Muhammad’s (PBUH) dignity, sobriety, integrity and decency was famed amongst the pagans of Mecca so much so that he was given the monikers of Sadiq (The Truthful One) and Ameen (The Trustworthy One). Muhammad (PBUH) said, “The most truthful of you are those with the truest dreams. The dream of a believer is one of forty-six parts of prophecy and whatever is from prophecy cannot be false.”(?a??? al-Bukh?r? 6614, ?a??? Muslim 2263) Pakistanis have a strange fascination with mysticism. It is considered to be some kind of esoteric phenomenon whereby through certain bizarre rituals and practices, one can achieve a higher state of existence–a superhuman existence of sorts. From music to dance to dhikr, various strains of Sufism advocate disparate methodologies to achieve this elevated state. From the whirling dervish in Istanbul to the dhammal at Sehwan, music and dance is the populist Sufi practice. Mysticism or not, research has shown that listening to music soothes the brain, which explains its mass appeal. The less controversial Sufi methodology is the recitation of durood or quranic verses or even the words “Allah-hu,” by thousands. There is no precedence of Sufi practices in the prophetic tradition but the self-righteous take pride in its tediousness. The approach of orthodox Muslims towards spiritual elevation is not much different. No dhammal or whirling or qawali or dhikr can make a person favoured by Allah if he or she is a liar and a deceiver. I have joined a Facebook dawah group, where the posts are geared towards the spiritual growth of Muslims, and not aimed to proselytize. The posts are very telling. This group, in a microcosm, reflects the psyche and the modus operandi of Islamic virtue signalling in general. It is as though all teachings aim at skirting around the fundamentals of the faith. Anything remotely connected to achieving taqwa (piety) is skilfully avoided and the peripheries of religion are glorified. During Rabbi-ul-Awwal, there was much ado about the physical characteristics of the prophet. It was marked by such hyperbole that Muhammad (PBUH) was assigned mythological qualities. The closest these preachy messages get to Islam is when they advocate charity. Other than that, they focus on trivia and avoid any inconvenient truths. The fact is that truthfulness alone exalts a person spiritually, morally, ethically, scientifically and socially. No dhammal or whirling or qawali or dhikr can make a person favoured by Allah if he or she is a liar and a deceiver. Lies are about manipulation. Psychological manipulation is the exercise of undue influence through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, to seize power, control, benefits, and privileges at another’s expense. In our so-called Muslim society, manipulativeness is a prevalent toxic phenomenon. I joined Facebook pet groups to rescue an abandoned indoor pet cat. The seemingly harmless and very humane group jarred me due to the toxic behaviours that were prevalent. Being a pop psychology junkie, I read about manipulation and in the chat groups, all five toxic manipulation techniques were seen in full bloom. Individuals who were posing to be cat rescuers were putting up posts with fake stories of cat abandonment when, in reality, they were dumping their cats. The fake posts were employing “Strategic Helplessness,” to take advantage of the good conscience of true cat lovers. Next came “ Deception and Intrigue.” This is all about blatant lying, excuse-making, deformation of the truth, strategic disclosure or withholding key information, exaggeration or understatement. If one took the bait, came the “Positive Manipulation.” Designed to win commitments. These wolf-in-sheep-clothing-rescuers would promise to deliver a dewormed and spayed cat, which is unlikely to come from someone abandoning a pet. Objecting to spaying and neutering being inhumane and unIslamic results in “Negative Manipulation.” This is usually about parroting off American memes about the subject. Designed to gain superiority by causing the cat lover to feel inferior and out-of-synch with western wisdom, this is meted out very emphatically. Figuring out the game led to “Hostility and Abuse.” As ridiculous as it sounds, bullying and verbal abuse were common. All kinds of evil could be witnessed in these so-called animal care groups. People accusing others of profiteering from fake shelters, where animals are abused, were guilty of the same themselves. Animal lovers are considered to be kind and considerate people. Animal abuse is a trait common in sociopaths. Our Pakistani Muslim brethren were showing how we are as a nation. Toxic behaviours are part of our national character and are considered normal human conduct. Manipulators may think they played everyone, but they pay a heavy price for their lack of integrity. Multiple communication and relationship issues arise from the unwillingness to be forthright and accountable. We, as a nation, feel personal and professional alienation from our countrymen, as we feel cheated, lied to, disappointed, betrayed, coerced, or sabotaged. There is a general lack of trust, reliability, dependability, and authenticity. This leads to lost opportunities. Loss of integrity results in associated insecurity and low self-esteem, knowing deep inside that one is a “fraud.” Dignity is a casualty of such conduct. To cope, there is a triggering of self-absorption and egocentric tendencies, as an ego defence mechanism–often through religious narcissism. There is an inability to engage in truly healthy relationships. With weary and stressful personal and professional dealings, there is widespread physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual distress. At the end of the day, manipulators experience quiet but persistent moral crises and ethical conflicts. They have a difficult time living with themselves. Such people, low on integrity, need to turn to music, dance, poetry and dhikr to feel spiritually elevated. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s words about spiritual blessings being reserved for the most truthful are lost on them, as the very inconvenient truth. To evolve toward a Higher Self, astute self-awareness, dignified actions, conscientious communication and constructive problem-solving is the only way. The writer is an independent researcher, author and columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.