|What Does Islam Teach About…
Deception, Lying and Taqiyya
Does Islam permit Muslims to lie?
Muslim scholars teach that Muslims should generally be truthful to each other, unless the purpose of lying is to “smooth over differences.”
There are several forms of lying to non-believers that are permitted under certain circumstances, the best known being taqiyya. These circumstances are typically those that advance the cause of Islam – in some cases by gaining the trust of non-believers in order to draw out their vulnerability and defeat them.
Quran (16:106) – Establishes that there are circumstances that can “compel” a Muslim to tell a lie.
Quran (3:28) – This verse tells Muslims not to take those outside the faith as friends, unless it is to “guard themselves” against danger, meaning that there are times when a Muslim should appear friendly to non-Muslims, even though they should not feel that way..
Quran (9:3) – “…Allah and His Messenger are free from liability to the idolaters…” The dissolution of oaths with the pagans who remained at Mecca following its capture. They did nothing wrong, but were evicted anyway. (The next verse refers only to those who have a personal agreement with Muhammad as individuals – see Ibn Kathir (vol 4, p 49)
Quran (40:28) – A man is introduced as a believer, but one who had to “hide his faith” among those who are not believers.
Quran (2:225) – “Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts” The context of this remark is marriage, which explains why Sharia allows spouses to lie to each other for the greater good.
Quran (3:54) – “And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.” The Arabic word used here for scheme (or plot) is makara, which literally means ‘deceit’. If Allah is supremely deceitful toward unbelievers, then there is little basis for denying that Muslims are allowed to do the same. (See also 8:30and 10:21)
Taken collectively these verses are interpreted to mean that there are circumstances when a Muslim may be “compelled” to deceive others for a greater purpose.
Hadith and Sira
Sahih Bukhari (52:269) – “The Prophet said, ‘War is deceit.'” The context of this is thought to be the murder of Usayr ibn Zarim and his thirty unarmed men by Muhammad’s men after he “guaranteed” them safe passage (see Additional Notes below).
Sahih Bukhari (49:857) – “He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar.” Lying is permitted when the end justifies the means.
Sahih Bukhari (84:64-65) – Speaking from a position of power at the time, Ali confirms that lying is permitted in order to deceive an “enemy.”
Sahih Muslim (32:6303) – “…he did not hear that exemption was granted in anything what the people speak as lie but in three cases: in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them).”
Sahih Bukhari (50:369) – Recounts the murder of a poet, Ka’b bin al-Ashraf, at Muhammad’s insistence. The men who volunteered for the assassination used dishonesty to gain Ka’b’s trust, pretending that they had turned against Muhammad. This drew the victim out of his fortress, whereupon he was brutally slaughtered.
From Islamic Law:
Reliance of the Traveler (p. 746 – 8.2) – “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 (N:i.e. when the purpose of lying is to circumvent someone who is preventing one from doing something permissible), and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory… it is religiously precautionary in all cases to employ words that give a misleading impression…
“One should compare the bad consequences entailed by lying to those entailed by telling the truth, and if the consequences of telling the truth are more damaging, one is entitled to lie.”
Muslims are allowed to lie to unbelievers in order to defeat them. There are two forms:
Taqiyya – Saying something that isn’t true as it relates to the Muslim identity.
Kitman – Lying by omission. An example would be when Muslim apologists quote only a fragment of verse 5:32 (that if anyone kills “it shall be as if he had killed all mankind”) while neglecting to mention that the rest of the verse (and the next) mandate murder in undefined cases of “corruption” and “mischief.”
Tawriya – Intentionally creating a false impression.
Muruna – ‘Blending in’ by setting aside some practices of Islam or Sharia in order to advance others.
Though not called Taqiyya by name, Muhammad clearly used deception when he signed a 10-year treaty with the Meccans that allowed him access to their city while he secretly prepared his own forces for a takeover. The unsuspecting residents were conquered in easy fashion after he broke the treaty two years later. Some of the people in the city who had trusted him at his word were executed.
Another example of lying is when Muhammad used deception to trick his personal enemies into letting down their guard and exposing themselves to slaughter by pretending to seek peace. This happened in the case of Ka’b bin al-Ashraf (as previously noted) and again later against Usayr ibn Zarim, a surviving leader of the Banu Nadir tribe, which had been evicted from their home in Medina by the Muslims.
At the time, Usayr ibn Zarim was attempting to gather an armed force against the Muslims from among a tribe allied with the Quraish (against which Muhammad had already declared war). Muhammad’s “emissaries” went to ibn Zarim and persuaded him to leave his safe haven on the pretext of meeting with the prophet of Islam in Medina to discuss peace. Once vulnerable, the leader and his thirty companions were massacred by the Muslims with ease, probably because they were unarmed, having been given a guarantee of safe passage (Ibn Ishaq 981).
Such was the reputation of Muslims for lying and then killing that even those who “accepted Islam” did not feel entirely safe. Consider the fate of the Jadhima. When Muslim “missionaries” approached their tribe, one of the members insisted that they would be slaughtered even though they had already “converted” to Islam to avoid just such a demise. However, the others believed they could trust the Muslim leader’s promise that they would not be harmed if they simply offered no resistance. (After convincing the skeptic to lay down his arms, the unarmed men of the tribe were quickly tied up and beheaded – Ibn Ishaq 834 & 837).
Today’s Muslims often rationalize Muhammad’s murder of poets and others who criticized him at Medina by falsely claiming that they broke a treaty with their actions. Yet, these same apologists place little value on treaties broken by Muslims. From Muhammad to Saddam Hussein, promises made to non-Muslim are distinctly non-binding in the Muslim mindset.
Leaders in the Arab world sometimes say one thing to English-speaking audiences and then say something entirely different to their own people in Arabic. Yassir Arafat was famous for telling Western newspapers about his desire for peace with Israel, then turning right around and whipping Palestinians into a hateful and violent frenzy against Jews.
The 9/11 hijackers practiced deception by going into bars and drinking alcohol, thus throwing off potential suspicion that they were fundamentalists plotting jihad. This effort worked so well that John Walsh, the host of a popular American television show, claimed well after the fact that their bar trips were evidence of ‘hypocrisy.’
The transmission from Flight 93 records the hijackers telling their doomed passengers that there is “a bomb on board” but that everyone will “be safe” as long as “their demands are met.” Obviously none of these things were true, but these men, who were so intensely devoted to Islam that they were willing to “slay and be slain for the cause of Allah” (as the Quran puts it) saw nothing wrong with employing Taqiyya to facilitate their mission of mass murder.
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) insists that it “has not now or ever been involved with the Muslim Brotherhood, or supported any covert, illegal, or terrorist activity or organization.” In fact, it was created by the Muslim Brotherhood and has bankrolled Hamas. At least nine founders or board members of ISNA have been accused by prosecutors of supporting terrorism.
The notorious Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is so well known for shamelessly lying about its ties to terror and extremism that books have been written on the subject.
Prior to engineering several deadly terror plots, such as the Fort Hood massacre and the attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was regularly sought out by NPR, PBS and even government leaders to expound on the peaceful nature of Islam.
In 2013, a scholar the prestigious al-Azhar university decreed that Muslims may wear the cross in order to deceive Christians into thinking they are friendly. He cited 3:28 which says not to be friends with non-Muslims unless it is a way of “guarding” yourself against them.
The Quran says in several places that Allah is the best at deceiving people. An interesting side note is verse 7:99, which says that the only people who feel secure from Allah are those destined for Hell. Taken literally, this could mean that Muslims who arrogantly assume that they will enter heaven are in for a rude surprise (such are the hazards of worshipping an all-powerful deceiver).
The near absence of Quranic verses and reliable Hadith that encourage truthfulness is somewhat surprising, given that many Muslims are convinced that their religion teaches honesty. In fact, many Muslims are honest because of this. But when lying is addressed in the Quran, it is nearly always in reference to the “lies against Allah” – referring to the Jews and Christians who rejected Muhammad’s claim to being a prophet.
Finally, the circumstances by which Muhammad allowed a believer to lie to a non-spouse are limited to those that either advance the cause of Islam or enable a Muslim to avoid harm to his well-being (and presumably that of other Muslims as well). Although this should be kept very much in mind when dealing with matters of global security, such as Iran’s nuclear intentions, it is not grounds for assuming that the Muslim one might personally encounter on the street or in the workplace is any less honest than anyone else.
Taqiyya about Taqiyya (Raymond Ibrahim)
Knowing the Four Forms of Lying
Muruna: Violating Sharia to Fool the West