Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
Seeking Advancement of Knowledge through Spiritual and Intellectual Growth

International ConferenceAbout IRFIIRFI CommitteesRamadan CalendarQur'anic InspirationsWith Your Help

Articles 1 - 1000 | Articles 1001-2000 | Articles 2001 - 3000 | Articles 3001 - 4000 | Articles 4001 - 5000 | Articles 5001 - 6000 |  All Articles

Family and Children | Hadith | Health | Hijab | Islam and Christianity | Islam and Medicine | Islamic Personalities | Other | Personal Growth | Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) | Qur'an | Ramadan | Science | Social Issues | Women in Islam |

Islamic Articles
Islamic Links
Islamic Cemetery
Islamic Books
Women in Islam
Aalim Newsletter
Date Conversion
Prayer Schedule
Q & A
Contact Info


Keeping one’s word

By S.G. Jilanee


July 18, 2008 Friday Rajab 14, 1429

PROMISE has been deemed sacrosanct from ancient times. Keeping one’s word is seen as a sign of character and integrity; hence the maxim “A man is as good as his word.”

Except complex deals, which need to be concluded in written form to avoid misinterpretation, countless business transactions are clinched every day simply by word of mouth. Prices are settled and orders executed simply on telephonic instructions. This is possible because the parties ‘trust’ each other to be true to their word.

Moreover, all the commitments people make every day do not relate to money or goods. And even in the case of every transaction involving money or goods, it would be physically impracticable to have them written down and witnessed. Trust is all the more important, because the sanction of the word of mouth rests on a person’s integrity. Both parties to a verbal transaction know that it would not be actionable in a court of law.

The entire social edifice therefore rests on mutual trust and the understanding that people would fulfil their obligations. History is replete with chronicles of people who even braved death to fulfil a promise. Consequently, those who renege on their promises are treated as pariahs and social outcasts.

Islam goes a few steps farther, because it envisages a homogeneous society that is bound in a fraternal tie. The tie would snap and society would disintegrate if people reneged on their contracts and covenants. It therefore gives religious sanction to promises made and undertakings given by making them actionable in a ‘court’. In Bani Israel (17) verse 34, comes the directive; “And keep the covenant” with the warning: “Surely of the covenant it will be asked (on the Day of Judgment).”

The importance of keeping pledges occurs as early as Sura Aal-i-Imran, verse 76. After referring to how some People of the Book retracted from their promises to the Gentiles, it says, “….but he who fulfils his pledge and fears Allah, for verily Allah loves those who are pious.” (The word used is muttaqeen which translates variously as those who fear Allah, pious, et al).

The fifth sura, Al Maida, opens with the straight command to the Believers: “O ye who Believe fulfil your undertakings.” Still further on, fulfilling covenants is described as one of the attributes of true believers. Sura al Momenoon (23) begins with the good tidings that “Successful indeed are the believers…. that are caretakers of their pledge and their covenant….” Further on, al Ma’arij (70), verses 32, 33, 35 adds more good news saying that those “who keep their pledges and their covenant and those who are firm in their testimony” will be among the “honoured ones in the Garden (of Bliss)”

All, these exhortations, inducements, admonitions and warnings relate to oral undertakings. A mention of written contract occurs only in al Baqara (282) where an elaborate arrangement has been prescribed for deals “involving further transactions in a fixed period of time.” Obviously because by their very nature such contracts are complicated, they are required to be made in writing. The writing is to be done by a scribe as dictated by the person who incurs the liability, and duly witnessed.

Because people sometimes swear an oath to buttress a promise, Islam takes note of this factor as well and treats the case of broken oaths more seriously. For example, whereas the culprit who breaks a verbal pledge would be ‘asked’ (on the Day of Judgment), the one who breaks an oath must pay a penalty in this world.

Yet, while prescribing the penalty in verse 89 of al Maidah Allah draws a fine line between wilful and unintentional oaths that admirably redounds to His compassion towards

His erring creatures: “Allah will not take you to task for that which is unintentional in your oaths but He will take you to task for the oaths you swear in earnest. For expiation feed ten indigent persons on a scale of the average of what you feed your own folk, or the clothing of them, or the liberation of a slave. If that is beyond your means fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths you have sworn. And keep your oaths.”

But truth is an essential concomitant to the fulfilment of promises and oaths. Unless a person is regarded as truthful, no one will entertain his pledges and promises.

The character of the Prophet offers a shining example in this regard. He had won the sobriquet of “al-Ameen” (the Trustworthy) from friends and foes alike, at quite an early age, owing to his reputation for truthfulness.

Islam, therefore, lays great stress on pure, unalloyed, truth. It deplores lacing truth with falsehood, because, doing so could be more harmful than a clear lie, and it would be done by design only to mislead people with some ulterior motive. Moreover, whereas a lie can be brought home to the liar, the offender who dilutes truth with falsehood may not be easy to detect so mischief may occur. Hence, the Quran, in al Baqara: 42, clearly admonishes; “Confound not truth with falsehood, nor knowingly conceal the truth.”

But it is not enough just to speak the whole truth. The real test of truthfulness comes when one is giving evidence. The status of witness has therefore been elevated as “witness for Allah” who must be steadfast in the cause of justice, and not be swayed by any personal considerations. “O ye who believe! Be you staunch in justice, witness for Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or (your) parents or (your) near relatives, whether (the case be of) a rich man or a poor man. “(Al Nisa: 135). It would therefore, be evident that Islam takes a holistic view of personal transactions so as to promote fellow feeling and fraternity.

Please report any broken links to Webmaster
Copyright © 1988-2012 All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer

free web tracker