Honesty: A Supreme Virtue
Honesty is a supreme quality carried by only those prepared to leave an impression on humanity. Prophet Muhammad (S), as his brother messengers and those who followed them in righteousness, stood for truth with little regard for its popularity or convenience. In fact, Prophet Muhammad (S) was known as the honest and trustworthy even before he received revelation. Abu Sufyan (R) was incapable of discrediting the Messenger of Allah (S) despite his attempts when he was questioned by the Emperor of Byzantium about him to which he said, “He neither tells lies nor betrays others, he bids people to worship Allah alone and orders us to observe prayer, be honest and abstinent.”
Prophet Muhammad (S) paints for us 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 (S), the Companions asked whether the highest level would be inhabited solely by the messengers and prophets. To this the Prophet (S) answered, “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 a truthful person? He or she is the individual who is unaffected by the displeasure of fellow human beings in his or her steadfastness. Prophet Muhammad (S) stated, “Three things are always found in the truthful person: sweetness of the tongue, beauty of the face, and the respect of others.” Take for example Abu Bakr Al-Siddeeq (the Truthful) (R) who attested to the truth in a time 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 ‘Sideeqan’ in the heavens.” This also serves as 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 (S). The first time a person tells a lie he might feel guilty about it. But a small lie leads to bigger lies and eventually the person loses his sense of guilt and becomes shameless.
The person who is truthful possesses a tongue which 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.” There are few people who speak truth even in the most difficult circumstances and who are fair in their words regardless of whether the person they are speaking of is a friend or foe, and regardless of whether what they say will be pleasing or displeasing to others.
Honesty includes being truthful towards Allah by worshipping Him sincerely; being truthful to oneself, by 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. Our behavior when we are alone should be identical to our behavior when we know others are watching. We should fear being among those who curse Shaytan in public but befriend him in secret.
My brothers and sisters, Prophet Muhammad (S) 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. It is truly unfortunate that Muslims in this country are sometimes characterized as people who often lie and cheat in their transactions and betray their agreements. Prophet Muhammad (S) 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?” (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 (SWT) 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