Articles

Guidelines for the Concession Allowing Lying between Spouses
Author : Dr. Ahmad Al-Khasasbeh
Date Added : 29-08-2023

Guidelines for the Concession Allowing Lying between Spouses

 

All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds. May His peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.

Islam paid a great deal of attention to the family for it is the first cornerstone in the building of a righteous society. Therefore, it established a wise system for the family based on strong foundations and principles to achieve its happiness and stability. In addition, Islam did not leave any aspect of family matters without providing it with substantial guidance and directions. If families adhere to these guidelines, they would be safeguarded from disintegration and weakness.

The concern and keenness of Islam for the cohesion of the family are evident in its allowance – within specific limits – of lying between spouses. However, some couples may exceed the appropriate use of this permission due to a misunderstanding of Islam's purpose in allowing it. Therefore, this article – God willing – will shed light on the boundaries and guidelines for the use of this concession.

 

Islamic Ruling on Lying between Spouses and its Reality

 

Sharia texts has indicated the permissibility of lying between spouses. Humaid b. 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Auf reported that his mother Umm Kulthum daughter of 'Uqba b. Abu Mu'ait, and she was one amongst the first emigrants who pledged allegiance to Allah's Apostle (PBUH), as saying that she heard Allah's Messenger (PBUH) as saying: A liar is not one who tries to bring reconciliation amongst people and speaks good (in order to avert dispute), or he conveys good. Ibn Shihab said he did not hear that exemption was granted in anything what the people speak as lie but in three cases: in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them). {Transmitted by Muslim}.

Moreover, Asma bint Yazid narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: "It is not lawful to lie except in three cases: Something the man tells his wife to please her, to lie during war, and to lie in order to bring peace between the people." {Transmitted by Tirmithi}.

However, what is the reality of the lying referred to in these texts? Is it explicit lying or a form of dissimulation?

Scholars have indeed differed on this matter. A group of scholars has concluded that the permissible lying between spouses includes explicit lying in the sense of conveying information contrary to its actual state. However, it's preferable to limit it to "Tawriya," which means that the speaker intends a true meaning that isn't a lie to them, even if it appears to be a lie in the literal sense to the listener. An example of this is the narration by Anas, may Allah be pleased with him, where a man came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and said, "O Messenger of Allah, carry me." The Prophet replied, "We will carry you on the offspring of a camel." The man asked, "What will I do with the offspring of a camel?" The Prophet then said, "Do camels give birth to anything other than camels?" (Reported by Abu Dawood and At-Tirmidhi, who considered it a "sahih gharib" hadith).

In this case, the Prophet, peace be upon him, used Tawriya in his conversation with the man. He intended that the man would be carried on a camel, which is a correct meaning. However, this understanding isn't readily apparent from the surface wording, as the man understood from the literal wording that the Prophet, peace be upon him, would carry him on the back of a young camel (foal), which cannot bear loads due to its young age. This led the man to be surprised by the Prophet's response.

Another group of scholars, however, holds the view that the permissible lying between spouses refers to "Tawriya," and that outright lying is not allowed in any circumstance.

In his explanation of the Hadith of Umm Kulthum bint Uqba, Imam Nawawi, may Allah have mercy upon him, mentions that scholars have unanimity on the permissibility of lying in certain situations. However, they differ in their interpretation of the intended meaning of permissible lying. Some believe it encompasses any form of lying, provided there is a benefit. They hold that reprehensible lying is only that which causes harm. They used as evidence the statement of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him), 'Nay, this one, the biggest of them, did it,' and his statement, 'Indeed, I am sick,' and his statement, 'She is my sister.' They also cited the statement of the caller of Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him), 'O caravan, indeed you are thieves.' ...Others, including At-Tabari, said that lying is not permissible in any form. They said that what has been mentioned about permissibility refers to 'Tawriya' and the use of indirect expressions, not explicit lying."

Others, like Imam al-Tabari, contend that outright lying is not permissible in any situation. They believe that the allowance mentioned in the texts refers to using indirect expressions and subtle indications rather than explicit lies.

Imam Nawawi also states in another context, "The apparent meaning indicates the permissibility of actual lying itself, but confining oneself to indirect expressions is better." {Shareh An-Nawawi Ala Muslim, Vol.6, Page181}.

From this, it can be understood that scholars concur on the validity of spouses hinting to each other in their speech. However, they differ regarding the permissibility of using explicit lying between spouses, with some allowing it under specific conditions and others prohibiting it. Therefore, it's advisable for spouses to avoid explicit lying if possible by utilizing "Tawriya" and indirect expressions. Nonetheless, if the option of using indirect expressions is not available, and the couple explicitly uses a false statement, it is not considered impermissible.

 

Guidelines for Lying between Spouses

 

Scholars have identified several conditions that can be derived from their texts for permitting lying between spouses. These conditions must be met before resorting to lying. Otherwise, the liar would fall into sin and deserve punishment, in accordance with the Prophet's saying, peace be upon him: "Verily, lying leads to wickedness, and wickedness leads to the Hellfire. A man continues lying until he is recorded with Allah as a liar." {Transmitted by Bukhari & Muslim}.

The guidelines for lying between spouses are as follows:

The first condition: Only resort to lying in cases of necessity or genuine need, or when there is a clear benefit for both spouses that cannot be achieved except through lying. However, habitual lying in all matters of marital life without necessity is not permissible.

Imam Nawawi states: "This is a clear hadith permitting some lying for the sake of benefit. Scholars have specified what is permissible in this regard, and the best formulation I have come across is that of Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali. He said, 'Speech is a means to achieve objectives. Every praiseworthy objective that can be achieved through truthfulness and lying, lying in it is prohibited due to lack of necessity for it if the objective can be attained through truthfulness. However, if it cannot be achieved through truthfulness and can only be achieved through lying, then lying in that case is permissible if attaining that objective is permissible, and obligatory if the objective is obligatory.'” (Al-Adhkar Al-Nawawiyyah, Vol. 1, Page 377)

Imam Al-Khattabi says: "These are matters in which a person might find themselves compelled to increase speech and exceed the truth in order to ensure their safety and prevent harm to themselves. Permission has been granted in some situations where minor harm is anticipated, due to the expected benefit." (Ma'alim Al-Sunan, Vol. 1, Page 377).

The second condition: Lying between spouses should not lead to any action that is prohibited by Islamic law. For example, if one spouse uses lying as a means to deny or prevent the other's rightful claim, such as lying to withhold the obligatory financial support from one's wife or lying to evade a husband's rightful claim.

Similarly, if lying becomes a reason for infringing upon the rights of either spouse, such as wrongfully consuming the other's property or encroaching upon their specific benefit, then lying in such cases is strictly prohibited. This is because such lying contradicts the intended purpose of permissibility of lying between spouses according to Islamic teachings, and the harm resulting from lying outweighs any benefit.

Furthermore, if lying becomes a means of harming either spouse or becomes a cover for engaging in sinful acts, it should be avoided.

Ibn Hajar states: "Scholars have unanimously agreed that the intended scope of lying regarding both spouses is limited to situations where no right is forfeited, taken away, or where one takes what is not theirs." (Fath Al-Bari, Vol. 5, Page 300).

The third condition: Lying should relate to matters concerning marital relations and fostering affection between the spouses. This includes situations where lying is used to demonstrate love, affection, and making promises that are not obligatory, as well as to improve the character of one's spouse.

Imam Al-Baghawi narrates: "During the time of Umar ibn Al-Khattab, a man asked his wife, 'I adjure you by Allah, do you love me?' She responded, 'If you adjure me by Allah, then no.' The man went to Umar and told him about it. Umar sent for the woman and said to her, 'Are you the one who told your husband that you do not love him?' She replied, 'Yes, O Amir al-Mu'minin, he adjured me by Allah.' Umar said, 'Yes, then lie to him. Not all houses are built upon love, but people live together based on Islam and mutual rights.'" (Sharh Al-Sunnah, Chapter: Reconciliation and Permissible Lying).

Imam Nawawi states: "As for lying to one's spouse, the intention is to show affection and make promises that are not obligatory. However, if the intention is to deceive and deny obligations or wrongfully acquire something, then it is prohibited by the consensus of Muslims." (Sharh Nawawi on Sahih Muslim, Vol. 8, Page 426).

Imam Al-Khattabi states: "Lying to one's spouse is when one praises and compliments them in a way that shows more affection than is present within oneself. This helps maintain their love and improve their character." (Ma'alim Al-Sunan, Vol. 4, Page 123).

 

Swearing Falsely Using this Concession:

 

If one of the spouses is compelled to lie to the other, for instance, if the other spouse only believes them when they swear by Allah to confirm their words, is it permissible for them to swear in this situation?

As previously mentioned in the article, scholars have agreed on the permissibility of using the strategy of "Tawriyah"in lying between spouses. Therefore, if one of them is forced to swear by Allah's name, and they hide behind the oath, this would be permissible. "Al-Bayjirmi's Commentary on Al-Minhaj" states (Vol.17, Page 43): "The intention of the one taking the oath is taken into account by the judge after the request from the opposing party. So, the sin of a corrupt oath, like a "Tawriyah" exception, is not heard by the judge. This is because of the narration from Sahih Muslim: "The oath is according to the intention of the one taking it." This applies to the judge because they have the authority to administer oaths. If a person takes an oath voluntarily, or someone other than the judge administers the oath, or if the judge administers the oath without a request, or due to divorce, or similar cases, the intention of the one taking the oath is considered, and the principle of "Tawriyah" becomes effective. Even if it is sinful, it nullifies the right of the one entitled to it."

However, if one of the spouses swears falsely without resorting to "Tawriyah," the scholars who permit explicit lying seem to indicate that this might be permissible in situations of genuine necessity that are considered valid, and where it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others. This is because if they didn't lie, they wouldn't achieve the benefit they seek or prevent the harm for which lying is permitted in that specific situation.

After this brief overview of the guidelines for the permissible lying between spouses, it's essential for couples to fear Allah and not take this concession lightly. They should make this practice a last resort for addressing marital issues, provided that its Shariah-based conditions are met. We ask Allah to benefit us with the knowledge we have and to teach us what is beneficial, as He is capable of all things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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