Can I Trust You?

In this article, the third in a series of articles on work ethics, Sumaira Dada discusses the importance of honesty in the workplace

A Pakistani bank executive wrote about his experience of the Far East work ethics. He noticed, how there people slogged at work, finished assignments within office hours and left work at 5 pm. In Pakistan, however, he was used to tea breaks, friendly chit chats, and long hours at the office. And at the end of the day, the amount of work done was much less compared to the number of work hours. Are you wondering about the reason for such inefficiency?

Take another case: a textile company has shipment deadlines to meet for its foreign client. Cutting corners, the company purchases low quality material, but manages to deliver on time. The consignment is rejected for not meeting specifications, and both the company and the country earn a bad name. Sound familiar?

Why is it that talk about honesty and trustworthiness are disdained? Let’s look at what Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa) have to say about it.

Allah (swt) says: “Verily, Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due.” (An-Nisa 4:58)

“O you who believe! Betray not Allah and His Messenger, nor betray knowingly your Amanat (things entrusted to you, and all the duties which Allah has ordained for you).” (Al-Anfal 8:27)

Prophet (sa) says:

Anas bin Malik (rta) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) addressed us and said in his sermon: ‘He has no Iman, who is not trustworthy, and he has no Deen, who does not keep promises.’” (Ibn Hibban)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three: whenever he speaks, he tells a lie; and whenever he promises, he breaks his promise; and whenever he is entrusted, he betrays (proves to be dishonest).’” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Return the trust to one, who has entrusted you, and do not be treacherous to one, who was treacherous to you.’” (Abu Dawood)

Safeguarding your trust is important

It is clear that in the light of the Quran and the Ahadeeth, one cannot afford to slack about building up honesty and trustworthiness in oneself. First, we must understand the meaning of trust (Amanah).

What is Trust (Amanah)?

A simple definition is that every entrusted thing is an Amanah. This covers not only office duties, but also office hours, your skills and abilities, your clients, and even your own health – physical and spiritual.

The opposite of Amanah is Khiyanah, which means lessening or decreasing, in short, betrayal.

Does honesty pay off?

Most people would consider honesty as being another word for stupidity. But research shows that honesty does pay off. A study of the US market found that the three-year total return to shareholders was almost three times higher at companies with high trust levels. However, most employees did believe that trustworthiness in the workplace has seriously declined. In one study, more than half of those polled said that they considered hypocrisy as the biggest problem in corporate America today, and that the upper levels of management are to blame.

Although facts and figures have their importance, yet risking Allah’s (swt) dislike is really not worth it. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Certainly Allah likes not the treacherous.” (Al-Anfal 8:58)

Is being trustworthy an unachievable goal?

If Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa) have emphasized the importance of trustworthiness, then it is an achievable goal. In Muslim history, we will find the example of Umar Bin Abdul Aziz, the celebrated Umayyad Caliph, whose empire stretched from the shores of the Atlantic to the highlands of Pamir. His short rule is regarded as the brightest period in the 91-year Caliphate of the Umayyads. He was once sitting in his private chamber, examining a pile of state documents. When his wife sought to discuss a private matter with him, he asked her to put off the state lamp and put on their own lamp, as he did not want to burn the state oil for private purposes! According to “Tabaqat Ibni Sa’ad”, Umar bin Abdul Aziz never performed his private work in the light of a lamp, which burned the state oil.

Another incident also shows the utter honesty of the Caliph. Every Friday, Farat Bin Muslama brought state papers for his perusal and orders. One Friday, the Caliph brought a small piece of state paper in his private use. Muslama, who was aware of the exceptional honesty of the Caliph, thought that he had done it out of sheer forgetfulness. But the following Friday, when he brought back home the state papers, he found in them exactly the same size paper as used by the Caliph.

Once the Caliph’s servant burnt the firewood in the guest house (funded by the state treasury) to heat water for ablution. He had the same quantity of firewood deposited in its place. On another occasion, he refused to use the water heated from the state charcoal. Skeptics might frown at these incidents as being fictitious; nevertheless, they are facts on the deeds of our pious predecessors, enough to bring us to shame.

How do I become trustworthy?

The following tips might be helpful:

  • Remind yourself that Allah (swt) does not love those who betray (Al-Anfal 8:58). Keep constant reminders that you will be questioned about whatever you are entrusted with.
  • Make prayer for help from Allah (swt). Read the Quran regularly and study Ahadeeth to develop trustworthiness. We learn from the following Hadeeth:
  • Hudhaifah (rta) has narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) said to us: ‘Certainly, Al-Amanah descended from the heavens and settled in the roots of the hearts of men (faithful believers), and then the Quran was revealed, and the people read the Quran, and also learnt it from the Sunnah.’” (Bukhari)
  • Realistically assess, whether you are able to handle the task given to you. Discuss your apprehensions with your supervisor.
  • Don’t be afraid to say ‘no,’ when you feel that you cannot realistically meet a deadline.

The Truth about Lying

bsr005Want to take a day off from the office? Lie that you are not well. Want to miss that deadline? Lie that you had forgotten. Want to be late for work? Make the excuse that there was a traffic jam. These thoughts, which translate into actions, show that Satan will not spare us at all.

As survey shows, lying at the workplace is very acceptable. According to the Aziz Management Communications Index, more than a third (37%) of British bosses believe that it is acceptable for their employees to tell white lies to customers, while nearly half (46%) think that telling untruths is acceptable to safeguard the company. Although the survey is limited to the UK, it would be safe to presume that the situation would not be much different in this part of the world. This certainly rings some alarm bells for all of us.

What the Quran and Ahadeeth tell us

When reality is put side by side with the teachings of Islam, one is taken aback by the intensity of the warning from Allah (swt). Allah (swt), the Exalted, says: “Truly, Allah guides not him, who is a liar and disbeliever.” (Az-Zumar 39:3)

In another verse, Allah (swt) states: “O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).” (At-Taubah 9:119)

The words of the Prophet (sa) also show that lying will never lead to salvation. The Prophet (sa) said: “Indeed, truthfulness leads to Al Birr (righteousness, and Al-Birr leads to Paradise. A man keeps on telling the truth, until he becomes a Siddiq (truthful person). Lying leads to Al-Fujur (wickedness), and Al-Fujr leads to the Hellfire, and a man keeps on telling lies, till he is written as a liar before Allah.” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three: whenever he speaks, he tells a lie, whenever he promises, he breaks it, and whenever he is entrusted, he betrays.” (Bukhari)

Truth leads to success

Honestly – who doesn’t know that lying is a sin? We all confess that we have lied to get out of a tight situation to the extent that we have got used to it and do not believe that there is a way out. If this is an echo of your mind, then you are probably taking a defeatist approach. It is possible to be truthful as well as successful.

Our dearest Prophet Muhammad (sa) was an honest man to the extent that he was known As-Sadiq (the truthful) and Amin (the trustworthy). When Khadijah (rta), a successful businesswoman of Makkah, assigned Prophet Muhammad (sa) to do some business for her, she found more profits and blessings than she was used to. Her servant also told her about the good manners and honesty of the Prophet (sa).

New research by the Institute of Business Ethics shows a relation between success and ethical environment. UK companies with an explicit commitment to ethical business were found to have produced profits an average of 18% higher than those that did not.

So how do we break the lying habit?

1. Reexamine your level of Iman (faith)

Is it important to you that you stop lying? Do you believe that truthfulness will benefit you in this world and in the Hereafter? Are you convinced that lying eventually leads to Hellfire? These are just some of the questions that you can ask yourself.

2. Make prayer

The earnestness of doing something is reflected in the kind of prayers that we make. One of the prayers of the Prophet (sa) was: “O Allah! Purify my heart from hypocrisy, my deed from any kind of showoff, my tongue from lying.” (Baihiqi)

3. Fix your own penalty for lying

This penalty can be in cash or in kind. Give something to charity or keep reminding yourself that you did something wrong today.

4. Read up on examples of people, who were ethical and successful

Reading about the Companions of the Prophet (sa) and modern day success stories of ethical companies will provide you with the much-needed encouragement and guidance.

5. Assess the consequences of lying

Draw up or think of all the direct and indirect, long term and short term consequences of lying. If you can logically figure out the disastrous effects of lying in this world and the Hereafter, it may be enough to control the ‘fibbing habit,’ Insha’Allah.

6. Remember that truth leads to peace of mind

According to a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa): “Leave what appears doubtful to you and adopt that which is not doubtful to you, for truth is peace of mind and the lie is a means of doubt.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Advantages of telling the truth over lying

  • Telling the truth reduces medical expenses by keeping your blood pressure in the normal range.
  • If you tell the truth, you don’t have to worry about what to say, when you get caught.
  • If you tell the truth, you don’t have to learn any fancy ambiguous words to mislead people.
  • If you tell the truth, you get practice telling the truth, which can pay off, when telling the truth is really hard.
  • If you tell the truth, people have a chance to find out about problems, while there’s still time to do something about them.
  • If you tell the truth, it’s easier to sleep at night.
  • If you’re known as a straight shooter, fewer people will ask you to shoot crooked.
  • If you tell the truth often enough, when you say something, people are more likely to actually believe you.