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Islam Instructs Muslims To Lie?

May 23, 2014

How many times have we heard this: it is in the Islamic religion that Muslims can, and must lie, when communicating/in contact with non-Muslims? Well is this true? If Muslims claim that they follow one of the 10 Commandments from the Bible (Thou shall not lie), then how can they lie? Is lying permitted at all in Islam? If so, when?

What Does the Islamic Scripture (the Qur’an) Say?

Qur’an is clear about when the lying is NOT permitted:

a)  A Muslim must not lie to lead someone astray on purpose (believer or unbeliver): And, do not cloak (and confuse) the truth with falsehood. Do not suppress the truth knowingly.  The Noble Quran, 2:42

b) Make false accusations against a person, without providing any evidence: And for those who launch a charge against their spouses, and have (in support) no evidence but their own,- their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by God that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of God on themselves if they tell a lie. But it would avert the punishment from the wife, if she bears witness four times (with an oath) By God, that (her husband) is telling a lie;  (The Noble Quran, 24:6-8)

“Why did they not bring four witnesses to prove it? When they have not brought the witnesses, such men, in the sight of God, (stand forth) themselves as liars(The Noble Quran, 24:13)

c) To gain praise or a status in the society: Qur’an 3:188:  Think not that those who exult in what they have brought about, and love to be praised for what they have not done,- think escape the penalty. For them is a penalty Grievous indeed.

d) Make false testimony to prevent justice being served (in court or otherwise):

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well- acquainted with all that ye do.  (The Noble Quran, 4:135)

According to the Noble Qur’an, one can tell a white lie ONLY when:

“He/she is forced or under pressure for self-defense, provided his/her heart is still filled with truth: “He who disbelieves in Allah after his belief in Him (is the liar), except he who is compelled while his heart remains steadfast with the faith (has nothing worry)…”  (Qur’an 16:100).

What do the Hadiths (written traditions attributed to Prophet Muhammad, his family and companions) say?

Hadiths allow so-called white lies and document that lying is permitted only in the following 3 situations:

1. In a battle: to save oneself or another person/group of persons.

An example: say a believer is captured in a battle and his/her enemy is torturing him to reveal a strategic secret or to tell where an important leadership figure is. Does the believer reveal the secret and risk his people losing, knowing that many would be killed by the enemy? Does he reveal where the leadership figure is–again aiding his enemy in defeating his people?

Personal example: I survived wartime in my homeland. I cannot tell you how many times I faked my name when stopped on the street. Yes, I lied about my name because I did not want to be taken to a concentration camp, possibly gang-raped on a daily basis and likely murdered after. This did happen in my hometown and I did not want to become a victim.

2. To make peace between two people.

An example: say two sides are in a war, and you are representing a neutral party to negotiate the peace. People are being killed on both sides, and you have to think of a proposal that is attractive to both sides, not perceived as biased in any way, etc. What do you do? Your goal is to make peace, calm them down and you will deal with potential disputes/issues as they come along such as the Constitution of the state, political representation, etc. This is exactly what late Richard Holbrooke did during peace negotiations between Serbs and Bosnians in the Balkans. He proposed: Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent state, with two entities: Serb Republic and Federation, drafter a Dayton Accord Constitution that allowed presidency and any other government body to be represented by three persons. Yes, Bosnia has 3 presidents, believe it or not! The promise was that there will be peace and people will learn to live in peace again. Holbrooke told a half a lie, a white lie, but achieved his goal: war stopped, people stopped being murdered on all sides, and Bosnia is considered independent country. Yet, political problems still persist. If I was in Holbrooke’s position, perhaps I would do the same in the name of peace.

3. Reconciling marriage partners.

Say your son and daughter-in-law are bickering badly about many things. They constantly argue in front of kids, they cannot agree about their finances, she wants him home all the time, he needs a breath away from her, etc. No serious problems exist, such as domestic violence or cheating. What do you do? Pretend you live with them 🙂 I would bring attention to the positive things about their marriage and family situation. If I saw that the wife took extra money to buy herself some make up, even though she has tons of it already, is it really worth it to say so to my son if he asks me about it? No. I might say she bought some extra food for the kids, or wanted to make herself look prettier for him and might have bought something she needed to achieve that.

Maybe my example is poor, but basically what I am trying to say is that one might tell a white lie to save someone’s marriage if there are no serious issues involved.

Conclusion

If a lie is for the overall good, whose outcome is not harm but help, peace or safety, then it might be permitted. If a lie is for personal gain, to promote treachery, bloodshed, discord, falsehood or anything similar, than it is not permitted in Islam.

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