Islam commands the Muslims to be honest to himself and to others. This order recurrently comes in the Noble Qur’an and the hadith of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). Islam orders the Muslim to tell the truth even if it is against the ones own interest. Islam orders him not to cheat or betray other people. A Muslim is ordered by Allah to be truthful in his words and deeds, privately and publicly alike.
Honesty in words implies telling the truth in all situations and under all circumstances. Honesty also implies fulfilling the promises, whether written or given verbally, in text and spirit. Honesty also implies giving an honest opinion and the right advice to the one who asks for it.
Honesty also implies doing one’s work as sincerely and as flawlessly as possible. Honesty also implies carrying out the duties as fully and completely as possible whether the person under supervision or not. Honesty means giving every person his due and deserved rights without his asking for these rights.
Honesty will be doing the right thing in the right way at the right time.
Honesty means objectivity in judgment, objectivity in assessment, and objectivity in decisions of all types. Honesty implies the right selection of people and the right promotion of personnel, i.e., selection by merit and promotion by merit, not by temper or favoritism or personal relationships.
We now proceed to examine some of the relevant Quranic verses and traditions. A short verse of the Quran says:
“Oh ye who believe! Eat not up each other’s property by unfair and dishonest means.”
A severe warning is given in the following verse to traders who cheat in weighing:
“Woe to those that deal in fraud, – those who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due. Do they not think that they will be called to account- on a Mighty Day when (all) mankind will stand before the Lord of the Worlds.”
In the same way, the under mentioned verse exhorts Muslims to be very particular about their trusts and about other people’s rights.
“Allah doth command you to render back your trust, to those to whom they are due.”
At two places in the Quran a chief distinguishing feature of Muslims is said to be that they are:
“Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants.”
The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) often used to say in his sermons:
“Remember, there is no faith in him who is not trustworthy; there is no place for him in religion who cares not for his pledged word or promise.”
Another tradition says:
“The signs of a hypocrite are three: when he speaks, he is false, when he promises, he fails; and when he is trusted, he plays false.”
Condemning those who cheat in business the sacred Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) has said:
“He who cheats is not of us. Deceitfulness and fraud are things that lead one to Hell.”
The Prophet of Allah (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) once came upon a heap of corn in the market of Medina and thrust his hand onto it. His fingers felt damp. On being asked, the trader replied that rain had fallen upon it. The Prophet observed:
“Why did you not then keep (the wet portion of) it above the dry corn, so that men may see it? He who deceives, is not one of us.”
Thus traders who cheat by showing to customers a dishonest sample or by concealing from them the flaws of the article they offer for sale are not true Muslims in the judgment of the Holy Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and, God-forbidding, they are going to end up in hell. Another tradition says:
“The seller must explain to the buyer the defects, if any, in the quality of the article offered for sale. Should this not be done, the seller will permanently be caught in the Wrath of Allah (according to another narrator the exact words, ‘he will always be cursed by the angels’).”
A tradition goes even to the extent of saying that,
“If a person made a recommendation for anyone in a just manner and gratified party gave him something as a gift (in return for it) and he accepted it, then he committed a grave error (meaning that it, too, is a form of bribery).”
It is of the mannerism of the high path of Islam to be honest when one speaks.The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
“Honesty certainly leads to goodness, and goodness leads to paradise. Truly, a man keeps speaking the truth until he is inscribed as being true through and through. And lying leads to going wrong, and going wrong leads to hell. Truly, a man lies and lies until he is inscribed as being a liar through and through.”
[Muslim, 4.2012–13: 2607. S].
It is prohibited to lie, except when making up between two people, or lying to an opponent in war, or to one’s wife. It is also unlawful to praise or blame another with a falsehood. The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
“Lying is wrong, except in three things: the lie of a man to his wife to make her content with him; a lie in war, for war is deception; or a lie to settle trouble between people.”
[Ahmad, 6.459. H].
Ibn Jawzi (ra) has said:
“The criterion for it is that every praiseworthy objective in Sacred Law that cannot be brought about without lying is permissible to lie for if the objective is permissible, and obligatory to lie for if the objective is obligatory.
“When lying is the single way to get one’s right, one may lie about oneself or another, if it does not harm the other. And it is mandatory to lie to if necessary to protect a Muslim from being murdered. But whenever one can achieve the objective by words that merely give a misleading impression with actually being untrue, it is unlawful to tell an absolute lie, because it is needless.