Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
My husband divorced me very suddenly.
He has been incredibly abusive since the divorce and reveals to people a sin he suspects I committed many years before I even met him. I have never revealed this to anyone. I have repented and am very ashamed for having transgressed in this way. He has no proof of the sin.
I want to defend myself, but I don’t know how to do so without lying. Am I allowed to say I did not commit the sin?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate
If you can avoid lying, you must use other means. You may use equivocations (ma‘arid), where you say something technically not a lie but makes the listener understand something that is not true.
For instance, saying, “I did not do that sin last year that he is accusing me of.” Notice the words last year. So, for instance, if the sin you repented from occurred 1 year and 3 months ago – the statement above is not a lie. If you know the exact date of the sin, negating any accusation that you did that sin on any other date is not a lie.
When Lying is Allowed
If, however, there is no way around it and your only options are to confess to a sin you repented from or lie – you may choose to preserve your honor.
It is narrated that a man came to Sayyiduna ‘Umar bin al-Khattab (Allah be pleased with him) and said: I have a daughter that I buried in the ground before Islam, and I took her out before she died. She went on to reach the coming of Islam and embraced it.
After she embraced Islam, she committed capital punishment of the limits of Allah Most High. (Due to this), she took a blade to kill herself, but we got to her (before she did). She had cut some of her veins, but we treated them till they healed.
She went on to make sincere repentance, and now she is being proposed to from a tribe. Should I inform them of what happened? Umar said, “Will you try to expose that which Allah has concealed!? By Allah, if you tell anyone of her affair, I will make you an example for all the people of the lands! Marry her off as one would a chaste Muslim woman.” [Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal quoting al-Sha‘bi]
Clearly, the above story does not show lying to cover up a sin; it merely shows that one can and must conceal that sin.
However, if lying is the only way for you to preserve your honor, it is permitted, but only to the extent of the necessity.
Not an Inherent Evil
Imam al-Ghazali (Allah have mercy on him) explains the danger of lying, saying:
“So I say: Speech is a means to a goal.
Thus, every praiseworthy goal that can be attained either by telling the truth or by lying, then lying is prohibited. If the goal can only be reached by lying, then lying is permitted if the goal is permissible, and lying therein is obligatory (wajib) if the goal is obligatory.
For example, protecting the life of a Muslim is obligatory. Whenever telling the truth would cause the unjust spilling of a Muslim’s blood who is hiding from an oppressor – lying is obligatory. Whenever victory in a (just) war or rectifying between two people … is not possible except through lying, lying is permitted (because these goals are permitted, not obligatory).
However, one should abstain whenever possible, because once one opens to themselves the door of lying, it is fear that they will be called to lying in situations where there is no necessity or beyond the necessity, which is prohibited. Lying is at its foundation prohibited unless there is a necessity. [Ghazali, Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din]
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani