Reflection No. 299 on Q 2:42 – Distinguishing Truth from Falsehood
Walā talbisul-haqqa bil-bātil
And do not cover truth with falsehood
(Sūratul Baqarah, No.2, Āyat 42)
One of the distinctions of the human being is his intellect that allows him to recognize the truth. There are people who try to make that recognition difficult for him. The word talbisū in this verse refers to those who cover up the truth with falsehood and present it in the guise of truth. This can be done through the use of rhetoric, skepticism, lying, deception, etc. Motives may range from personal greed and selfishness to just the desire to impose one’s base views on others. The fact remains that cunning manipulation of the truth can deceive many. When the human being fails to analyze and reason for himself he can fall prey to such tactics.
Imam Ali (a) says: If falsehood had been pure and unmixed it would not be hidden from those who are in search of it. And if truth had been pure without admixture of wrong those who bear hatred towards it would have been silenced. What is, however, done is that something is taken from here and something from there and the two are mixed (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 50).
Not distinguishing falsehood from truth is very dangerous to the perfection seeking soul of the human being. It is easy to be misled and end up on the wrong path, thinking that it is the correct way. From the enemies of the Ahlul Bayt in history to modern politicians of today’s world, all claim to be doing the right thing. The layers of falsehood that have been flung over the truth must be removed to really know who is speaking the truth.
The following criteria are helpful in distinguishing truth from falsehood:
1) Truth is in line with the inner fitrah or natural instinct of the human being. When pure and untainted it is able to see the truth clearly. Falsehood appeals to those who have lost their natural tendencies, have become hard hearted and veiled from the truth.
2) Truth is always useful and beneficial. It gives life and spirit to everything it comes into contact with. Falsehood on the other hand, is useless and superfluous. In Sūratul Ra‘d, Āyat 17, Allah compares flowing water and the foam on it to truth and falsehood. Flowing water is a source of life but the foam on top of the water has no benefit for the human being.
3) Falsehood makes a lot of noise and seeks attention. It is outwardly large and shining, but hollow inside.
4) Truth is strong and always depends on itself. It is often used as a support. Imam Ali (a) says: Truth is the strongest support. Falsehood depends on others to exist. It tries to disguise itself in the dress of truth and use it to support itself.
Keeping God consciousness alive and strong inside of you gives you the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Almighty Allah says: O you who believe be God conscious, He will give you a standard to discern truth from falsehood (Q 8:29).
Recognize truth and do not be fooled by those who layer up truth with falsehood. This practice is rampant in our world today and most people are vulnerable to it. Recite this verse to remind you that there are people who intentionally want to pull the wool over other people’s eyes. We must not be their victims.
Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali bin Abu Talib (a), Nahjul Balāgha;
Āgha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr-e Nūr;