Quality 4: Integrity
The definition of integrity
Related terms: truthfulness, trustworthiness, and honesty.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, integrity is defined as:
“The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change”. 
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides a number of synonyms for integrity. It says,
“Honesty, honor, integrity, PROBITY means uprightness of character or action. HONESTY implies a refusal to lie, steal, or deceive in any way. HONOR suggests an active or anxious regard for the standards of one’s profession, calling, or position. INTEGRITY implies trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility, or pledge. PROBITY implies tried and proven honesty or integrity.” 
Another source states that,
“Integrity is having a strong set of ethical principles, being able to tell the truth no matter the consequences and admitting to a wrong- even if it appears that you could get away without admitting to it. Integrity is about doing the right thing; it is being incorruptible, honest, and above all, doing all these things when no one is around to see it.” 
Integrity and truthfulness are so deeply connected that they are practically two sides of the same coin.
The Benefits and Importance of Integrity
In Islam, what is happening in terms of actions, statements and beliefs needs to be in harmony, both internally and externally. This provides the individual with consistency, so no contradictions are observed between the three main powers of the human being: speech, belief and actions.
Truthfulness breeds harmony between what we present to the world and what we hold in our innermost hearts. It makes our speech congruent with our actions – meaning that we truly practise what we preach. Moreover, truthfulness ensures harmony between a person and his surroundings, leading to harmony within society at large. When a person has integrity, what they present to the world will be their reality. This soul is in harmony with their surroundings because he or she doesn’t have two faces. Yet a person who deals with the people around him in one way but, is another way in reality, will suffer internal turmoil and will not have a sense of peace. In addition to this, any externally perceived integrity will be short-lived.
As such, truthfulness is the very cornerstone of any upright individual. Understand that truthfulness is not just limited to telling the truth; rather, it goes beyond that to include truthfulness in your actions, character, and conduct with yourself first, and then, between yourself and others, too. The individual who is truthful is a person of integrity and vice versa.
In fact, truthfulness and integrity are the essence of many other fundamental traits. Ibn al-Qayyim has a nice explanation of the types of truthfulness and integrity. He says,
“Truthfulness is of three types:
In statements, in actions, and in status (الحال).
In statements, truthfulness can be achieved when there is consistency between what you say and what is in your heart.
In actions, truthfulness can be achieved when your actions are consistent with your beliefs or what is in your heart (i.e. the hypocrite does not have consistency, for instance, he may pray outwardly but doesn’t believe in prayer).
And truthfulness is the status of conformity and consistency between the actions of the heart and limbs. An aspect of this includes the intentions leading to the exertion of efforts to achieve what you aim to achieve.”
With Integrity, a Vision Is More Than Just a Dream
In the same manner, integrity and truthfulness transform dreams into practical plans and strategies. Seeing a successful future for yourself will not help you to attain it unless you combine your vision for the future with effort and actions. Dreaming about a goal but doing nothing to achieve it is the antithesis of integrity.
A simple Google search of the top qualities of successful people shows that integrity, honesty or trustworthiness are among the highest-regarded qualities of such people. Self-development author Brian Tracy says,
“The first value that all the executives agree on is integrity. Leaders know that honesty and integrity are the foundations of leadership.”
An illustration of the central role that integrity plays in the life of people can be understood when we imagine a society or relationships that are built in absence of integrity. Imagine a husband and a wife who share a bed, their food, their home, their finances, their children, and their emotions – they share almost everything, but if their relationship does not include the essential ingredient of integrity then trust would always be missing.
Imagine a company where there is no trust between co-workers, or between managers/ directors and employees; imagine a street in which neighbours do not trust each other; imagine a society with no trust between leaders, government, and the people.
Integrity is like oxygen, in its absence no relationship will survive.
In an amazing narration, the messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,
“By Allah, he does not believe – the one whose neighbour does not trust him.”
This narration illustrates the huge importance that Islam places on integrity. It is so critical, that faith and the lack of integrity are seen as polar opposites.
It is intriguing to see that thinkers and successful people, among both non-Muslims and Muslims, agree that truthfulness goes beyond practising what one preaches to living by and becoming what one professes.
Examine this description by the closest person to the Prophet (ﷺ), his wife, Ā’isha (radiy Allāhu ‘anha), when she mentioned in the lengthy story about Sa’d ibn Hisham ibn ‘Aamir. When Hisham came to Madinah, he went to Ā’isha (radiy Allāhu ‘anha) and asked her about some matters. He said: “O Mother of the believers, tell me about the character of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).” She said: “Do you not read the Qur’ān?” Hisham said, “Of course.” She said, “The character of the Prophet of Allah was the Qur’ān.” 
The great scholar al-Nawawi said in commentary on the above:
“What this means is that he acted in accordance with it, adhering to its limits, following its etiquette, paying heed to its lessons and parables, pondering its meanings and reciting it properly.
“Allah says: ‘And verily, you (O Muhammad ﷺ) are on an exalted [standard of] character.'” 
David A. Bednar, an American professor of business management, said,
“People of integrity and honesty not only practise what they preach, they are what they preach.”
Clearly, success demands not only that we talk-the- talk, but that we walk-the-walk.
Warren Buffett, the American billionaire investor and author, who is considered one of the most successful investors and wealthiest people in the world (born 1930) is widely quoted for his statement,
“Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.”
This quote is very close to Zig Ziglar’s profound description of the importance of integrity,
“It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.”
Vision and Action Are Two Wings of the Bird That Soars
The person who has integrity will inevitably work hard towards achieving their goals and what they believe in. You need to be a person of action if you want to become successful. Claiming that you have a vision and then sitting idle is quite the opposite of having integrity towards your goal and accountability towards yourself.
JC Penny, Founder of JC Penney Inc. stated,
“Unless you are willing to drench yourself in your work beyond the capacity of the average man, you are just not cut out for positions at the top.”
You may have heard the often-quoted “Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration” or you may have heard about the ‘10,000 hours’ idea. Whichever way you frame it, all these ideas point to the same maxim: true success comes from work. You’ll never become successful if you don’t work towards your goal in life and keep working towards it. This work ethic is inextricably bound to integrity. Ibn al-Qayyim summarises this by saying that “Knowledge and actions are twins and their mother is high aspiration.”
Knowledge and actions need each other. They are connected and work hand-in-hand. For an individual with high aspirations, knowledge and actions coming together are an absolute necessity.
By way of example, imagine a person who wants to become a neurologist. The aspiration to be a neurologist, and knowledge of the correct steps to reach this profession, might be present, but the absence of hard work would make this nothing except wishful thinking. Similarly, and most importantly, this applies to our ākhirah (hereafter). A person who wants a high place in Jannah (paradise) needs knowledge of how to get there and requires commitment in terms of the work needed to get there.
Truthfulness and Trustworthiness, an Islamic Perspective
Again, truthfulness and trustworthiness are two key, interdependent, and interconnected qualities. They are from the most distinctive characteristics of any successful individual, company, society, or country. These qualities would help us all materially and spiritually, independently and collectively. Indeed, integrity is an essential ingredient for humanity’s success.
All of the prophets and messengers, (peace be upon them all) had the best and the highest degree of these qualities as well as all the other qualities of success. It is amazing that Allah listed the story of five key prophets – Nūḥ, Hud, Sālih, Lūt, and Shu’ayb (alayhi al-salām) – in Sūrat al-Shu’arā (The Poets).
Allah inspired each of them to declare to his people:
إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ
(“Indeed, I am to you a trustworthy Messenger.”)
Similarly, prophet Musa (Moses) (ʿalayhi al-salām) was described as al-Amīn by one of the ladies whom he helped to get water from a well. It is most likely his truthfulness that made her recommend Musa (ʿalayhi al-salām) as a worker to her father. Her statement is documented in the Qur’ān:
يَا أَبَتِ اسْتَأْجِرْهُ إِنَّ خَيْرَ مَنِ اسْتَأْجَرْتَ الْقَوِيُّ الْأَمِينُ
“O my father, hire him. Indeed, the best one you can hire is the strong, the trustworthy.” 
Likewise, prophet Yusuf (ʿalayhi al-salām) came forward and proposed that he be assigned the role of treasurer to the ruler. He claimed that he was sufficiently qualified to do that task by saying,
“Appoint me over the storehouses of the land. Indeed, I will be a knowing guardian.”
In other words, he was saying that he was a trustworthy individual who also has the knowledge to carry out this task. As a result, the king appointed him as the treasurer, saying:
إِنَّكَ الْيَوْمَ لَدَيْنَا مَكِينٌ أَمِينٌ
“Verily, this day you are with us, established and trusted.” 
The distinguished characteristic of trustworthiness was likewise evident in the personality of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). Even before the revelation descended upon him, he was already well-known amongst his people for his truthfulness.
He (ﷺ) was so renowned for his trustworthiness that he was referred to by his people as “al-Amīn” (the trustworthy one); a title which is not given to anyone except the one who has reached the utmost level of truthfulness and trustworthiness with the people.
Before the prophethood of Muhammed (ﷺ), the Kābah was being rebuilt. The story of how the most important stone of the Kābah (the Black Stone) was placed in the structure speaks volumes about how much people valued the integrity and truthfulness of the Prophet (ﷺ).
It was reported that when the Quraysh were reconstructing the Kābah, it came to the stage where they needed to put the Black Stone in its place. A serious dispute was brewing over who should have the honour of placing the Black Stone in its place; they came up with the conclusion that they should appoint an arbitrator. They also agreed that the arbitrator should be the first man that appears from the road between the mountains and Allah decreed that Muhammad (ﷺ) would be that man. When they saw him, they started saying “al-Amīn” (the trustworthy one) has come to you.” So they spoke with him (ﷺ) concerning it, and he (ﷺ) placed it into a cloth, then he called their under-tribes, and they took hold of its corners together with him, then he (ﷺ) placed the Black Stone in position.
Reporting one incident would never be enough to describe the magnitude of the truthfulness and integrity of our Prophet (ﷺ). Indeed, great volumes of books on the subject could not possibly do justice to the integrity and trustworthiness of Allah’s messenger (ﷺ).
How to achieve truthfulness and integrity:
We need to consider what has been mentioned at several other points in this series: these qualities are not exclusively independent of each other. In fact, they are heavily interdependent. Therefore, if we want to improve one quality, we should ensure that we work on the others, too.
For example, truthfulness and integrity are closely connected to the quality of courage. For instance, in order to be truthful, you have to be brave enough to stand for your principles despite the inherent challenges this may pose. The mind is required to think of change in order to make the decision to change. Hence, we need thinking, which is the first quality. Then, we need vision as life without vision leaves a person confused and disorganised. Without vision you will be blown around by the winds of tribulation like an aimless leaf; in this situation, you would be insecure and unsure about the actions that you will need to take to achieve success.
Do it once, twice then again and again until you make it a habit
It is a fact that human beings have the capacity to change their traits.
Truthfulness and integrity are habits that can also be adopted or improved dramatically. The very straightforward way of becoming a truthful person was mentioned in the statement of the Prophet (ﷺ):
“Upon you is truthfulness. Indeed, truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise, and a man does not cease being truthful and strives in truthfulness until he is written with Allah as a Siddīq [being plentiful in truthfulness]. And beware of lying. Indeed, lying leads to wickedness, and wickedness leads to the Fire, and a man does not cease telling lies and strives in lying until he is written with Allah as a liar.”
As the hadīth teaches us, a person will tell (or act upon the truth) and strive to be truthful until he has internalised truthfulness and become a truthful, trustworthy, and integrous person. So taking action and being mindful to practise the qualities that we wish to manifest in the world is imperative. Being truthful is no exception to this.
Create a table of the truths you have spoken and acted on and the lies that you have spoken or acted on for a period of time. Look at it, examine it, understand why you did not act upon the truth and try to promise that you won’t repeat these lies and untruths again.
Avoid accompanying untruthful people and replace them with truthful people.
This is a general rule to acquire any habit. The person is influenced directly or indirectly by his companionship.
The following hadīth of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) beautifully demonstrates this point:
“Verily, the parable of good company and bad company is only that of a seller of musk and a blacksmith. The seller of musk will give you some perfume, you will buy some, or you will notice a good smell. As for the blacksmith, he will burn your clothes, or you will notice a bad smell.”
Accountability in this area will require that you acknowledge your intentional or unintentional failures to be truthful.
This requires that you always hold yourself accountable for what you do. Accountability is essential for success. You will never improve if you let things go without accountability. The moment that you accept responsibility for your actions and you recognise that your consequences are largely determined on the basis of your efforts, you will start to progress. Hiding behind an inflated sense of ego and blaming others for your lack of progress won’t help. Equally, a childish reluctance to accept the reality of where you are in life and what you need to do to make the necessary changes will result in real problems.
Being truthful means taking responsibility and that will never be attained if the person does not demonstrate accountability in all that he does. Accountability, whether internal or external, has a great position in Islam. Accountability before our Lord, Allah, on the Day of Judgment, is an essential element of our belief. One of the names of the Day of Resurrection is the Day of Accountability.
In Verse 30 of Chapter 3 of the Qur’ān, Allah describes what will occur on that day:
“On the day when every soul will be confronted with all the good it has done, and all the evil it has done, it will wish there were a great distance between it and its evil. But Allah cautions you (to fear) Him. And Allah is full of kindness to those that serve Him.” 
“And fear a Day when you will be returned to Allah. Then every soul will be compensated for what it earned, and they will not be treated unjustly.” 
It was narrated from Ibn Mas’ud (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) that the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
“The son of Adam will not be dismissed from his Lord on the Day of Resurrection until he is questioned about five issues: (i) his life and how he lived it; (ii) his youth and how he used it; (iii) his wealth and how he earned it; (iv) and [how] he spent it; and (v) how he acted on his knowledge.” 
Islam encourages a person to engage in self-accountability. Allah says,
“O you who believe! Fear Allah, and let every soul consider what it has forwarded for the morrow (the Day of Judgment), and fear Allah. Allah is aware of what you do).” 
There is also a famous report from ‘Umr (radiy Allāhu ‘anhu) that reflects this practice of self-reflection:
“Take stock of yourselves before you are brought to account; weigh yourselves before you are weighed, for that will make the Reckoning easier for you tomorrow, if you take stock of yourselves today and prepare yourselves for the great presentation on the Day when you will be brought to Judgment, and not a secret of yours will be hidden.”
Take heed, my beloved brothers and sisters. And take stock of your truthfulness, integrity, and the sincerity with which you hold yourself accountable. Your success and happiness in this life and the next depends on it.
 Narrated by Muslim (746)
 al-Qur’ān, 68:4
 al-Qur’ān, 28:26
 al-Qur’ān, 12:54
 al-Qur’ān, 3:30
 al-Qur’ān, 2:281
 al-Qur’ān, 59:18