Islam 101 and Lying, Part II.c

Three forms of lying are discussed in this post: Hypocrisy, Compromising One’s Principles, and Exaggeration. I added Exaggeration to the initial list due to how it illustrates valuable points.

Hypocrisy: “Hypocrisy is when a person’s outward does not correspond to his inward, or his words to his deeds. It is of two kinds, hypocrisy in belief and hypocrisy in acts.” (RT r16.1)

Reliance of the Traveller distinguishes between Inward and Outward hypocrisy. (r16.1) Inward hypocrisy pertains to what someone believes, to someone’s faith convictions. These items are known only to an individual until he reveals them. Only he knows the truth value of these beliefs. When shared, such statements will either agree or disagree with his true position. Disagreement between his true position and what is revealed is lying through hypocrisy.

The book’s example of Inward hypocrisy is someone professing commitment to Islam but inwardly he disbelieves. It “is the very worst form of unbelief.” (r16.1)

Outward hypocrisy pertains to non-belief (non-faith) issues. The concern is with what takes place outside a person, not hidden in the mind (belief, faith). All is open for others to view. Do one’s words match his report, his actions match his claims?  Do things match up as stated?

The Traveller gives Outward hypocrisy the most attention. “As for hypocrisy in action, it is that which does not concern one’s faith.  It is also termed spoken hypocrisy, and consists of saying what contradicts one’s true state. It is one of the greatest sins.  It includes being two-faced . . .” (r16.1)

The example of Outward hypocrisy presents a two-faced individual (one person representing himself to two people two different ways) committing an act of hypocrisy—sin—but, because of how things worked out, the charge of sin is negated. This is because “. . .  blameworthiness applies only to worsening relations between people, for if done to settle their differences, it is praiseworthy.” (r16.1)

What just happened? An act typically viewed as sin became something praiseworthy.  A two-faced person who willfully committed hypocrisy was praised because the condition of those he was two-faced with was improved through his sinful act, thereby altering the nature of the act. Instead of saying, “The end justifies means,” one could say, “The end purifies the means.”

A final example of Outward hypocrisy involves self-interest or Islam-interest. A Muslim may determine what impact there might be on him if his being a hypocrite could help him or another Muslim avoid or limit possible harm or damage from one he fears. If one believes being a hypocrite will improve the situation then using hypocrisy is acceptable, even though it is called “one of the greatest sins.” (r16.2)

The Islamic paradigm presented by the Traveller makes a precision cut dividing the domains of beliefs and actions, each having culpable ramifications for every person in countless ways, all the time. The structure is a very complicated way of approaching life. Remember these distinctions concerning hypocrisy: Inward [belief (faith)], and Outward [not belief (not faith) but acts]. Both are said to be sinful at the onset, but outward hypocrisy may be redeemed.

Compromising One’s Principles: Lying by compromising one’s principles hinges on whether a Muslim chooses to speak out or not speak out in reference to a known act of disobedience or unlawful behavior by others. Critical here is whether the individual believes he can effect change without incurring harm himself. If no harm is perceived, and the Muslim says nothing, “Such silence is unlawful.” (r17.1) “But when one’s silence is to prevent damage to oneself or others, it is a permissible form of assuaging those from whom one apprehends harm (mudara), and even recommended in some cases, as when it results in being saved from injustice, or is a means to fulfill a right recognized by Sacred Law.” (r17.1)

So violating sharia by compromising one’s Muslim principles is permissible if considered necessary to better a situation or prevent “damage” to oneself (which presumably would be a consequence of violating sharia).

Exaggeration:  Exaggeration is a form of lying and a violation of sharia law. But, exaggerations are “not serious enough to stigmatize their perpetrator as legally corrupt.” (r9.1)  Like hypocrisy, this is not belief related. It is Outward. It is ranked as lesser offense. Very little commentary accompanies lying by exaggeration. But, let me summarize the main point. Imagine a spectrum:

(Left Boundary) Someone does not intend to lie, or exaggerate, but is merely using hyperbole. “I’ve told you that thousands of times already!” But, in actuality, no one has been counting the number of times.

(Right Boundary) Someone speaks willfully inflating the value of a real situation he was informed about. “I’ve told you that thousands of times already!” In actuality, the speaker knows he’s told the person maybe 1 or 2 times or so. Exaggeration scale: 2 -1000.  Liar at #___.

A Muslim truly concerned about sin, needing to keep the law in all areas of life to the atom’s weight, would want to know where on that spectrum he or she lands when lying by exaggeration. Making the task impossible is the scholar’s statement, “There are intermediate degrees between these two [legitimate exaggeration and non-legitimate exaggeration] at which the exaggerator becomes a liar.” (r9.1) Good luck with that! How can a Muslim realistically discern this value, and then verify his own interpretation of his reasoning and conclusion whereby he obtained this determination? Do Muslims consistently live by the measure of the atom’s weight?

From this short multi-part overview of lying in Islam, I trust you catch a glimpse of how difficult sharia is to live by. Unlike Islam, Christianity makes the situation clear: If someone really wants to try to live righteously before God, that individual must realize that to sin or miss the mark on one thing is the same as violating all of God’s laws. (James 2:10)  Mission impossible!

Second, there is no Inward / Outward split. A lie is a lie. In the end, everything is rooted in the Inward. At least a Christian can know when he violates God’s rule on lying. A Muslim has so much latitude for self-interpretation and rationalization that, realistically, he cannot calculate his sin level, and may never truly know where he stands before he faces Allah.

Humanity’s real problem with God He Himself resolved, as the bible declares, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5) There is a righteousness we all need that no human can produce. Understanding God’s holiness correctly forces a person to see God and oneself in such a way that a person walks away from every atom’s weight of self-righteousness and personal works in exchange for Christ’s righteousness received by faith. One puts trust in Jesus Christ’s life and his deeds alone. If that is not your testimony, please pursue the God who did for you what you could never do for yourself.

In the next post, I draw conclusions from this series.

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