When telling the truth is not the best option

When telling the truth is not the best option

If a Muslim faces a difficult situation where he needs to say what is against the truth in order to protect himself or someone who is innocent, or to save himself from serious trouble, is there a way for him to escape the situation without lying or falling into sin?

Yes, there is a legal way and a permissible escape that one can make use of if necessary. It is equivocation or indirectness in speech. Imaam al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) entitled a chapter of his Saheeh: “Indirect speech is a safe way to avoid a lie”. (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, Kitaab al-Adab (Book of Manners), chapter 116).

Equivocation means saying something which has a closer meaning that the hearer will understand, but it also has a remote meaning which what is actually meant and is linguistically correct. The condition for this is that whatever is said should not present a truth as falsity and vice versa. The following are examples of such statements used by the salaf and early imaams, and collected by Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim in his book Ighaathat al-Lahfaan:
 

It was reported about Hammaad (may Allaah have mercy on him), if someone came that he did not want to sit with, he would say as if in pain: “My tooth, my tooth!” Then the boring person whom he did not like would leave him alone.

Imaam Sufyaan Al-Thawri was brought to the khaleefah al-Mahdi, who liked him, but when he wanted to leave, the khaleefah told him he had to stay. Al-Thawri swore that he would come back. He then went out, leaving his shoes at the door. After some time he came back, took his shoes and went away. The khaleefah asked about him, and was told that he had sworn to come back, so he had come back and taken his shoes.

Imaam Ahmad was in his house, and some of his students, including al-Mirwadhi, were with him. Someone came along, asking for al-Mirwadhi from outside the house, but Imaam Ahmad did not want him to go out, so he said: “Al-Mirwadhi is not here, what would he be doing here?” whilst putting his finger in the palm of his other hand, and the person outside could not see what he was doing.

Other examples of equivocation or indirectness in speech include the following:

If someone asks you whether you have seen so-and-so, and you are afraid that if you tell the questioner about him this would lead to harm, you can say “ma ra’aytuhu”, meaning that you have not cut his lung, because this is a correct meaning in Arabic [“ma ra’aytuhu” usually means “I have not seen him,” but can also mean “I have not cut his lung”]; or you could deny having seen him, referring in your heart to a specific time and place where you have not seen him. If someone asks you to swear an oath that you will never speak to so-and-so, you could say, “Wallaahi lan ukallumahu”, meaning that you will not wound him, because “kalam” can also mean “wound” in Arabic [as well as “speech”]. Similarly, if a person is forced to utter words of kufr and is told to deny Allaah, it is permissible for him to say “Kafartu bi’l-laahi”, meaning “I denounce the playboy” [which sounds the same as the phrase meaning “I deny Allaah.”]

(Ighaathat al-Lahfaan by Ibn al-Qayyim, 1/381 ff., 2/106-107. See also the section on equivocation (ma’aareed) in Al-Adaab al-Shar’iyyah by Ibn Muflih, 1/14).

However, one should be cautious that the use of such statements is restricted only to situations of great difficulty, otherwise:

Excessive use of it may lead to lying.

One may lose good friends, because they would always be in doubt as to what is meant.

If the person to whom such a statement is given comes to know that the reality was different from what he was told, and he was not aware that the person was engaging in deliberate ambiguity or equivocation, he would consider that person to be a liar. This goes against the principle of protecting one’s honour by not giving people cause to doubt one’s integrity..

The person who uses such a technique frequently may become proud of his ability to take advantage of people.

Finally, I ask Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, to give us a proper understanding of our religion, to teach us that which will benefit us, and benefit us from what He teaches us, to guide us, and to protect us from the evils of our own selves. Allah is the best Protector and He is the most Merciful of all.

May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions.

What you should do in the following situations

English Translation

 

Book by Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

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