Taqiyya. There are those who claim there is an Islamic concept that it is permissible to lie under certain circumstances and that it extends to almost every circumstance if held to close scrutiny. Others claim it is a fabrication of anti-Muslim bigots used to slander an entire religion.
Is either one true?
First, let us say that Clarion Project in no way claims to give expert opinions in Islamic law. That we rightly leave to the experts (whose ideas you will find below). The reason we feel the need to address this controversial issue is that every time we report about a Muslim denouncing the tenets of political Islam (most recently, in our supportive article about Omar Qudrat, a candidate from California for the U.S. Congress), we are met with a slew of contentions of taqiyya.
What is Taqiyya?
Taqiyya, which literally means “prudence or fear,” is a concept in Islamic law which allows a Muslim to lie in certain circumstances. The classical application of taqiyya is to conceal or deny one’s faith in the face of persecution (loss of life, danger or damage to one’s property).
How Was Taqiyya Practiced Historically?
The concept was historically practiced by Shiite Muslims after their historic and theological split from the Sunnis over the line of succession post-Mohammed. Shiites were in the minority and often found themselves being attacked by Sunnis. Taqiyya also existed from the beginning in Sunni Islam, however in much more restricted circumstances — namely, when a Muslim is under extreme – some would say – mortal danger.
This situation continues to the present time, with Shiites who are subjected to persecution by the majority Sunnis concealing their faith, for example, in Saudi Arabia.
Taqiyya as a Tool of Jihad and Political Islam Today
Political Islam (what is called Islamism) sees as its end goal a united, worldwide caliphate functioning according to sharia law. Many adherents to this totalitarian philosophy take the concept of taqiyya and references to deceit in the Quran and apply it to circumstances – both politically and militarily – that further this goal.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in our present day jihadi terror groups, which are willing to use deceit and almost any other tactic to conquer the “infidels.” Taking verses from the Quran and using extremist imams to “verify” their application, violent Islamists have cornered the market on what they claim is Islamicly-sanctioned deceit.
For an excellent discussion of the historical development of deceit in the context of proactive jihad, from the time of Mohammad to present-day examples – including the use of deceit by former al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, deceased Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat and the leaders of Hamas — see Raymond Ibrahim’s well-sourced article, How Taqiyya Alters Islam’s Rules of War.
While Ibrahim, a scholar of Islam, who has written extensively on the subject of taqiyya, is frequently trotted out by anti-Muslim bigots as support for their opinions, his writings are, in actuality, nuanced, fair and well-sourced.
In a recent interview questioning the validity of the concept of taqiyya made by a young Muslim activist, Ibrahim said:
“[Taqiyya has] become a sort of code word or sort of captured the idea that whenever a Muslim speaks about peace or friendliness or anything, he’s lying.
“The truth is, some are and it is being practiced, but I also think that some Muslims…do interpret it their own way, understand it their own way, are not lying and are not doing that. And it’s sort of a messy situation, because every individual situation could be different.
“Let’s say we can agree on ‘Islam teaches taqiyya.’ How people jumped from that to every single person who is Muslim or just named Mohammed or Ahmed is involved in taqiyya is stupid to me.”
It is very easy for extremists to pick and choose – and interpret to one’s liking – passages of the Quran. Just as passages of the Quran speak to deceit (especially in times of danger and war – not an unusual position historically), the Quran also speaks about the importance of honesty and the reward for the person who is honest.
As in the many contradictory themes within the Quran (as with most holy books), it is the job of Islamic scholars to offer exegesis on these difficult passages – and particularly, how they apply to us in modern times.