What does the Quran say about truthfulness and honesty? Being honest and truthful is considered a virtue by every school of thought, whether they are religious or non-religious. Truthfulness in the Quran covers a number of different concepts.
Here are a few examples of truthfulness that are discussed in the Quran.
Allah Commands Us to Truthfulness in the Quran
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَكُونُوا مَعَ الصَّادِقِينَ ﴿119﴾
O you who have faith! Be wary of Allah, and be with the Truthful. 1
This verse is advising us as believers to be with the truthful. Islam places great importance on being honest and truthful. While explaining and discussing the various verses related to truthfulness, we will explain what the meaning of the word ṣidq (صدق) or truthfulness and honesty is in Islamic terminology.
Who are the Truthful?
One of the verses of surah al-Baqarah considers those who are faithful, generous, offer their prayers, are true to their covenant, and patient in the face of trials and difficulties, as those who are truthful and honest. Other verses also talk about what characteristics the truthful have and these verses will be discussed below.
According to narrations, the ṣādiqīn (صادقین), i.e., the truthful, mentioned here refers to Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him and his progeny) and the Ahlul Bait. 2
This verse shows how important it is in Islam to be among those who are truthful.
Truthfulness in the Quran, the Attribute of Prophets
In the Holy Quran there are a few prophets who have been mentioned with the attribute of being extremely truthful. These prophets are Edris (ادریس) or Enoch, Ibrahim (ابراهیم), Joseph (یوسف), Ismail (اسماعیل), the son of Ezekiel (حزقیل). Another person for whom this attribute has been used is Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The word ṣiddīq (صدّیق) or the extremely truthful that has been used for these personalities means:
- One who is extremely truthful and testifies and acknowledges God’s signs and submits to truth and reality. 3
- One who says what he does and vice versa and there is no contradiction between his behavior and words. 4
- One whose words, behavior, and beliefs attest and confirm each other. 5
Nevertheless, one must keep in mind that all prophets were truthful. 6
لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّـهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا ۖ وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ ۗ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ ﴿177﴾
Piety is not to turn your faces to the east or the west; rather, piety is [personified by] those who have faith in Allah and the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets, and who give their wealth, for the love of Him, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller and the beggar, and for [the freeing of] the slaves, and maintain the prayer and give the zakat, and those who fulfill their covenants, when they pledge themselves, and those who are patient in stress and distress, and in the heat of battle. They are the ones who are true [to their covenant], and it is they who are the Godwary. 7
The verse is talking about the good-doers (ابرار) and explaining the reality of their state. It praises their beliefs, actions, and ethics.
Regarding their actions it states: They are the ones who are true [to their covenant]. The word ṣidq, as indicated above means honesty or truthfulness. Usually we limit this simply to honesty in our speech. However, truthfulness has a more extensive meaning and is not simply limited to truthfulness in speech. It also includes our actions. This will be explained under the next verse.
Therefore, the verse is referring to the believers who are true believers and are truthful in their claim of being believers. 8
One of the Attributes of Believers Is Truthfulness in the Quran
الصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْمُنفِقِينَ وَالْمُسْتَغْفِرِينَ بِالْأَسْحَارِ ﴿17﴾
[They are] patient and truthful, obedient and charitable, and they plead for [Allah’s] forgiveness at dawns. 9
This verse is talking about five attributes of the believers. The second attribute that is mentioned is honesty and truthfulness.
Honesty and truthfulness refers to conformity between one’s apparent words and actions with his inner self and beliefs. This is a very extensive meaning and covers all other virtues. In other words, it is a foundational virtue.
Since it covers all virtues, it is not necessary to mention the other virtues in the verse and, therefore, one must conclude that in this verse it refers simply to truthfulness and honesty in speech which is the meaning most people first understand from this word. 10
God’s Promises Being True Is an Instance of Truthfulness in the Quran
وَلَقَدْ صَدَقَكُمُ اللَّـهُ وَعْدَهُ إِذْ تَحُسُّونَهُم بِإِذْنِهِ ۖ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فَشِلْتُمْ وَتَنَازَعْتُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ وَعَصَيْتُم مِّن بَعْدِ مَا أَرَاكُم مَّا تُحِبُّونَ ۚ مِنكُم مَّن يُرِيدُ الدُّنْيَا وَمِنكُم مَّن يُرِيدُ الْآخِرَةَ ۚ ثُمَّ صَرَفَكُمْ عَنْهُمْ لِيَبْتَلِيَكُمْ ۖ وَلَقَدْ عَفَا عَنكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ ذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ﴿152﴾
Allah certainly fulfilled His promise to you when you were slaying them with His leave, until you lost courage, disputed about the matter, and disobeyed after He showed you what you loved. Some among you desire this world, and some among you desire the Hereafter. Then He turned you away from them so that He might test you. Certainly He has excused you, for Allah is gracious to the faithful. 11
In the year 2nd AH the Muslims were victorious in the Battle of Badr and God promised them that they would be victorious in the next battles too. The next year they fought in the Battle of Uhud and despite at first being victorious, because they disobeyed the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and household) and left the spot he had commanded them to protect, the enemies once again attacked them and they lost the battle.
They complained to the Prophet saying God had promised them victory. This verse is responding to their complaints by saying that God’s promise was true; however, their weakness, disobedience, and dispute had led to their defeat.
The realization of God’s promises does not mean disregarding Divine precedents, meaning God’s course of action in the universe. God’s help is there as long as we act upon our responsibilities. 12
God’s Blessings and Truthfulness in the Quran
وَمَن يُطِعِ اللَّـهَ وَالرَّسُولَ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ مَعَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّـهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ النَّبِيِّينَ وَالصِّدِّيقِينَ وَالشُّهَدَاءِ وَالصَّالِحِينَ ۚ وَحَسُنَ أُولَـٰئِكَ رَفِيقًا ﴿69﴾
Whoever obeys Allah and the Apostle—they are with those whom Allah has blessed, including the prophets and the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous, and excellent companions are they! 13
This verse is talking about a group of people who are not themselves the prophets, the truthful, the martyrs, and the righteous; however, they are with them and join them.
These people are those who obey God and the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny)
What is the blessing that is mentioned in the sentence they are with those whom Allah has blessed? The blessing mentioned here is the blessing of wilayah or the Divine guardianship of God, His Prophet, and the Imams after the Prophet. 14
Who are the ṣiddīqīn in the verse?
In this verse, the people who obey Allah and the Holy Prophet are with four groups of people. One of these groups is that of the extremely truthful or the ṣiddīqīn (صدّیقین) which is the plural of ṣiddīq.
Truthfulness and honesty are not just verbal; one of their instances is our speech and another is action. If our actions are in accordance with our words and that which we claim, then that action is also honest as actions inform others about our beliefs.
However, if our actions are not in line with our beliefs or are so incompletely and incorrectly, such actions are not honest and true. 15
Honest and true words are those that are in accordance with reality and the external world and since speaking is also an action, one who is honest in his actions would not speak unless he knows that which he speaks is true. And he knows that these words must be said here and speaking them is right.
Therefore, the words of such a person both inform us of the truth as well as of the truthfulness of the speaker.
The extremely truthful or ṣiddīq is one who does not lie in any sense and does not perform any action unless he knows that it is right. And he does not say anything unless he knows it’s true. Undoubtedly, such a person sees nothing but the truth and reality. Therefore, he is one who sees the reality of things, speaks the truth, and performs that which is the truth. 16
The True Standing
أَكَانَ لِلنَّاسِ عَجَبًا أَنْ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ رَجُلٍ مِّنْهُمْ أَنْ أَنذِرِ النَّاسَ وَبَشِّرِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنَّ لَهُمْ قَدَمَ صِدْقٍ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ ۗ قَالَ الْكَافِرُونَ إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَسَاحِرٌ مُّبِينٌ ﴿2﴾
Does it seem odd to these people that We have revealed to a man from among themselves, [declaring], ‘Warn mankind, and give good news to the faithful that they are in good standing with their Lord’? The faithless say, ‘This is indeed a plain magician.’ 17
One of the objections of the polytheists was that the Holy Prophet was a human being just like them. They questioned God as to why He sent down revelation on a human being and not an angel.
This verse is the Quran’s response to this objection. God sent down someone who is like them so that he can understand their pains and needs. It is not strange that he is a human being; it would have been strange if God sent someone who was not an honest leader and guide for the believers in the human form.
According to unanimous narrations, qadama ṣidqin (قدم صدقٍ) refers to the Holy Prophet or the mastership or guardianship (wilayah) of Imam Ali (peace be on them) and this verifies this third meaning. It is also possible that all three meanings are intended. 18
Truthfulness in the Quran is the Best Characteristic of Actions
وَقُل رَّبِّ أَدْخِلْنِي مُدْخَلَ صِدْقٍ وَأَخْرِجْنِي مُخْرَجَ صِدْقٍ وَاجْعَل لِّي مِن لَّدُنكَ سُلْطَانًا نَّصِيرًا ﴿80﴾
And say, ‘My Lord! ‘Admit me with a worthy entrance, and bring me out with a worthy departure, and render me a favourable authority from Yourself.’ 19
Honesty and truthfulness is the best attribute and state of an action that a person can have when starting and performing an action.
There are so many actions that begin with dishonesty and are performed with pretentiousness and with the intent to deceive and gain superiority over others.
Other actions start honestly, however, they end in arrogance, egotism, and their blessings fade away.
The reason for the failure of many actions is the lack of truthfulness and honesty in them and, as a result, Divine help is cut off from such actions.
According to a narration from Jaʿfar b. Muhammad al-Sadiq (peace be on him) whenever one is afraid and dreads performing a certain action, he should recite the aforementioned verse and proceed with that act. 20
Testing the Believers for their Truthfulness in the Quran
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّـهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ ﴿3﴾
Indeed Allah desires to repel all impurity from you, O People of the Household, and purify you with a thorough purification. 21
The word fitna (فتنة) literally means to melt gold to separate the impurities from it. Because difficulties and calamities separate a person’s essence from false claims, tests and calamities are known as fitna.
The reason for Divine tests is the actualization of God’s eternal knowledge and to separate the true believers from the false, the blossoming of their inner capabilities and their realization. 22
Those Who Fulfill Their Pledge of Truthfulness in the Quran
مِّنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ رِجَالٌ صَدَقُوا مَا عَاهَدُوا اللَّـهَ عَلَيْهِ ۖ فَمِنْهُم مَّن قَضَىٰ نَحْبَهُ وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَنتَظِرُ ۖ وَمَا بَدَّلُوا تَبْدِيلًا ﴿23﴾
Among the faithful are men who fulfill what they have pledged to Allah: there are some among them who have fulfilled their pledge, and some of them who still wait, and they have not changed in the least. 23
In contrast to a group of people who seek a life of comfort, as indicated in verse 20 of this chapter, there is a group that is waiting for martyrdom. 24
The word naḥb (نحب) refers to vow that is deemed obligatory and in this verse refers to death.
Among the believers, some proved their truthfulness in what they promised to the Prophet. The vow was that whenever they faced the enemy they would not run away.
From those who had made such a vow, some of them lost their lives or were killed on the battlefield while others are waiting for their death and have not changed in the least in terms of the promise they made. 25
The Reward of Truthfulness in the Quran
إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ وَالْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْقَانِتَاتِ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالصَّادِقَاتِ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّابِرَاتِ وَالْخَاشِعِينَ وَالْخَاشِعَاتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّـهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّـهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا ﴿35﴾
Indeed the Muslim men and the Muslim women, the faithful men and the faithful women, the obedient men and the obedient women, the truthful men and the truthful women, the patient men and the patient women, the humble men and the humble women, the charitable men and the charitable women, the men who fast and the women who fast, the men who guard their private parts and the women who guard, the men who remember Allah greatly and the women who remember [Allah greatly]—Allah holds in store for them forgiveness and a great reward. 26
The great rewards that await men and women who have the ten characteristics mentioned in the verse are the following:
- Their sins, which pollute their souls, will be washed away and forgiven
- A great reward will be given to them and no one has the knowledge of its greatness except God Himself. 27
Reforming Deeds as an Act of Truthfulness in the Quran
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا ﴿70﴾
you who have faith! Be wary of Allah, and speak upright words
يُصْلِحْ لَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ ۗ… ﴿71﴾
He will rectify your conduct for you and forgive you your sins… 28
The first of these verses is giving a general command. Qowlan sadīda (قولاً سدیداً) refers to speech and words that are empty of lies, slander, are not injurious, and at the same time beneficial.
The result of speaking the truth is in the verse that follows it. The result of the abovementioned type of speech is that one’s deeds will be reformed and forgiven.
A person came to the prophet complaining that he is sinful. The prophet took a promise from him not to lie and this caused him to reform.
If a person decides to be truthful and this becomes a habit, slowly his other actions will also be reformed and this reform will gradually result in repentance and regret for past actions and then forgiveness of those sins. 29
Characteristics that Lead to Truthfulness in the Quran
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَرْتَابُوا وَجَاهَدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الصَّادِقُونَ ﴿33﴾
The faithful are only those who have attained faith in Allah and His Apostle and then have never doubted, and who wage jihad with their possessions and their persons in the way of Allah. It is they who are the truthful. 30
True and honest believers (honest and truthful in their claim of being believers) have been limited to two main attributes:
1. Certain Faith
The lack of uncertainty in their faith, i.e., their souls are confident and certain, the reality of which is the dissolution of doubts. Many a time people bring faith; however, Satan and other devils raise doubts and questions in them which causes their faith to waver. It is easy to bring faith but to protect it is difficult.
In a narration, Ali b. Abi Talib (peace be on him) states:
فى تقلب الاحوال علم جواهر الرجال
In the changing of states, the reality and essence of people become known 31
2. Jihad With One’s Soul and Possessions
They wage war in God’s path (i.e., jihad جهاد) with their possessions and their persons. Although its particular instance is to fight alongside the Holy Prophet; however, it also includes waging war against Satan and one’s own soul in the path of obedience to God. 32
Truthfulness in the Quran: Believing in God and the Prophet
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرُسُلِهِ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الصِّدِّيقُونَ ۖ وَالشُّهَدَاءُ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ وَنُورُهُمْ ۖ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَكَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا أُولَـٰئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْجَحِيمِ ﴿19﴾
Those who have faith in Allah and His apostles—it is they who are the truthful and witnesses with their Lord; they shall have their reward and their light. But as for those who are faithless and deny Our signs, they shall be the inmates of hell. 33
Although from the initial phrase of this verse it seems to be saying that those who have faith in God and His prophets are ṣiddiqīn (extremely truthful) and shahīd (the witnesses); however, the later phrases indicate that they are joined and associated with these groups of people and are dealt with as they are. They are given a light and reward similar to that of the extremely truthful and witnesses. This does not mean, however, that the believers have the same rank and status as these two groups do; rather, it is due to God’s command that they are dealt with similarly. 34
The Emigrants of Early Islam
لِلْفُقَرَاءِ الْمُهَاجِرِينَ الَّذِينَ أُخْرِجُوا مِن دِيَارِهِمْ وَأَمْوَالِهِمْ يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلًا مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرِضْوَانًا وَيَنصُرُونَ اللَّـهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الصَّادِقُونَ ﴿8﴾
[They are also] for the poor Emigrants who have been expelled from their homes and [wrested of] their possessions, who seek grace from Allah and [His] pleasure and help Allah and His Apostle. It is they who are the truthful. 35
This verse mentioned three important attributes of the initial emigrants of early Islam, i.e., those who emigrated from Mecca to Madinah:
- Striving in God’s path
- Honesty and Truthfulness
Considering the conceptual extent of honesty, the honesty of these emigrants is reflected in everything: their claim of faith, their love for the Prophet (peace be on him and his progeny), and also their support for the true religion. 36
Hadith on Truthfulness
There are many narrations regarding truthfulness. The following is narrated from Ali b. Abi Talib (peace be on him)
Be truthful and you will be successful.
He also states:
اِلْزَمِ الصِّدْقَ وإنْ خِفْتَ ضُرَّهُ فَإنَّهُ خَيْرٌ لَكَ مِنَ الكِذْبِ المَرْجُوِّ نَفْعُهُ
Espouse truthfulness even if you fear harm may come of it, for indeed this is better for you than the lying from which benefit is expected. 37
Being truthful covers a vast conceptual meaning and does not simply mean being truthful in one’s words and speech; rather, being truthful means that one’s actions and beliefs are in accordance with one another as well as being in accordance with reality.
An honest person not only speaks rightly and truthfully but also acts as such and sees the truth and reality of all things.
The position of being extremely truthful or ṣiddīq is not something that all believers can attain and most of them will be united with this group of people on Qiyamah along with other righteous groups of people as explained in the verses that were mentioned. Moreover, God will deal with them in a similar manner as them out of His mercy and kindness.
The topic of truthfulness in the Quran is extremely vast and only a part of it has been covered in this article.
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- Tafsir Namuna. Vol. 13, p. 98
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- Ibid. p. 650-51
- Ibid. p. 651
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- Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim, Exalted Aphorisms and Pearls of Speech. Translation by Qadhi Nasih al-Deen Abu al-Fath ‘Abd al-Wahid Ibn Muhammad Al-Tamimi al-Amudi. Section: Truthfulness. Hadith nos. 5 & 7