Honesty and Integrity: Essential components of Success

One of the essential components of success is honesty.  Indeed, real success cannot be achieved without honesty and integrity.  Honesty means being true and straight in word, action, character and conduct.  Honesty means to choose what is morally right and stick to it both in public and in private.

Honesty includes many other morals like truthfulness, sincerity, and justice.  An honest person is the person who sticks to the truth and acts with justice in all situations, regardless of external pressures and temptations.  An honest person enjoys the internal strength and faith that sustain him during times of conflict and enable him to choose what is right even if it brings him temporary loss. An honest person always chooses truth over falsehood, justice over injustice, and good over evil.  These traits of truthfulness and honesty will in turn lead him to success and the fulfillment of his goals sooner or later.

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            Dishonesty, on the other hand, includes a number of immoral traits like lying, deceit, betrayal, and hypocrisy.  A dishonest person is someone who betrays his principles and morals in favor of monetary or worldly gain.  A dishonest person is someone who may distort the truth or act in a sly or crooked way to achieve his purpose, without any sense of wrong-doing or guilt.  A dishonest person lacks conscience and moral principles that sustain him during times of difficulty.  At the slightest difficulty, he or she is ready to compromise his principles to achieve his purposes.  Despite any immediate material gain that may be in sight, the path of dishonesty and lies is a dead end that will eventually lead to nowhere but to loss and failure.


 

         Thus, honesty is a reflection of inner faith, and the one who lacks honesty lacks true faith, as is mentioned in the following hadith:

عن أنس رضي الله عنه قال: مَا خَطَبَنَا رسولُ الله صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم إلا قال: « ‏ لَا إِيمَانَ لِمَنْ لَا أَمَانَةَ لَهُ، وَلَا دِينَ لِمَنْ لَا عَهْدَ لَهُ» .  رواه أحمد والبزار والطبراني وابن حبان. ـ

   Narrated Anas -may God be pleased with him- said: “The Messenger -prayer and peace be upon him- did not give us a sermon except he said: ‘Whoever does not keep the trust lacks in faith, and whoever does not keep his pledge lacks in religion.’ ”  Related by Ahmad, Al-Bazzar, Al-Tabarani, and Ibn Hibban.


 

    God has set certain standards and morals when He created the Earth.  God referred to that as the Balance or the Scale of Justice.  God says:

    قال الله سبحانه وتعالى: { وَالسَّمَاءَ رَفَعَهَا وَوَضَعَ الْمِيزَانَ * أَلَّا تَطْغَوْا فِي الْمِيزَانِ * وَأَقِيمُوا الْوَزْنَ بِالْقِسْطِ وَلَا تُخْسِرُوا الْمِيزَانَ} سورة الرحمن 7-9.  ـ

  God -the Exalted- says: {

  1. And the heaven He has raised high, and He has set up the Balance.
  2. In order that you may not transgress (due) balance.

     9. And observe the weight with equity and do not make the balance deficient} (Chapter 55, verses 7-9).

   The human is instructed to follow those morals and abide by those standards. Man must not transgress and tip the balance to one side; otherwise, it will lead to chaos and failure. Keeping a fair balance is the key to success and prosperity.  These are God’s rules and commandments.

    Indeed, whoever keeps the Balance and acts with honesty and truthfulness will achieve success because that is the only path that leads to it. Those who choose dishonesty and lying to achieve success will never get it even if they may seem to get it temporarily at first.


 

The concept of Good and Evil started with the creation of Adam and Satan.  Adam chose honesty and the truth, while Satan chose dishonesty, pride and lying.  Thus, we see Adam becoming successful while Satan being banished to Hell-Fire.

It is this ancient and sacred tenet of Good and Evil and their consequences that apply to honesty and dishonesty as well.  Whoever chooses honesty and integrity has a high chance of achieving success, while whoever selects dishonesty and lies guarantees himself loss and failure, even if he may seem to succeed at first.

Indeed, just like Good will prevail and triumph at the end while evil will eventually decline and be defeated, likewise honesty leads to success and good results while dishonesty leads to loss and evil consequences.


 

          God the Almighty has commanded us to stick to honesty in all matters, and made it obligatory on us.  God says:

    قال الله سبحانه وتعالى: {إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَنْ تُؤَدُّوا الْأَمَانَاتِ إِلَى أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ أَنْ تَحْكُمُوا بِالْعَدْلِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ نِعِمَّا يَعِظُكُمْ بِهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا} النساء 58. ـ

  God -the Exalted- says: {Verily, God commands you to render trusts to whom they are due; and that when you judge between people to judge with justice. Indeed, how excellent is that which God instructs you. Verily, God is ever All-Hearer, All-Seer} (Surah 4, verse 58).

Al-Qurtubi said in the interpretation of the verse: “It is most likely that this verse encompasses all people, so it includes the rulers and what they are entrusted with of distributing the wealth, paying back for injustices, and ruling with justice, and this was the opinion of Al-Tabari.

The verse also includes the lesser people in keeping the trusts and being careful when giving testimony, like a man judging in a calamity, etc. Also the five daily prayers, the obligatory charity, and the rest of acts of worship are a trust of God the Exalted.”


 

If we consider the wisdom behind the obligation of honesty, we find that the main reason is that it leads to trust and peace among people.  When we have honesty, then people can trust us.  And when people have honesty, then they can trust each other, and this will lead to a peaceful and secure society, which will lead to a successful and prosperous society.

   Therefore, honesty is a major ingredient of a peaceful and successful society.  Honesty is essential for creating trust among society.  Honesty was obligated for the general good and the benefit of society.  Honesty creates a society whose members care about each and make sure not to bring harm to others.  Honesty creates a community whose members make sure not to cheat, not to take what is not theirs, not to take more than necessary or their due, and not to be dishonest or unjust in any dealings with anyone. This will lead to a successful, peaceful and prosperous society.

Dishonesty, on the other hand, leads to mistrust and insecurity.  Dishonesty creates a selfish society where everyone is only concerned with his/her own gains and loots.  Dishonesty creates an unequal society with some members taking the rights of weak members, exploiting them, and mistreating them in different ways.  Dishonesty is a gate for injustice and bad morals.  Dishonesty leads to evil and mischief in the land.  Dishonesty leads to an insecure, oppressed society.


 

     And just like man is in constant struggle with Good and Evil, such a conflict also exists with honesty and dishonesty.  The believer chooses Good over Evil and honesty over dishonesty.  But man is prone to slips, falls, temptations and desires.  And just like Satan entices the son of Adam to do Evil and enjoy the temporary pleasures, Satan also tempts the son of Adam and promises him great wealth if he dealt with dishonesty.

Thus, the believer must beware of the temptations of the Satan and of the Self in times of trials and difficulty and never give in.  The believer must rather stick to his ideals and hold fast on to his principles, never giving them up.  The believer must keep his moral values, rather should improve on them with time.


 

       Furthermore, we have been forewarned that honesty will become more and more difficult as time passes and dishonesty will become widespread until many people will get used to it and think nothing of it.  But that would only lead to their loss and failure.  The Prophet -prayer and peace be upon- said that when the Day of Judgment draws near, honesty would be lifted and many people would be dishonest such that trustworthy people would be so scarce that people would say such a tribe has only one trustworthy person. 

     In the following narration, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, provided us details about that:

عن حُذيْفَة بنِ الْيمانِ رضي اللَّه عنه قال: حَدَّثَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّه صَلّى اللهُ عليهِ وسلَّم حَدِيثَيْنِ رَأَيْتُ أَحَدَهُمَا وَأَنَا أَنْتَظِرُ الْآخَرَ، حَدَّثَنَا « أَنَّ الْأَمَانَةَ نَزَلَتْ فِي جَذْرِ قُلُوبِ الرِّجَالِ، ثُمَّ عَلِمُوا مِنْ الْقُرْآنِ ثُمَّ عَلِمُوا مِنْ السُّنَّةِ»، وَحَدَّثَنَا عَنْ رَفْعِهَا قَالَ: « يَنَامُ الرَّجُلُ النَّوْمَةَ، فَتُقْبَضُ الْأَمَانَةُ مِنْ قَلْبِهِ، فَيَظَلُّ أَثَرُهَا مِثْلَ أَثَرِ الْوَكْتِ، ثُمَّ يَنَامُ النَّوْمَةَ فَتُقْبَضُ فَيَبْقَى أَثَرُهَا مِثْلَ الْمَجْلِ، كَجَمْرٍ دَحْرَجْتَهُ عَلَى رِجْلِكَ فَنَفِط،َ فَتَرَاهُ مُنْتَبِرًا وَلَيْسَ فِيهِ شَيْءٌ، فَيُصْبِحُ النَّاسُ يَتَبَايَعُونَ، فَلَا يَكَادُ أَحَدٌ يُؤَدِّي الْأَمَانَةَ، فَيُقَالُ: إِنَّ فِي بَنِي فُلَانٍ رَجُلًا أَمِينًا، وَيُقَالُ لِلرَّجُلِ: مَا أَعْقَلَهُ وَمَا أَظْرَفَهُ وَمَا أَجْلَدَهُ، وَمَا فِي قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ حَبَّةِ خَرْدَلٍ مِنْ إِيمَانٍ» .  متفقٌ عليه. ـ

      Narrated Hudhayfa Ibn Al-Yamaan -may Allah be pleased with him- said: “The Messenger of God -prayer and peace be upon him- narrated to us two hadiths, one of which I have seen (happening) and I am waiting for the other. He told us:

‘Honesty descended in the innermost (root) of the hearts of men (in the beginning). Then the Qur’an was revealed and they learnt it (honesty) from the Qur’an and they learnt it from the Sunnah (tradition).’  He also told us about the removal of honesty. He said:

‘A man would go to sleep whereupon honesty would be taken away from his heart, leaving a trace of a faint mark. He would again sleep and the remainder of honesty would be taken away from his heart leaving a trace of a blister, as if you rolled down an ember on your foot and it formed a vesicle. You would see a swelling but there is nothing in it.

So there would come a day when people would deal in business with each other but there would hardly be any trustworthy persons among them. (And there would be so much lack of honest persons) till it would be said: There is in such and such a tribe one person who is honest.  And they would also admire a person saying: How prudent he is, how good mannered and how strong he is, while indeed he would not have belief as little as a mustard seed in his heart.’ ” Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

     We are seeing signs of that these days.  Honesty is not valued any more, rather many people have resorted to deceit, lying and cheating to achieve their goals.  Dishonesty is not frowned upon or looked with disapproval any more, rather it is considered to be a winning card by some and even necessary for success by others.  But that is not true, for the same arguments are used to find excuses for doing Evil.  The truth is that Good and Honesty are the only path to achieving success and fulfilling one’s goals no matter the circumstances.

       Then the believer must be steadfast in these times and hold tightly to Good and Honesty even if only few choose to do so.  The believer must try to avoid Evil and dishonesty in any shape or form, and rather stick to Good and Honesty and believe that it is the only way to success and true happiness.  And God knows best.

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The Highest Level: Ihsan

قال الله عز وجل: { هَلْ جَزَاء الْإِحْسَانِ إِلَّا الْإِحْسَانُ} سورة الرحمن 60.

God the Exalted says: {Is the reward for good (Ihsan) anything other than good?} (Surah 55, verse 60).

Narrated Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him: “Once while we were sitting with the Messenger of God ﷺ, a man appeared before us, dressed in pure white clothes, with dark black hair, without any sign of travel. None of us recognized him. He sat with the Messenger of God ﷺ, resting his knees against the knees of the Messenger of God ﷺ, and placed his palms on the thighs of the Messenger of God ﷺ, and said: ‘O Muhammad, inform me about Islam.’  Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: ‘Islam is to testify that there is no god worthy of worship but God and that Muhammad ﷺ is the messenger of God, and to establish prayer, to pay Zakah (the obligatory charity), to fast the month of Ramadan, and to perform pilgrimage to Makkah if you are capable of it.’ The man said: ‘You have said the truth.’  Omar said: We wondered at him, first asking and then confirming it as the truth!

Then the man said: ‘Inform me about faith (Iman).’  Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: ‘It is to truly believe in God, in His angels, in His Books, in His messengers, in the Hereafter, and in the Divine Decree, the good of it and the bad of it.’

The man said: ‘You have said the truth. [Now] inform me about Ihsan.’  The Messenger of God ﷺ said:

‘It is to worship God as if you are seeing Him, for though you do not see Him, He, verily, sees you.’

The man said: ‘Inform me about the Hour (of the Day of Judgment).’  Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: ‘The one asked about it knows no more than the inquirer.’ The man said: ‘Tell me some of its indications and signs.’  The Messenger of God ﷺ said: ‘That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and master, and that you will find barefooted, destitute goat-herders vying with one another in the construction of magnificent buildings.’  Omar said: Then the man went on his way and I stayed with Prophet Muhammad for a long while.

The Messenger of God then said to me: ‘O Omar, do you know who the inquirer was?’ I replied: God and His Messenger know best.’  He said: ‘That was Angel Gabriel who came to you in order to instruct you in matters of your religion.’ ”

(Related by Muslim, Abu Dawud, and Ahmad).

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In this beautiful and eloquent hadith, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ summarizes the main tenets of Islam and its major foundation.  The scholars said this incident occurred towards the end of the Prophet’s life, to clarify and summarize the important pillars of this deen.  Angel Gabriel and the Prophet ﷺ divided the tenets of Islam into three levels: Islam, Iman (faith), and Ihsan.  If we think of them as levels, then the basic level is Islam, the middle higher level is Iman, and the highest level is Ihsan.  Like any other structure, the highest level can be reached only after perfecting the levels before it.

The three concepts of Islam, Iman, and Ihsan are not limited to the spiritual heart; rather, they are firm beliefs of the heart but also actions by the limbs.  In other words, the belief in the heart must translate into good deeds and acts.  For example, one of the pillars of Islam is the Prayer. So the Muslim must believe in the importance and obligation of the Five Daily Prayers, but his Islam would not be perfect until he physically perfects his prayer.  Likewise, one of the pillars of Iman is the belief in Qadr (Divine Decree or pre-destiny), but Iman would not be perfect until the Muslim learns not to complain in the face of adversaries and calamities but instead to bear them patiently and seek God’s help. Finally, the Muslim has firm belief in the concept of Ihsan, and that God the Exalted is always watching him and his actions, but the Muslim’s Ihsan would not be complete until he translates that belief into action and starts fulfilling God’s commands by performing obligations (wajibat) and avoiding actions God has forbidden (sins).

 

One of the ninety-nine Honorable Names of God is: الرقيب (the Ever-Watchful).  God is also: البصير (the All-Seeing), السميع (the All-Hearing), العليم (the All-Knower), and الخبير (the All-Aware).  That is, every creature is under the constant watch and continuous surveillance of God, the Exalted.  This watch never ceases and is never interrupted, as God is the Perfect God and neither sleeps nor slumber ever affects Him.  Furthermore, God the Almighty has assigned two angels for every human, who write his good and bad deeds in a special record that will be presented to the slave on the Day of Judgment.  Thus, nothing of the slave’s actions is ever missed by God, the Lord of the Worlds.  God the Exalted says in Qur’an:

{Truly, nothing is hidden from God, in the earth or in the heavens} (Surah 3, verse 5).

This sense of being under the constant watch of God the Most High, and the resulting attention to one’s actions, is called Ihsan.  Ihsan has two parts: First is the belief that we are being watched by God the Exalted all the time. And second is the sense of shyness and the effort to follow God’s commands and avoid sins that results from realizing God is watching at all times.

 

Once the Muslim realizes he or she is under the constant watch of God, the Muslim tries his best to show respect and reverence to the One Who is watching. The Muslim feels shy of disobeying the Mighty One who is watching. Moreover, the Muslim tries her best to be in the best form and shape before the Only Lord and true God. So the Muslim tries to do as many good deeds as possible and do them only to please God Who is watching him during the day and night, during the morning and evening, in public and in private and on all occasions. This then develops into him a deep and heightened sense of Divine awareness that brings with it a higher level of piety (taqwa), righteousness (salah), and Iman (faith) such that he feels close to God all the time and spends most of his time trying to please his Lord by doing good deeds and avoiding sins. This condition then is called Ihsan, and it is as mentioned above the highest level of the religion.

This elevated level of Ihsan requires struggle and fending off the desires of the Evil tempting Self and the temptations of Satan and the devils.  Ihsan requires perfecting the stages of Islam and Iman (faith) first, then gradually building one’s Ihsan. Ihsan requires constant reminder of this continued watch by making Dhikr and glorifying God all the time, as well as daily repentance and frequent istighfar (seeking forgiveness from God) and asking God for the favor of this special state.

It is not an easy task, but God’s rewards are not cheap, either. In return for this struggle, God provides blessings both in this world, represented by a peaceful contented life, and in the Hereafter through the highest levels in Jannah or Paradise.  We pray God to guide us to the Right Path and grant us from His Favor.  And God knows best.