teacher and student

About Lying

Omar M wrote in a message

Can we assume, then, given the large numbers of people narrating it, that this statement of the Prophet ﷺ was well-known among the Companions, the Followers, and the salaf generally -- especially those who transmitted hadith?

It is more correct to say that we should feel certain that the Companions knew this hadith as well as the Ahl al-Hadith (i.e. Ahl al-Sunna) among the succeeding generations in the sameway that they all knew the Qur'an and Allah knows best.

I ask because some missionaries have claimed, that since Muslims are allowed to lie in many different circumstances, they can't be trusted not to engage in "pious fraud" when transmitting hadiths.

It is untrue that Muslims are allowed to lie "in many different circumstances." Those circumstances are limited, and lying is basically one of the grave sins (kaba'ir). As for pious frauds, perhaps the Shiʿis and others who are neither scrupulous nor knowledgeable about the scientific transmission of Prophetic teachings, and at their very forefront the Christians. But not Sunni Muslims.

Hajj Gibril

GF Haddad ©
[sri 2001-03-26]


About lying

(1) I know there are hadiths concerning telling a lie about the Prophetﷺ and that it is absolutely forbidden. Is this hadith mutawatir? How many Companions related it?

Yes. 75 Companions related it.

(2) Under what circumstances is telling a lie permitted?

Settling disagreements to bring about good between people, especially in war or between a husband and wife; or simply saying something commendable.

I have heard a hadith that it is permitted in :wartime, making peace between people, and some issues pertaining to a husband and wife (I can't remember exactly). Can this permission be extended by analogy to other situations, or is it restricted to just these?

The permission (rukhsa) of lying / misleading definitely extends to any other situations where "telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth" unjustly causes harm or injustice or impedes the carriage of justice or the performance of something obligatory (in which case lying is obligatory) or recommended or even permissible, although the way of strictness (ʿazima) is "to forgo lying in every case where it is not legally obligatory."

I ask because I remember reading in the "Reliance of the Traveller" a piece by Imam Ghazali about this issue. I was amazed at the latitude he gave for telling lies -- I probably misunderstood, but he seemed to be saying that lying is permissible whenever the harm resulting from telling the truth outweighs the benefit. This didn't sound right at all, so I wanted to clarify.

That it didn't sound right shows that you more than probably misunderstood for there is hardly a better way of stating it than Imam al-Ghazzali did.

Hajj Gibril
GF Haddad ©




latest update: Thu, 12 Feb 2009
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