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  The Malice of Lying

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PostSubject: The Malice of Lying   Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:15 am

The Malice of Lying




Lying is a common part of human relationships. People lie for
a variety of reasons. They may lie as part of self-presentation, in
order to present a more favorable image to others. People may also lie
in order to minimize conflict, because lying may make disagreements less
obvious. Although lying may serve useful functions in these respects,
it can also be damaging to relationships. An exposed lie undermines
trust and sows suspicion, because a person who has been lied to is
likely to mistrust the person who lied in the future.]1]
Some people even lie due to habit at first impulse. ‘Everyday lies are
really part of the fabric of social life,’ says Bella DePaulo, a
psychologist and lying expert at the University of Virginia. Her
research shows both men and women lie in approximately a fifth of their
social exchanges lasting 10 or more minutes; over the course of a week
they deceive about 30 percent of those with whom they interact
one-on-one. Furthermore, some types of relationships, such as those
between parents and teens, are virtual magnets for deception. Lying is
considered integral to many occupations: we see lawyers constructing
far-fetched theories on behalf of their clients or reporters
misrepresenting themselves in order to gain access to good stories.]2]

Lying is a despicable vice, rampant in our societies. Deceiving others
with the canny use of words is seen as clever. Public figures lie.
Governments lie. One of the distinctions of our age is that lying no
longer carries the stigma it once did. Today lying has become
institutionalized. It is the way many of us live now, right from the
top, because we figured out that if we are persuasive enough, lying
works. Countries are invaded and wars are started based on lies. “We”
never lie, we just bend the truth a little, put a spin, having no
intention to mislead, but the “others” are liars. Ours is a society that
has perfected the “art” of lying. Gone are the days when a lie
destroyed the liar’s dignity and deprived him of our trust.

Islam views lying as a serious vice. God says in the Quran:

{And do not say that of which you have no knowledge.} [Quran 17:36]

{وَلَا تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ} [الإسراء:٣٦]
Transliteration: Wa Lā Taqfu Mā Laysa Laka Bihi `Ilmun

The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, stressed
the importance of always being truthful and the seriousness of habitual
lying, «Truthfulness leads to piety and piety
leads to the Paradise. A man should be truthful until he is written down
as truthful with God. Lying leads to deviance and deviance leads to the
Fire. A man will lie until he is written down as a liar with God.»
]3]
Truth is to state what corresponds with reality, how things are, and is
the opposite of lying. The malice of lying is tied to hypocrisy as
described by the Prophet Muhammad, «If anyone has
four characteristics, he is a pure hypocrite, and if anyone has one of
them, he has an aspect of hypocrisy until he gives it up: whenever he is
trusted, he betrays his trust; whenever he speaks, he lies; when he
makes an agreement, he breaks it; and when he quarrels, he deviates from
the truth by speaking falsely.»
]4]
The Prophet’s teaching is that we try our best to free ourselves of
hypocrisy by keeping our trusts, telling the truth, keeping our
promises, and not speaking falsely.

Islamicly, the most heinous lie is against God, His prophets, His
revelation, and bearing false witness. We should be careful not to make
false excuses like ‘I was too busy or I forgot,’ or say words that can be taken as promises by others like ‘I’ll call back
tomorrow,’ with no such intention. At the same time, not lying should
not be confused with impoliteness, ‘saying at it is,’ but we should be
careful not to lie about little things when no one apparently gets hurt.
This can be done by carefully choosing our words.

Is “Never lie!” an absolute principle of Islam or are there exceptions?
Suppose that a would-be murderer comes knocking on your door, looking
for his victim. Is the morally correct answer, “She’s hiding upstairs,
hoping you will go away”? Philosophers like Kant wrote as if this was in
fact the morally correct thing to do, but Islamicly, lying is justified
in such cases.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Footnotes:

[1] ‘The Right to Do
Wrong: Lying to Parents among Adolescents and Emerging Adults,’ by
Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Elizabeth Cauffman, S. Shirley Feldman, Lene
Arnett Jensen; Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 33, 2004.

[2] ‘The truth about lying,’ by: Allison Kornet. Psychology Today, Publication Date: May/Jun 97


[3] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim

[4] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim
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