Qur'an, Hadith and Scholars:Lying and Deception
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Lying is generally considered a sin for believers by Islamic jurists, but this is not a blanket judgement. The tradition records Muhammad lying and breaking oaths on a number of occasions when it served his purpose, particularly when it came to warfare. Such was his fodness for the tactic that there are two instances of sahih hadith recording his saying: "war is deceit." In addition, Allah himself is recorded as being "the best deceiver" and leading those he disapproves of to the fire; in fact, according to the doctrine of qadr all those who go to hell are deliberately decieved by Allah into this final doom.
The Qur'an openly states many times that Allah is the "best deceiver", for more info on this idea see: Allah the Best Deceiver.</ref>
Arabic: ومكروا ومكر الله والله خير الماكرين
Transliteration: Wamakaroo wamakara Allahu waAllahu khayru almakireenaLiteral: And they cheated/deceived and God cheated/deceived, and God (is) the best (of) the cheaters/deceivers.
Arabic: افامنوا مكر الله فلايامن مكر الله الا القوم الخاسرون
Transliteration: Afaaminoo makra Allahi fala ya/manu makra Allahi illa alqawmu alkhasiroonaLiteral: Did they secure God's scheme/deceit ? So no(one) trusts God's scheme/deceit except the nation the losers.
Arabic: واذ يمكر بك الذين كفروا ليثبتوك او يقتلوك او يخرجوك ويمكرون ويمكر الله والله خير الماكرين
Transliteration: Wa-ith yamkuru bika allatheena kafaroo liyuthbitooka aw yaqtulooka aw yukhrijooka wayamkuroona wayamkuru Allahu waAllahu khayru almakireenaLiteral: And when those who disbelieved deceive/scheme at you to affix/affirm you, or kill you, or bring you out, and they scheme/deceive , and God deceives/schemes and God (is) best (of) the deceivers/schemers.
Arabic: واذا اذقنا الناس رحمة من بعد ضراء مستهم اذا لهم مكر في اياتنا قل الله اسرع مكرا ان رسلنا يكتبون ماتمكرون
Transliteration: Wa-itha athaqna alnnasa rahmatan min baAAdi darraa massat-hum itha lahum makrun fee ayatina quli Allahu asraAAu makran inna rusulana yaktuboona ma tamkuroonaLiteral: And if We made the people taste/experience mercy from after calamity/disastrous distress touched them, then for them (is) cheatery/deceit/schemes in Our verses/evidences . Say: "God (is) quicker/faster (in) cunning/scheming , that Our messengers write what you cheat/ deceive/scheme."
Arabic: وقد مكر الذين من قبلهم فلله المكر جميعا يعلم ماتكسب كل نفس وسيعلم الكفار لمن عقبى الدار
Transliteration: Waqad makara allatheena min qablihim falillahi almakru jameeAAan yaAAlamu ma taksibu kullu nafsin wasayaAAlamu alkuffaru liman AAuqba alddariLiteral: And those from before them had cheated/deceived/schemed, so to God (is) all the cheatery/deceit/scheme. He knows what every self gains/acquires , and the disbelievers will know to whom (is) the house's/home's end/turn (result).
Created Christianity Through Deception
The Qur'an tells us that Allah will not call Muslims to account for what is "futile in their oaths", and deliberately breaking oaths is not much of a problem because they will be forgiven if they fast for three days.
The words "in some cases" of the above verse are not present in the original Arabic text. So this verse could even be giving Muslims a carte blanche to break oaths.
The following Qur'anic verses form the basis of the mainly Shi'ite doctrine of taqiyya, although, as you will see in the section on Sunni scholars, some Sunnis have endorsed the practice as well. The idea behind taqiyya is that Muslim can lie about their faith to preserve their life and property in the face of religious oppression.
In Sahih Bukhari we find narrations telling us Prophet Muhammad had said if he took an oath and later found something else better, he would do "what is better" and expiate his oath.
Narrated Zahdam:We were in the company of Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari and there were friendly relations between us and this tribe of Jarm. Abu Musa was presented with a dish containing chicken. Among the people there was sitting a red-faced man who did not come near the food. Abu Musa said (to him), "Come on (and eat), for I have seen Allah's Apostle eating of it (i.e. chicken)." He said, "I have seen it eating something (dirty) and since then I have disliked it, and have taken an oath that I shall not eat it ' Abu Musa said, "Come on, I will tell you (or narrate to you). Once I went to Allah s Apostle with a group of Al-Ash'ariyin, and met him while he was angry, distributing some camels of Rakat. We asked for mounts but he took an oath that he would not give us any mounts, and added, 'I have nothing to mount you on' In the meantime some camels of booty were brought to Allah's Apostle and he asked twice, 'Where are Al-Ash'ariyin?" So he gave us five white camels with big humps. We stayed for a short while (after we had covered a little distance), and then I said to my companions, "Allah's Apostle has forgotten his oath. By Allah, if we do not remind Allah's Apostle of his oath, we will never be successful." So we returned to the Prophet and said, "O Allah's Apostle! We asked you for mounts, but you took an oath that you would not give us any mounts; we think that you have forgotten your oath.' He said, 'It is Allah Who has given you mounts. By Allah, and Allah willing, if I take an oath and later find something else better than that. then I do what is better and expiate my oath.' "
Narrated 'Abdur-Rahman bin Samura:The Prophet said, "O 'Abdur-Rahman! Do not seek to be a ruler, for if you are given authority on your demand then you will be held responsible for it, but if you are given it without asking (for it), then you will be helped (by Allah) in it. If you ever take an oath to do something and later on you find that something else is better, then you should expiate your oath and do what is better."
Since determining what is "better" is a very subjective evaluation, one can break any agreement with anyone at any time they choose to do so just based on one's perception of what is "better".
War is Deceit
Not Restricted to War
Muslims often claim lying in Islam is restricted to its use in war, but in the following hadiths, Muhammad permits a Muslim to lie in order to kill Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, a Jewish poet who wrote an anti-Muslim poem which offended him.
This is a clear case of lying endorsed by the prophet in order to achieve the objectives of Islam, therefore Muslims are permitted to lie (and kill) in defence of Muhammad and his character.
These narrations say that a person can knowingly get two of his friends to lie about the consent given by a female and the marriage will be upheld. So if she turns him down, all he needs to do is get two friends to lie and she will be his wife legally.
“Abu Asem told us from Ibn Goreh, from the son of Abi Molaika, from Zokwan, from Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) that: Allah’s apostle (PBUH) said that a virgin’s consent is taken. I said: "A virgin feels shy". He said, ”Her silence is her consent.” And some people said that if a man falls in love with an orphan odalisque or a virgin and she refuses him. Then, he does a trick by bringing two false witnesses that he married her and the orphan realized it (the trick) and gave her consent and the judge acknowledged the false witnesses and the husband is aware of its falsehood, then is lawful for him to copulate with her.”
In addition to Sahih Bukhari, we find many more narrations in Sahih Muslim concerning the breaking of oaths. This time Muhammad is encouraging Muslims to do likewise and choose what is "better".
Not Restricted to War
In addition to Sahih Bukhari, we find a narration in Sahih Muslim concerning Muhammad permitting a Muslim to lie in order to kill Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, a Jewish poet who wrote an anti-Muslim poem which offended him.
Cover Up Sins
War is Deceit
ابن إسحاق; ابن هشام, سيرة ابن هشام ت السقا, vol.2, al-Maktabah al-Shamilah, p. 57, https://app.turath.io/book/23833
The rabbis were disgraced through their treachery, Thus time's wheel turns round. They had denied the mighty Lord Whose command is greal. They had been given knowledge and understanding And a warner from God came to them, A truthful warner who brought a book With plain and luminous verses. The said, 'You've brought no true thing And you are more wonhy of God's disapproval than we: He said,'Nay,but l've, brought the truth, The wise and intelligent believe me, He who follows it will be rightly guided And the disbelievers will be recompensed And when they imbibed treachery and unbelief And aversion turned them from the truth, God showed the prophet a sound view, For God's decision is not false He strengthened him and gave him power over them And was his Helper, an excellent Helper! Ka'b was left prostrate there, After his fall Nadir was brought low. Sword in hand we cut him down By Muhammad's order when he sent secretly by night Ka'b's brother , to go to Ka'b. He beguiled him and brought him down with guile Mahmud was trustworthy, bold Those Banu'l-Nadir were in evil case, They were destroyed for their crimes The day the apostle came to them with an army Walking softly as he looked at them. Ghassan the protectors were his helpers Against the enemies as he helped them. He said '(I offer) Peace, woe to you' but they refused And lies and deciet were their allies They tasted the results of their deeds in misery, Every three of them shared one camel. They were driven out and made for Qaynuqaa'Their palms and houses were abandoned.
ابن إسحاق; ابن هشام, سيرة ابن هشام ت السقا, vol.2, al-Maktabah al-Shamilah, pp. 199, https://app.turath.io/book/23833
أبو جعفر الطبري, تاريخ الرسل والملوك, vol.2, al-Maktabah al-Shamilah, p. 179, https://app.turath.io/book/9783
أبو جعفر الطبري, تاريخ الرسل والملوك, vol.3, al-Maktabah al-Shamilah, p. 93, https://app.turath.io/book/9783
All quotations are taken from authoritative Sunni (i.e. orthodox Islamic) sources, none are taken from Shi'ite sources.
Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Edited and Translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller (p. 745, r8.2)
Nizam al-Din al-Shashi, Usul al-Shashi (p. 114)
Abu Ja'far Muhammad at-Tabari, Beirut: Dar Ihya' at-Turath al-'Arabi, 2001 (vol. 3, p. 267)
Tafsir al-Jalalayn, trans. Feras Hamza, 2012 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Tafseer Kabeer, published in Istanbul (vol. 2, p. 626)
"Anyone who after accepting faith in Allah utters disbelief (save under compulsion and even then his heart remains firm in faith) on them is Wrath from Allah and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty"
Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Al-Durr Al-Manthur Fi Tafsir Bil-Ma'thur, Cairo edition (vol. 4, p. 132)
Husain bin Masood al-Baghawi, published in Bombay (vol. 2, P. 214)
Again, all quotations are taken from authoritative Sunni (i.e. orthodox Islamic) sources, none are taken from Shi'ite sources.
In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful
Peace, blessings and mercy of Allah be upon you.
My father has an illicit relationship with a woman other than my mother and he refuses to marry her and he spends on her abundantly, and at the same time, he is tightfisted on his house. My mother knew what he spends on her, without his knowledge, through reading a list he keeps in his pocket. She used tricks to make sedition between them by claiming that someone called us and said that he spent that sum and that sum on that woman. My father asked my testimony and I supported my mother’s claim. Are my mother and I sinful by lying on my father, or is it considered “permissible” lying? How do you counsel us to solve this problem? Jazakum Allahu Khairan.
In the name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful
Praise be to Allah, prayers and peace be upon His kind Messenger, his family members, companions and followers.
Lying is a grave sin and a bad conduct that should not be resorted to by anyone who believes in Allah and in the Day of Judgment, except under the compelling strokes of necessity, because, as the prophet, prayers and peace of Allah be upon him, said: “That lying leads to dissolution, and that dissolution leads to hellfire, and a person is always lying and seeks lying until he is registered unto Allah that he is a liar”. If someone is compelled to lying, he can indirectly say something that his listener can understand something else. However, your father should be reached out by a sincere advice that he should fear Allah and that his relationship with that woman is against his reputation, his old age, and his religion, that would expose him to Allah’s wrath and contempt. I would say to him what the Arab poet has said: “Suffice it to you old age and Islam to restrain you”.As for your mother, it would be better for her that she would approach your father in their privacy and tell him that she knows what is going on between him and that woman, and that she is patient on that situation in consideration for the family and intimate ties between them and that her patience has reached a warning limit of no more if he goes on like this, and that she reminds him of Allah and frightens him of His wrath and contempt, that he may come back to his senses and sincerely repent to Allah. Allah knows best.
Dr. Salah Al-Sawy, AMJA Online, Question ID: 937, November 17, 2005
- In this verse [al-Maa’idah 5:51] Allaah tells us that whoever takes the Jews and Christians as friends is one of them because of his taking them as friends... [Aal ‘Imraan 3:28]
- This verse explains all the verses quoted above which forbid taking the kaafirs as friends in general terms. What that refers to is in cases where one has a choice, but in cases of fear and taqiyah it is permissible to make friends with them, as much as is essential to protect oneself against their evil. That is subject to the condition that one’s faith should not be affected by that friendship and the one who is behaves in that manner out of necessity is not one who behaves in that manner out of choice.
- It may be understood from the apparent meaning of these verses that the one who deliberately takes the kuffaar as friends by choice and because he likes them, is one of them.
Adwa’ al-Bayaan, 2/98,99
. . .
Shaykh Muhammad al-Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) was asked about the ruling on mixing with the kuffaar and treating them kindly hoping that they will become Muslim. He replied:
- Undoubtedly the Muslim is obliged to hate the enemies of Allaah and to disavow them, because this is the way of the Messengers and their followers. [Quotes al-Mumtahanah 60:4 & al-Mujaadilah 58:22]
- Based on this, it is not permissible for a Muslim to feel any love in his heart towards the enemies of Allaah who are in fact his enemies too. [Quotes al-Mumtahanah 60:1]
- But if a Muslim treats them with kindness and gentleness in the hope that they will become Muslim and will believe, there is nothing wrong with that, because it comes under the heading of opening their hearts to Islam. But if he despairs of them becoming Muslim, then he should treat them accordingly. This is something that is discussed in detail by the scholars, especially in the book Ahkaam Ahl al-Dhimmah by Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him).
Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 59879, http://islamqa.com/en/ref/59879.
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): [Quotes al-Ma'idah 5:31 & al-A’raaf 7:26]
With regard to the meaning in sharee’ah (religious) terminology, it refers to someone who says something that may appear to have one meaning to the listener but the speaker intends something different that may be understood from these words. For example, he says, “I do not have a dirham in my pocket,” and that is understood to mean that he does not have any money at all, when what he means is that he does not have a dirham but he may have a dinar, for example. This is called ambiguity or dissembling.
Deliberate ambiguity is regarded as a legitimate solution for avoiding difficult situations that a person may find himself in when someone asks him about something, and he does not want to tell the truth on the one hand, and does not want to lie, on the other.
Deliberate ambiguity is permissible if it is necessary or if it serves a shar’i (religious) interest, but it is not appropriate to do it a great deal so that it becomes a habit, or to use it to gain something wrongfully or to deprive someone of his rights.
The scholars said: If that is needed to serve some legitimate shar’i interest that outweighs the concern about misleading the person to whom you are speaking, or it is needed for a reason that cannot be achieved without lying, then there is nothing wrong with using deliberate ambiguity as an acceptable alternative. But if there is no interest to be served and no pressing need, then it is makrooh (disliked), but is not haram (impermissible). If it is a means of taking something wrongfully or depriving someone of their rights, then it is haram in that case. This is the guideline in this matter. Al-Adhkaar.
Some scholars were of the view that it is haram to resort to deliberate ambiguity if there is no reason or need to do so. This was the view favoured by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him). See al-Ikhtiyaaraat.
There are situations in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) taught that we may use deliberate ambiguity, for example:
If a man loses his wudoo (ablution) whilst praying in congregation, what should he do in this embarrassing situation?
The answer is that he should place his hand over his nose and leave.
The evidence for that is the report narrated from ‘Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) who said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “If anyone of you breaks his wudoo whilst praying, let him hold his nose and leave.” Sunan Abi Dawood.
Al-Teebi said: The command to hold his nose is so that it will look as if he has a nosebleed. This is not a lie, rather it is a kind of ambiguity. This concession is granted so that the Shaytan will not trick him into staying put because of feeling embarrassed in front of people.
Mirqaah al-Mafaateeh Sharh Mishkaat al-Masaabeeh.
This is a kind of ambiguity that is permitted, so as to avoid any embarrassment and so that whoever sees him leaving will think that he has a nosebleed.
Similarly If a Muslim faces a difficult situation where he needs to say what is against the truth in order to protect himself or someone who is innocent, or to save himself from serious trouble, is there a way for him to escape the situation without lying or falling into sin?
Yes, there is a legal way and a permissible escape that one can make use of if necessary. It is equivocation or indirectness in speech. Imam al-Bukhaari (may Allah have mercy on him) entitled a chapter of his Saheeh: “Indirect speech is a safe way to avoid a lie”. (Saheeh al-Bukhari, Kitaab al-Adab (Book of Manners)).
Equivocation means saying something which has a closer meaning that the hearer will understand, but it also has a remote meaning which what is actually meant and is linguistically correct. The condition for this is that whatever is said should not present a truth as falsity and vice versa. The following are examples of such statements used by the salaf (pious predecessors) and early imams (religious leaders), and collected by Imam Ibn al-Qayyim in his book Ighaathat al-Lahfaan:
It was reported about Hammad (may Allah have mercy on him), if someone came that he did not want to sit with, he would say as if in pain: “My tooth, my tooth!” Then the boring person whom he did not like would leave him alone.
Imam Sufyan Al-Thawri was brought to the khaleefah al-Mahdi, who liked him, but when he wanted to leave, the khaleefah told him he had to stay. Al-Thawri swore that he would come back. He then went out, leaving his shoes at the door. After some time he came back, took his shoes and went away. The khaleefah asked about him, and was told that he had sworn to come back, so he had come back and taken his shoes.
Imam Ahmad was in his house, and some of his students, including al-Mirwadhi, were with him. Someone came along, asking for al-Mirwadhi from outside the house, but Imam Ahmad did not want him to go out, so he said: “Al-Mirwadhi is not here, what would he be doing here?” whilst putting his finger in the palm of his other hand, and the person outside could not see what he was doing.
Other examples of equivocation or indirectness in speech include the following:
If someone asks you whether you have seen so-and-so, and you are afraid that if you tell the questioner about him this would lead to harm, you can say “ma ra aytuhu”, meaning that you have not cut his lung, because this is a correct meaning in Arabic [“ma ra aytuhu” usually means “I have not seen him,” but can also mean “I have not cut his lung”]; or you could deny having seen him, referring in your heart to a specific time and place where you have not seen him. If someone asks you to swear an oath that you will never speak to so-and-so, you could say, “Wallaahi lan ukallumahu”, meaning that you will not wound him, because “kalam” can also mean “wound” in Arabic [as well as “speech”]. Similarly, if a person is forced to utter words of kufr (disbelief) and is told to deny Allah, it is permissible for him to say “Kafartu bi’l-laahi”, meaning “I denounce the playboy” [which sounds the same as the phrase meaning “I deny Allah.”]
(Ighaathat al-Lahfaan by Ibn al-Qayyim. See also the section on equivocation (ma’aareed) in Al-Adaab al-Shar’iyyah by Ibn Muflih).
However, one should be cautious that the use of such statements is restricted only to situations of great difficulty, otherwise:
Excessive use of it may lead to lying.
One may lose good friends, because they would always be in doubt as to what is meant.
If the person to whom such a statement is given comes to know that the reality was different from what he was told, and he was not aware that the person was engaging in deliberate ambiguity or equivocation, he would consider that person to be a liar. This goes against the principle of protecting one’s honour by not giving people cause to doubt one’s integrity.
The person who uses such a technique frequently may become proud of his ability to take advantage of people.End quote. From Madha taf’al fi’l-haalaat al-aatiyah (What to do in the following situations)?
Islam Q&A, Fatwa No. 27261, http://islamqa.info/en/ref/27261.
1 - there is a legitimate reason for doing so If there is no legitimate (under the shari`ah) reason, then it is not permissible. [Ibn `Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar 9/613.]
2 - the 'hidden' true meaning is not too far fetched
3 - the statement does not lead to someone else suffering injustice or losing one of their rights.4 - one does not swear to the half-truth in the name of Allah [Ibn Muflih, al-Adab al-Shar`iyyah]
Sidi Suheil Laher, Sunni Path, Question ID:6544, http://qa.sunnipath.com/issue_view.asp?HD=7&ID=6544&CATE=3600.
Muhammad Shafi Usmani, Maarif ul Quran (p. 57)
Shams Pirzada, Dawat ul Quran, trans. Abdul Karim Shaikh
This means that it is lawful for a believer, helpless in the grip of the enemies of Islam and in imminent danger of severe wrong and persecution, to keep his faith concealed and to behave in such a manner as to create the impression that he is on the same side as his enemies. A person whose Muslim identity is discovered is permitted to adopt a friendly attitude owards the unbelievers in order to save his life. If he considers himself incapable of enduring the excesses to which he may be subjected, he may even state that he is not a believer.
"...Allah warns you to beware of Him for it is to Allah that you will return."One should not be overwhelmed by the fear of other human beings to the extent of losing the fear of God. Human beings can harm a man but the most they can do is to ruin his transient, earthly life. God, on the other hand, can subject him to everlasting torment. If one is constrained in extraordinary circumstances to resort to a prudent concealment of faith (taqiyah) in order to save one's life, this concealment should remain within reasonable limits. The most one is permitted to do is to protect one's life and property without jeopardizing either the interests of Islam or of the Muslim community as a whole, and without causing loss of life and property to other Muslims. One must never allow saving one's own life to lead to the propagation of unbelief at the expense of Islam and to the dominance of unbelievers over Muslims. Here the believers are warned that, no matter how dangerous the circumstances surrounding them, they cannot escape God's reproach if they give substantial aid to those rebelling against Him, and cause any harm to God's chosen religion, to the community of believers or to any individual believer. For, it is to God that one will ultimately return for reckoning.
Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an
All quotations are taken from respected Sunni (i.e. orthodox Islamic) sources, none are taken from Shi'ite sources.
“He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief-- on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement.”The definition of Taqiyyah is to oppose one’s life, property or honor and this can be of two types. Firstly, the enmity may be based on religion of belief, like a Kaafir and Muslim. Secondly, it may be based on the worldly things, like property, place, women and other belongings. Thus, Taqqiyah is also of two kinds…
- Lying and Taqiyya - Answering Islam
- How Taqiyya Alters Islam's Rules of War Defeating Jihadist Terrorism - Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2010, pp. 3-13
- 3. Ali-Imran - The Family Of 'Imran (سورة آل عمران) - Revealed in Madinah (English: Literal) - IslamicNature, accessed August 25, 2011
- 7. Al-A'raf - The Heights (سورة الأعراف) - Revealed in Makkah (English: Literal) - IslamicNature, accessed August 25, 2011
- 8. Al-Anfal - Spoils Of War (سورة الأنفال) - Revealed in Madinah (English: Literal) - IslamicNature, accessed August 25, 2011
- 10. Yunus - Jonah (سورة يونس) - Revealed in Makkah (English: Literal) - IslamicNature, accessed August 25, 2011
- 13. Ar-Ra'd - The Thunder (سورة الرعد) - Revealed in Makkah (English: Literal) - IslamicNature, accessed August 25, 2011
- The corresponding English narration (Sahih Bukhari 9:86:101) adds an extra clause "and then she attains the age of puberty", which we can see is not present in the Arabic version of the hadith and thus was most likely added by the translator Muhsin Khan himself.