- Taqiyyah is the practice of misleading a person on purpose. Often critics of Islam accuse Muslims of using “taqiyyah” to deceive and manipulate public opinion, some Muslims deny the practice of Taqyyiah exists. Lets shed some light on the issue.
What is Taqiyyah?
Taqiyyah is derived from the Arabic word waqa (“to shield oneself”), taqiyyah defies easy translation. English renderings such as “precautionary dissimulation” or “prudent fear” partly convey the term’s meaning of self-protection in the face of danger to oneself or, by extension and depending upon the circumstances, to one’s fellow Muslims.
Essentially it means to take an action to protect oneself, community or property from serious threat.
What are its Origins?
In the early days of the Prophet’s (SAW) mission there was much opposition to his message. This lead to several deaths, namely Sumayyah bint Khabbat, the first martyr of Islam. Her son, Ammar Ibn Yasir also faced serious threat, and in the end told his oppressors what they wanted to hear in order to save his life. A verse in the Quran was revealed regarding this issue :
16|106|Whoever renounces faith in God after having believed—except for someone who is compelled, while his heart rests securely in faith—but whoever willingly opens up his heart to disbelief—upon them falls wrath from God, and for them is a tremendous torment.
H 2244, CH 93, h 15
Ali has narrated from his father from ibn abu ‘Umayr from Jamil from Muhammad ibn Marwan who has said the following: “Once abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, said to me, ‘What was it that prevented Maytham (may Allah grant him blessings) from al-Taqiyyah?’ He by Allah knew that this verse of the Holy Quran was revealed about ‘Ammar and his people, ‘. . . unless he is forced, but his heart is confident with belief. . . .’” (16:106)
H 2239, CH 93, h 10
Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from Harun ibn Muslim from Mas’adah ibn Sadaqa who has said the following: “It was said to abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, ‘People narrate that Ali, recipient of divine supreme covenant, once said from the pulpit in al-Kufah, “O people, one day you will be told to abuse me. You then will do so, then you will be told to denounce me but you will not denounce me.” The Imam said, ‘How often has this falsehood (lie) been told about Ali, recipient of divine supreme covenant.’ The Imam then said, ‘What he said was: ‘One day you will be told to abuse me, you must do so then you will be told to denounce me, and I follow the religion of Muhammad, recipient of divine supreme covenant. He did not say do not denounce me.’ The person asking the question then asked, ‘Do you say he must have chosen being murdered instead of denouncing?’ The Imam said, ‘By Allah, there was no such thing necessary for him to do. There was nothing for him but that which happened to ‘Ammar ibn Yasir when people of Makkah forced him and his heart was confident with belief. Then Allah, the Most Majestic, the Most Holy, revealed His words about it, ‘. . . except those who are forced but their heart is confident with belief,’ (16:106) to which
the Holy Prophet said, ‘O ‘Ammar, if they would do such things again you also may do as you have already done; Allah, the Most Majestic, the Most Holy, has revealed His words about your good excuse and has commanded you to do again what you did before if they ever repeated their misdeed.’”
28لَّا يَتَّخِذِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِن دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۖ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَٰلِكَ فَلَيْسَ مِنَ اللَّهِ فِي شَيْءٍ إِلَّا أَن تَتَّقُوا مِنْهُمْ تُقَاةً ۗ وَيُحَذِّرُكُمُ اللَّهُ نَفْسَهُ ۗ وَإِلَى اللَّهِ الْمَصِيرُ3|28|Believers are not to take disbelievers as an Authority/Ruler instead of believers. Whoever does that has nothing to do with God, unless it is to protect your own selves against them. God warns you to beware of Him. To God is the destiny.
The two words tattaqū (“you fear”) and tuqāt “in fear” are derived from the same root as taqiya.
40|28|A believing man from Pharaoh’s family, who had concealed his faith, said, “Are you going to kill a man for saying, `My Lord is God,’ and he has brought you clear proofs from your Lord? If he is a liar, his lying will rebound upon him; but if he is truthful, then some of what he promises you will befall you. God does not guide the extravagant imposter.
Is it part of Islam?
A hypocrite in Islam is one who pretends to be good on the outside, but has bad belief or no belief on the inside. It is well known that the hypocrite is seriously condemned in Islam.
One who practices taqiyyah is the exact opposite of this, they pretend to be bad on the outside, but actually they are good in their heart. We know from many verses in the Quran that it is what is in your heart and intentions that matter, ones speech or actions can easily be distorted or put on.
49|14|The Desert-Arabs say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not believed; but say, ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered into your hearts. But if you obey God and His Messenger, He will not diminish any of your deeds. God is Forgiving and Merciful.”
Do Muslims use it?
We have already heard about Ammar Ibn Yasir, the famous companion, his story has been narrated in quite detail, here is a sample :
“The non-believers once caught Ammar-bin-Yaser (ra) and they forced him to praise their false gods and to condemn Prophet Muhammad (s). They forced him to an extent that Ammar bin Yasir (ra) gave in, and conceded to their demands. After that, when he returned to the Prophet Muhammed (s), Ammar (ra) narrated the whole story to him (s). Prophet Muhammad (S) asked him: “How do you feel in your heart?” To which Ammar (A.S) replied: “I am fully content with Allah’s religion in my heart”. To this Prophet Mohammed (S) said: “If non-believers ask you to say the same again, say it”. Then the following ayah was revealed:
‘Anyone who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters disbelief (save under compulsion and even then his heart remains firm in faith) on them is Wrath from Allah and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty’”
Tafseer Dur al Manthur Volume 4 page 132, Cairo edition
Every Muslim has the option when faced with serious threat to act in a way to minimise that threat. It is not a blank cheque for deceiving for personal gain or spreading the religion.
16|92|And do not be like her who unravels her yarn, breaking it into pieces, after she has spun it strongly. Nor use your oaths as means of deception among you, because one community is more prosperous than another. God is testing you thereby. On the Day of Resurrection, He will make clear to you everything you had disputed about.
4|107|And do not argue on behalf of those who deceive themselves. God does not love the deceitful sinner.
What is the rational argument for its existence?
Clearly, when faced with any decision, the best decision is the one that has the best outcome. Lying or deceiving an oppressor in order to preserve life is better than dying, or causing innocents to be oppressed. So when faced with a situation where telling the truth leads to harm, there is reason to lie. In fact the only reason people tell the truth is for moral reasons.
What is the moral viewpoint on deception?
Morality is the guide to what is just, or “right”. Morality is hierarchical, this is detailed in this article. This means that every moral decision is contextual, so its not true to say its always right to tell the truth or its always right to be charitable. It would not be morally correct to tell an oppressor how to hurt people when asked, or to be charitable to a terrorist.
Lying or deceiving is morally wrong, however there are acts that are morally less appealing. Such as killing an innocent person. Therefore every action should be based on trying to implement the most important moral principles. If there is a conflict between moral positions, the more important will rightfully override the less important.