Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Truthful, the Trustworthy

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was known as a truthful and trustworthy person long before Islam. He was known throughout Makkah as "Al-Sadiq Al-Amin": the Truthful, Trustworthy one, a title he retained even by those who disbelieved in him after he declared his prophethood.

Surely this is a reason why he was chosen by God to be a prophet, so that he would devote himself totally to delivering the message truthfully. He was so concerned about his duty that he would repeat the verses while Gabriel was reciting them to him. God finally revealed:

{Do not rush your tongue in an attempt to hasten [your memorization of] the Revelation: We shall make sure of its safe collection and recitation. When We have recited it, repeat the recitation and We shall make it clear.} (Al-Qiyamah 75:16–19)

As the Quran was given to him as a trust, he conveyed it to people in the best way possible. He dedicated his life to this sacred cause, constantly aware of his responsibility.

In the last year of his life, when he was delivering the Farewell Pilgrimage sermon at Mount Arafat, he reiterated the commandments of God once more. At the end of each sentence, he told the people: "In the near future, they will ask you about me."

He then would ask them if he had conveyed the message to them, to which they responded, each time with great enthusiasm: "Yes, you have conveyed it!" He then would call upon God to witness their words (Abu Dawud).

God's Messenger never thought of concealing even a word of the Qur'an. In fact, we read in the Qur'an several Divine mild admonitions for a few actions of his. If he wrote it, as some mistakenly claim, why would he have included such verses?

Even Muhammad's enemies did not accuse him of lying after he proclaimed his prophethood. After the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, in the year 6 after the Hijrah, Prophet Muhammad sent letters to the rulers of neighboring countries. The Emperor of Byzantium received his letter in Syria at a time when a Makkan trade caravan was in the area of Damascus. This caravan was headed by Abu Sufyan, one of the leading enemies of Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

The Emperor summoned him to inquire about Prophet Muhammad, and the following conversation took place:

"What is the status of his family among you?"

"He belongs to a good (noble) family amongst us"

"Has anybody else amongst you ever claimed the same (that is, to be a prophet) before him?"


"Was anybody amongst his ancestors a king?"


"Do the nobles or the poor follow him?"

"It is the poor who follow him."

"Are his followers increasing or decreasing (day by day)?"

"They are increasing"

"Does anybody amongst those who embrace his religion become displeased and renounce the religion afterwards?"


"Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a prophet)?"


"Does he break his promises?"

"No. We have a truce with him but we do not know what he will do"

"Have you ever had a war with him?"


"What were the outcomes of these battles?"

"Sometimes he was victorious, and sometimes we were"

"What does he order you to do?"

"He tells us to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said. He orders us to pray, to be chaste, and to keep good relations with our kith and kin."

Struck by Abu Sufyan's answers, at that time the bitterest enemy of Islam, the Emperor acknowledged Muhammad's position and said:

If what you have said is true, he will very soon occupy this place underneath my feet, and I knew it (from the scriptures) that he was going to appear but I did not know that he would be from you, and if I could reach him definitely, I would go immediately to meet him and if I were with him, I would certainly wash his feet. (Al-Bukhari)

The Makkans agreed unanimously that Prophet Muhammad was a truthful person. Once before his conversion, a man called Yasir asked his son Ammar where he was going. Ammar replied that he was going to Muhammad. Being fully satisfied of his son's safety while with Muhammad, he replied: "Muhammad is a trustworthy person. The Makkans recognize him so. If he claims prophethood, he must be telling the truth, for no one has ever heard him tell a lie."

Prophet Muhammad always encouraged truthfulness, as can be seen in his words as recorded in the following traditions:

Promise me six things and I will promise you Paradise: Speak the truth, keep your promises, fulfill your trusts, remain (sexually) chaste, don't look at what is unlawful, and avoid what is forbidden. (Ahmad)

Abandon what arouses your suspicions and follow what is certain. Truthfulness gives satisfaction; lying causes suspicion. (At-Tirmidhi)

Seek truthfulness even if it might bring you to ruin. (Hindi 3:344)

Always be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise. If you are always truthful and seek truthfulness, God records you as such. Never lie, for lying leads to shamefulness and shamefulness leads to Hell. If you insist on lying and seek deceit, God records you as such. (Al-Bukhari).

He warned his people against lying, breaking their word, and breaching their trust. All of these were condemned as "signs of hypocrisy" (Abu Dawud). He was so meticulous in this matter that when he saw a woman call her child, saying: "Come on, I'll give you something," he asked her if she was telling the truth. She replied that she would give him a date, to which Prophet Muhammad responded: "If you don't give him something, you are a liar."

His concern in this matter extended even to animals. Once, annoyed at seeing a Companion trying to deceive his horse, he said: "Stop deceiving animals. Instead, be trustworthy with them." (Al-Bukhari)

Another time, while returning from a military campaign, a few Companions took some baby birds from a nest to pet them. The mother bird returned after a short while and, finding her babies gone, began to fly around in distress. When God's Messenger was informed, he was so upset that he ordered the babies returned immediately (Ahmad). Such an order was meant to show that representatives of trustworthiness should harm no living creatures.

Prophet Muhammad always prayed: "O God, I seek refuge in You from hunger, for how bad a companion it is! I also seek refuge in You from betrayal, for what an evil confidant it is!" (Abu Dawud)

He also had harsh words for those who betray and are disloyal: "When God gathers together on the Day of Judgment all the people preceding and to come, a banner will be raised on behalf of every disloyal person. It will be announced: 'This is because of the disloyalty of so and so!'" (Muslim)

Trustworthiness is such an essential aspect of belief that Prophet Muhammad once declared: "One who is not trustworthy is not a believer" (Ahmad). He also described a believer as one whom the people trust with their blood and property. (At-Tirmidhi)

Perhaps the best way to understand the extent of Prophet Muhammad's truthfulness and trustworthiness is to look at the effect his teachings had on his Companions. Each Companion was an embodiment of trustworthiness. By virtue of this and other laudable virtues, cities and states submitted to Islam.

During the caliphate of Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the Byzantine Emperor set out to recapture the Syrian city of Homs. The commander of the Muslim armies in Syria decided to evacuate the city, for his forces were vastly outnumbered.

He had the non-Muslim population assembled and announced: "We collected the protection tax from you because we had to defend you. Since we cannot defend you against the coming Byzantine assault, we are returning the tax we collected." This was done. Pleased with the Muslim administration, Christian priests and Jewish rabbis flocked to the churches and synagogues to pray that God would cause the Muslim army to be successful. (Abu Dawud)

Through his truthfulness, trustworthiness, and other laudable virtues, the Prophet left an indelible mark on people of all ages. His every word and deed proclaimed that he was sent to guide people to the truth, to bring them out of the darkness of ignorance and savagery, slavery and immorality, into the light of knowledge, high morality, love, compassion and true freedom.

* The content of this article is taken from different parts of Chapter 4 of the book "Muhammad: An Analysis of the Prophet's Life" (Gulen, Fethullah. Trans. Ali Unal. New Jersey: The Light Inc, 2006). It is being republished here with kind permission and slight editorial changes.

Fethullah Gülen is a modernist Islamic scholar, writer, and leader of the Gülen movement. He is the author of over 60 books. Gülen was recently listed among the top hundred public intellectuals by Foreign Policy magazine.

"Whoever guides [another] to a good deed will get a reward similar to the one who performs it." Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)[Sahih Muslim]
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