When one’s Fitrah (natural disposition) is sound and free from subservience to desires, the characteristic of honesty presents itself.

Commenting on the Quranic verse where Allah The Almighty says (what means): {Indeed, We Offered the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, and they declined to bear it and feared it; but man [undertook to] bear it. Indeed, he was unjust and ignorant} [Quran 33:72], Al-Qurtubi may Allah have mercy upon him said that the “trust” mentioned here, includes all religious duties, according to the soundest opinion of scholars. He also interpreted the words “trusts” and “promises” in the following verse where Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive} [Quran 23:8], to refer to all matters of life and religion that a person undertakes, whether in words or actions. Hence, it includes social relations, appointments and other pledges that must be honored and fulfilled.

When honesty prevails, the person who is delegated something discharges it responsibly, whether it is concerning a big thing or he or she is entrusted with one Dinar, because Allah The Almighty commanded that trusts be returned to their owners and prohibited people from betraying Him, His Messenger and the trust. He also made the respect and fulfillment of promises and trusts a characteristic of the successful.

Moreover, people, even if they are non-Muslim, are intrinsically inclined to deal with honest people and to trust the person who is strong and reliable. It is narrated that when the people of Najran agreed to pay the Jizyah (tax levied on non-Muslims in exchange for security), they said, “We shall give you what you asked for; send a trustworthy man with us and do not send anyone but an honest person.” The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “I shall send a decent man who is very reliable” , and agreed to dispatch Abu ‘Ubaydah ibn Al-Jarrah, may Allah be pleased with him,

Indeed, the most precious things that Allah The Almighty grants people are: “four characteristics that if you possess, you should not regret any worldly benefit that you may be deprived of: speaking the truth, preserving the trust, having good morals and consuming lawfully earned sustenance.” Hence, because people are more likely to want to interact with a person who brings together all of these qualities within him/herself, honesty is one of the incomparable moral elements that may even facilitate worldly pleasures.

It is also a distinct quality of the messengers, as every one of them used to address his people saying (what means): {Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy messenger.} [Quran 26:107, 125, 162, 143 and 178] Their enemies would also give testimony to that effect, as the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius did, in his dialogue with Abu Sufyan, when he said: “I then asked you what he ordered you to do; you stated that he told you to perform the prayers, speak the truth, be chaste, fulfill promises and return trusts. This is characteristic of Prophets.” In another place in Saheeh Al-Bukhari, it reads: “Then, I asked you whether he betrays [others] and you maintained that he does not; and, so are Prophets not disloyal.”

Hence, if honesty is an attribute of Prophets, their followers should also be distinguished by it. The believer is defined in terms of his or her distinct attitude, since the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “The believer is the person whom people can trust with regard to their lives and property.” And any such defining attribute, such as honesty, if inculcated in a person, will manifest in his or her dealing with all people, irrespective of religion or proximity. Ibn Hajar may Allah have mercy upon himsaid, “Betrayal is prohibited, whether it is practiced with Muslims or Thimmis (non-Muslims who live under the protection of the Islamic state), according to the consensus of scholars.”

In fact, such is a believer’s attitude with even those who are known for cheating and disloyalty, as stated in the Hadeeth: “Discharge the trust to whoever entrusted you and do not betray the person who betrayed you.” That is because the danger that lies in duplicity and spoiling one’s Fitrah through the habit of breaking one’s promises is far weightier than just giving the betrayer a taste of his or her own medicine. In fact, the person who is disloyal once, may well become used to it and indulge even more in betrayal.

Practical applications of honesty are in giving advice to those who consult you and speaking the bitter truth to whoever trusts your opinion. That is why the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, reminded us that “the one who is consulted is trusted” ; he also said, “if a man advises his brother to do something, knowing that the right lies elsewhere, then he has betrayed him.” Hence, there is no good at all in the person who advises someone to do what is not useful for him or her or perhaps is even harmful.

Likewise, a Mujahid (fighter) is commanded to behave in an honorable manner on the battlefield and is prohibited from betrayal and from acting unlawfully in regard to war booty, as in the Hadeeth: “Do not betray, illegally seize spoils of wars or mutilate…”Moreover, those he has left behind of family must also be looked after; and those who take up that task are also entrusted with a great responsibility, which, if neglected, will give the Mujahid the right to take as much from his record of good deeds as he wants. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Anyone who stays behind to take care of the family of a Mujahid and breaks his trust, will be made to stand on the Day of Resurrection before him and he will deduct from his good acts whatever he likes. So, what do you think [he will leave for him]?”

Keeping people’s secrets, covering up their faults and not disclosing confidential conversations are the most serious kinds of trusts. In a Hadeeth, it is mentioned: “Meetings [and what is discussed in them] are confidential” ; thus, even if the one who is speaking does not particularly ask you to keep his or her talk a secret, you are still not allowed to spread it around, except with his or her permission and knowledge. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “If a man had a brief chat with another person, it would be a trust [to keep it private].” The least degree of honesty is maintained in conveying the exact conversation without fabricating or changing any words.

Honesty in one’s work means doing it perfectly and not divulging any classified information. Hence, we find that Imam Al-Bukhari may Allah have mercy upon him in Kitab Al-Ahkam (the book of rulings) mentioned a subtitle: “The Recommendation of a Writer to be Honest and Wise”; here, he refers to the saying of Abu Bakr to Zayd ibn Thabit, may Allah be pleased with them, when he wanted to appoint him as a scribe: “You are a wise young man and we trust you.”

The extreme distortion of standards and corruption of values to come in later ages was described by the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, when he said: “There shall come deceptive years, in which the truthful shall be deemed liars, while the cheats shall be believed. The honest shall be deemed dishonest, while the deceitful as upright. [And] the Ruwaybidhah will speak in these times.” The Companions asked: “What is Ruwaybidhah, O Messenger of Allah?” He, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, replied: “It refers to an insignificant man who speaks on behalf of the masses.”

The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, fearing that betrayal would be rampant after the generations of goodness, warned: “…After you, there will be people who will break the trust and will not be reliable.” Since then, the scenario of this decline unfolded, until the time has come when we have observed jobs being assigned to unqualified persons, betrayers being trusted and honest people being doubted. He, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, also told of a time when the honest will become so rare that people will point them out, when he said: “So there will come a day when people will deal in business with each other but there will hardly be any trustworthy persons among them. Then, it will be said that in Banu so-and-so there is an honest man.”

In addition to the rarity of honest men, excluding them from positions of authority while others are instated, leading to a loss of trusts, is a sign of the Day of Judgment. The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “When the trust is broken, wait for the Hour.” Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, asked, “O Messenger of Allah, how will it be lost?” The Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, replied, “When power or command are assigned to those who are incompetent, then wait for the Hour.” In the book Al-Fat-h, Ibn Battal may Allah have mercy upon him remarked, “[This] Hadeeth means that Allah The Almighty entrusted His servants to their leaders and obligated the former to advise the latter. Hence, they should assign reliable scholars to posts of authority. Otherwise, they would betray the trust that Allah The Almighty has entrusted them with.”

Al-Bukhari may Allah have mercy upon him listed the aforementioned Hadeeth under Kitab Al-‘Ilm (Book of Knowledge), reflecting his profound intellect. Ibn Hajar may Allah have mercy upon him explains this classification, saying, “The reason for including this Hadeeth under Kitab Al-‘Ilm is that appointing unqualified people to posts of authority basically takes place when ignorance prevails and knowledge is lifted, which are, in and of themselves, from the Signs of the Hour.”

Moreover, observing the rights of trusts is an attribute of the believers, whereas, failing to fulfill any of them is a sign of hypocrisy. Hence, it was narrated that signs of hypocrisy include,”betraying the trust that one is entrusted with.” He, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “There is no faith in the one who is not honest, nor is there faith in one who breaks his promise.” Those who are trustworthy try their best to fulfill their duties, are far removed from plotting and betrayal, and always fulfill their pledges.

No one is qualified to convey the great message of Islam except the honest, and that is exactly how we should be.