The Qur'an Describes Liars
Two-Faced Liars: Hypocrites
Allah defines hypocrites as a community of two-faced people, for one of their major characteristics is that they are liars. Although they do not believe, they claim belief in Allah and His Prophet (saas). Although they hate the believers, they proclaim their eternal love and loyalty toward the believers. And, while knowing that they will abandon the believers the moment that their own interests are threatened, they take an oath to remain with the believers under any circumstances. Our Prophet (saas) pointed out such facts by saying, "Falsehood is a door of hypocrisy."12
Hassan al-Basri, the great Tabii (student of the Companion), says this about hypocrisy and lying:
"The people say that there is a difference between open and secret words and actions, and between entry into and going out of hypocrisy, but the sin on which hypocrisy is built is falsehood."13
Did you not see the hypocrites saying to their brothers, those among the People of the Book who do not believe: "If you are driven out, we will leave with you. We will never obey anyone to your detriment. And if you are fought against, we will help you."? Allah bears witness that they are truly liars. If they are driven out, they will not leave with them. If they are fought against, they will not help them. And if they did help them, they would turn their backs and then they would not be helped. (Surat al-Hashr, 59:11-12)
Hypocrites also lie by giving false excuses for their treachery. In another verse, Allah informs us about such people:
Those Arabs who remained behind will say to you: "Our wealth and families kept us occupied, so ask forgiveness for us." They say with their tongues what is not in their hearts. Say: "Who can control Allah for you in any way, whether He wants harm for you or wants benefit for you?" Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat al-Fath, 48:11)
Another one of their characteristics is listening to lies. They pay attention to lies and try to provoke others by using lying words and imaginary events. Allah points out this characteristic as well:
O Messenger! Do not be grieved by those who rush headlong into unbelief among those who say "We believe" with their tongues when their hearts contain no faith. And among the Jews are those who listen to lies, listening to other people who have not come to you, distorting words from their proper meanings, saying: "If you are given this, then take it. If you are not given it, then beware!" If Allah wills not to guide someone, you cannot help him against Allah in any way. Those are the people whose hearts Allah does not will to purify. They will have disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter they will have a terrible punishment. They are people who listen to lies and consume ill-gotten gains. If they come to you, you can either judge between them or turn away from them. If you turn away from them, they cannot harm you in any way. But if you do judge, judge between them justly. Allah loves the just. (Surat al-Ma’ida, 5:41-42)
Hypocrites consider themselves superior and are happy in the belief that they are deceiving the believers. In fact, this is a proof of how unwise and lacking in insight they really are, because even if they can conceal their hypocrisy, they cannot hide it from Allah. This lack of religious faith and hypocrisy will cause the hypocrites to receive the "reward" of eternal punishment of Hell. Allah points out their lack of wisdom in the following verses:
When they meet those who believe, they say: "We believe." But then when they go apart with their devils, they say: "We are really with you. We were only mocking." But Allah is mocking them, and drawing them on, as they wander blindly in their excessive insolence. Those are the people who have sold guidance for misguidance. Their trade has brought no profit; they are not guided. (Surat al-Baqara, 2:14-16)
The brothers of Prophet Yusuf (as)
Among the liars in the Qur'an are the brothers of Prophet Yusuf (as). Not only did they lie, but they slandered and swore false oaths.
Out of their jealousy of Yusuf (as), they planned to kill him. When it was time to implement their plan, they asked their father Ya`qub (as) to send him with them. To overcome their father's initial hesitation, they swore an oath that they would protect Yusuf (as). However, from the very beginning their true intention was to kill him.
First they told their father that Yusuf (as) wanted to come with them and promised to look after him very well. This was all a part of their ploy, as the Qur'an reveals:
When they declared: "Why Yusuf and his brother [Benjamin] are dearer to our father than we are, although we constitute a powerful group. Our father is clearly making a mistake." (Surah Yusuf, 12:8)
Saying that Ya`qub's (as) great love for Yusuf (as) had caused him to make a mistake was a lie, because they were aware that Yusuf's (as) morality was far superior to their own and that therefore he was more deserving of his father's love.
"Kill Yusuf or expel him to some land so that your father will look to you alone, and then you can be people who do right." (Surah Yusuf, 12:9)
They all knew that they could not form a community who do right after killing their brother, but even after telling such a lie they still presented themselves as innocent of their planned immorality and cruelty, and as doing this out of their love for Ya`qub (as). This was also a lie, because people capable of killing their brother do not understand real love and cannot claim to do so. In fact, they wanted to kill their brother solely because of jealousy and rivalry.
They said: "Our Father, what is wrong with you that you refuse to trust us with Yusuf, when in truth we only wish him well? Why don't you send him out with us tomorrow so he can enjoy himself and play about? All of us will make sure that he is safe." (Surah Yusuf, 12:11-12)They said: "If a wolf comes and eats him up when together we make up a powerful group, in that case we would truly be in loss!" (Surah Yusuf, 12:14)
As we can see, they took great pains to present themselves as very well-meaning and innocent brothers who only wished to serve their brother's well-being. They even guaranteed his safety. Despite all of their claims to the contrary, they took Yusuf (as) with them and threw him down a well. In order to present themselves as innocent, they resorted to more lies and false scenarios designed to hide the truth from their father. As the Qur'an relates:
That night they came back to their father in tears, saying: "Father, we went out to run a race and left Yusuf together with our things. A wolf appeared and ate him up. But you are never going to believe us now, even though we really tell the truth." They then produced his shirt with false blood on it. He said: "It is merely that your lower selves have suggested something to you which you did. But beauty lies in showing steadfastness. It is Allah alone Who is my Help in face of the event that you describe." (Surah Yusuf, 12:16-18)
Yusuf's (as) brothers wept in order to make their lies more persuasive. Weeping, making a show of emotion, blaming themselves, and presenting an innocent appearance are some of the liars' most common tactics, because they believe that such methods will make it easy for them to convince others. In addition, by saying that "you are never going to believe us now, even though we really tell the truth,'' they strengthen their show of emotion and try to suggest that their father is treating them unjustly. This is another common tactic.
Liars also manufacture false evidence to support their lies. Thus, the believers need to examine carefully all of the evidence presented to them by people of questionable faith so that they can avoid making decisions on the basis of first appearances. Indeed, Ya`qub (as) knew his sons very well because of the wisdom, insight, and intuition arising from his faith, and so he was not deceived by their false evidence. He realized that they had done something wicked, despite their weeping and their self-justifications.
The Qur'an mentions slanderers
One characteristic of liars is engaging in slander. In the Qur'an, Allah defines slanderers in the following terms:
Anyone who commits an error or an evil action, and then ascribes it to someone innocent, bears the weight of slander and clear wrongdoing. (Surat an-Nisa’, 4:112)
Our Prophet (saas) also had words about people who slander others:
"If a man uses a word in order to disgrace an innocent man [Muslim] in this world, Allah will burn him in Hell-fire on the Day of Resurrection."14
The Qur'an gives a number of examples concerning slanderers, as follows:
- The woman who slandered Yusuf (as)
Yusuf (as) was a believer who was fully devoted to Allah from an early age, and respected the boundaries set by Him. He was separated from his parents while still young, due to his brothers' plot, and so grew up in the household of an Egyptian governor.
Yusuf (as) was an unusually handsome man, a reality that caused the governor's wife to fall in love with him and desire an intimate relationship. However, because of his piety and awe of Allah, Yusuf (as) rejected her advances. When the governor came home, she slandered Yusuf (as) and said that he had tried to seduce her. As a result, the governor threw Yusuf (as) into prison. Allah describes this event in the Qur'an:
The woman whose house it was solicited him [Yusuf]. She barred the doors and said: "Come over here." He exclaimed: "Allah is my refuge! He is My Lord and has been good to me with where I live. Those who do wrong will surely not succeed." She wanted him, and he would have wanted her had he not seen the Clear Proof of his Lord. That happened so that We might avert from him all evil and lust. He was Our chosen servant. They raced to the door. She tore the back of his shirt. They met her husband by the door. She asked: "How should a man whose intention was to harm your family be punished for what he did, except with prison or a painful punishment?" He [Yusuf] said: "It was she who tried to seduce me." A witness from her family then declared: "If his shirt is torn in the front, she speaks the truth and he has clearly told a shameless lie. If his shirt is torn in the back, then she has lied and he has clearly told the simple truth." He [the governor] saw that the shirt torn in the back and said: "The source of this is women's deviousness. Without a doubt your guile is very great." (Surah Yusuf, 12:23-28)
Yusuf (as) was sent to prison, even though the governor knew she had committed slander. She freely confessed her slander to other women in the city, all of whom thereby became her accomplices and did nothing to rescue Yusuf (as). Allah reveals this situation in the following verses:
Some city women said: "The governor's wife solicited her slave. He's fired her heart with love. We see that she's the one to blame." But when she heard of their malicious talk, she sent for them, made a sumptuous meal, and then gave a knife to each of them. She said [to Yusuf]: "Go out to them." When they saw him, they were amazed by him and cut their hands. They exclaimed: "Allah preserve us! This is no man. What can this be but a noble angel here!" She said, "You see! It's him you blamed me for. I tried seducing him, but he refused. If he does not do what I order him [to do], he will be put in prison and brought low." (Surah Yusuf, 12:30-32)
In societies that do not follow the Qur'an's morality, people who know that slanders, lies, and gossip are untrue remain silent to avoid harming their own interests. Following the idea of "a thousand blessings on a lie that does not harm me," they do nothing at all in the name of justice. The verses above are a clear example of this.
However, never forget that Allah is always on the side of honest and truthful people. Yusuf (as) was thrown to prison as a result of slander, but later on his truthfulness was realized and Allah blessed him by "setting him over the treasuries of the land" (Surah Yusuf, 12:55).
- Yusuf's (as) brothers slander him
Yusuf's (as) brothers also slandered him. When they met him many years later, they did not recognize him and so described their "deceased" brother Yusuf (as) as a thief behind his back. Even though they believed that Yusuf (as) was dead, their continued hatred for him caused them to lie about him. Allah describes this episode in the Qur'an:
They said: "If he [Benjamin] steals now, his brother [Yusuf] stole before." But Yusuf kept it to himself and still did not disclose it to them, saying: "The plight that you are in is worse than that. Allah knows best the matter you describe." (Surah Yusuf, 12:77)
- Slandering believing women
The Qur'an also discusses slander directed against believing women, and informs the believers of how they should behave when confronted with such abuse. For example:
There is a group of you who propagated the lie. Do not suppose it to be bad for you; rather, it is good for you. Every one of them will incur the evil he has earned, and the one who took it on himself to amplify it will receive a terrible punishment. (Surat an-Nur, 24:11)Those who [falsely] accuse chaste, unaware and believing women are cursed both in this world the Hereafter, and they will have a terrible punishment on the Day when their tongues, hands, and feet will testify against them about what they were doing. On that Day, Allah will pay them in full what is due to them, and they will know that Allah is the Clear Truth. (Surat an-Nur, 24:23-25)
Allah tells the believers that they should not condone slander; rather, they should protest it by identifying it for what it is. Many people love to listen to and pass on sensational news, even when they know it is gossip and lies. Allah informs us of such people in the following terms:
They are people who listen to lies and consume ill-gotten gains. If they come to you, you can either judge between them or turn away from them. If you turn away from them, they cannot harm you in any way. But if you do judge, judge between them justly. Allah loves the just. (Surat al-Ma’ida, 5:42)
Allah mentions those believers who heed Him in this matter in the following terms:
Why, when you heard it, did you not, as male and female believers, instinctively think good thoughts and say: "This is obviously a lie?" Why did they not produce four witnesses to it? Since they did not bring four witnesses, in Allah's sight they are liars. Were it not for Allah's favor to you and His mercy, both in this world and the Hereafter, a terrible punishment would have afflicted you for your plunging headlong into it [slander]. You were bandying it about on your tongues, your mouths uttering something about which you had no knowledge. You considered it to be a trivial matter, but in Allah's sight it is immense. Why, when you heard it, did you not say: "We have no business speaking about this. Glory be to You! This is a terrible slander!"? (Surat an-Nur, 24:12-16)
In addition, Allah orders the believers to scrutinize carefully each report they receive from a person of doubtful faith or an unbeliever. Otherwise, a lie or a slanderous accusation may damage an innocent person. With the mercy of Allah, such a risk is removed.
O you who believe! If a deviator brings you a report, scrutinize it carefully in case you attack people in ignorance and so come to greatly regret what you have done. (Surat al-Hujurat, 49:6)
Distorting that which is lawful or forbidden
Among the biggest lies told against Allah is the distortion of what He permits and forbids. In one verse, Allah states:
Do not say about what your lying tongues describe: "This is lawful and this is forbidden," inventing lies against Allah. Those who invent lies against Allah are not successful. (Surat an-Nahl, 16:116)
In order to make religion look more difficult than it is, or to make themselves look more pious than they are, some people forbid for themselves and others things that are lawful. In fact, Allah makes it clear in the Qur'an exactly what is lawful and what is not.
For various twisted reasons, some people try to present unlawful things as lawful. They take on a great responsibility and attempt things that they will not be able to account for in the Hereafter and for which they will be punished. Allah warns them with the following words:
Say: "What do you think about the things Allah has sent down to you as provision, which you have then designated as lawful and forbidden?" Say: "Has Allah given you authority to do this, or are you inventing lies against Allah?" (Surah Yunus, 10:59)
In fact, the source of what is right and wrong is the Qur'an and the Sunnah of our Prophet (saas), as his life was, in fact, a living explanation of the Qur'an.
Telling lies against Allah
Some people lie in the name of religion. As explained above, they allow the forbidden and forbid the allowed, or try to show that religion contains things that it does not. Likewise, they present as non-existent some things that are contained in religion. In the Qur'an, Allah warns these people that He will punish them in Hell:
Who could do greater wrong than those who lie about Allah and deny the truth when it comes to them? Do the unbelievers not have a dwelling place in Hell? (Surat az-Zumar, 39:32)
On the Day of Rising you will see those who lied against Allah with their faces blackened. Do not the arrogant have a dwelling place in Hell? (Surat az-Zumar, 39:60)
Who could do greater wrong than those who invent lies against Allah? Such people will be arrayed before their Lord and the witnesses will say: "Those are the ones who lied against their Lord." Yes indeed! Allah's curse is on the wrongdoers, those who bar access to the way of Allah and seek in it something crooked and reject the Hereafter. They were not able to thwart Allah on Earth, and had no protectors besides Allah. The punishment will be doubled for them. They were unable to hear and could not see. (Surah Hud, 11:18-20)
Allah gives some examples of the imaginary things that people say are part of religion:
Those of you who divorce your wives by equating them with your mothers—they are not your mothers. Your mothers are only those who gave birth to you. What you are saying is wrong and a slanderous lie. But Allah is Ever-Pardoning, Ever-Forgiving. (Surat al-Mujadala, 58:2)
Is it falsehood—deities besides Allah—that you desire? (Surat as-Saffat, 37:86)
No indeed, it is one of their blatant lies to say: "Allah has given birth." They are truly liars. (Surat as-Saffat, 37:151-52)
And [He has sent down the Book] to warn those who say: "Allah has a son." They have no knowledge of this, neither they nor their fathers. It is a monstrous utterance that has issued from their mouths. What they say is nothing but a lie. (Surat al-Kahf, 18:4-5)
Among the People of the Book there are some who, if you entrust them with a pile of gold, will return it to you. But there are others among them who, if you entrust them with just a single dinar, will not return it to you unless you stay standing over them. That is because they say: "We are under no obligation where the Gentiles are concerned." They tell a lie against Allah, and they know it. (Surah Al `Imran, 3:75)
Among them is a group who distort the Book with their tongues so that you think it is from the Book when it is not from the Book. They say: "It is from Allah," but it is not from Allah. They tell a lie against Allah, and they know it. (Surah Al `Imran, 3:78)
Some people make up lies in order not to join the true religion or follow Allah's path. Allah addresses these people with the following words:
Who could do greater wrong than someone who invents a lie against Allah when he has been called to Islam? Allah does not guide wrongdoing people. (Surat as-Saff, 61:7)
Some people tell lies about Allah and try to present Him to others as different from what He is. While some of these people may say that they believe in Allah, their behavior, beliefs, and lifestyles clearly show that they do not. For example, when faced with difficulties, they immediately lose hope in Allah's help. Or, when they think that they have been the victim of injustice, they protest. In contrast, those who know Allah never have any wrong ideas about Him. Allah informs us of people who make up lies about Him in these verses:
Say: "People who invent lies against Allah will not be successful." (Surah Yunus, 10:69)Look how they invent lies against Allah. That suffices as an outright sin. (Surat an-Nisa’, 4:50)