The article is a translation of Abū Yaʿlā’s treatise, taken from Majmū Rasāʾil, concerning the Fiqh of lying and the judgments that apply to the liar.
[The following biography of Qāḍī Abī Yaʿlā has been summarized from his biography provided in the Dār al-Īlāfī al-Ḥawliyyah edition of Ibṭāl al-Taʾwīlāt li-Akhbār al-Ṣifāt.]
Al-Imām al-ʿAllāmah Shaykh al-Ḥanābilah al-Qāḍī Abū Yaʿlā Muḥammad bin al-Ḥusayn bin Muḥammad bin Khalaf bin Aḥmad al-Baghdādī al-Ḥanbalī ibn al-Farrāʾ was an important commentator and the author of many beneficial works of the madhhab. He was born on the 28th or the 29th night of Muḥarram, in the year 380 AH. He was born in a house of knowledge, with his father, Abū ʿAbd-Allāh, having studied under Abū Bakr al-Jaṣṣāṣ, adhering to the Ḥanafī madhhab. Al-Dhahabī, concerning him, said, “He was the eyes of the Ḥanafīs.” He passed away in the year 380 AH—the same year Abū Yaʿlā was born.
After his father had passed away, he was under the guardianship of a man known by the name of “al-Ḥarbī.” He learned to recite the Qurʾān and pray (from Mukhtaṣar al-Khiraqī). So impressed was his teacher that he had him learn under ʿAbd-Allāh bin Ḥāmid, the Shaykh of the Ḥanbalīs at the time. He would proceed to learn under others such as ʿAbd-Allāh bin ʿUthmān, al-Ḥusayn bin Aḥmad, Muḥammad bin ʿAbd-Allāh, Muḥammad bin Aḥmad, and teach the next generation of Ḥanbalīs who would grow into prominence.
Following this brief biography, let us proceed to the translation of the short treatise, taken from Dār al-Minhāj al-Qawīm’s edition of Majmūʿ Rasāʾil al-Imām al-Qāḍī Abī Yaʿlā.
Lying (kidhb) may fall under any of the following four categories:
- Obligatory (wājib).
- Permissible (mubāḥ).
- Major sin (kabīrah).
- Minor sin (ṣaghīrah).
It is obligatory when through lying, another Muslim may be saved from murder.
It is permissible:
- When it fosters harmony amongst spouses or Muslims.
- During war. Umm Kulthūm narrated, “I did not hear the Prophet (ﷺ) permitting lying except in the case of a man lying to his spouse [to please her], or a wife to her husband [to please him].”1 She also narrated, “The Prophet (ﷺ) did not permit lying except in war.”2 Al-Ḥārith narrated from ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Lying is sinful in all cases, except when it benefits a Muslim, or prevents [harm].”3
It is a major sin when one provides false testimony in the case of murder, the usurpation/unlawful consumption of property, or lying concerning the Prophet (ﷺ). ʿUmar and ʿUthmān narrated, from the Prophet (ﷺ), “Whoever deliberately lies about me, let him prepare his seat in the Fire.”4 It has also been narrated that the one who takes false testimony under threats [of harm] is not included under the group mentioned in the ḥadīth.
It is a minor sin when one lies for himself for general purposes, in that he may have done or not done such or such, etc. Mūsā al-Jundī narrated, “The Prophet (ﷺ) rejected the testimony of a man who lied.” Yaḥyā bin ʿAbbād, similarly, narrated, “The Prophet (ﷺ) came to know of cases of lying among the people, and so he (ﷺ) said, ‘Had Allāh (ﷻ) not been generous to you, I would have expelled you.’”5
Aḥmad, in a narration from ʿAlī bin Saʿīd, said, concerning the one who lied once, “He is not to be considered a man of justice.”
Ibn Manṣūr, similarly, narrated,
[I asked,] When do we reject a ḥadīth? He said, “When the narrator’s mistakes are preponderant.” I asked, “[Regardless of whether] He lies rarely or otherwise?” He replied, “Yes.”6
What is apparent from this transmission is that he who lies once does not leave the realm of justice.
It has been narrated from Aḥmad bin Abī ʿAbdah that he said, concerning the liar, “If he lies frequently, there is no prayer behind him.”7
What is apparent from this transmission is that it is like other minor sins (unless one insists on it, in which case it becomes a major sin).
To summarize and enunciate the differences between the two, one exits the realm of justice (ʿadālah) when he bears false testimony or lies on the Prophet (ﷺ), for these are major sins. However, he does not exit the realm of justice should he lie once or twice for his own sake, for that is a minor sin.
- Musnad Aḥmad, 27272.
- Al-Bazzār, Musnad, 4162.
- Agreed upon (al-Bukhārī & Muslim).
- al-Tabarānī, Muʿjam al-Awsaṭ, 7707.
- Al-Masāʾil, 3424.
- Al-Khallāl, Zād al-Musāfir, 3275.