The Arabic word Taqiyya means “deceit” or “dissimulation.” Unlike the Christian or Jewish religions, Islam not only permits its believers to lie but actually commands it in some circumstances. For the most part, Muslims are not supposed to lie to one another; but, exceptions are made for smoothing over differences between friends (“He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar,” Bukhari vol. 3:857 p.533.), lying to one’s wife, and lying in warfare. (Recall: Muhammad himself said, ‘War is deceit,” Bukhari vol. 4:267 and 269)
Lying to non-Muslims, though, is another matter. In fact, Islam permits Muslims to lie anytime they perceive that their own well-being, or that of Islam, is threatened. Taking it a step further, if there is an objective to be achieved that is desirable in Islam, then it is permissible for Muslims to lie in order to achieve that objective. The book of Islamic law, Reliance of the Traveller (or the ‘Umdat al-Salik), states on pg. 746:
“Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible…”
This principle of lying in order to advance the cause of Islam results in serious consequences when it comes to the issue of Muslims seeking to spread Islam around the world and especially in places like the United States (U.S.) and the West, where the majority of people are not Muslim. Shariah-compliant Muslims routinely use deceptive “wolf in sheep’s clothing” type tactics to polish Islam’s image while at the same time avoiding, obscuring, or omitting any of the negative aspects of Islamic doctrine, history, law, and scriptures. This is often done with prospective converts as well as with audiences Muslims hope will be gullible, like academics, government officials, members of the media, and the public at large.
For example, Muslims often will cite verses from the (chronologically) earlier portions of the Qur’an (which generally were moderate, peaceful, and tolerant), while neglecting to mention that this was the period in Muhammad’s life when he and his tiny band of followers lived in Mecca, where they were ridiculed, powerless, and mostly unaccepted. Yet, even as they cite such passages, they are fully aware that most of these early verses were abrogated (cancelled and replaced) by later passages of the Qur’an that Muhammad produced after the hijra (migration) to Medina. The replacement verses, from a time when Muslims grew powerful, reflect harsh intolerance for non-Muslims and command violence to subjugate infidels (unbelievers) to Islamic law (shariah).
Shariah Muslims do not always express their hostility to unbelievers openly, though. This is where taqiyya comes in. Based on verses from the Qur’an and hadiths (sayings of Muhammad), Muslims can pretend to befriend infidels (in violation of the teachings of Islam) and even display adherence with their unbelief, if this will advance the cause of Islam and protect the believer from harm. Here is one of those verses from the Qur’an:
“Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution (prevention), that ye may Guard yourselves from them (prevent them from harming you.) But Allah cautions you (To remember) Himself; for the final goal is to Allah.” (Q 3:28)
Ibn Kathir was an Islamic scholar who wrote one of the most authoritative commentaries (or Tafsirs) on the Qur’an. This is what he said about this particular Qur’anic verse regarding Muslims pretending to befriend infidels:
“Unless you indeed fear a danger from them’ meaning, except those believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers. In this case, such believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly.…‘We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, vol. 2, 141)
So, according to this Islamic principle, if under pressure or threatened with force, not only may Muslims deceive non-believers, it is even legitimate for Muslims to behave in ways normally completely contrary to their faith. For instance, given such circumstances, a Muslim may drink alcohol, skip prayers and fasting during Ramadan, renounce belief in Allah and even pretend homage to a deity other than Allah, and utter insincere oaths. It is important to understand the concept of taqiyya so as not to be taken in by such tactics.
Clare M. Lopez, a senior fellow at the Clarion Fund, is a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on Middle East, national defense, and counterterrorism issues.