Is Honesty the best policy?
“Honesty is the best policy”. We all have grown up learning this proverb. Teachers, then and now, impart this to school students. It is a very popular statement.
As a teacher of Islamic Studies, I strongly disagree with this statement. While I appreciate the overall spirit of the teachers in imparting this proverb because they basically aim at inculcating honesty in their students but still I do not approve of this statement. We never take a pause to think over this proverb deeply. We have simply inherited this proverb and keep passing on almost thoughtlessly to many a young generation.
My contention is: How can one take honesty as a matter of policy? Is not honesty itself the best way to adopt?
What is policy?
Definition of POLICY
1 a : prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs
b : management or procedure based primarily on material interest
2 a : a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions
b : a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures especially of a governmental body
If you read the definition given above by Merriam Webster, you will notice one element between the lines.
That policy is changeable, alterable! Policy can be changed according to situations!
Now go back to the proverb again: Honesty is the best policy. How can it be a best “policy”? Are you teaching kids to adopt honesty as a policy issue?
One has to be honest all the time. You can’t be honest sometime and dishonest the other time, right?
So honesty is not alterable or changeable. The good character in a person is honesty and one cannot alter it according to the situations in life!
If one takes honesty as a policy matter, then definitely he is adopting hypocrisy. He will be also become crafty and cunning in his attitude.
Media today has double standards. Why? Because, for them, honesty is the best policy!
When a Hindu or a Jew or a Christian indulges in bomb blast, his religious denomination is not mentioned. But when a Muslim indulges in the same act, his religion takes the centrespace and occupies the headline! The seeds implanted once upon a time take practical shapes in the later part of man’s life!!
I always tell my students to be honest at all the times and I tell them to think and consider that Honesty is always the best! Honesty is the best character a person can have in him or her. But you cannot adopt honesty as a policy matter in your life!!
The world must change this meaningless proverb that ‘honesty is the best policy’. (As a reader, if you have differing opinion you are most welcome to send your comments, Inshaa’Allah)
Let us now extend our discussion in a different way.
The Arabic words used for honesty is ‘Istiqaamah’ and ‘Mustaqeem’.
These two words are extremely powerful in their meaning and connotation.
According to the Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic:
istiqaama means straightness, sincerity, uprightness, rectitude, integrity, probity, honesty, rightness, soundness, correctness.
mustaqeem means upright, erect, straight, dead straight, straight as a die, directed straight ahead, correct, right, sound, proper, in order, even, regular, symmetrical, proportionate, harmonious, honest, straightforward, upright, righteous, honourable.
The du’aa that we supplicate – in every Rak’ah of our daily prayers – is extremely rich in meaning:
“(O Our Lord! Our Creator!): Guide us unto the Straigth Path, the Honest Path, the Upright Path, the Correct Path, the Right Path” (Surah al Fatihah: 6)
We do make this supplication every now and then. For us honesty is a way of life!
Let me quote one beautiful hadeeth, whose wordings are very simple yet it is powerfully loaded in meaning:
عن أبي عمرو، وقيل: أبي عمرة سفيان بن عبد الله رضي الله عنه قال
قلت: يا رسول الله قل لي في الإسلام قولاً لا أسأل عنه أحداً غيرك. قال: ”قل آمنت بالله: ثم استقم”
Sufyaan bin ‘Abdullah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked, “O Messenger of Allah, tell me something of Islam which I will not ask anyone else about it.” He (the Messenger of Allah) said, “Say: ‘I believe in Allah’ and then be honest to your belief by being steadfast”.
What an advice our glorious Prophet – Muhammad, Peace be upon him, gave to Sufyaan!
Say: I believe in Allah and be honest to your claim throughout your life!
Honesty is the best way to prove your aqeeqah and to live a life of obedience. It is a mark of a Muslim.
So let us adopt honesty as our best way of life, not as our ‘best policy’!
May Allah give us the strength to persevere and be honest in our life. Aameen.