Monday, April 4, 2016

Is there such a thing as Islamic deception: a brief examination of the idea and practice of Taqiyyah


A number of organizations and personalities have emerged in the last two decades or so in North America, seeking to safeguard Muslim rights and to portray in the media and wider public a positive image of Islam.These figures and organizations, admittedly self-appointed in some cases, have a variety of interests, contrasting visions and ideologies, but what they all have in common is that they receive a push-back, a response or a series of responses, and among those are that these [Muslims] are simply lying![Ft.1]

Knowing that Islam [as does all religions] look down upon lying, these foes will assert that the Muslim organizations/personalities are engaging in a sort of "Holy Hypocrisy", deceiving their audiences into thinking Islam/Muslims are not a threat, and it is they who assert that Muslims are doing Taqiyyah.

Thus, one finds on the Internet statements such as this .

What is Taqiyyah

Taqiyyah  [ تقیة] comes from the root Waqaya, to save, guard or protect. Muslims will recognize that from this root we get the word Taqwaaa, which refers to one's awareness and regards to God and Godly matters.

The phrase Taqiyyah is not present in the Qur'an, and the term itself is largely unknown to the average Muslim anywhere in the world.

The concept is associated with only four verses in the entire Qur'an [Q 40:28, 28:40, 3:28 and 16:106]. A cursory look at these texts is sufficient to show that a logical response is given to a rather deadly situation. A person can-if he or she is in fear of death at the hands of belligerent foes, verbally recant the religion.

"Those who reject God [verbally] after having [accepted ] his faith, except those who are compelled {Ft.#2}[against their will], while his heart is [truly] contented with faith..." [Q 16:106] 

The Deen is not a toy, it is not to be treated flippantly. Those who treat God's guidance in such a manner open themselves up to a Divine response. This, the verse ends:

"....However, whosoever opens their chest to rejection [BilKufri], on them is anger from God, for them is a great penalty." [Q 16:106]

The Commentators are in general agreement that this verse's immediate reference is to 'Ammar ibn Yaasir, an early convert to Islam. He and his parents were captured and tortured, asked repeatedly to renounce Islam and it's Prophet. They refused, and they were murdered, in front of the eyes of 'Ammar. In order to save his life, he did verbally renounce Islam{Ft.#3}. He was freed, and afterwards came to the Prophet Muhammad himself [upon whom be peace and blessings]. 'Ammar was obviously disturbed by all this, and the Prophet reassured him, as does the revelation of this Quranic text!

This should be sufficient to show that Taqiyyah has no relation to lying for political gain in any way, shape, fashion or form. 

Has Taqiyyah been practiced by Muslims after the Prophet's time?

The Muslim civilization, like any other, has had its periods of upheavals and  strife, competing interests and internal struggles. This writer has no doubt that these things happened with both average people and elites alike. It can easily be argued that regardless of religion, peoples in the middle ages would have to- in order to save their lives- do things like that. 

In terms of something religiously mandated, it is said that Ja'far As Saadiq,[702-765]  the sixth Shi'ah Imam, after whom the Twelver sect is officially named  [Ja'fariyyah], made it an important aspect of religious practice. He was a threat to the Abbasid monopoly on power, they were persecuting him and his followers. In order to safeguard themselves, they would have to conceal their faith. Practically, this meant, for example,  praying as Sunnis in Sunni fashion [as opposed to the distinctive Shi'ah format]. This practice of resorting to Taqiyyah is found in all the Shiite sects. 

Due to its acceptance in the Shi'ah world, an unfortunate side affect has been that they have given Sunni polemicists a stick to beat them with. Thus, Shiites' insistence that they believe in the same Qur'an as Sunnis do, and that they don't attribute divinity to 'Ali is simply dismissed as Taqiyyah. Indeed, in the political realm the Iranians are thought  of as  engaging in Taqiyyah when they say that they are not after nuclear weapons and that they don't desire to capture Makkah and Madinah from the control of Saudi Arabian authorities. 

Taqiyyah today

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003  led to civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites. Both formed what would be termed "death squads", searching out members of the opposite sect. Consequently, Sunnis in Shiah areas, often victims of executions and kidnap for ransom schemes, would change their names when they had an obvious Sunni name ['Umar or Abu Bakr, for example] and try to learn all the names of the Shiah Imams and the Shi'ah prayer format in case of capture. Shiites did the same thing, and undoubtedly do the same today in areas under ISIS control in both Iraq and Syria. 

In Pakistan yearly sectarian-inspired killing sprees have led both Ja'fari and Isma'ili Shiites to occasionally resort to Taqiyyah

Do Muslims deceive people about their religious teachings?

The idea that Muslim activists hide the truth about their religion [and, implicitly, their own intentions] is laughable when we consider that we live in an age of information and technology, where information on Islam [or any religion for that matter] is readily available at our fingertips.

Moreover, Taqiyyah is,  as we have seen, largely a Shiite practice done in order to avoid persecution at the hands of Sunni Muslims. North American Muslim activists are mostly Sunni, many of whom have no formal religious training or backround, and have themselves never even heard of Taqiyyah. How can they be engaging in something they have never heard of?


The charge of Taqiyyah, leveled by politicians and media pundits alike, is simply a pathetic response to a Muslim or Islamic organization doing their jobs well. It is also a dangerous call, designed to generate mistrust, xenophobia and political violence. 

Quranic teachings regarding lying and cheating

"Condemned are those who engage in fraud, those who, when they receive full measure, expect to get it, yet when they have to give [correct] measure, give less [i.e. cheating their customers].." { Q 83:1-3]

"O believers, be those standing, consistently, for God as witnesses for what is right. Do not allow the hatred of others make you act in a criminal fashion. BE JUST, as that is the closest to [expressing] Taqwaaa. Have Taqwaaa of Allah, indeed, Allah is aware of your actions." { Q 5:8}

"O believers, be those standing, consistently for justice, as witnesses for God, even if against your own selves, parents or close family. If they are wealthy or poor, God is nearest to them both. So do not follow inclinations, lest you deviate. If you do distort or turn away [from what is right], then [know that] Indeed, God is aware of your actions." [Q 4:135]


[1] One example is in Dr Zuhdi Jasser, a self described secular Muslim. He heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy [AIFD]. Despite his right-wing political leanings and odd religious views and the fact that he is widely dismissed by the North American Muslim community as an opportunist looking for fame and fortune, he too, because of his Muslim backround [a Syrian American] is attacked as a sort of Trojan Horse soldier, engaging in Taqiyyah, by his detractors. 

[2] Ukriha is a passive verb. The structure clearly indicates that a person compelled, for fear of losing life, is allowed to verbally renounce Islam or proclaim words of Kufr. We have translated Ukriha here as "compelled".

[3] Imam Muhammad Ash-Shawkanee [ 1759-1839], author of the famous Quranic exegesis Fath ul Qadeer, explains this as "renouncing both in speech and action...such as prostrating to other than God." [ Shawkanee, Imam. Fat-h Al Qadeer, Kuwait, wazarat al awqaaf, Kuwait, 1988 edition, page 370]


Janelle-Chanda Williams said...

This is great! So much truth and information. Thank you for posting.

Janelle-Chanda Williams said...

This is great! So much truth and information. Thank you for posting.