said that he asked Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam): "O Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam)! What do you think is the most dreadful thing for me?”
The Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) caught hold of his tongue and said: "This.” (At-Tirmizi)
Bahz bin Hakeem related that the Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: "Destruction is for the man who tells lies for the amusement of other people. Destruction is for him.” (At-Tirmizi)
Hadhrat Sufyaan bin Usaid reported that the Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: "The biggest breach of trust is that you tell a thing to your brother who believes it to be true, whereas you have lied to him.” (Abu Daawood)
Is Lying Ever Justified?
There are very few justifications for lying in Islam. The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) directed us to tell the truth, even under the harshest circumstances of oppression. However, one may choose not to tell the truth when:
* He is being oppressed and there is a real danger to his life if he speaks the truth. Shaikh As-Sa’di narrated the following story: "A cruel king ordered an innocent villager present in his court to be executed due to the villager’s lack of manners. Hearing this, the villager began cursing the king in his native language. The king asked his minister, who understood the man’s language, to tell him what the man was saying. The wise minister, instead of telling the truth, told the king that the man was sorry for his conduct and was praising his greatness and pleading for his mercy. The king was affected and therefore spared the life of the innocent villager.” Shaikh As-Sa’di called this: "A lie with wisdom.”
* To promote harmony between spouses. For example, if one’s wife asks him if she is beautiful or if he loves her, there is no harm in answering in the affirmative, even if this is not the case.
* While making peace between two quarrelling parties, so that the ordeal would not ignite into something worse. The mediator in such a case may falsely tell one party that the other is speaking highly of them.
Virtues of Telling the Truth
Truthfulness is commanded by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) as a part of faith and is an indispensable quality of the believers. It is mentioned in over one hundred places in the Quraan. Some examples are when Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Almighty, says (what means):
لِّيَجۡزِيَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلصَّٰدِقِينَ بِصِدۡقِهِمۡ
“so that Allah may give reward to the truthful ones for their truthfulness,” (Al-AHzaab33:24)
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَكُونُواْ مَعَ ٱلصَّٰدِقِينَ (119)
“O you who believe, fear Allah, and be in the company of the truthful.” (At-Taubah 9:119)
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ ٱتَّقُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَقُولُواْ قَوۡلٗا سَدِيدٗا (70)
“O you who believe, fear Allah, and speak in straightforward words.” (Al-Ahzaab 33:70)
ٱلصَّٰبِرِينَ وَٱلصَّٰدِقِينَ وَٱلۡقَٰنِتِينَ وَٱلۡمُنفِقِينَ وَٱلۡمُسۡتَغۡفِرِينَ بِٱلۡأَسۡحَارِ (17)
“(and those who are) the patient, the truthful and the devout, who spend (in Allah‘s way) and who seek forgiveness in pre-dawn hours.” (Aale ‘Imraan 3:17)
إِنَّمَا ٱلۡمُؤۡمِنُونَ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ بِٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ ثُمَّ لَمۡ يَرۡتَابُواْ وَجَٰهَدُواْ بِأَمۡوَٰلِهِمۡ وَأَنفُسِهِمۡ فِي سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِۚ أُوْلَٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلصَّٰدِقُونَ (15)
“Believers, in fact, are those who believe in Allah and His Messenger, then have no doubt, and struggle, with their riches and their lives, in the way of Allah. Those are the truthful.” (Al-Hujuraat 49:15)
It is not necessary to relate any Prophetic traditions about the truthfulness of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) as his whole life was nothing but the epitome of truth. Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) was confirmed as a truthful person even before he became the Prophet. During his Prophethood, even his enemies confirmed that he was truthful and trustworthy. Some of the disbelievers would deposit their belongings with him as an indication of their trust in him.