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Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Islamic Personality

Trustworthiness

by Ayub A. Hamid


Trustworthiness

This is the first and foremost quality a believer must have. Being trustworthy implies being honest, fair in dealings and punctual (both in terms of regularity and timeliness) as well as honouring trusts and keeping promises and commitments. In other words,
trustworthiness is the quality of honouring and fulfilling at any cost all commitments a person makes whether made formally or informally, verbally or in writing, and whether they are expressed or implied.

Also, they cover all sorts of material, moral, social, political, religious and legal obligations and commitments a person needs to observe and fulfill. When talking about trusts, it includes all forms of trusts entrusted to a person ranging from physical assets or possessions to confidential matters of others, to providing expert input on the important issues of the society. Similarly, promises include all serious commitment and covenants as well as any impression of agreement given by a person tacitly, implicitly, through quietness or by implication to a family member, subordinate, friend or colleague.

Being known for trustworthiness is such an important personality trait for a Muslim that it cannot be overemphasized. Before our Prophet (saw - may the peace & blessings of Allah be upon him) was even appointed as a messenger by Allaah, he was well known for these qualities. It had become one of his distinguishing characteristics/qualities so much so that he was called Al-Ameen (trustworthy) -- mentioning ‘the trustworthy’ was enough to identify our Prophet (saw). Thus, this quality was so important that Allaah chose it to be the outstanding feature of His Last Messenger (saw).

Allaah commands (interpretation of the meaning):

“Verily, Allaah does command you to render back your Trusts to whom they are due.” (An-Nisaa 4:58)

This verse is not only obligating us to honour, pay back and fulfill our trust, but also to ensure that they are given to whom they rightfully belong.

This quality is so important to Allaah that when listing in the Holy Qur-aan the qualities of the people who succeed in the eyes of Allaah and the people who are steadfast worshippers of Allaah, they have been mentioned as those:

“Who faithfully observe their trusts and covenants.” (Al-Mo’minoon 23:8 and Al-Ma’arij 70:32)

Similarly, one of the indications of people having Taqwa (piety)is that:

“They fulfill the promises they make.” (Al-Baqarah 2:177)

On fulfilling the promises and fairness in business, the Holy Qur-aan further instructs:

“Fulfill promises, because you will be held accountable for promises. Measure fully when you measure and weigh with a right balance (accurately). That is the most fitting and the best in the end.” (Banee-Israaeel 17:34-35)

For those who are not fair in their business practices, the Holy Qur-aan states:

“Cursed are the people who cheat in their business dealings – those who when receiving from others ensure full measure and weight, but when measuring or weighing to give, they cheat. Do not they realize they will be raised on a Big Day – the day the people will stand (to give their account) to the Lord of the universe?” (Al-Mutaffifeen 86:1-6)

In fact, prophet Shu’ayb (as - peace be upon him) was sent to reform a people who had adopted unfair business practices as their defacto way of operation. When they did not listen to Shu’ayb (as) and refused to mend their ways, they were destroyed by Allaah.

The criticality of a believer (Muslim) being trustworthy is well underscored by the report that there was hardly any address by the Messenger of Allaah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam that did not include the following admonition:

“The person who is not trustworthy is devoid of Eemaan (Islamic faith) and the one who does not keep promises is devoid of Deen (Islamic lifestyle).” (Reported by Baihiqi in Shu’abul-eeman)

In fact, as indicated by the following Ahaadeeth, he described the person who breaks promises and betrays trusts as a hypocrite:

“There are four traits which whoever possesses is a pure hypocrite; and whoever has any one of them has a trait of hypocrisy, until he gets rid of it: When entrusted, he embezzles (cheats); when he speaks, he lies; when he promises, he reneges (breaks them); and, when he quarrels, he abuses (uses foul language).” (Abdullaah Ibn Umar in Bukhaaree and Muslim)

“A hypocrite is known by three traits: When he speaks, he lies; when he promises, he reneges; when he is entrusted, he cheats (embezzles).” Reported from Aboo Hurairah in Bukhaaree. The same hadeeth in Muslims mentions that he will be considered hypocrite: “even if he prays and fasts.” (Reported from Aboo Hurairah in Muslim)

From this you can see that a person cannot claim to be a Muslim without being trustworthy. The strong language suggesting that not honouring trusts and covenants is totally unacceptable to and completely at odds with Islamic faith continues in the following words of the Prophet Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam:

“There can be no faith without Amaanah (trustworthiness, honesty), no Salaah (Islamic prayer) without Tahaarah (ritual purity, cleanliness and wudhoo), and no Deen without Salaah. Salaah (prayer) has the same significance in Deen (religion) as head in human physique.” (Reported from Ibn Umar in Targheeb with reference to At-Tabaraani)

“A believer (Muslim) might have, being subject to the frailty of human nature, other bad traits but not dishonesty or lying.” (Reported by Ahmad and Baihiqi from Aboo Umaamah)

On the other hand, the believers who sincerely practice their faith, are given the good news like the following:

“If loving Allaah and His Messenger (saw) or being loved by Allaah and His Messenger (saw) pleases a person, then he must tell the truth whenever he speaks, give back the trust when entrusted, and behave superbly to his neighbours.” (Reported by Baihiqi in Shu’abul-eeman from Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Abee Quraad)

“You guarantee me consistent practice of six actions, I will guarantee you Jannah (Paradise): Be truthful when you speak, fulfill promises when you commit, pay up when you are entrusted, protect your private parts, lower your gaze (turn away from inappropriate sights), withhold your hands (from doing improper things).” (Reported by Baihiqi in Shu’abul-eeman from ‘Ubaadah Ibn Saamit)

“A truthful and honest businessman will be in the company of prophets, their sincerest companions and martyrs.” (Aboo Saeed in At-Tirmidzee, Ad-Daramee, and Ad-Daru-qutnee)

For the person who is given confidential information for seeking advice, the Messenger of Allaah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said:

“A consultant is a trustee”. (Aboo Hurairah in At-Tirmidzee)

“If someone tells you something, looking all around while talking, it is a trust.” (Reported by At-Tirmidzee and Aboo Dawood from Jaabir Ibn Abdullah)

“Proceedings of meetings are trusts unless the discussion is about illegal killing, illegal sex, or misappropriation of someone’s assets.” (Reported by Aboo Dawood from Jaabir Ibn Abdullah)

Hence, confidentiality must be maintained for whatever you are taken into confidence, unless the subject matter is a criminal or unislamic activity.

Similarly, promises must be fulfilled as if settling a debt:

“Promise is a debt.” (Reported by At-Tabaraani from ‘Ali and ‘Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood)

As Islam regards it critical for Muslims to keep their express as well as implied promises, so much so that a person who is not careful in this regard may jeopardize his faith, Allaah does not want practising Muslims to be put in unnecessary strait
either. Hence, Islam requires that people only have to go to a reasonable extent in fulfilling their promise:

“If a person promised to meet the other at a certain place and time, and one of them arrived but the other did not show up until the time of Salaah, the person who has been waiting can go to pray Salaah without incurring any sin.” (Reported by Razeen from Zaid Ibn Arqam, as quoted in Ma’ariful Hadeeth by Manzoor nu’maani)

Similarly, if a person has a sincere intention of fulfilling a promise but an emergency beyond one’s control precludes the person from doing so, the person will not be held accountable for such a promise. For example, a Muslim gives an indication to another to meet him but is so sick at the appointed time that he is not in a position to fulfill his obligation or gets into an accident that stops him from reaching their meeting place.

To provide for the situations that are completely out of a person’s control, Muslims have been suggested to append Inshaa Allaah when they make a promise. This is for three reasons: Firstly to underscore that our circumstances are not totally in our control but in Allaah’s control; secondly, to reassure each of the parties that each intends sincerely to fulfill the promise except for the possibility of something unforeseen happening beyond each party’s control because of Allaah’s will; and thirdly, it is an implied duaa requesting Allaah to help the parties by not letting anything happen that will hamper the fulfillment of their promise.

Unfortunately, like many other bad things that have happened to Muslims, people have been misusing ‘Inshaa Allaah’ for cheating. They say it when they have no intention of fulfilling the promise. That is outright cheating which is being carried out by invoking Allaah’s Name to give a false pretence of promising. These people will be in deep trouble when Allaah holds them accountable for two crimes: cheating and breaking promises.

May Allaah help us become trustworthy, par excellence.

Next - Part 2: Truthfulness

The Islamic Personality

Part 2

Truthfulness


by Ayub A. Hamid

Speaking the Truth


Truthfulness is very closely related to trustworthiness and can perhaps be regarded as its twin quality. Like trustworthiness, it was also the second distinguishing feature of our Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as he was called As-Saadiq (the truthful) for his immaculate truthfulness. Similar to trustworthiness, it is intertwined with Islamic faith (Eemaan). It is inconceivable that a believer (Muslim) will not be truthful, or that a liar can be a believer.
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In terms of graveness and abomination, the Holy Qur-aan equates telling lies to worshiping idols. In Soorah Hajj, it says:


“Keep away from the filth of the idols and keep away from telling lies, dedicating yourselves purely and uprightly to Allaah, without equating anyone with him.” (Al-Hajj 22:30-31)

One day Allaah’s Messenger Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam stood up immediately after praying Salaatul-Fajr (the Morning prayer) and repeated three times, “False witness has been equated to idolatry”. The he recited the verse of the Qur-aan quoted above. (Reported from Khuraim Ibn Faatik in Sunani Aboo Dawood and Sunani Ibni Maajah)

Also, consider this:


The Messenger of Allaah was asked if a believer could be a coward or a miser. He indicated that it was possible. But when he was asked if a believer could be a liar. He replied, “No!” (Reported from Safwaan Ibn Sulaim by Maalik and Baihaqi)

Let us just remind ourselves of the following two Ahadeeth quoted last week while talking about trustworthiness:

“There are four traits which whoever possesses is a pure hypocrite; and whoever has any one of them, has a trait of hypocrisy until he gets rid of it: When entrusted, he embezzles (cheats); when speaks, he lies; when promises, he reneges (breaks them); and, when quarrels, he abuses (uses foul language).” (Abdullaah Ibn Umar in Bukhaaree and Muslim)

“A believer (Muslim) might have, being subject to the frailty of human nature, other bad traits but not dishonesty or lying.” (Reported by Ahmad and Baihiqi from Aboo Umaamah.)

Hence, the Messenger of Allaah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam admonished:

“You must adopt truthfulness because it leads to piety which leads to Jannah (paradise). When a person keeps telling the truth and adopts a life of truthfulness, he is written as a Siddique (the most truthful and dedicated to truth) in the records of Allaah . And you must stay away from lying because it leads to wickedness which leads to the Fire. When a person keeps lying and indulges in lies, he is included in the list of liars with Allaah SWT.” (Reported from ‘Abdullaah Ibn Mas’ood in Bukhaari and Muslim)

One day the Messenger of Allaah asked the companions three times, “Should I tell you what are the gravest sins?” Then he said, “Ascribing partners to Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala, disobeying the parents, bearing false witness and telling lies.” He sat up from his reclining position and kept repeating this sentence in a very serious emotional and stressful manner so much that he appeared to be overburdened by the terrible nature of these crimes.

“The gravest dishonesty is that you lie to your (Muslim) brother about something while he believes that you are telling the truth.” (Reported from Sufyaan Ibn Aseed Al-Hadhramiy in Aboo Dawood)

On the positive side, let us also re-read three Ahaadeeth from last week that give good news to the truthful people:

“If loving Allaah and His Messenger or being loved by Allaah and His Messenger pleases a person, then he must tell the truth whenever he speaks, give back the trust when entrusted, and behave superbly to his neighbours.” (Reported by Baihiqi in Shu’abul-eeman from Abdur-Rahmaan Ibn Abee Quraad)

“You guarantee me consistent practice of six actions, I will guarantee you Jannah (Paradise): Be truthful when you speak, fulfill promises when you commit, pay up when you are entrusted, protect your private parts, lower your gaze (turn away from inappropriate sights), withhold your hands (from doing improper things).” (Reported by Baihiqi in Shu’abul-eeman from ‘Ubaadah Ibn Saamit)

“A truthful and honest businessman will be in the company of prophets, their sincerest companions and martyrs.” (Aboo Saeed in At-Tirmidzee, Ad-Daramee, and Ad-Daru-qutnee)

Not only what we say must be the truth, but also it must be what is the most appropriate, fair, reasonable, to the point and beneficial. The Holy Qur-aan commands:

“O believers! Adopt Taqwa and say only the words that are sadeed (in keeping with the faith, befitting, right to the point).” (Al-Ahzaab 33:70)

A sincere believer, in addition to being extremely careful in avoiding falsehood in serious situations or major things, also watches what he says. He avoids saying anything that is not true even in minor situations, in speaking to little children, or in jest. He even avoids passing on rumours, hearsay or anything for which he himself does not have personal knowledge of its accuracy.

The Messenger of Allaah, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam said:

“It is enough of a lie for a person to tell others what he hears.” (Reported in Muslim from Aboo Hurairah)

‘Abdullaah Ibn ‘Aamir stated that one day the Messenger of Allaah was sitting in our home and my mother called me, “Come here, I will give you something”. The Messenger asked, “What do you want to give him.” She said that she wanted to give him a date. He responded, “If you do not give him anything, it will be recorded against you as a lie.” (Aboo Dawood)

“Lying is not acceptable, whether seriously or jokingly. Not even in case when you promise to give your child something and then do not give.” (Reported in Al-Adabul Mufrad from ‘Abdullaah)

“Woe to him who tells lies to make people laugh. Woe to him. Woe to him.” (Bahz Bin Hakeem in At-Tirmidzi)

Giving a false impression is also a form of lie:

A woman asked the Messenger, “My husband has another wife. Will it be sinful if I dress and live well, making it appear as if all of that is being provided by my husband? He replied, “If one gives that impression for the things he does not give, then that person is like someone who dresses up in lies.” (Reported in Bukhaaree and Muslim and Mishkaah from Asmaa)

Often, when offered something, people pretend as if they do not need it, while in reality they do. That also is regarded as a lie:

When we brought one of the Prophet’s wives to him as a bride, he brought out a bowl of milk, drank some and then gave it to his wife. She declined saying, “I have no appetite.” He responded, “Do not add lie to your hunger.” (Reported by Tabarani from Asmaa bint ‘Umais)

However, there are some exceptions where withholding the truth, obfuscating and, in some situations, even misrepresentation does not make the person a liar. One such situation is during war. For example, if a Muslim is caught as a prisoner of war, he must not tell the true position and facts about the Muslim army that will be beneficial to the enemy. Rather, he should say things that will misguide the enemy or discourage it in order to shorten the war, to reduce the fatalities in the war or to help Muslims win. Another such situation is when reconciling two parties. The Messenger of Allaah said,

“He is not a liar who says some good things and conveys good comments to reconcile among the people.” (Reported from Ummi Kulthoom in Bukhaari and Muslim.)

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