Sent by: Sister Umme Ayeshah

Lying is detested in all religions, civilizations and cultures but, unfortunately, it is widespread in human society. People lie for a variety of reasons. They may lie as part of self-presentation, in order to present a more favorable image to others. People may also lie in order to minimize conflict, because lying may make disagreements less obvious. Although does not look harmful in instances, lying is damaging that ends up in loss. An exposed lie undermines trust and sows suspicion, because a person who has been lied to is likely to mistrust the person who lied in the future. (Journal of Youth and Adolescence: The Right to Do Wrong: Lying to Parents among Adolescents and Emerging Adults)

Some people even lie due to habit at first impulse. ‘Everyday lies are really part of the fabric of social life,’ says Bella DePaulo, a psychologist and lying expert at the University of Virginia. Her research shows most of the men and women lie in approximately a fifth of their social exchanges lasting 10 or more minutes; over the course of a week they deceive about 30 percent of those with whom they interact one-on-one. Furthermore, some types of relationships, such as those between parents and teens, are virtual magnets for deception. Lying is considered integral to many occupations: we see lawyers constructing far-fetched theories on behalf of their clients or reporters misrepresenting themselves in order to gain access to good stories. (The truth about lying: Psychology Today)

Lying is a despicable vice, rampant in our societies. Deceiving others with the canny use of words is seen as clever. Public figures lie. Governments lie. One of the distinctions of our age is that lying no longer carries the stigma it once did. Today lying has become institutionalized. It is the way many of us live now, right from the top, because we figured out that if we are persuasive enough, lying works. Countries are invaded and wars are started based on lies. "We” never lie, we just bend the truth a little, put a spin, having no intention to mislead, but the "others” are liars. Ours is a society that has perfected the "art” of lying. Gone are the days when a lie destroyed the liar’s dignity and deprived him of our trust.

Islam views lying as a serious vice. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says in the Quraan:

وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَـٰئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا (36)

“And pursue not that thou hast no knowledge of; the hearing, the sight, the heart — all of those shall be questioned of.” (Al-Israa 17:36)

The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) stressed the importance of always being truthful and the seriousness of habitual lying:

Hadhrat ‘Abdullah ibne Mas’ood narrates that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllao Alaihe WaSallam) said: “You must be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Jannah (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 Jahannum (Hellfire). A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar” (Muslim)

Truth is to state what corresponds with reality, how things are, and is the opposite of lying. The malice of lying is tied to hypocrisy as described by the Prophet Hadhrat Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) as reported by Hadhrat ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr:

أَرْبَعٌ مَنْ كُنَّ فِيهِ كَانَ مُنَافِقًا خَالِصًا، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ فِيهِ خَصْلَةٌ مِنْهُنَّ كَانَتْ فِيهِ خَصْلَةٌ مِنَ النِّفَاقِ حَتَّى يَدَعَهَا إِذَا اؤْتُمِنَ خَانَ وَإِذَا حَدَّثَ كَذَبَ وَإِذَا عَاهَدَ غَدَرَ، وَإِذَا خَاصَمَ فَجَرَ ۔۔

“Whoever has the following four (characteristics) will be a pure hypocrite and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy unless and until he gives it up.
1. Whenever he is entrusted, he betrays.
2. Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie.
3. Whenever he makes a covenant, he proves treacherous.
4. Whenever he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent, evil and insulting manner.” (Bukhari)

Islamically, the most heinous lie is against Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), His prophets, His revelation, and bearing false witness. We should be careful not to make false excuses like ‘I was too busy or I forgot,’ or say words that can be taken as promises by others like ‘I’ll call back tomorrow,’ with no such intention. At the same time, not lying should not be confused with impoliteness, ‘saying at it is,’ but we should be careful not to lie about things when even no one apparently gets hurt. This can be done by carefully choosing our words.

We sometimes lie without even meaning to do it! Like if an annoying neighbor calls on the phone and you tell your child to say that you are in the shower or otherwise indisposed so you don’t get stuck on the phone for an hour. That’s a lie. Other lies are more evil and salacious.

Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Almighty, says:

إِنَّمَا يَفْتَرِي الْكَذِبَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّـهِ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَاذِبُونَ (105)

”Only they forge the lie who do not believe in Allah’s communications, and these are the liars.” (An-Nahl 16:105)

And another place, it is mentioned:

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَهْدِي مَنْ هُوَ كَاذِبٌ كَفَّارٌ (3)

”Surely, Allah does not guide anyone who is liar, highly infidel.” (Az-Zumar 39:3)

It can be understood from the Aayaat (Verses) of the Quraan that a liar calls for divine curse and invites the anger of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).

For example:

فَنَجْعَل لَّعْنَتَ اللَّـهِ عَلَى الْكَاذِبِينَ (61)

“… and pray for the curse of Allah on the liars.” (Aale- Imraan 3:61)

And also: A large number of Quraanic Aayaat and Ahaadeeth (Traditions) condemn the sin of lying and describe its evil consequences.

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 to deliberately 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.

The Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: Being truthful and trustworthy is among the greatest virtues a human can possess. Lying leads to corruption and deceit.

Is "Never lie!” an absolute principle of Islam or are there exceptions? Suppose that a would-be murderer comes knocking on your door, looking for his victim. Is the morally correct answer, "She’s hiding upstairs, hoping you will go away”? Philosophers like Kant wrote as if this was in fact the morally correct thing to do, but Islamically, lying is justified in such cases.

The Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “Lying is not permitted except in three cases: a man speaking to his wife to make her happy; lying in times of war; and lying in order to reconcile between people.” (At-Tirmizi)