Practice integrity between speech and action [61:2]

blog Apr 22, 2023

Here is today's reflection from the Quran:

In Sura Saff (61:2), Allah says: O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do?

And He continues in the next verse: It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do (61:3)

In reference to this verse, Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (as) says: A promise of a believer is an oath, although it does not have a kaffära (penalty) for breaking it. Whoever fails it has failed Allah and is the subject of dislike by Allah.

Reflection: One of the qualities of the faithful is that there is integrity and harmony between their speech and their actions. This means that they can be counted on practice what they preach, to tell the truth and to carry out what they promise or intend to do.

Scholars explain that to promise a thing which one intends not to do is a sign of hypocrisy whilst to promise and intend an action but be unable to carry it out is a sign of weakness.

Being your word then, that is carrying out what you pledge and promise to do, is considered in Islam to be a hallmark of the faithful.

Imam Ali (as) in one of his letters to Malik Ashtar commands him to be true to his word, even it be to the enemy. He writes, "If you conclude an agreement between yourself and your enemy or enter into a pledge with him then fulfil your agreement and discharge your pledge faithfully. Place yourself as a shield against whatever you have pledged because among the obligations of Allah there is nothing on which people are more strongly united, despite the difference of their ideas and variation of their views, than respect for fulfilling pledges. Besides Muslims, even unbelievers have abided by agreements because they realized the dangers which would come in the wake of violation (thereof). (Nahjul Balagha, Letter 53)

Why? When we say what we mean and mean what we say, people can count on us to do what we would say we would do. Trust is increased and relationships, whether professional, social or personal, all thrive.

On the other hand, when we do not keep our word, it causes inconvenience, upset, disappointment and distrust and our credibility suffers. The natural outcome of consistently being inconsistent in fulfilling our commitments will often lead to others around us not even asking or expecting much from us.

Since our experience in life with others greatly depends upon the credibility and goodwill that we enjoy amongst our people, this ends up costing us dearly in the long run.

It goes even deeper than this: our credibility with ourselves suffers as well. When we make a promise to others, it creates an "open loop" in our lives. This means that until resolved, it will weigh on our minds and drain our energy either consicously or unconciously.

How? Let's think of all the promises and pledges that we have made, implicit and explicit.

Explicit promises are those that are spoken or written and they create an absolute expectation of fulfillment. To back out of (without a valid excuse or apology) things that we have committed to others is a sure way to damage trust in our relationships.

Sometimes, we are much too quick to promise things to others. This may stem from our desire not to upset someone or to avoid the conflict and unpleasant feelings that come from saying no. However, this avoidance of emotional pain is a very short term respite as much more of it will arise in the wake of an unfulfilled promise. If we truly cannot or are willing to fulfill what is asked of us, saying no in the short term may be uncomfortable but it is much more in line with integrity between speech and action.

And then there are implicit promises: the vow of being a faithful spouse, a parent who is available and responsive, a colleague who is trustworthy, a neighbour who is considerate, a community member who is engaged. There are people expecting this and counting on us to fulfill these pledges, even if they are not overtly spoken.

Of course there are times when we intend to keep our word but life gets in the way. The thing about "life" is that it will always happen.

Once we commit, life happens for SURE to try and derail our plans.

And when it does, our brains might come up with many ways why it was a bad idea to make a commitment and will come up with reasons why we cannot do what we said we would do.

And when this happens, we can practice being unreasonable with our word. Being unreasonable with our word means that when our brains come up with reasons why we do not need to fulfill a vow, a promise or a pledge, we do not succumb to the reasons. And we keep our word despite the inconvenience it entails. In big and small ways.

And the surprising thing we way notice is that the impact of keeping our word, of being our word goes beyond building trust and credibility with others. It in fact grows unshakeable trust and confidence in ourselves and deeply enhances our own self-esteem.

This verse in action: If we were living this verse, our word would be as good as gold. People could count on us to tell the truth, to mean what we say and to do what we promised. Our business, social transactions and relationships would be based on trust and would thrive.

Let us pray to Allah swt in the words of Imam Zainul Abedin (as) to remind us of all the promises we have made and to help us in fulfilling them, and when we are truly unable, to help remove their burdens from us:

O Allah,

and on me are obligations; some of which I remember, and some of which I have forgotten,

while all of them are before Your eye which does not sleep, and Your knowledge which does not forget, so compensate their owners on my behalf, and remove their burden from me, lighten their weight for me,

and protect me from committing them again.

[Dua Tauba in Sahifa Saiiadiyyal]


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