Question: Can I lie to my spouse to avoid fighting?
Bismi Llahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuhu
The basis is that telling lies is unlawful – even to one’s spouse. Lying, deception, and falsehood are not the qualities of a righteous believer. Rather, a Muslim is truthful, honest, and authentic.
Moreover, a blissful Islamic marriage is built upon solid trust. Trust is gained and sustained only when spouses are honest with each other about the events occurring in their lives, the feelings that they are experiencing, and the needs that they need fulfilled.
If one finds that they are often resorting to lying to make amends and keep the peace, then one must consider if they are really in a healthy relationship.
With that being said, there is one exception with lying regarding spouses.
In a well-known narration, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “It is not lawful to lie except in three cases: something a man tells his wife to please her, to lie during war, and to lie in order to bring peace between the people.” [Tirmidhi]
From this hadith, scholars deduce that lying to one’s spouse is permissible in the event that doing so will increase the love and affection between each other. For example, a couple is trying to save their marriage, so the wife says to her husband, “You are the most beloved person to me.” Even if she does not entirely feel this way in her heart, it is permissible to say these warm words with the intention of increasing his love for her.
However, it is important to note that one can only resort to lying whenever the objective of increasing love in the relationship cannot be completed except through lying. If this objective can be obtained without lying, then it is not permitted to lie.
The more precautionary position to follow is to not lie at all to one’s spouse, but to speak with statements that give a misleading impression. A misleading impression is a statement that implies multiple meanings, and one intends other than what could be understood by the listener from the actual words used.
To understand more about the rulings related to lying and misleading impressions, read this article: The Truth About Lying: Is It Permissible Or Not?
A Word Of Caution
It must be emphasized that this hadith must not be taken out of context. It is unlawful for spouses to unconditionally lie or deceive each other.
For example, a man cannot cheat on his wife and lie to her in order to keep doing his dirty secret. Likewise, a woman cannot steal her husband’s money and lie to him so that he doesn’t get mad at her. This is a grave misunderstanding and a clear distortion of what the Prophet ﷺ is trying to encourage.
In fact, when explaining the meaning of this hadith, Imam Nawawi (Allah be pleased with him) explicitly states, “(As for lying) as a way of deception in order to prevent the rights due upon him or her – or to take what is not his or her right – it is impermissible.”
It may be helpful to seek advice from a marriage counselor or coach of how to resolve the arguments in one’s relationship in a different way. This book may also give ideas: Say It With Love – Communicate, Connect, & Cure Conflict.
Jazak Allah khayran
- Imam Ala al-Din Abidin, الهدية العلائية
- Imam ibn Abidin, رد المحتار على الدر المختار
- Imam Nahlawi, الدرر المباحة في الحظر والإباحة
- Imam Abu Sa’id al-Khadami, بريقة محمودية في شرح طريقة محمدية
- Imam Mulla Ali al-Qari, مرقاة المفاتيح شرح مشكاة المصابيح
- Imam Nawawi, المنهاج شرح صحيح مسلم
- Imam Nawawi, رياض الصالحين