It is also narrated from the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) that he remarked,
"I guarantee a house in the best part of Paradise for one who refrains from a dispute even when he is on the right, and a house in the mediocre-grade area of Heaven for one who refrains from falsehood even in jest, and a house in the garden of Paradise for a person with the best morals."
Lying in jest is a sin but it is not a greater sin. However if this joke hurts the feelings of a believer or causes him physical harm or is an insult to him, it will be a greater sin.
Exaggeration is not falsehood
Common hyperboles in a conversation are not falsehood. For example after relating a certain thing one says:
"I have told you a hundred times!" Obviously, he has not repeated his statement a hundred times and it is also clear that by "hundred" he does not imply the figure "100"; but rather it means that he has said it a number of times.
Similarly other figures of speech are also permitted, especially in poetry.
No falsehood should be regarded as insignificant
It is commonly seen that when the host asks his guests to stay on for dinner or lunch, the guests say, "we are not hungry;" although in reality it is not so. Consequently it is a lie. People tend to ignore such lies and consider them insignificant. The traditions denounce them in unequivocal words, and their prohibition is clearly established in the Islamic law.
Asma Binte Umais says:
"On the first night of Ayesha's wedding, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) gave me a bowl of milk and told me to give it to the ladies. The women said, "we are not hungry." When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) heard this, He said:
"Do not bring together hunger and falsehood."
Asma asked the Prophet (s.a.w.s.),
"O Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.), if we desire something but verbally refuse it, is it a lie?"
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
"Yes! Certainly every kind of falsehood is recorded, (in the scroll of deeds) even the smallest of the small lies is written."
If a person, just for the sake of formality, invites others,
"Please come, and visit us sometimes," when he actually does not desire so, it is not a lie. Because the word "come" is conditional and uncertain. It is neither a truth nor a falsehood. But it is better to refrain from such a show of politeness, because to say something which you do not mean is a sign of hypocrisy.
One day, Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) was seated with his son Ismail when one of his followers arrived, saluted him and sat down. When the Imam (a.s.) stood up and walked towards the ladies portion, the man also followed till the door. Imam (a.s.) bid farewell to him from there. Later, Ismail asked his father, "Why didn't you invite him inside just for the politeness sake?"
Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) said,
"It was not proper to invite him inside. I did not wish him to come inside. Neither did I wish that Allah should include me among those who say one thing and wish another."
A False dream
One type of falsehood is that a person says:
"I dreamt such and such." Or attributes falsely a dream to someone else when it is not so. This is also falsehood.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says that the worst types of falsehood are three:
1. To call someone as the son of someone other than his (real) father.
2. To relate a dream that one has not seen.
3. To say something which is not said by me.
One kind of falsehood is to relate folk tales, which are not based on reality but are considered true. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says:
"The worst of the narrations is to narrate false history."
Falsehood in examples
Examples are used to explain, understand and remember some intellectual concepts. Sometimes, animals are shown as conversing among themselves. (For example, there is a poem by Allamah Iqbal where a squirrel advises the mountain to give up pride). Now everyone knows that such things are not possible so there is no risk of anyone having a misunderstanding. On the other hand they serve a useful purpose. Hence such examples are permitted. We find such types of examples in the narrations of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.).
Moreover there are also narrations that prove the permissibility of explaining facts and truthful concepts through the media of stories and anecdotes.
Imam Hasan (a.s.) mentions a simile
Hazrat Imam Hasan (a.s.) was in the court of Muawiya when a man said something uncivil about Imam (a.s.). Imam Hasan (a.s.) replied:
"O Umar Ibne Uthman! How stupid is your nature that you cannot understand. Your simile is like the mosquito that considered itself great. It perched on a date palm and when it took off in the air it said to date palm,
'Be careful! I am about to land on you once more.'
The tree replied, 'I don't even know since when you had perched upon me, so how can your flying away affect me?'
Listening to a lie is haraam
It must be known that just as it is haraam to speak falsehood, it is also haraam to listen to it while knowing that it is a lie. And just as it is haraam to read or write falsehood, it is also haraam to quote a lie. The Quran has denounced the Jews and the polytheists for spreading untrue things. It is said regarding them,
"(They are) listeners of a lie."
(Surah Maidah 5:42)
Shaykh Sadooq (r.a.) has recorded that Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) was asked,
"Is it allowed to listen intently to a liar?"
Imam (a.s.) replied,
"One who listens intently to a speaker, worships him. If the speaker is (speaking) from Allah the listener has worshipped Allah. But if the speaker is (speaking) from Satan the listener has worshipped Satan."
A similar kind of tradition is recorded from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) in the book Al Kafi.
The Quran says,
"...and avoid false words."
(Surah Hajj 22:30)
"And they who do not bear witness to what is false..."
(Surah Furqan 25:72)
These types of verses confirm the impermissibility of listening to falsehood. When a liar is speaking a lie which is a great sin, the place where he commits this sin becomes a place of divine wrath and the listener shall also be included in it.
From the aspect of Nahy Anil Munkar (Forbidding Evil) also, it is wajib to restrain the liar from speaking falsehood.
What is Toriya? (Concealment of truth without uttering a lie)
Toriya means to say something, which could be interpreted in more that one way. One of the meanings should be the truth and the other against reality. It is said that one who speaks a 'Toriya' intends the true interpretation whereas the listeners take it to mean the opposite. For example if a tyrant comes to your place and wants to call you outside but you want to remain in the security of your home, a person from your family can go to the door and say, 'He is not here'; with the intention the 'He' is not at the door. The tyrant may think that you are not at home. This is permitted.
Or if an oppressor is asking you the whereabouts of a person whom he intends to oppress. In this case you can say, 'I do not know his whereabouts'; signifying by the pronoun 'his' someone else whose whereabouts you really do not know. In the same way if one has committed a greater sin and someone asks him, "Have you committed this sin?" The person could save his honour by saying, "I shall seek forgiveness from Allah if I ever committed it."
Similarly he may use uncertain terms or rhetorical sentences.
For example he may say, "Do you expect me to commit such a grave sin?"
Or he can also say the following prayer,
"O Allah protect me from such a sin."
Also if you have pointed out somebody's fault and he feels bad about it, there is no need to utter a lie and say, "You do not have this fault." What can be said to pacify instead is, "Your personality is such that it is wrong to say such things about you."
Toriya is commanded
Toriya is of three kinds:
The first type is when some purpose has to be achieved or there is a risk of some harm. These types of examples are quoted above. It is apparent that such a kind of 'Toriya' is permitted.
The next type of 'Toriya' is when a person intends to harm or insult someone else. There is no doubt that such a kind of 'Toriya' is 'haraam'.
The third type of 'Toriya' is when there is neither a purpose behind it nor one intends to cause harm to others. According to some Mujtahids this type 'Toriya' is haraam. This is because 'Toriya' is a kind of a falsehood and whatever proofs exist for the prohibition of lying could also apply for this type of 'Toriya'. Secondly there is nothing to prove the legality of this third type of 'Toriya'. However, some of the Mujtahids are of the opinion that this kind of 'Toriya' is not Haraam. For according to them all those proofs that permit 'Toriya' are also applicable to this type and hence it is not a lie.
However, the precautionary method is to resort to 'Toriya' only when it is certain that it permissible.
Circumstances when lying is permitted
Whenever there is a danger to life, honour and property and if the danger can be avoided by lying, one is allowed to lie. The danger could be to ones own life, honour and property or to that of someone else. So much so that it is also permitted to take a false oath in this situation and in some cases it even becomes wajib (obligatory) to speak a lie. E.g. when there is risk to ones life. In this case, it is wajib to save oneself by lying and taking a false oath. For example, if an oppressor intends to kill a Muslim or to beat him up, dishonour him, seize his property or imprison him and if he enquires from you of his whereabouts, it is obligatory not to tell the truth even if one has to take a false oath and say that one does not know of his whereabouts.
In the same way if someone entrusts a thing in your possession and another intends to seize it; it is your duty to protect the entrusted thing even if you have to resort to falsehood or take a false oath.
False oath to save the Muslims
There are many traditions that support the taking of a false oath in order to save the Muslims. For example, Shaykh Ansari in his book, Makasib quotes from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) and Imam Ali (a.s.) that they have narrated the following tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.).
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says:
"Swear falsely by Allah, but save your Muslim brothers from unjust murder."
Ismael Ibne Saad records a confirmed tradition, wherein he says that he asked Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) concerning the person who takes a false oath to save his property from an unjust ruler.
Imam Reza (a.s.) replied,
"There is no harm (in it)."
He was again asked, "If a man takes a false oath to save the property of his believing brother, just as he had sworn falsely to save his own property. Is it allowed?"
Imam (a.s.) said,
"Yes! It is allowed."
Also Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
"If one is compelled to take a false oath to save the life of a Muslim or to save his property from an oppressor or a thief, not only is the expiation of this false oath not payable but he would rather be eligible for (divine) rewards."
Monetary loss and falsehood
Two points must be remembered at this juncture. One is that even though it is permitted to lie to save oneself from every type of monetary loss, yet it is Mustahab (recommended) not to lie if one is capable of bearing the loss. Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) says,
"The sign of belief is that one speaks the truth even if it causes loss and refrains from a lie even if it is beneficial (to lie)."
If one is compelled he must limit himself to Toriya
Another important point is that in situations where the Mujtahids have permitted Toriya it is best not to use falsehood, but limit oneself to Toriya only.
Reconcile two believing people by using falsehood
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said:
"Speech is of three types, truth, falsehood and reconciling people."
Someone asked, "May my life be sacrificed for you. What is, 'reconciling people'?"
Imam (a.s.) replied:
"You hear someone speaking ill about somebody but you tell the other person that the former was saying good things about you."
Conveying a message of ill will
Infact one is ordered to resort to lies if by doing so, one can bring about reconcillation between two people. One who brings about such reconciliation shall not be termed a liar. Because if the message of ill will is communicated from one to other, it will only increase enmity between the two.
In the same way if a husband and wife have separated and divorce is about to take place, one is allowed to speak a lie if it can bring about a reunion. For example the husband could be told, "Your wife is very much troubled by the separation. She has such intense feelings for you that she may fall ill." Or the wife may be told similar things so that they may reunite.
Reconciliation among people
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has said,
"After the fulfillment of wajib acts, the best action is to bring about peace and reconciliation among people. This is such an act that spreads goodness in the world."
Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) said that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has said at the time of recording his will and testament.
"O Ali, Allah even likes a falsehood for the sake of peace and dislikes truth that spreads corruption."
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has also said,
"To make peace among people and to think about reconciling people, and removing discord is better than prayers and fasting."
Abu Hanifa Saeq Al Haj says, "There was an inheritance dispute between my son-in-law and me. Our dispute was in process when the agent of Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.), Mufazzal happened to pass by. He stopped to listen for a while then returned to his house. He then gave us four hundred dirhams and solved the dispute.
Then he said, 'The money that I gave you was not mine. It belonged to my master Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.). He had ordered me to solve the disputes among his followers through this money.'"
This shows the importance of peace and reconciliation. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has also stated that it was better than prayers and fasting, even though this action is Mustahab (recommended) whereas the former are Wajib (Obligatory). The reason for this could be that due to prayers and fasting an individual is reformed. Whereas the peacemaker reforms the whole society and consequently prayers and fasting also become popular among the people. Unity among the Muslims is not only beneficial for the Hereafter, it is very much needed from the worldly point of view also. When the hearts of the believers unite for the sake of Allah, such a power is achieved that not only the apparent enemies can be faced but even the hidden enemies, i.e. "the self" and "shaitan", can be easily deflected.
Kur water and the united hearts
The unity and understanding among the people could be compared to Kur water. If water is divided by putting it in different vessels and each of them is less then a kur, then whenever impurity (Najasat) falls into one of them, it makes that water Najis (impure). But if all the water is collected in one place and it becomes more than a kur and if an impurity falls into it, it does not make the kur water Najis. On the contrary the kur water is capable of purifying the impurity of a Najis object. Exactly, in the same way when the people unite together, the divine mercy descends upon them and each one benefits by it. Secondly due to the unity among the Muslims they will be held in high esteem by people of different faiths.
Another example is the merits of congregational prayers and its great rewards. It is very much recommended to behave kindly towards the believing brother, to help him and support him. Similarly it is highly meritorious to visit the believers, to shake hands with them and to hug them. These actions carry great benefits. To make peace between two believers qualifies one to untold rewards. Similarly it is mentioned that to befriend a believer for the sake of Allah carries tremendous rewards. After examining the rewards for all of the above actions one concludes that all such actions have been promulgated for maintaining the unity among believers.
Falsehood in the battle-field
It is known from some traditions that during a war with unbelievers, it is permissible to use falsehood, if by doing so, victory can be gained over them.
Promise to a wife
A man can give a promise to his wife even if he does not intend to fulfill it, a man can give a false promise to fulfill his wife's desire, if he thinks that his refusal will cause dispute and discord in the family, or make his wife extremely unhappy. Obviously such falsehood is also permissible under compelling conditions when a man fears that refusing to promise may lead to an extreme situation like divorce.
However, whether such a promise is permitted or not is difficult to confirm. Some weak traditions do state that such a false promise is allowed. For example if a wife asks for something, her husband can give her a false promise.
Fear of retribution and good deeds
Hazrat Ali Ibne Abi Talib (a.s.) says:
"Avoid lying! For when one desires something he strives for it and when one fears something he strives to keep it away from himself."
Imam Ali (a.s.) explains the above tradition as follows: If one sincerely desires the pleasure of Allah one must strive for it and one of the ways of doing so is by refraining from lies. Falsehood is a forbidden act causing extreme displeasure of Allah. In the same way if one really fears divine retribution, one must keep aloof from sins, for sins incur punishment. If a person merely claims that he hopes for divine rewards and fears divine punishment, but does not perform good deeds nor refrain from sins, he is a liar.
The following saying of Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) is recorded in Nahjul Balagha:
"One who thinks that he hopes (in divine rewards) but his actions do not express it, then by Allah, he is a liar. For when he hopes for something it becomes apparent from his actions.
But if he hopes in Allah and his actions do not show it? In the same way when one is afraid of something his actions express this (fear) and he flees from that thing. Then after claiming to be fearful of divine punishment why does he not flee from sins?"
Thus if a person who claims to be fearful of Allah and hopeful of divine rewards, but whose actions do not confirm his claim, is considered a liar. In the same way a person who claims to have the traits of patience, thankfulness, contentment and resignation etc. which are not shown in his behaviour is also a liar.
Your speech must conform to your thoughts
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
"Whenever you say 'Allaho-Akbar' (Allah is the greatest) you must consider everything between the earth and the sky to be lesser than Allah. Because when Allah sees that a person say Allaho-Akbar only superficially, He says, 'O liar! You try to be smart with Me? By My Might and Honour I shall deprive you of My remembrance.'"
It is regretful that people verbally say, 'Allaho Akbar' but their actions belie their words. For if they are told to do something for the sake of Allah or to refrain from something for the sake of Allah they do not pay any heed, but if a monetary fine is due for any disobedience, they are sure to respond. Thus money has importance for them than Allah's pleasure or displeasure. There are people who perform particular actions or restrain from them only due to fear of harm by fellow humans. If they are told to do so only due to the fear of Allah, they will not be impressed.
A show of submission
A person who says to Allah, 'Thee only do we worship and Thee only we ask for help', but his actions are such that day and night he is involved in the acquisition of wealth and is preoccupied in the satisfaction of carnal desires. Can we consider this man to be truthful? Does this man really worship Allah?
In the same way many a man puts his trust and faith in the apparent agencies through which he gets his profit and gain. He regards these as the deciding authorities and seeks their help, overlooks the fact that these means themselves are through Allah's grace. Can such a person be truthful when he says "Thee only do we worship and Thee only we ask for help?"
Falsehood in supplications
Oftentime people supplicate with the following words, "I am pleased with my Lord and Cherisher, He the sole cherisher of all the creatures. I am satisfied with Him."
But if the situation changes and these people are faced with distressing circumtances, they do not hesitate to complain about what Allah has decreed for them. In such a case the above-mentioned supplication amounts to lying.
Confession of Belief in the Imams (a.s.)
The supplication, "I am pleased that Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) is my Prophet; and Quran is my Book and Ali is my Imam; and all of them are for my guidance," will also be a lie when uttered by a person who does not practice the tenets of Islam as explained by our Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and behaves according to his own whims and fancy.
Do you speak the truth?
A man prays, "(O Allah) when I look at my sins, I weep and when I see Your mercy and forgiveness I become hopeful and happy in anticipation that You will forgive me," but when faced with temptations, he makes no serious toil to restrain himself and commits sinful acts without any qualms. The falsehood of such a person is clear.
In the same way if a person says, "I weep due to (the fear of) the agony of death, due to the fear of questioning of the grave, due to the fear of Qiyamat," while in reality he is not fearful of any of these, his falsehood is obvious. It could be this very kind of falsehood that is referred to in Dua Abu Hamza Thumali of Imam Zainul Abedin (a.s.):
"O Allah! May be You have found me in the position of a liar and for this (You have taken away your mercy from me) left me on my own condition."
Lying to the Imams (a.s.)
An example of lying to the Imams (a.s.) is that of a person who recites the Ziarat and says, "(O Imams) I accept your sayings and act upon your commands and obey you," but who does not do so in reality. In fact he obeys his own desires. Such a person is a hypocrite! He is lying to the Imams (a.s.).
Another example of such a falsehood is when he says in Ziarat, "We make peace with those who are at peace with you and we make war with those who are at war with you." Even though he verbally claims this, in actual practice he is friendly with the enemies of Islam. Also, he is inimical to the believers. He also claims, "I keep aloof from your opponents," but does not act upon it. Isn't such a person lying to the Imams (a.s.)?
Then how should we pray?
A question arises here that if by reciting a dua or Ziarat, if one is bound to utter lies, then how should one pray?
Although a detailed reply to this is beyond the scope of this book, we can say in brief that the manner of praying denounced by us is when the supplicant invokes Allah, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and the Imam (a.s.), but he takes his supplication lightly and makes no sincere effort to better himself.
However, a believer should not feel that since it is not possible to avoid falsehood in prayers it is better not to pray. This is despair of Allah's mercy and a satanic instigation to keep the believer away from the divine rewards. What one should do is to pray sincerely and to achieve perfection in a gradual manner and Allah will surely help such a person in achieving this ultimate aim.
A person either understands the meanings of duas and Quranic verses (as those quoted above) or not. Even if one recites them without following the actual meaning, the duas and Quranic verses will illuminate his heart by their light. He will also be eligible for the divine rewards.
Every person has a different position
With respect to knowledge and piety our Masoomeen (a.s.) occupy the highest position. Amongst the believers there is a wide spectrum of people capable of different levels of understanding and piety, but none can reach the stage of Masoomeen (a.s.). All believers succumb to their desires and selfish motives to a greater or lesser extent. Consequently they fall prey to sins and disobey Allah. This is inevitable. This situation is aptly described in the following words of Dua Abu Hamza Thumali.
"O Allah! I did not sin due to disbelief in You, nor did I sin considering Your command insignificant or thinking that your punishment is light. But I sinned due to the instigation of my selfish desires and due to pride..."
The believers can comfort themselves that they are not really lying when they do not rise up to the level expected in the supplication they utter. They can also comfort themselves that they are believers because they fear Allah and repose their hope in Allah, as the Holy Quran says:
"And fear (only) Me if you are believers. "
(Surah Aale Imraan 3:175)
Firm conviction and disobedience
Even though the belief in Allah and the fear of His retribution is present in man, he is still prone to sins. It is not that one who believes in Allah cannot sin. For example, who does not know that a dead body cannot cause any harm? Everyone firmly believes in it. Yet how many people can stay alone with a corpse at night? Here a firm belief is unable to rid the man of his fear of the dead. Even a firm belief cannot guarantee one's actions. It is for this reason that we recite in Dua, "Bestow upon me such a firm conviction that I can worship you with sincerity." There is no doubt that if one prays to Allah out of intense fear; which would restrains him from committing sins, Allah will surely create such a fear in his heart.
Also the magnitude of his fear increases along with the increase in grades of piety and obedience which he achieves due to constant efforts.
It has been mentioned in the traditions:
"Whoever desires something and strives for it, finds it."
Truly! Being absolutely truthful seems possible only for the Masoomeen (a.s.). As the Holy Quran states,
"And be with the Truthful Ones!"
(Surah Tauba 9:119)
The "Truthful Ones" referred to in this ayat are the Ahul Bayt (a.s.)
According to the traditions 'false oath' belongs to the category of greater sins. False swearing is a greater sin as mentioned in the authentic tradition recorded by Abdul Azeem and also in the tradition of Imam Reza (a.s.) as quoted by Fazl Ibne Shazaan. There is a report from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) in the book Tuhafful Uqool:
"False swearing causes destruction of the faith."
According to traditions a person who conveys a false report or oath will be sunk in depravity and will be surrounded by hell fire. The traditions state that false oath destroys a person's faith just as a sharp blade removes hair from the body. To swear by Allah, to convey a falsehood is a particularly detestable sin.
Punishment for a false oath
"(As for) those who take a slender price for the covenant of Allah and their own oaths-surely-they shall have no portion in the hereafter, and Allah will not speak to them, nor will He look upon them on the Day of Resurrection nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful chastisement."
(Surah Aale Imraan 3:77)
This same verse was quoted by Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) to prove that taking a false oath is one of the greater sins.
The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) orders the taking of oath
An interesting incident is quoted in Tafseer al-Mizan from the book Amali. Imrul Qays and another man had a dispute regarding some property. Both of them came to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). He (s.a.w.s.) asked Imrul Qays,
"Can you provide two just witnesses to substantiate your claim?"
He replied, "No!"
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
"Then your opponent should take an oath."
Imrul Qays said, "But what if he swears falsely and acquires my property?"
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) replied,
"If he swears falsely he shall be included among people who will not be eligible for Divine Mercy on the Day of Judgment and Allah shall not purify him of sins. There would be a dreadful punishment for such a man!"
When the litigant heard these statements he was filled with horror and gave up his false claim to the property of Imrul Qays.
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) is reported to have said:
"One who knowingly takes a false oath had made war upon Allah."
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) says that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said:
"Refrain from false oath, because it destroys inhabitations and makes the sinner helpless."
According to other traditions, false oath and severing relations are two such sins that cause the destruction of towns and cities. The inhabitants are eliminated and the progeny terminated.
Evil consequences of false oaths
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
"One who swears falsely becomes poor within forty nights" (means forty days).
Many traditions of similar connotations are available. The same Imam (a.s.) has also said:
"The false oath that takes one to the fire is the one which is taken to usurp the right of a Muslim or to usurp his property."
And Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) also remarks,
"When a person says, "Allah knows!" when in fact he is speaking a lie; then Allah tells him, 'Didn't you find anyone other than Me to ascribe the falsehood to?'
The Holy Imam (a.s.) also says:
"When a person says 'Allah knows' and the fact is that Allah knows contrary (to what he alludes), the heavens shudder due to the Might and Divine anger."
Types of oaths
An oath is taken to prove some fact or report, or to relate the same with emphasis. There are four kinds of oaths:
1. Wajib (Obligatory).
2. Mustahab (Recommended).
3. Makrooh (Detestable).
4. Haraam (Prohibited).
When does it become wajib (obligatory) to swear?
It is wajib to take an oath in a situation where one's life or honour, or that of another Muslim, is in danger, and taking the oath can ward off the danger. When it is wajib to protect ones property it is also wajib to take an oath for its protection. In fact in all the above situations it is wajib even to take a false oath, although as a precautionary measure one should first try ones best to employ Toriya.
There are situations where it is Mustahab to take an oath or to refrain from doing so. In case of very insignificant property belonging to oneself or to another Muslim it is not wajib to swear. In this case it will be Mustahab to do so. Property that is usually considered insignificant is worth thirty Dirhams or less.
Zurara asked Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.): "The oppressive rulers forcefully collect taxes from us. Can we swear falsely that we have nothing to give tax on when it is not possible to save our money without swearing falsely?"
Imam (a.s.) said,
"Take such oaths! Such oaths are more sweet than dates and butter."
However if the property is not worth much, especially if its value is less than thirty Dirhams, then it is Mustahab not to swear falsely, even if it may be necessary to save oneself from the oppressor.
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has quoted the following tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.):
"Respecting the Greatness of Allah if one refrains from swearing, Allah shall give him much better than whatever he has lost."
(Furu Al Kafi)
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:
"If there is claim against you regarding some property and the claimant does not have any right upon you, and desires to make you take an oath, then if the claim is for something worth less than thirty Dirhams, hand it over to him and do not take an oath. But if it is worth more than thirty Dirhams, take the oath and do not give him anything."
(Furu Al Kafi)
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says:
"If a person takes his debtor (or one who owes him something) to the court of the ruler; and the king asks him to swear; and knowing that he is on the right he respects the Greatness of Allah and refrains from swearing, then on the Day of Qiyamat Allah shall not desire for him a position less than that of Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.)."
Imam Sajjad (a.s.) avoids swearing
In the book Al Kafi there is a tradition, which says that a wife of Imam Sajjad (a.s.) had some connection with the tribe of Bani Hanifa. A Shia of Imam (a.s.) informed him that this wife of his bore enmity to Amirul Momineen (a.s.). After investigating the matter Imam (a.s.) divorced her. She had already received the Meher amount (Dower), but she filed a claim for it against Imam (a.s.) in the court of the ruler of Madinah. She demanded four hundred Dirhams as Meher from him. The ruler of Madinah told Imam Sajjad (a.s.), "Either you swear that you have already paid her or you pay the amount of Meher (now)." Hazrat Syed-e-Sajjad (a.s.) did not swear, but ordered his son Hazrat Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) to pay four hundred Dirhams to the woman. Hazrat Baqir (a.s.) said, "May I be sacrificed for you! Are you not on the right?"
Imam (a.s.) replied,
"Why not? But I consider Allah to be much more honourable than this matter, that I swear by His name for some petty worldly property."
Swearing for the sake of emphasis
Not only it is permitted but it is mustahab to swear in order to emphasize on a true fact, or to prove some fact, or to show its importance. For example the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) speaks after taking the oath:
"By Allah! Allah does not delay in forgiving, Though you may be lazy in seeking it."
Another example of an oath is the following saying of Amirul Momineen (a.s.):
"By Allah! If people knew what I know then very few would have laughed and many more would have wept."
There are numerous Quranic verses and the traditions of Masoomeen (a.s.) where oath is taken. All of them are of this same type. They are for emphasis and for proving particular facts.
A person wrote a letter to Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) and asked about something which was being wrongly attributed to him (Imam a.s).
Imam Baqir (a.s.) wrote the following reply,
"By Allah! What is being attributed is not correct. But under no circumstance do I like to say "By Allah" to disprove it. Yet I regret that such a thing is being said when it really isn't so."
Swearing is Makrooh
We have already described the wajib and Mustahab oaths. Apart from these, in all other situations, it is Makrooh (detestable) to swear. It is irrelevant whether the oath is for something past, present or future. In ordinary situations, for ordinary matters, taking an oath is Makrooh. Swearing for a false thing is certainly Haraam. It is the command of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.):
"Do not swear by the name of Allah, whether you are speaking the truth or lying."
(Furu Al Kafi)
"Because Allah says in the Holy Quran,
"And make not Allah because of your swearing (by Him) an obstacle to your doing good...""
(Surah Baqarah 2:224)
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) also says,
"One who swears falsely by Allah for a lie has disbelieved, and one who swear by Allah for truth has sinned, because Allah says: "Do not use Allah for (taking of) your oaths."
(Furu Al Kafi)
The above quoted traditions could be simply explained thus:
To swear falsely in the name of Allah is definitely a greater sin and one who indulges in a greater sin, falls down from the highest position of Faith. Due to this some amount of disbelief comes to his heart. Imam (a.s.) has also called a true oath a sin and he has used the word "Ithm" (sin). Since it is prominent among the Mujtahids that a true oath is Makrooh the word "Ithm" would imply something which is very very undesirable.
A Lesson from Hazrat Isa (a.s.)
The book Furu Al Kafi also contains the following report from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.):
"The apostles of Hazrat Isa (a.s.) came to him and said, "O the teacher of good, give us some advice."
He (a.s.) said, "Certainly, Musa, the Prophet of Allah commanded you not to swear falsely by Allah. And I order you not to swear falsely and (nor) truly."
(Furu Al Kafi)
Oath of respectable objects and personalities
Wherever it is permitted to swear by Allah, it is also permitted to swear by other honorable personalities or respectable objects. In such situations it is allowed to take an oath by the Quran, the Ka'ba, the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) or the Imam (a.s.). In the same way oath upon any other respectable object is also permissible. For example a person may swear by his father or son etc.
Those traditions that prohibit swearing by Allah's name prohibit it for proving ones right. They do not prohibit the proving of a true fact by oath. However when a situation arises where it becomes obligatory to take an oath, then one must swear only by Allah. Oath by any other object or personality will not be absolutely correct and from the Shariat point of view the matter will not end conclusively. Similarly if one has to take an oath for performing a particular action in the future, in this case too, one must swear only by Allah. Any other vow does not have any legal standing.
The oath that is haraam under all circumstances
The oath which is Haraam under all circmstances and which one can never take is that of dissociating with Allah and His religion. For example a man says;
"If I do not perform this particular action, I shall be dissociated with Allah and His religion." Such an oath is certainly Haraam.
In the same way if one says:
"If I do not do this, I would have disbelieved in the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), or I would have rejected the Mastership of Ali (a.s.), or I would become a disbeliever." Such a vow is also Haraam. It is Haraam whether one wishes to prove the truth or to lay emphasis upon a fact.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) heard a person taking such an oath. He (s.a.w.s.) said, "Woe be unto you, if you leave the religion of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) then which religion would you follow?"
The narrator says that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) did not speak to this man till the end of his life.
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) informed Yunus Ibne Zabyan:
"O Yunus! Do not speak about dissociating from us in an oath. One who takes oath from it, whether for a true thing or a falsehood, he really becomes dissociated from us."
Expiation for a haraam oath
The expiation for an oath which is haraam, (the oath which states dissociation with divine personalities), according to a group of Mujtahids is equal to expiation of Zihar (when one vows to abstain from one's wife, sexually). Another group of Mujtahids has prescribed its expiation to be equal to that of breaking a vow and it is the same as the penalty of breaking or not keeping a Wajib fast of Ramazan.
(Refer Shariyatul Islam)
However, Shaykh Mufeed (r.a.) says that expiation of vow of dissociation is to feed to satiation, ten poor people and also to repent. The same decree is proved from a letter of Imam Hasan al-Askari (a.s.), which is quoted in the book Masaalik.
Imam (a.s.) says,
"He shall feed ten poor people with a 'Madd' (approximately ¾ of a kilo) of food and seek forgiveness from Allah."
In this penalty, the following edibles can be given: wheat, wheat flour, barley, rice or any other cooked food.
Since the chain of narrators for this tradition is authentic, one must act upon it as a precautionary measure.
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) and Mansur Dawaniqi
A man came to the Abbaside king Mansur Dawaniqi and began to instigate him against Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.). He said, "He desires to launch an attack upon you. He has sent money to different places for this and continues to do so. He has always supported the sons of Abdullah Ibne Hasan, Muhammad and Ibrahim, and these two have confronted you."
Mansur summoned Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) from Madinah. When Imam (a.s.) reached the court of Mansur, he quoted the false allegations and severely criticised the Imam (a.s.).
Imam (a.s.) replied,
"I seek the refuge of Allah from such things. All these are false allegations."
Mansur called the man who had laid these false allegations against Imam (a.s.). The accused man came and repeated his accusations. Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) asked him,
"Can you swear for the truth of your statements?"
This accused person began to say, "By Allah! The one besides whom there is no god, He is the..."
Imam (a.s.) interrupted him,
"Do not make haste in taking the oath, say as I command you."
Mansur asked, "Is there any defect in the oath which he has taken?"
"When a man swears by Allah, praising the Divine qualities, Allah refrains from sending an immediate retribution. So he should say like this, 'I swear by Allah ignoring His Might and Power and seek the refuge on my own might and power that whatever I have said is the truth.'"
Mansur ordered that man to swear in this manner. The man began to take the oath and had not even completed it when his tongue rolled out like a dog and he fell down dead.
Is it against a prohibited oath?
Someone may think that this narration mentions the prohibited form of oath. It is not so. Muhaqqiqe-Qummi says that in the first place the chain of narrators of this tradition is weak. Secondly it may be that ordering such an oath may be the sole prerogative of an Imam. The Imam (a.s.) knew that the one taking such an oath is not a believer. He was an enemy of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) and it was necessary to resort to such means in order to clear himself of the false allegations.
From the explanation of this tradition by Muhaqqiq it is clear that Imam (a.s.) considered that accursed man deserving of death and his death only depended upon the oath of dissociation. It was also necessary that Imam (a.s.) was not disrespected and that the Imam (a.s.) could save himself from being unjustly persecuted at the hands of Mansur. Another benefit that accrued was that, Mansur for the time being, refrained from oppressing the other Sadaat (descendants of Holy Prophet) and believers.
Repenting for a false oath
The method of repenting for a false oath is that one must feel extremely remorseful for it. He should know that he has considered the Divine name of Allah to be a plaything, and that he has committed a grave sin. The more remorse one feels and the more serious he considers his sin, the closer he shall be to Allah's Divine Mercy and Forgiveness. If due to this false oath some monetary loss has occurred to a believer or a believer has been insulted, then the one who had taken the false oath must compensate for the monetary loss and apologise to the believer, and as far as possible try to make up for the harm that has been caused due to his false swearing.
When is the vow correct?
There are some requirements for the correctness of a vow that a person takes for performing or avoiding particular actions in the future. If all the requirements are fulfilled then it is haraam to break this vow. If it is broken, expiation becomes wajib.
The following are the conditions for such vows:
1. The vow should be with regard to a wajib or a Mustahab act. For example, he can vow that he shall not intentionally avoid the Morning Prayer, he will make it a point to say Namaz-e-Shab. In the same way if one vows to abstain from a particular act, this act has to be either haraam or Makrooh in nature. For example he can vow that he shall not speak a lie in future or he can vow to refrain from spitting in the mosque. A vow to refrain from a Mubah (permitted) act or thing should only be taken when there is some benefit in it. For example it is Mubah to smoke. So one can take a vow in order to give up this habit.
2. Vows with regard to all the five types of actions, i.e. Wajib, Mustahab, Haraam, Makrooh and Mubah are valid only when the name of Allah is uttered with a firm intention to do or to refrain from a particular thing. One must not swear by Allah in jest. If one is in a habit of saying, "By Allah I shall do this." or "By Allah I shall not do it" then unless he seriously means it, such a vow is not considered valid.
The Quran says:
"Allah does not call you to account for what is vain in your oaths, but he calls you to account for the making of deliberate oaths; so its expiation is feeding of ten poor men out of the middling (food) you feed your families with, or their clothing, or the freeing of a neck; but whosoever cannot find (means) then fasting for three days; this is the expiation of your oaths when you swear; and guard your oaths. Thus does Allah make clear to you His communications, that you may be grateful.
(Surah Maidah 5:89)
From the foregoing discussion we can conclude that a vow is only valid when there is some inherrent good or evil in the concerned action. Therefore one can take a vow only for acts that one is inclined towards or those that are wajib or mustahab. Similarly if a person vows to refrain from a particular action he must feel an aversion to it or it should be something makrooh or haraam. Hence to vow to perform some lewd action is itself lewdness. Such a vow is invalid from Shariat point of view. We must never vow to perform evil acts whether it is evil according to reason or according to Shariat.
It is haraam for one to vow to omit wajib or mustahab prayers or vow not to speak to ones mother or any other relative. It is also not allowed to vow against performing Hajj if one is capable of doing so. To vow that one would never mediate between two believers is also haraam. All such vows are invalid. Hence if one has ever taken such vows one must repent for them.
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
"If one takes a vow to refrain from a beneficial act he must perform it (and disregard the vow). There is no kaffarah for breaking such a vow. It is only a satanic instigation."
Although apparently the above tradition and other such reports imply that a vow for a mubah act which is beneficial is invalid, the mujtahids are of the opinion that one must exercise caution and in case such a vow is broken, kaffarah should be paid. According to the majority of the jurists a mubah thing becomes wajib if one takes a vow for it. Thus the best thing is to follow the path of precaution.
Saeed Aeraaj, a narrator of traditions says that he asked Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) about a person who had vowed to do a particular thing, whereas the avoidance of that was more beneficial, and now the person himself was worried to disregard his vow. Imam (a.s.) said,
"Have you not heard the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) say that whenever you find that you have vowed against doing something that is better to be done, you must ignore your vow?"
Types of Vows
In the same book, Al Kafi we have a tradition of Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said,
There are three types of Vows:
1. A vow that makes hell incumbent.
2. A vow that makes kaffarah wajib.
3. A vow that neither earns hell nor entails kaffarah.
A vow that makes hell incumbent is a false one. It is a vow that proves harmful to the Muslims. It is called 'Yaman Ghamoos' in the religious terminology.
A vow that entails Kaffarah is one that is taken to perform a charitable act or taken to refrain from an evil act. If a person breaks such a vow he is liable to pay kaffarah for the same. In addition he must feel remorse for it and repent.
Lastly, a vow that neither earns hell nor makes kaffarah wajib is the vow of doing Qat-e-Rehmi taken under duress before a tyrant ruler, parents or ones spouse. Other vows like the doing of some evil act or to refrain from a wajib are also included in this category. Those who wish to study in detail may refer to the comprehensive books of jurisprudence.
According to the corpus of traditions false testimony is a Greater sin. It is also mentioned in the narration of Abdul Azeem quoted from Imam Muhammad al-Taqi (a.s.). Similarly the tradition of Fazl Ibne Shazaan includes it in the list of Greater sins as mentioned by Imam Reza (a.s.). That it is a Greater sin is also proved by the hadith of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) as quoted by Amash. We have already mentioned in the chapter on "lying" that falsehood is a Greater sin. False testimony obivously is also a branch of falsehood.
In the tradition narrated by Hazrat Abdul Azeem, Imam (a.s.) has proved the 'greatness' of not giving false testimony on the basis of the following verse of the Holy Quran:
"And they who do not bear witness to what is false...."
(Surah Furqan 25:72)
"...These shall be regarded with high places..."
(Surah Furqan 25:75)
In this verse the word 'false' signifies the action of proving a falsehood as though it were the truth.
Another verse says,
"...therefore avoid the uncleanness of the idols and avoid false words."
(Surah Hajj 22:30)
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says,
"To testify falsely tantamounts to polytheism."
It is mentioned in Tafseer Abdul Fath Razi that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) repeated this statement thrice and then quoted the above ayat (Surah Hajj 22:30)
A similar kind of tradition is recorded in Mustadrakul Wasael, from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.).
"In the Quran Allah has compared false testimony to polytheism."
Allah mentions the avoidance of 'uncleanness of the idols' and 'false words' in a single verse, one after the other.
'False words' imply sin and false testimony
From the traditions quoted above it becomes clear that whenever the term 'false words' etc. occurs in Quran it implies 'lying.' Similar verses have been quoted in the chapter of music and songs. Hence some traditions state that 'false words' refers to music or songs. Actually the word 'false' stands for every evil, wrong and undesirable thing. Music, songs and lies head the list of these things.
Punishment of hell for the false witness
Hazrat Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) says,
"Whenever a person testifies falsely to usurp the property of a Muslim, Allah writes at that very moment a punishment of the blazing fire for this man."
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
"The false witness may not even have moved from his place but that the punishment of fire will have already become incumbent for him."
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says:
"False testimony before an oppressive ruler is not yet complete when a place in the fire (Hell) is already decided (for the false witness)."
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) has also said,
"One who testifies falsely against someone will be hung by his tongue with the hypocrites in the lowest portion of Hell.
And if one usurps the property of his believing brother, Allah does not give an increase in his sustenance till he repents for it."
Hazrat Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) narrates from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) that he said,
"One who hides testimony before a just Islamic judge, or gives a false testimony to shed the blood of Muslims or intends to usurp a Muslim's property by it, he shall be raised on the Day of the Judgment in such a condition that there will be darkness before his eyes and his face will be scratched. The people shall recognise him by these signs (that he had testified falsely)."
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) asked,
"Shall I inform you about the Greater of the Great sins?"
The companions said, "Why not, O! Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.s.)." The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
"To make someone a partner of Allah, and disobedience to parents..." The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was resting his back against the wall. Now he sat up straight and continued in a more serious tone, "And beware! (Every) Falsehood!"
The narrators say that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has denounced falsehood so many times that we wished he had not done so.
Since we have already explained that 'falsehood' includes every type of lying it also includes false testimony. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has also described 'falsehood' to be a Greater sin. False testimony is a manifold sin. Firstly because it is a lie which is a greater sin, secondly because it amounts to falsely accusing a Muslim which is also a greater sin and thirdly because it is instrumental in oppressing an innocent person which is still another greater sin. Also, through false testimony a person tries to acquire something which does not rightfully belong to him, thus making unlawful thing lawful, which is prohibited by Allah. Lastly usurping somebody else's property is also a greater sin. Thus we can say that many great sins constitute a single sin called, 'false testimony'.
One should testify only after knowing the facts
It does not make any difference whether one knowingly gives a false testimony or one testifies without being certain of the facts. Both of these are 'Greater sins'. It is wajib upon the witness not to testify till he is confident of the facts.
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:
"Do not testify till you are as certain as you are about the palm (of your hand)."
Someone inquired from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) as to when it was allowed to testify as a witness. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) told him:
"Can you see the sun?"
"Yes," he said.
"Testify like it or do not." (Meaning you should testify only if you are absolutely certain, otherwise you must not do so).
Hazrat Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) says,
"The witness should testify only for that about which he is certain. He must fear Allah. To testify without having certainty or to testify against something without being certain is also falsehood. Allah (a.j.) says,
Refrain from falsehood! And remain upright for (the sake of) Allah and do not be among the polytheists.
So, Allah has equated false testimony to polytheism."
One who testifies falsely is soon exposed
If a person testifies in an Islamic court and later regrets for his testimony, then it is first determined whether he had knowingly and intentionally testified wrongly. If it was so, then that person is branded as a transgressor whose testimony is no more valid in the Shariat Court. But if he had been a victim of doubt and uncertainty he is not disqualified from testifying in the future. However, if due to the wrong testimony someone had to undergo undeserved punishment or suffer harm, it is wajib for this witness to make up the loss. The details of such laws could be obtained from the books of Jurisprudence.
One of the methods of disproving a testimony is that the witness himself confess it to be false. Another procedure for this is that two just witnesses may testify against him. This is known as 'Bayyana'. Finally, the judges may on the basis of some firm evidence falsify the testimony of a witness who had tried to mislead the court. Hence the judge is empowered to reject a witness if he is himself certain. If someone has suffered a loss the judge shall impose on the witness some exemplary punishment of a few lashes so that he may not repeat such a crime in future.
The judge should also announce in the city and the surrounding areas that such and such person is a false witness so that people may not be misled by him and may not rely upon his evidence. In this way, one who testifies falsely becomes notorious for his falsehood in the society, and the wellbeing of society is maintained. Both these actions i.e. exemplary punishments and warning the people against a false witness, are put into effect whether the judge has already passed his judgment (based upon that false testimony) or not.
They do not qualify as a witness
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) is reported to have said,
"The false witness must be lashed, and the number of lashes is determined by the Imam (or the Islamic judge) and he should be paraded (in the city) till people know him (and may not rely on him in the future)."
The Imam (a.s.) recited the following verse of the Quran:
"...and do not admit any evidence from them ever; and these it is that are the transgressors, except those who repent after this and act aright, for surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."
(Surah Nur 24:4-5)
(It means that after he repents and reforms, his evidence again becomes valid)
The narrator says that he asked Imam (a.s.), "How do we know that he has repented?"
Imam (a.s.) replied,
"At the site where he is lashed, he must confess in public that he had given a false testimony. And he must seek the forgiveness of Allah. In this way it could be known that he has repented."
Compensation for the loss
If, due to a false testimony a Muslim has had to suffer some monetary loss or loss to one's life or property, the witness has to make good the loss. A narrator by the name of Jamil inquired from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) regarding the one who has testified falsely. Imam (a.s.) told him:
"If the disputed property is still intact it must be restored to the rightful owner. If it is not then the false witness is responsible to the extent of it's loss." (Masaalik)
This means that if it is not possible to return the property, the false witness will have to reimburse it by providing a thing similar to that property or pay a price for it. Detailed laws are discussed in the books of Islamic Jurisprudence.
Repentance for the sin
The method of repenting for the sin of giving false testimony has already been explained. The first important requirement is that the sinner must feel a deep remorse for the act committed by him. He must also seek the forgiveness of Allah for disobeying His command; and compensate the Musilm who suffered the loss. As Allah Himself says,
"…except those who repent after this and act aright, for surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."
(Surah Nur 24:4-5)
To refrain from testifying in an Islamic Court is clearly classified among the 'Greater sins' according to the authentic tradition narrated by Hazrat Abdul Azeem. There are some situations when it is Wajib to prove right what is right and to prove wrong that is wrong. In the narration mentioned in the previous discussion, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) states that to conceal evidence is a 'Greater sin'. He presents the following verse as the proof:
"...and do not conceal testimony, and whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful; and Allah knows what you do."
(Surah Baqarah 2:283)
This verse mentions the sinful heart (his heart is surely sinful). There are two noteworthy points in this. One: That the concealing of testimony is a sin of the heart. The heart alone commits it, and other organs are not apparently involved in it. The person hides the reality in his heart and does not speak out. Secondly, just as the heart is superior to all the organs of the body the sin associated with the heart is also greater than the sin performed with other organs. It is just like the obedience of Allah through ones heart is much superior than obeying Him in actions. It is this same heart that involves one in a great sin like polytheism. These sins of the heart are definitely more than sins associated with other organs. One of the sins of heart according to the ayat of Quran is concealing evidence. In order to emphasise, Allah says in the later portion of this ayat, "...Allah knows what you do", so that the sinner may realise that even though people may not be aware of Allah is aware of his sin and He will certainly punish him for it.
Allah the Almighty also says,
"...and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned."
(Surah Baqarah 2:282)
Similarly in another verse, Allah says,
"And who is more unjust than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allah?"
(Surah Baqarah 2:140)
Such a person is like the Jews and the Christians, who had seen the characteristics of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in the Torah and Injeel but deliberately concealed them.
Testify for the truth even if it harms you
In Surah Nisa, the Almighty Allah says,
"O you who believe! Be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness for Allah's sake, though it may be against your own selves or (your) parents or near relations; if he be rich or poor, Allah is nearer to them both in compassion; therefore do not follow (your) low desires, lest you deviate; and if you swerve or turn aside, then surely Allah is aware of what you do."
(Surah Nisa 4:135)
Thus one must not conceal testimony due to the fear of the rich or mercy for the poor. One must not feel undue compassion for the accused who is poor. One should neither pay heed to ones own interest nor care for any other person while giving testimony. The Divine command should always be respected in entirety.
Justice for the enemy
The following verse of Surah Maidah states:
"O you who believe! Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people invite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is aware of what you do."
(Surah Maidah 5:8)
According to this ayat testimony should be given only to seek the pleasure of Allah. No feeling of enmity should be allowed to come in the way of stating the truth. Allah (a.j.) says in another verse:
"...and give upright testimony for Allah."
(Surah Talaq 65:2)
Those who conceal evidence
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) remarks,
"On the Day of Qiyamat, Allah shall cut off the flesh of one who conceals evidence; then order him to eat it before all the creatures."
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) also says that those who conceal evidence are described in the Quran as those whose hearts have sinned. 'Hearts have sinned' actually implied that 'hearts have disbelieved'," according to Imam (a.s.)
Another tradition recorded from Imam (a.s.) is thus:
"One who goes back upon his testimony or conceals it wholly, Allah shall cut off his flesh and force him to eat it before everyone. And when he will enter Hell he would be chewing at his own tongue."
Hazrat Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.) says,
"When you are asked to give evidence, give it. For Allah (a.j.) says:
"Surely Allah commands you to make over trusts to their owners..."
(Surah Nisa 4:58)
Evidence is itself a trust. Allah (a.j.) also says,
"And who is more unjust than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allah?"
(Surah Baqarah 2:140) (Wasaelush Shia)
The following tradition of Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) is recorded in Tafseer Ali Ibn Ibrahim Qummi:
"One who possesses some evidence, has to make it known. And when he is asked for it, he must give it. He should not fear anyone's criticism. He must fulfill his obligation of Amr bil Maroof (enjoining good) and Nahi Anil Munkar (forbidding evil)."
Is it wajib to testify?
Is it wajib to become a witness if one is requested to do so by a believer brother, in order he may achieve some benefit from the case he is pursuing in an Islamic Court? According to most of the Mujtahids it is wajib. Allah the Almighty Himself says:
".,.and call in to witness from among your men two witnesses; but if there are not two men, then one man and two women from among those whom you choose to be witnesses, so that if one of the two errs, the second of the two may remind the other; and the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned."
(Surah Baqarah 2:282)
Hisham says that Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) said,
"And the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned."
(Surah Baqarah 2:282)
And in the succeeding ayat,
"...and do not conceal testimony", meaning concealing testimony from a Shariat judge."
Numerous traditions state that to be a witness is wajib (obligatory). For example, Muhammad Bin Fuzail asked Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.) the meaning of the above ayat (Surah Baqarah 2:282)
"And the witnesses should not refuse when they are summoned."
Imam (a.s.) replied,
"When someone calls you to give evidence in a matter of some debts or some right, then you do not have the choice to ignore it."
Of course the Quranic command in the verse 282 of Surah Baqarah asking the witness to testify before the Shariat judge implies that the person had in the first instance been a witness to the transaction etc.
The person who has witnessed the transaction etc. has to exercise extreme care and caution in this regard. He must memorise all the details or put them in writing, if necessary, so that there is no scope for doubt or misunderstanding in future. If this person is called upon to be a witness, it is wajib on him to comply, even if he has to roam some distance.
People whose supplications are not accepted
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:
"Dua of four types of people is not answered:
1. A Person who sits idle at home and prays to Allah to provide him with sustenance is told, 'Have We not ordered you to make effort for obtaining your sustenance?'
2. The person who prays for some misfortune for his wife. He is told, 'Have We not given you the choice of giving her divorce if you do not want such a wife?'
3. One who had squandered the money and spent it in evil ways. Now if he prays for sustenance, he is told, 'Did We not order you to spend in moderation?'
4. One who gives a loan to someone but does not make anyone witness it. Hence if the borrower refuses and the creditor prays, he is informed, 'Had We not ordered you to have witnesses?'"
Testifying is wajib and concealing evidence, haraam
There may be occasion when a person has not directly witnessed a transaction but has some information for having heard or seen something related to the issue. If the information he has can save a Muslim from harm or enable him to secure his right, it is wajib on this person to testify if he is summoned. If he is not summoned, it is wajib for him to volunteer to testify by approaching the Shariat judge with the information he has. If by not disclosing what he knows, a Muslim is harmed or loses his right, it is haraam to remain silent.
In short if a person is capable of helping the oppressed or prevent the oppressor from oppressing, it is wajib on him to do so.
It is not wajib to give evidence in a situation where not testifying does not cause any harm to a Muslim, nor does it deprive him of his right. In this case a person can even refuse to testify even if he is ordered to do so, because neither is he a direct witness to the dispute nor is his silence harmful in anyway.
Muhammad Ibne Muslim says, quoting an authentic tradition from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.): "If one hears an evidence (i.e. he becomes a witness) but he had not been made a witness, then if he likes he can testify or he can prefer to remain silent."
Testify only if you are certain
The witness is required to pay attention to all the aspects of the matter that he has witnessed and when he is testifying, he must only say that, about which he is certain. He must not mention those things, which he himself has not heard, or seen. It should be clear as the Sun, as mentioned in tradition.
When a true testimony will oppress someone
It should be known that a testimony should not endanger the life, property or honour of a Muslim. It should also not pose a threat to the life, property and honour of the witness. It is wajib to give evidence and haraam to conceal it so that justice is established in the society and injustice is eradicated. The oppressor ought to be punished and the right may be restored to its owner but if the testimony itself becomes the cause of oppression it is not wajib to testify. Rather it is haraam to do so and it is wajib to conceal evidence. For example if a person knows that if he testifies against a particular oppressor, the oppressor will take revenge on him or on his relatives or plunder his wealth, then it is wajib to conceal evidence. Similarly, there may be a situation where a debtor deep in debts is unable to clear his dues because of his poverty. At the same time he cannot prove his helplesness and the creditor is not prepared to spare him. In this case also it is wajib to conceal evidence, if the evidence given by a witness will cause the poor debtor to be oppressed.
The following traditions of our Masoomeen (a.s.) emphasise the justification of concealing evidence under special circumstances.
Hazrat Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.) says:
"Give evidence for the sake of Allah even if you have to testify against yourself, your parents or your own relatives - But you must not cause harm to your believing brother by concealing evidence. However, if your believing brother is going to be oppressed, then do not testify."
Dawood Ibne Hasan says that he heard Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) saying:
"Give evidence for the sake of Allah, even if you have to testify against your parents or your own son. But do not give evidence to cause harm (Zaeer) to your believing brother."
The narrator says that, 'I asked, "What is Zaeer?" He (a.s.) said,
"It is when someone who has a right, and in order to obtain it he resorts to oppression, contrary to the order of Allah and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). For example, a man is indebted to another, but the debtor is in straitened circumstances. In this situation, Allah has ordered that he must be given respite till he becomes self-sufficient. And (Allah) says,
...then let there be postponement until (he is in) ease…
Now if in spite of this the creditor summons you to testify, and you know the poverty of the debtor, then it is not permitted for you to testify (that he has taken the loan)."
A Tradition from Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.)
Muhammad Ibne Qasim Ibne Fuzail narrates a tradition from Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.). He says, "I asked Imam (a.s.), 'One of your devotees has taken a loan from an enemy of yours. The creditor wants to oppress him and have him captive. Allah knows that he has no money to repay the debt, neither is he capable to do so at present. He does not even have Bayyanah (two just witnesses) to prove his bankruptcy. Then is it allowed for him to take an oath so that he can prove his bankruptcy and obtain respite till the return of favourable conditions? And if from your Shias there are some witnesses who can testify against him, (that he has taken the loan) can they testify?'"
Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.) replied,
"It is not permitted for them to testify. And it is not permitted for the creditor to oppress the debtor."
When testifying harms
When we speak about haraam testimony that causes harm to a Muslim, we mean a wrongful harm or unjustified oppression but if the person deserves to be punished, it is wajib to give the evidence. For example a person commits a crime. The witness of this crime does not testify only because if he does so the one against whom he testifies will demand the debt which the witness owes him. This is not a valid excuse for withholding evidence. The criminal must be punished according to Shariat even if the witness has to suffer a monetary loss. However, if the hardship for the witness far outweighs the seriousness of the crime of the accused then the witness has a valid excuse to refrain from testifying.
Harm and being deprived of benefit
It must be mentioned that to be harmed is different from being deprived of some benefit. In the examples already mentioned, if a witness refrains from testifying due to fear that the accused will deprive him of some money, or that some benefit may not accrue to him; this does not amount to him being 'harmed'.
However if the accused is the employer of the witness and will fire him from his job thus causing untold hardship, then it is allowed for the witness to refrain from testifying as it could be regarded as 'harm' in common parlance.
Hence we can conclude that false oath, false testimony and concealing evidence, each of these are Greater sins if there is no risk of any harm. If there is any chance of any harm to a Muslim or an innocent witness, then they do not remain sins - they are permitted. Rather in some circumstances these actions become wajib as we have seen from the traditions of Masoomeen (a.s.). However as far as possible one must give priority to the more important alternative.
The twenty-first of the Greater sins is 'Breaking of a promise.' There are authentic traditions to this effect from Abdul Azeem where he quotes that Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has proved it to be a Greater sin with the help of the following verse of Holy Quran:
"And those who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut asunder that which Allah has ordered to be joined and make mischief in the land; (as for) those, upon them shall be curse and they shall have the evil (issue) of the abode."
(Surah Ra'd 13:25)
The Holy Quran denounces the breaking of promise in the following ayat too:
"Yea, whoever fulfills his promise and guards (against evil) - then surely Allah loves those who guard (against evil).
(As for) those who take a slender price for the covenant of Allah and their own oaths - surely they shall have no portion in the hereafter, and Allah will not speak to them, nor will He look upon them on the Day of Resurrection nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful chastisement."
(Surah Ale-Imraan 3:76-77)
Similarly we find another verse of the same connotation:
"Surely the vilest of animals in Allah's sight are those who disbelieve, then they would not believe.
Those with whom you make an agreement, then they break their agreement every time and they do not guard (against punishment)."
(Surah Anfal 8:55-56)
This ayat is critical of the Jews of Bani Qurayza, who did not honour the pact, which they had formed with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) regarding cooperation with the infidels. They supplied arms to the disbelievers of Mecca for the Battle of Badr and thus invalidated the pact. Later they justified their action saying they had forgotten the pact.
They once more entered into a pact with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) only to violate it at the time of the Battle of Khandaq (trench). They went against the pact and sided with Abu Sufyan.
In various places in the Holy Quran we find that fulfilling a promise has been made obligatory and highly emphasised.
"and fulfill the promise, surely (every) promise shall be questioned about."
(Surah Bani Israel 17:34)
"O you who believe! Fulfill the obligations."
(Surah Maidah 5:1)
Similarly in Surah Baqarah the ayat says,
"...and the performers of their promise when they make a promise..."
(Surah Baqarah 2:177)
We also find the following verse:
"O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do?
It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do."
(Surah Saff 61:2-3)
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has explained this ayat in the following manner:
"A believer's promise to his believing brother is a vow that has no expiation (It cannot be broken). But one who goes back on his word declares his opposition and enmity to Allah, and invokes the anger of Allah."
After this the Imam (a.s.) recited the above-mentioned ayat.
Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) advises Malik al-Ashtar regarding the honouring of promises:
"Breaking a promise causes the anger of Allah."
Ali (a.s.) also quotes the same verse after this.
Hazrat Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) said:
"There are four types of sinners who are punished very soon:
a) The person who violates the pact that he has made with you, even though you have respected it.
b) One who inflicts harm upon you even though you caused him no harm.
c) One who has promised you something and you are faithful upon your agreement but he is unfaithful.
d) One who wants to severe relations even though the relative wishes to continue the relationship."
Abu Malik inquired from Imam Zainul Abedin (a.s.), "Inform me about all the rules of religion." Imam (a.s.) told him,
"To speak the truth, to judge with justice and to fulfill the promise."
Although a vast number of traditions and ayats denounce the breaking of promises. We shall quote some selected ones.
Types of Promises
There are three types of promises:
1. Promise of Allah to His creatures.
2. Promise of the creatures to Allah.
3. Promises of the people among themselves.
The promise of Allah to His creatures is that of the Aalam-e-Zar (in the spiritual plane). We come to know of this promise through the Quranic ayats as well as the traditions. According to this, Allah first created the souls of all human beings and made the following covenant: That they remain upon the right path, do not associate anyone or anything with Allah, obey the commands of their Prophet, and do not follow Shaitan, Allah shall recompense them by helping them, by keeping them forever in His mercy, and give them a place in Paradise but if they do not respect their covenant, Allah will also disregard His side of the promise. It is for this very fact, that Allah says.
"...and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfill (My) covenant with you."
(Surah Baqarah 2:40)
Allah also says,
"Did I not charge you, O children of Adam, that you should not serve the Shaitan?"
(Surah Yaseen 36:60)
The covenant that Allah took from the people in the spiritual plane also includes the oath with regard to the Wilayat (Mastership) of Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) and the Imams (a.s.). Numerous traditions mention this fact. It is even recorded in the various heavenly scriptures, and all the Prophets have conveyed the message of the Wilayat of the Fourteen Masoomeen (a.s.).
However, some scholars have rejected this concept of the Aalam-e-Arwah or Aalam-e-Zar. They give a different explanation to the traditions and ayats that deal with this subject. According to them Aalam-e-Arwah (the spiritual plane) is essentially the innate human nature, which is so designed by Allah (a.j.) that it is desirous of obeying Allah's command and does not desire to follow Shaitan. Of course the reasoning capacity of man directs him to follow his nature and accordingly obey Allahs orders. Hence if a man goes against Allah's command he goes against his own nature. These thinkers consider the covenant, to be the same as the innate nature given to us by Allah (a.j.). This book is not concerned with the detail of these two theories.
Anyway whether a man breaks the promise given in Aalam-e-Zar, or goes against his innate nature, he commits a greater sin. This fact has been emphasised in most ayats and traditions, and it is confirmed that honoring the covenant is wajib and not respecting it is haraam. It is also confirmed that the breaking of this first covenant can bring severe chastisement. The people are also warned of dire consequences in case of default. The traditions also inform us that serious retribution incured just for violating the first covenant, which is the greatest of the sins. Hence it is incumbent upon the people to fulfill their covenant so that Allah may also fulfill His promise.
Allah has promised to answer every prayer
One of the promises of Allah to His creatures is that He will answer every prayer, but this is only on condition that the supplicant honors this covenant with Allah (a.j.).
Jamil narrates from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) who said,
"When a man prays to Allah with a pure intention and a sincere heart, Allah answers (his prayer) after man has fulfilled his promise to Allah (a.j.). But if man prays to Allah without a pure intention and sincerity, Allah does not answer it. Has not Allah said, '...and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfill (My) covenant with you,' so the promise is kept only with one who keeps his own word.'
source : GREATER SINS/ by Al-Haaj Sayed Abdul Husain Dastghaib