When Sarah came in after playing outdoors one evening, her mother asked her to settle down to do her homework. Now that she was in third grade, Miss Aliya, her teacher, had wanted the class to practice writing a short story in cursive. But what could she write with? Once again her pencil was missing!
“Mom can you give me a new pencil, please?” asked Sarah.
“Why? Where is the brand new pencil I gave you just two days ago?” asked Sarah’s mother.
“It got lost.” said Sarah, shrugging her shoulders.
“Sarah! You don’t take care of your things at all! How did your pencil get lost?”
Sarah thought for a minute and then said, “You know Mom, Shehla sits next to me in class. She always takes my things. She must have stolen my pencil.
“How did you find out that she stole it?” Mother asked. “Did you see her steal your pencil?”
“No, Mom. But you know the eraser I lost the day before yesterday? I saw her using it!”
“Oh dear! Didn’t you ask her about it?”
“How could I ask her? When she gets angry she bothers everyone so much that we keep away from her!” said Sarah.
“This is really sad.’’ said her mother, “Here, take this new pencil but next time, look after your things.”
The next day when Sarah’s mother went to pick her up from school, she saw Sarah’s teacher, Miss Aliya pass by. “Assalam u Alaikum, Miss Aliya. How are you? You are just the person I was looking for!”
“Walaikum us Salam. I am fine, thank you. Is everything alright?” asked Miss Aliya.
“Actually I wanted to speak to you about Sarah. These days she seems to be losing something or the other at school. Yesterday, when she sat down to do her homework, she didn’t have her pencil. When I asked her about it, she said that there is a girl called Shehla who sits next to her has been taking her things.”
Miss Aliya looked puzzled. “Really? I’m very surprised. Shehla is one of the best students in the class and she is a very well behaved child. Well, let me call Sarah and Shehla and let’s ask them.”
When Miss Aliya called the girls they both came running immediately.
“Shehla, did you take Sarah’s pencil yesterday?” she asked.
Shehla looked surprised. “No Miss Aliya, why would I take Sarah’s pencil when I have my own? In fact, I let Sarah use my spare pencil.”
“And what about my eraser that got lost and turned up in your bag?” said Sarah.
“Sarah! How could you say that?” said Shehla. ”You know that eraser was what my mother gave me when I scored the highest on the math quiz. It did look like your eraser but you knew that I had one just like yours.” Said Shehla.
Miss Aliya looked at Sarah and said. “Now Sarah, how can you say that Shehla has been taking your things?”
“Who else will take my things? She is the one who sits next to me,” said Sarah.
“Just because you lose something doesn’t mean that the person next to you took it,” said Miss Aliya. “I have often told you to pick up your things when I see them all over your desk and the floor. Did you try looking for your things in the lost and found box in the class?”
Sarah was about to say something, but her mother stopped her.
“I am so sorry Shehla to have bothered you with something that was not your fault,” apologized Sarah’s mother.
“No, no. It’s alright.” Said Shehla, smiling.
“Come on Sarah, let’s go. Don’t worry Miss Aliya I will certainly talk to Sarah about this!” said Sarah’s mother, looking at Sarah, who now felt ashamed.
As Sarah and her mother walked towards their car, Sarah’s mother asked, “Sarah, why did you say something to me that was not true?”
“Mom! If I hadn’t you would have been angry with me. “
“If I had, it would have been for a little while. At least Allah would not have been angry with you. If you own up when you are wrong, and you are sorry for doing what you did, you might not get scolded! On the other hand, Rasul Allah (saw) has said that when someone lies, the angel goes miles away from that person because of the bad smell that comes from a liar’s mouth.”
“Mom that’s when you tell lies about something that’s really big! I just said it like that,” said Sarah.
Her mother replied, “Sarah, when you say things just like that, even then it is a lie. Big or small, a lie is a lie. Always tell the truth; otherwise when you tell a lie you have to tell another and another just to cover up the first one. Look at what happened today. Just because of a pencil you called a sweet girl like Shehla, a thief.”
When Sarah heard this, she burst out crying.
“Now why are you crying?” asked her mother.
“I’m crying because Allah is angry with me. The angel moved so far away from me, and you and Miss Aliya scolded me. Everyone will think I am a liar. What should I do?” sobbed Sarah.
“Actually, you can do something.” Sarah’s mother said gently. “You can ask Shehla to forgive you, and really, truly ask Allah to forgive you. Promise never to lie, and keep your word. Then no one will be angry and everyone will think of you as a truthful girl.”
“My mouth won’t smell bad anymore, will it?” Asked Sarah.
“No. Not if you remember not to lie”, said her mother.
“Will the angel return?” asked Sarah.
Sarah’s mother smiled and said, “InshaAllah, why not?”