“When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour (the Day of Judgment).”
These are the noble words of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
They paint a picture of the time leading up to the Day of Judgement, when righteous people will be sorrowful due to the lack of honesty around them. In the 21st century, we live in a world where honesty is still valued and yet shunned at the same time. We expect people to be honest in their dealings and transactions with us; yet we watch and applaud television shows and movies that promote and encourage lying and deceitfulness in our society.
With our negligence, we teach our children that dishonesty is acceptable. When we expect our children to tell the caller on the telephone we are not home, whereas we are, this is a lesson in deceit for the leaders of tomorrow. When we refuse invitations and pretend we are busy, this is lying. We admonish our children for lying, yet the reality is we have been their teachers. Whether we tell lies, or we allow our children to live in a world surrounded by deceit, the lesson is learned and the honesty begins to disappear from the hearts of the next generation.
Furthermore, honesty incorporates the concepts of truthfulness and reliability and it resides in all human thoughts, words, actions, and relationships. It is more than just accuracy; it is more than just truthfulness. It denotes integrity and moral soundness. Islam commands truthfulness and forbids lying. Almighty Allah commands believers to be honest:
O you who believe! Fear God and be with those who are true. (At-Tawbah 9:119)
A true believer, one who is truly submitted to Allah, has many characteristics by which he or she can be identified. The most obvious of these are honesty of character and truthfulness of speech. Prophet Muhammad was a perfect example of honesty. Even before his prophethood, he had earned the titles of the trustworthy and the truthful.
The trustworthy Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) once gathered all the people of Makkah and asked them, “O people of Makkah! If I say that an army is advancing on you from behind the mountains, will you believe me?” All said in one voice, “Yes, as we have never heard you telling a lie.” All the people, without exception, swore to his truthfulness and honesty, because he had lived an unblemished and extremely pious life among them for forty years.
The Prophet’s honesty was described well by Abu Sufyan. When he sent a letter to Heraclius, the Emperor of Byzantium, inviting him to Islam, the Emperor sent for the Meccan trader, Abu Sufyan. Even though he was at that time a dire enemy of Islam, he spoke the truth about Prophet Mohammad. When asked about the Prophet, he said, “He neither tells lies nor betrays others; he bids people to worship Allah alone and orders us to observe Prayer, honesty, and abstinence.”
This honesty, an essential ingredient of the Muslim character, includes being truthful towards Almighty Allah, by worshipping Him sincerely; being truthful to oneself, by adhering to Allah’s laws; and being truthful with others, by speaking the truth and being honest in all dealings, such as buying, selling, and marriage. Cheating and deception should never exist among believers. A believer should be the same on the inside as he is on the outside.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) warned us of the dangers inherent in dishonesty, and informed us about the benefits of living in an honest way. He reportedly said, “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. And a man keeps on telling the truth until he is written in the sight of Allah as a truthful person. Falsehood leads to wickedness and evil-doing, and wickedness leads to the (Hell) Fire, and a man keeps on telling lies till he is written before Allah as a liar.” (Al-Bukhari)
A true Islamic society is based upon honesty and justice, and is intolerant of dishonesty in all its various forms. Honesty in all business transactions is emphasised, and Prophet Muhammad exhorted Muslims to be scrupulously honest in all their dealings. `Abdullah ibn `Umar was once described as the “brother of the night”, for he would stand at night performing Prayer, weeping, seeking Allah’s forgiveness, and reading the Qur’an. One day, he was sitting among some close friends and he read the following verses:
Woe unto those who give short measure, those who, when they are to receive their due from people, demand that it be given in full; but when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due. Do they not know that they are bound to be raised from the dead [and called to account] on an awesome Day, the Day when mankind shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds? (Al-Mutaffifin 83:1-6)
Then, `Abdullah wept until he was faint and kept repeating the words (the day when mankind shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds). He was amongst the most honest and trustworthy men, but being reminded of the punishment for those who are deceitful filled him with fear.
Therefore, a Muslim seeking to please Almighty Allah and follow the path of righteousness should be aware of the dangers of deceit and dishonesty. However, he should equally know that Allah is All-Merciful and All-Loving, willing to forgive even the gravest sins for those who repent and strive for His sake. Honesty is very important in the life of a believer.
In a hadith on honesty, the Prophet is reported to have said, “Honesty descended from the Heavens and settled in the hearts of men, and then the Qur’an was revealed and they read the Qur’an and also learnt from the Sunnah. Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah strengthened their honesty.” (Al-Bukhari)
For those who wish to be among the truthful, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has left us with these words of guidance, “Let he who believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or keep silent.” (Muslim)
This article was originally published on islamreligion.com. It has been taken with modifications from onislam.net