Friday, December 2, 2022 - 8 Jumada al-Ula 1444

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Falsifying medical certificates to obtain sick leave

Some employees obtain fake COVID-19 medical certificates to claim sick leave to which they are not entitled. What is the ruling of Islamic law on this?  

Answer

Employees who resort to deception to qualify for sick leave are blameworthy in Islamic law. The reason is that this is not only a misrepresentation of information but also shows ingratitude towards the God-given gift of good health. Gratitude towards the gifts and blessings bestowed by God serve to increase and maintain them while ingratitude only diminishes and precludes them.

The obligation to speak the truth

God Almighty has commanded His servants to speak the truth. He says, "O you have believed, fear God and be with those who are true." This command to speak the truth entails being truthful in both word and deed.

Ibn Mas’ud (may God be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Speak the truth, for truth leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to paradise. A man speaks the truth and persists in telling the truth until he is recorded as truthful in the records of God. And beware of lying for it leads to wickedness and wickedness leads to hellfire. A person tells lies and persists in telling lies until he is recorded as a liar in the records of God." This hadith is both an explicit exhortation to speak the truth at all times and a warning against lying and indulging in lies and falsehoods.

Therefore, presenting true and honest medical test results that accurately represent one's health condition is a form of telling the truth, especially when the rights of others are involved. On the other hand, medical certificates that misrepresent one’s factual health condition do not only entail lying that is prohibited by Islamic law, but is also a form of perjury. A physician commits the sins of both lying and perjury when he forges medical certificates for a patient. So grave are these sins that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Shall I inform you of the greatest of the enormities?" They said, "Yes, O Messenger of God!" He said, "Associating partners with God and undutifulness to one's parents." The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was reclining [as he was saying these words] but then sat up and said, "And I warn you against giving false statements.” The narrator of the hadith then said, “He continued to repeat this warning until we wished he would stop.”

In addition, it is the responsibility of employees to do the work entrusted to them. Accordingly, malingering and presenting false proof of illness is a breach of trust because the relationship between employee and employer (public or private) is classified in Islamic law as a rental agreement. Imam al-Nawawii, the Shafi'i scholar, said that a rental agreement is of two types. The first is renting the use of services of an identified article or individual that is present (ijarat ‘ayn) such as the rental of real property, an animal, or the hire of a person. The second consists of renting anticipated utilities described in advance (ijarat dhimmi) such as renting an animal of a specific description or hiring someone to tailor a garment or build [a structure].

Furthermore, Islamic law emphasizes the moral obligation of fulfilling contracts and keeping promises and pacts. Consequently, both parties — the employer and employee — must meet the terms and provisions of the employment contract. God Almighty says, "O you who have believed, fulfill [all] contracts." Commenting on this verse, Imam al-Qurtubi said that God enjoined the fulfillment of contracts as evidenced by the words of al-Hasan who said that the verse refers to contracts into which one enters and binds oneself. These include buying and selling, renting and hiring, marriage and divorce, sharecropping, settlement, transfer of title, takhyir (giving someone an option), slave emancipation, etc. According to him, contracts to which one binds oneself also include devotional acts such as hajj, fasting, spiritual retreat, the night vigil prayer, vows, etc.

Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Muslims are to fulfill their conditions as long as they are consistent with what is right." In Islamic law, honoring trusts and being mindful of God in both word and deed is a religious duty. God Almighty says, "Indeed, God commands you to render trusts to those to whom they are due," and "And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive." The above verses apply to all trusts. These include commands and prohibitions that are rights owed to God and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). They likewise include rights owed to others such as deposits, collateral and the like or rights related to a duty towards one’s country and society such as military service and the preservation of public property, respect for public order and law, etc. Imam al-Khattabi said, “Abu ‘Ubayd said, ‘… [God] did not designate trusts and deposits to the exclusion of the obligations He commanded His servants to perform; He called all of these ‘trusts’ for He says, “O you that believe! Betray not the trust of God and the Messenger, nor misappropriate knowingly things entrusted to you." Therefore, whosever neglects to perform anything of what has God enjoined or commits anything that God has prohibited is wrongful because he is [ascribed the attribute of] betrayal.”

Based on the above, it is both prohibited in Islamic law and an offence in positive law for employees to make fraudulent COVID-19 claims to qualify for unentitled sick leave due to the lying and corruption it entails. Therefore, whoever has committed any deed of this kind must repent and immediately desist from such transgressions and try to execute their work duties optimally in order to earn a lawful income. Doctors who knowingly and readily issue fake positive COVD-19 medical certificates betray the responsibility entrusted to them for which they took an oath.

And God Almighty knows best.