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Taqiyya (تقية alternative spellings taqiyeh, taqiya, taqiyah, tuqyah) is a form of religious dissimulation, or a legal dispensation whereby a believing individual can deny his Islamic faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts while they are at risk of significant persecution. It is based on Qur'anic verses that instruct Muslims not to "take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers... except by way of precaution," and to not utter unbelief "except [while] under compulsion".
This practice is emphasized in Shi'ite Islam whereby adherents may conceal their religion when they are under threat, persecution, or compulsion. Taqiyya, as it is known today, was developed to protect Shi'ites who were usually in the minority and under pressure from the Sunni majority. In the Shi'ite view, taqiyya is lawful in situations where there is overwhelming danger of loss of life or property and where no danger to religion would occur thereby.
The term taqiyya is generally not used among Sunnis. However, it has been discussed in a positive and clear manner by several Sunni scholars such as Ibn Kathir and Al-Suyuti, and the actual concept itself does exist within Sunni jurisprudence (Fiqh). There are also a few historically documented cases of Sunnis practicing taqiyya where it was necessary. For example, in the inquisition miḥna during the Caliphate of al-Ma’mun, a number of Sunni scholars used taqiyya, attesting to the Qur’an as having been created despite believing the opposite.
The word "taqya" in the Quran
There are 10 versions (so called "qira'aat") of the Arabic Quran that are named by their "readers". The most famous are Hafs and Warsh. In the verse 3:28, there is a word that was written in the Uthmani script as تقىة. Most versions (like Hafs and Warsh) read it as تقاة (tuqaat), however one version (by Ya'qub al-Yamani) uses the word taqiya (تقية):
Let not believers take disbelievers as allies rather than believers. And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence (تقية, according to qiraa'a by Ya'qub al-Yamani). And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination.
Misuse of the Word
Critics of Islam are often ridiculed when some of them conflate the doctrine of taqiyya with lying in general. When the subject comes up, most ex-Muslims attest that they had never heard of taqiyyah until they saw people being accused of it on the Internet. Lying in general, as well as in specific situations such as commercial transactions is condemned in various hadith, and the Qur'an condemns various groups for (allegedly) lying about Allah and Muhammad. However, there are some situations in the hadith literature in which Muhammad endorses deception, such as deceiving the opponent in warfare, to facilitate the murder of one of his enemies, when it is better to break an oath than to keep it, or to bring reconciliation between parties (Lying and Deception).
However, in general, when a Muslim seems to be lying about Islam, they are likely either to be simply deluding themselves, or misleading people for much the same reasons as adherents of other religions, who sometimes lie to further or defend their faith, rather than because they have read some particular hadith or Islamic ruling.
- Momen, Moojan, "An Introduction to Shi'i Islam", Yale University Press, pp. 39, 183, ISBN 978-0-300-03531-5, 1985.
- Stewart, Devin, "Islam in Spain after the Reconquista", Teaching Materials, The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University, http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/program/neareast/test/andalusia/2_p8_text.html.
- "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, that ye may Guard yourselves from them..." - Quran 3:28
- "Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith - but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah..." - Quran 16:106
- "Taqiyah". Oxford Dictionary of Islam. John L. Esposito, Ed. Oxford University Press. 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
- "(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. For instance, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Ad-Darda' said, "We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them. Al-Bukhari said that Al-Hasan said, "The Tuqyah is allowed until the Day of Resurrection." - Tafsir Ibn Kathir, The Prohibition of Supporting the Disbelievers
- "Let not the believers take the disbelievers as patrons, rather than, that is, instead of, the believers — for whoever does that, that is, [whoever] takes them as patrons, does not belong to, the religion of, God in anyway — unless you protect yourselves against them, as a safeguard (tuqātan, ‘as a safeguard’, is the verbal noun from taqiyyatan), that is to say, [unless] you fear something, in which case you may show patronage to them through words, but not in your hearts: this was before the hegemony of Islam and [the dispensation] applies to any individual residing in a land with no say in it." - Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Surah 3 Ayah 28), trans. Feras Hamza, 2012 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought
- "All scholars of the Muslim Ummah agree on the fact that at times when one is forced, one can denounce Islam." - Husain bin Masood al-Baghawi, Tafsir Ma'alim at-Tanzeel, published in Bombay, vol. 2, P. 214.
- "It is permissible to swear at Rasulullah when one is under duress and to recite the Kalima of Kufr in the fear of losing property or of getting murdered provided that the heart is at comfort." - Nizam al-Din al-Shashi, Usul al-Shashi, Chapter "Al Dheema", p. 114.
- Virani, Shafique N., "The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation", New York: Oxford University Press, p. 48, ISBN 978-0-19-531173-0, 2009.