Honesty — a fundamental moral virtue

Honesty — a fundamental moral virtue

“WHEN honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour (the Day of Judgement)”. These are the words of Prophet Muhammed (peace 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.
Influence of materialism
Honesty, like morality, is an inherent characteristic of every human but the influence of materialism and the greed and desire for status, position, fame, wealth, and so forth has wreaked havoc in human society, to an extent never seen before.
In the 21st century, we live in a world where honesty is less valued than ever before and in fact even shunned at times. We expect people to be honest in their dealings with us yet we ourselves promote deceit and dishonesty through our actions and speech on a daily basis. We even watch and applaud television shows and movies that promote and encourage lying, infidelity and deceitfulness.
Desire for worldly gain
In the corporate world, deceitful statements and figures are announced and pronounced to lure investors, glamorous yet deceitful adverts to attract customers. All these have become the norm, honesty has gone out of the window.
Even in the media industry, honesty seems to be waning very rapidly. Without a second thought, consideration of the other people’s rights or any conscience, stories are churned out with so-called “sensational” add-ons. This is done simply for the sake of being the “first” to break the news or for having the “best” story while sometimes it is all done just to increase readership or viewership.
Thoughtless individual behaviour
Without thinking, we indirectly teach our children that dishonesty is acceptable. When we ask our children to tell the telephone caller that we are not home when we are there, we are teaching them to be deceitful. When we answer the cellphone and say that we are busy in a meeting yet we are very much relaxed and free, or we say we are out of town when we are home, we are being blatantly dishonest.
When we refuse to settle our debts and dues, making all sorts of pretences, we are actually lying. We admonish our children for lying, yet in reality we have been their teachers. When we lie and allow our children to live in a deceitful world, honesty disappears from their hearts and dishonesty spreads to the next generation.
Integrity and reliability
We must understand that 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 or moral soundness. Belief in God Almighty commands truthfulness and forbids lying. In the Holy Qur’aan, God Almighty commands that humans be honest, “O you who believe! Be conscious of God Almighty, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” (Ch 9 : v 119).
Ibn Katheer, the renowned Holy Qur’aan scholar, explained the meaning of this verse.
He said, “Being truthful and adhering to truthfulness, means you will be among the people of the truth (by speaking and behaving in a truthful manner) and be saved from calamity and that is what will really make a way out for you from your problems (in the long run)”.
Honesty and truthfulness go hand in hand
A true believer, one who is truly submitted to God, has many characteristics by which he or she can be identified. The most obvious of these noble characteristics are honesty of character and truthfulness of speech.
Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) was a perfect example of honesty. The records of history clearly show that even before he was bestowed Prophethood by The Almighty, he had earned the titles of “As Saadiq” (the truthful) and “Al Ameen” (the trustworthy one), within the community.
They had full trust in his honesty and integrity to such a degree that they would accept anything he said. Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), once gathered all the people of Makkah at the base of Mount Safa and asked them, “O people of Makkah! If I say to you that an army is advancing on you from behind the mountains, will you believe me?” All said in one voice, “Yes, because 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 upright life among them up to that point in time – for 40 years.
When Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) sent a letter to the Emperor of Byzantium inviting him to Islam, the Emperor, Heraclius sent for the Makkan trader, Abu Sufyan, who happened to be in the region on a trade mission.
Even though he was, at that time, a dire enemy of Islam, he spoke the truth about Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) when he said, “He neither tells lies nor betrays others, he bids people to worship God Alone and orders us to observe prayer, honesty and abstinence”.
Honesty in a comprehensive manner
This honesty, an essential ingredient of the human character, includes being truthful towards God by worshipping Him sincerely; being truthful to oneself, by adhering to God’s laws; and being truthful with others by speaking the truth and being honest in all dealings such as buying, selling, social interaction, marriage and so forth. There should be no deceiving, cheating, falsifying or withholding of information, thus a person should be the same on the inside as he or she is on the outside.
Prophetic teachings
Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) informed us of the great benefits of living in an honest and truthful way and warned us of the dangers inherent in dishonesty and falsehood.
He said: “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. In addition, a person keeps on telling the truth until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very truthful person.
And falsehood leads to wickedness (and evil-doing), and wickedness leads to the (Hell) Fire. In addition, a person keeps on telling lies until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very great liar”.
For those who wish to be among the truthful, Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) has left us with these words of guidance, “Let he who believes in God and the Last Day either speak good or (otherwise) remain silent”.
A successful, vibrant society is based upon honesty and justice, and is intolerant of dishonesty in all its various forms. The Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) exhorted the faithful to be scrupulously honest in all their social dealings, business transactions, and so forth at all times.

For further information on Islam or a free copy of the Holy Qur’aan, please contact:
Majlisul Ulama Zimbabwe, Council of Islamic Scholars
Publications Department
P.O. Box W93, Waterfalls, Harare
Tel: 04-614078 / 614004, Fax : 04-614003
e-mail: [email protected]

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