Honesty: A Supreme Virtue
Honesty is a supreme quality exemplified by those prepared to make a positive impact. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ stood for honesty no matter its popularity or convenience. In fact, he was known for his trustworthiness and sincerity even before he received revelation. Abu Sufyan was incapable of discrediting the Messenger of Allah ﷺ despite his many attempts. When questioned by the Emperor of Byzantine, Abu Sufyan admitted, “He [Prophet Muhammad ﷺ] neither tells lies nor betrays others; he invites people to worship Allah alone and directs us to observe prayer, be honest and abstinent.”
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ paints a picture of Paradise telling his beloved Companions, “The residents of heaven see the residents of the rooms above them as you see the stars above you in the skies. The spaces between each level are due to the superiority of the inhabitants of the levels.” Upon hearing these words from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, the Companions asked whether the highest level would be inhabited solely by the messengers and prophets. The Prophet ﷺ replied, “By He who holds my soul in His grasp, it will be inhabited by those who believed in Allah and were truthful to the messengers.”
How do we identify truthful people? These individuals are unaffected by the displeasure of fellow human beings in their steadfastness. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ stated, “Three things are always found in a truthful person: the sweetness of the tongue, beauty of the face, and the respect of others.” For example, Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (the Truthful) attested to the truth when those who believed were scarce. For this reason, he attained the highest level of truthfulness as Ali ibn Abi Talib (R) states of his beloved friend, “By the one who holds my soul in His grasp, it was Allah who named Abu Bakr ‘Sidiqan’ in the heavens.” This also serves as a testimony of Ali’s love for Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with them both.
On the other hand, the person who tells lies is shameless, as described by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. The first time people lie, they might feel guilty about it. But a small lie leads to more significant lies, and eventually, they lose their sense of guilt and become shameless.
The truthful person possesses a tongue that is always fair when it speaks. Al-Fudayl ibn ‘Ayad, a righteous predecessor, said, “There is not a piece of meat more beloved to Allah than a truthful tongue, and there is not a piece of meat more hated by Allah than a lying tongue.” Few people speak the truth even in the most challenging circumstances. They are fair in their words regardless of whether the person they are speaking of is a friend or foe, irrespective of whether what they say will be pleasing displeasing to others.
Honesty includes being truthful toward Allah by worshiping Him sincerely, being truthful to oneself, adhering to Allah’s laws, and being truthful with others by speaking the truth and being honest in all dealings. This requires an individual to be steadfast to the truth, whether in private or in the open. When we are alone, our behavior should be identical to our behavior when we know others are watching. We should fear to be among those who curse Shaytan in public but befriend him in secret.
My brothers and sisters, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, warns of the Hour when honesty is lost. We currently live in a time where people use deceit as their currency. It is a time when lying is acceptable and even favored. The honest person is shunned and ridiculed as ignorant and naive. Some misguided individuals think lying is acceptable when dealing with non-Muslims and cheat their way out of any law or obligation.
Unfortunately, Muslims in this country are sometimes characterized as people who often lie and cheat in their transactions and betray their agreements. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ informed us that a Muslim could be a coward, even greedy, but not a liar.
My brothers and sisters, let us attempt to live up to the example of Abdullah ibn Omar (R). One day, he was sitting among some close friends, and he read the following verses: “Woe unto those who give short measure, those who, when they are to receive their due from people, demand that it be given in full but when they have to measure or weigh whatever they owe to others, give less than what is due. Do they not know that they are bound to be raised from the dead (and called to account) on an overwhelming Day, the day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds?” (Quran 83:1-6). Abdullah (R) wept until he was faint repeating the words “the day when all men shall stand before the Sustainer of all the worlds.” He was among the most honest and trustworthy men, but being reminded of the punishment for those who are deceitful filled him with fear.
We ask Allah ﷻ to make us among those who tremble at the thought of telling a lie and among those who will be with the prophets and martyrs; the truthful and righteous on a Day when all will be revealed.
Sh. Jamal Said