Being truthful means speaking the truth and also saying things that reflect reality. Being truthful is one of the necessities of a human society, one of the virtues of human behavior, and brings great benefits, whilst lying is one of the major elements of corruption in human society, and the cause of the destruction of social structure and ties, one of the most evil features of bad conduct, and causes widespread harm. Hence Islam commanded truthfulness and forbade lying.

Allah says: “O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” (9:119)

Ibn Katheer said: “It means: be truthful and adhere to truthfulness, and you will be among its people and will be saved from calamity, and this will make a way out for you from your problems.”

Allah says: “if they had been true to Allah, it would have been better for them.” (47:21)

Abd-Allah Ibn Mas’ood (radi allahu anhu – may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam – may the peace & blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “You must be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to 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 Hellfire. A man will keep telling lies and striving to tell lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar.” (Muslim)

This Hadith indicates that truthfulness leads to righteousness, an all-embracing concept that includes all kinds of goodness and different kinds of righteous deeds. Immorality is basically an inclination towards deviation from the truth, and the immoral person is one who is inclined to turn away from the path of guidance. Hence immorality and righteousness are incompatible.

Al-Hasan Ibn Ali Ibn Abi Taalib (radi allahu anhu) said: I memorized from the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam): “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt, for truthfulness is certainty and tranquility, whilst lying is doubt and confusion.” (Tirmidhi)

In the lengthy Hadith of Abu Sufyaan (radi allahu anhu) describing his meeting with Heraclius, Abu Sufyaan (radi allahu anhu) said: (Heraclius) said, “What does he (the Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) command you to do?” I said, “He says: worship Allah alone and do not associate anything in worship with Him, and abandon that which your forefathers did. He commands us to pray, to be truthful, to be chaste and to uphold the ties of kinship.” (Bukhaari and Muslim)

Hakeem Ibn Hizaam reported that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Two parties to a deal have the option of changing their minds until they part; if they are open and honest, their deal will be blessed, and if they conceal and tell lies, the blessing of their deal will be diminished.” (Bukhaari and Muslim)

Truthfulness includes being truthful towards Allah by worshiping Him sincerely; being truthful towards one’s own soul by making it adhere to the laws of Allah; and being truthful with people in one’s words and by keeping one’s promises, and in dealings such as buying, selling and marriage, so there should be no deceiving, cheating, falsifying or withholding of information. Thus a person should be the same on the inside and the outside.

As regards lying, it is highly forbidden, and is of varying degrees of abhorrence and sin. The most obnoxious form of lying is falsely attributing things to Allah and His Messenger, because this involves fabrication about the religion and is an act of outrage against Allah. Hence one of the characteristics of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) is that he truthfully conveyed that which Allah commanded him to convey. So Allah said:

“who does more wrong than one who invents a lie against Allah, to lead mankind astray without knowledge. Certainly Allah guides not the people who are Zaalimeen (polytheists and wrong-doers, etc.)” (6:144)

“And who does more wrong than he who invents a lie against Allah, Such will be brought before their Lord, and the witnesses will say, These are the ones who lied against their Lord! No doubt! The curse of Allah is on the Zaalimeen (polytheists, wrong-doers, oppressors, etc.).? (11:18)

Equally bad is lying about the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), as he is reported to have said: “Whoever lies about me deliberately, let him take his place in Hell.” (Bukhaari and Muslim)

The basic rule with regard to lying is that it is not permitted, but there are certain circumstances in which Islam permits lying to serve a greater purpose or to prevent harm.

One of these situations is when a person mediates between two disputing parties in order to reconcile between them, if reconciliation cannot be achieved in any other way. Um Kalsoom (radi allahu anha) reported that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “He is not a liar, who reconciles between people and conveys something good or says something good.” (Bukhaari)

Another example is a man’s speaking to his wife, or a woman speaking to her husband, with regard to matters that will strengthen the ties of love between them, even if that is accompanied by exaggeration. Asma Bint Yazeed (radi allahu anha) said: “The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “Lying is not permitted except in three cases: a man’s speaking to his wife to make her happy; lying at times of war; and lying in order to reconcile between people.”” (Muslim)

One of the most important forms of both being truthful and lying is in the area of promises and covenants. Being truthful in promises and covenants is one of the characteristics by which the believers are known. Both promises and covenants involve saying something about an issue to confirm that you will do it, especially with regard to one’s duties towards Allah. Allah says, praising some of His slaves:

“Those who are faithfully true to their Amaanaat (all the duties which Allah has ordained, honesty, moral responsibility and trusts, etc.) and to their covenants.” (23:8)

” and who fulfill their covenant when they make it” (2:177)

“Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah (i.e., they have gone out for jihad and showed not their backs to the disbelievers), of them some have fulfilled their obligations (i.e., have been martyred), and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed (i.e., they never proved treacherous to their covenant which they concluded with Allah) in the least.” (33:23)