Can an Imam hide evidence?
Mu' meneen Brothers and Sisters,
As Salaam Aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. (May Allah's Peace, Mercy and Blessings be upon all of you)
One of our brothers/sisters has asked this question:
Brother, let me commend you on the wonderful work you are doing in the Path of Allah. I have a question for you: Is there such a thing as a Priest-penitent confidentiality in Islam. There is a court case going on (civil matter) where (to my knowledge) one of the persons is lying. This person (who is lying) has talked to an Imam and told the Imam the truth. I have talked to the Imam and asked him to ,at least, write an affidavit for the court telling them about the lie. The Imam has admitted that he knows that this person is lying in court but he says that he is bound by a relationship of confidentiality. I am confused, since only Catholics have to confess to their priests and therefore need to be protected. From my perspective, in Islam, if you know the truth and if the truth can prevent an injustice, you should speak up, even if you are an Imam.
I should also mention that the Imam was not asked to keep this matter a secret by the person who is lying in court now.
Please, brother, if you can answer this in the light of Quran and Sunnah.
(There may be some grammatical and spelling errors in the above statement. The forum does not change anything from questions, comments and statements received from our readers for circulation in confidentiality.)
Can an Imam hide evidence?
In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad(saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 2 Surah Baqarah verse 283 (part): Conceal not evidence; for whoever conceals it, his heart is tainted with sin. And Allah knoweth all that ye do.
Allah Says in the Holy Quran Chapter 4 Surah Nisaa verse 135: O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to Allah, even (if it be) against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts) lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
It all depends on what is the exact nature of the case of this civil matter. If the case is such where by keeping silent, the person lying in court usurps the right of another, or gains something which does not rightfully belong to him; then it would not be right for the Imam to conceal the evidence.
If the Imam or any believer has knowledge that by keeping silent, the person lying in court will usurp the right of another person, then it would not be right for the believer to conceal the Truth as evidence. It does not matter in the least whether the person whose right is being usurped is a believer or a non-believer, the believers are bound by duty to give true evidence, and stand on the side of Truth and Justice.
Or if the Imam or any believer has knowledge and evidence that the person lying in court stands to gain something which does not rightfully belong to him, it would not be right for the believer to conceal the evidence.
But if the matter of the civil case is something where no other persons rights are being usurped or compromised, for example: if the person charged in court will be punished for a sin he committed against himself (speeding, drinking alcohol, trying to commit suicide, using drugs, etc.), then there is no sin on the Imam if he does not give his evidence in the hope that the person will seek repentance from Allah Subhanah for the evil he did against himself in ignorance, and amend his conduct in the future.
It all depends on the exact nature of the civil case. If someones rights are being compromised, then it would be a sin for the Imam to withhold his evidence. If no ones rights are being compromised, and the Imam withholds giving his evidence in the hope that the person charged may escape the humiliation and punishment in this world, and the person may be given a chance to seek repentance from the Merciful Lord for his deeds and thereby amend his conduct, then there will be no sin upon the Imam.
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your Brother in Islam,