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Question of the Day: Lying 18 July 2007

Posted by SA'ILA in SA'ILA.

Lying is haram (prohibited); what is fiction?



1. Faramir - 18 July 2007


Lying is presenting a false statement as a true one. Where in fiction do the authors say that what they write is a true account? If they do write so, it becomes non-fiction!


2. Adnan - 18 July 2007

By definition fiction is make belief. Declaring that is is a work of fiction would mean that you are not lying and are admitting that it is not truth. That should suffice, I guess.

3. Sumera - 19 July 2007

Fiction is usually presented as that – fiction. No-one passes it off as the real thing. So its not lying.

4. Irving - 22 July 2007

Fiction is the storyteller’s art in book form. Although the best of them, like Sufi tales, have a truth to tell within the tale.

Ya Haqq!

5. ABD - 24 July 2007

as-salam alaykum. let’s take a step back. what does it mean to lie and what exactly is wrong with lying?

webster-merriam dictionary defines the verb lie as “to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive.” this seems to capture two different elements of lying: 1) making an untrue statement, and 2) deception or the intent of deception. if deception was the problem, then i think the matter would be simple enough, since (as most every other comment has pointed out) no writer passes fiction off as the real thing.

but if we look at the instructions of the prophet, on him be peace, the matter is not so clear (at least to my mind). in one hadith, for example, he is known to have said, ““lying is not good, whether in seriousness or joking” (bayhaqi). having a malicious intent, perhaps even a deceptive intent, does not seem to be the issue here.

so if the problem is not deception but rather untruth, then fiction’s status suddenly becomes more problematic. at the very least, it raises some very interesting questions about fiction and truth. can a story have the facts wrong but still convey a truth? (in hamza yusuf’s words, “this story isn’t true, but there is truth in it.”) and does it matter whether fiction tells certain truths or no truths at all?

this is all very provisional, of course, but i just wanted to indicate that the difference between lying and fiction may not be so clear after all… and God knows best.

6. Ibrahim - 25 July 2007

It’s impossible to tell the truth through a lie. But often with fiction, truth happens. An art form that serves the truth, delivering it in ways no lecture or sermon would dare attempt, is not a lie.

7. talib - 1 August 2007

what a serious complication, ABD. i wonder if it is possible to legitimately analogize visual art with fiction. if we can, and that is a big “if”, one might argue that just as an artist renders onto the canvas his or her creative interpretation of what is seen of the world, similarly the fiction writer puts onto paper his creative interpretation. the painting does not attempt to convey an absolute truth about the external but rather a personal truth found within its creator that takes the form of colors, shadows, and form. the fiction writer, perhaps, does the same, simply with words.

so though lying is untruth and forbidden, fiction is not untruth so much as it is an opinion, perspective, or idea.

said in another way, when one lies, in seriousness or in joking, one is presenting one’s words as if they are an account or representation of reality, whether the intent is deception or not. fiction, in contradistinction, is rarely, if ever, presenting an account of reality that just happens to be false. in fact, fiction deliberately escapes reality in its attempt to present a message from the author.

anyway, i am not decided on the issue at all myself and want to consult. but just putting a thought out there.

8. Ibrahim - 2 August 2007

If fiction is a lie, then Muslim civilization had a bunch of liars, for part of the body of the adab of Arabic and other major languages of the Muslim peoples was the qisas culture (story-telling, with animals that speak and trick and conive and struggle and uphold virtues and make moral statements) that was remarkable.

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