Last Thursday, I reminded myself of the importance of truthfulness: truthfulness is paramount, but there are situations in which one can, and should, tell slight falsehoods, little white lies, and there is also one sort of lie that is worse than all others.
As reported by Asma bint Yazid, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said
لاَ يَحِلُّ الْكَذِبُ إِلاَّ فِي ثَلاَثٍ يُحَدِّثُ الرَّجُلُ امْرَأَتَهُ لِيُرْضِيَهَا وَالْكَذِبُ فِي الْحَرْبِ وَالْكَذِبُ لِيُصْلِحَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ
it is not lawful to lie except in three cases: Something the man tells his wife to please her, to lie during war, and to lie in order to bring peace between the people
This seems either obvious, or like simple good manners to me… In a war (and when you’re threatened with violence), it’s perfectly reasonable and acceptable to lie to save yourself or others, to ensure quick victory or safety of yourself and your comrades, and to minimize harm to self, others, and property. In general daily life, it’s acceptable to tell little white lies to help unite people, for example, to keep people working together and to ease strain on family ties, and it’s also (obviously) well within bounds to, for example, respond to “how’s the dinner tonight?” with “Oh, my darling, adorable wife, this dinner is from the 6th level of Heaven, all thanks be to Allah, and with just a little pinch of salt, it might even move up to the 7th level of Heaven, and may Allah reward you!”
In most other situations, it’s better to tell truth, even if it might cause some temporary discomfort. It’s hard sometimes, sure, but in the long run you and I both know it’s better, even if, by “long run” I mean “on the Day of Judgement.”
Now, while lying in general is impermissible, there is one set of lies that rises above all others: telling lies about Allah or His prophets. According to Ali, the prophet, peace be upon him, said
لاَ تَكْذِبُوا عَلَىَّ، فَإِنَّهُ مَنْ كَذَبَ عَلَىَّ فَلْيَلِجِ النَّارَ
Do not tell a lie against me for whoever tells a lie against me (intentionally) then he will surely enter the Hell-fire.
There are cases in which it’s permissible to lie about the prophet, the religion, or even God, for example, if you or your loved ones are under threat of harm and you say with your mouth something that’s not in your heart, solely to preserve your life. In all other cases, it’s impermissible to lie about the religion.
Thanks again to Gyasi McKensie for his excellent reminder last week, and may Allah preserve and reward him.