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Speaking a white lie in an attempt to reconcile between people

Question

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) has said: ‘The one who attempts to reconcile between people and speaks good (in order to avert dispute), or conveys good is not a liar.’

Ibn Shihab (rahimahullah) said: “I did not hear that concession/exemption was granted in any lies that the people speak except in three cases: [in] war, reconciling between people, and the dialogue of a husband with his wife, and a wife with her husband [i.e vice versa].

(Sahih Muslim, Hadith: 2605)

Kindly explain this Hadith along with the three permissible lies?

 

Answer

Imam Nawawi (rahimahullah) has mentioned this Hadith to mean that a person who lies or evades the complete truth [i.e speaks contrary to reality] in order to reconcile between others is not looked down upon, rather such actions are commendable.

Qadhi ‘Iyadh (rahimahullah) has mentioned that it is unanimously agreed upon that a person can “lie” in the three aforementioned situations. He has further added that the ‘Ulama have differed with regards to the purport of this “lying”; was it meant to be understood literally or metaphorically?

One group of ‘Ulama consisting of the likes of ‘Allamah Khattabi and others (rahimahumullah) were of the opinion that it could be understood literally. They were of the opinion that it would be permissible for a person to blatantly lie so long as he was solely doing it for a justifiable cause [such as: reconciling between two people, deceiving the enemy in war, etc.].

On the other hand, a group of ‘Ulama containing the likes of ‘Allamahs Tabari, Al-Muhallab, Al-Asili, and others (rahimahumullah) were of the opinion that this “lying” should be understood metaphorically. They were of the opinion that one should generally refrain from lying to the best of his/her ability and if the need ever arose, to tactically present their words in such a way that would save them from literally lying but still construe the meaning, taking care of their needs. This could refer to what some understand today as a white lie, i.e. information one shares that only includes things he wants to say and excludes things that he doesn’t want to say. Therefore, technically while he hasn’t spoken any lies, he also hasn’t told the whole truth. [For example, when at war, instead of taking the name of the enemy’s leader and blatantly lying about killing him, one could merely say, we took care of “your” leader – referring to one of their previously deceased/defeated leaders.]

Nevertheless, both groups were of the opinion that it is permissible [and even encouraged at times] to lie at the time of dire need. An example of this would be when a tyrant or oppressor seeks to murder a man that is seeking refuge in one’s house. In such a case, both groups are of the opinion that it would be permissible [and possibly even encouraged] to blatantly and deliberately lie.

(Ikmalul Mu’lim, Hadith: 2605, Al-Minhaj, Hadith: 6576 – 6578, and Fathul Bari, Hadith: 2692; Also see: Mirqat, Hadith: 4825, and Faydhul Qadir, Hadith: 7581)

 

Regarding the three scenarios Ibn Shihab Az-Zuhri (rahimahullah) has mentioned, ‘Allamah Munawi (rahimahullah) has further elaborated as follows:

  • War – An example where كذب (lying) could be applied here would be: in displaying a façade of strength, speaking about things that would spur on and encourage one’s comrades, and also in plotting against/tricking the enemy.
  • Reconciling between others – an example where كذب could be applied here would be in conveying good words or statements on behalf of both parties to one another despite not having actually heard such statements or not having been instructed to do so.
  • Between spouses – كذب could be applied here when one does or says things for his/her spouse to keep them happy and maintain a healthy relationship.

 

Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) has added that the ‘Ulama have unanimously agreed that when this concept is applied among spouses, it must never be used to omit a right nor take something unrightfully.

(Fathul Bari, Hadith: 2692, and Faydhul Qadir, Hadith: 7581)

 

Note: This is merely an explanation regarding the aforementioned text. Kindly refer to a Mufti/Darul Ifta for further queries regarding matters pertaining to the fiqhi understanding and application of this Hadith.

 

And Allah Ta’ala knows best.

 

Answered by: Moulana Farhan Shariff

 

Approved by: Moulana Muhammad Abasoomar