By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org
Taqiyya is an Islamic doctrine that allows Muslims to lie to non-Muslims and the Prophet said “War is deceit.” So can we trust what any Muslim says?
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
According to Lane’s Lexicon, Taqiyya comes from the root word meaning “to be cautious, to guard.” When a Muslim’s life is being threatened, it is permissible to deny Allah and His Messenger if that will save his life. Such permission was necessary at the time when Muslims were being persecuted and killed simply for being Muslim.
مَن كَفَرَ بِاللَّهِ مِن بَعْدِ إِيمَانِهِ إِلَّا مَنْ أُكْرِهَ وَقَلْبُهُ مُطْمَئِنٌّ بِالْإِيمَانِ وَلَٰكِن مَّن شَرَحَ بِالْكُفْرِ صَدْرًا فَعَلَيْهِمْ غَضَبٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
Whoever disbelieves in Allah after his belief – except for one who is forced to renounce his religion while his heart is secure in faith – but those who willingly open their hearts to unbelief, upon them is wrath from Allah and for them is a great punishment.
Surah An-Nahl 16:106
Ibn Kathir comments on this verse:
فَهُوَ اسْتِثْنَاءٌ مِمَّنْ كَفَرَ بِلِسَانِهِ وَوَافَقَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ بِلَفْظِهِ مُكْرَهًا لِمَا نَالَهُ مِنْ ضَرْبٍ وَأَذًى وَقَلْبُهُ يَأْبَى مَا يَقُولُ وَهُوَ مُطَمْئِنٌ بِالْإِيمَانِ بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ
This is an exception in the case of one who utters statements of unbelief and verbally agrees with the idolaters because he is forced to do so by their beatings and abuse to which he is subjected, but his heart refuses to accept what he is saying, while he is in reality at peace with his faith in Allah and His Messenger.
Source: Tafseer Ibn Kathir 16:106
Therefore, it is only in these specific circumstances in which a Muslim faces bodily harm that he or she is allowed to lie. The general rule is that a Muslim should always speak the truth.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ ۚ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا ۖ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا ۚ وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not your desires, lest you not be just, and if you distort your testimony or refuse to give it, then verily, Allah is aware of what you do.
Surah An-Nisa 4:135
And Allah said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا
O you who believe, fear Allah and speak words of appropriate justice.
Surah Al-Ahzab 33:70
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
إِنَّ الصِّدْقَ يَهْدِي إِلَى الْبِرِّ وَإِنَّ الْبِرَّ يَهْدِي إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَصْدُقُ حَتَّى يُكْتَبَ صِدِّيقًا وَإِنَّ الْكَذِبَ يَهْدِي إِلَى الْفُجُورِ وَإِنَّ الْفُجُورَ يَهْدِي إِلَى النَّارِ وَإِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيَكْذِبُ حَتَّى يُكْتَبَ كَذَّابًا
Verily, truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise; a man may speak the truth until he is recorded with Allah as truthful. Verily, lying leads to wickedness and wickedness leads to the Hellfire; a man may tell lies until he is recorded with Allah as a liar.
Source: Sahih Muslim 2607, Grade: Sahih
مَا كَانَ خُلُقٌ أَبْغَضَ إِلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مِنْ الْكَذِبِ وَلَقَدْ كَانَ الرَّجُلُ يُحَدِّثُ عِنْدَ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِالْكِذْبَةِ فَمَا يَزَالُ فِي نَفْسِهِ حَتَّى يَعْلَمَ أَنَّهُ قَدْ أَحْدَثَ مِنْهَا تَوْبَةً
There was no behavior more hateful to the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, than lying. A man would lie when narrating something in the presence of the Prophet and he would not be satisfied until he knew that he had repented.
Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 1973, Grade: Hasan
As for the Prophet’s statement, “War is deceit,” he said this in the context of a battle in which he intended to misdirect enemy troops.
Abdur Rahman ibn Ka’b reported:
كَانَ إِذَا أَرَادَ غَزْوَةً وَرَّى غَيْرَهَا وَكَانَ يَقُولُ الْحَرْبُ خَدْعَةٌ
When the Prophet intended to go on an expedition, he would pretend to go somewhere else and he would say, “War is deception.”
Source: Sunan Abu Dawud 2637, Grade: Sahih
This is not lying to advance an Islamic cause, rather it is employing classical military tactics used by armies for centuries. Dr. Joseph Caddell, professor of military history at North Carolina State University, acknowledges that warfare has always involved tactics of deception. He writes:
Deception in warfare is probably as old as armed conflict itself. The logic of confusing an adversary is obvious, and the rewards can be realized very quickly.
However, this is only during a declared state of war. In contrast, it is a major sin for a Muslim to act treacherously or deceptively regarding covenants, treaties, and agreements.
Ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
إِذَا جَمَعَ اللَّهُ الأَوَّلِينَ وَالآخِرِينَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يُرْفَعُ لِكُلِّ غَادِرٍ لِوَاءٌ فَقِيلَ هَذِهِ غَدْرَةُ فُلاَنِ بْنِ فُلاَنٍ
When Allah gathers together the earlier and later generations on the Day of Resurrection, He will raise a banner for every treacherous person and it will be announced that this is the treachery of so-and-so the son of so-and-so.
Source: Sahih Muslim 1735, Grade: Sahih
This applies to non-Muslims, as the Prophet informed us that he would testify on the Day of Judgment on behalf of any peaceful non-Muslim against any Muslim who oppressed them.
Sufwan ibn Saleem reported: A number of the companions said the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
أَلَا مَنْ ظَلَمَ مُعَاهِدًا أَوْ انْتَقَصَهُ أَوْ كَلَّفَهُ فَوْقَ طَاقَتِهِ أَوْ أَخَذَ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا بِغَيْرِ طِيبِ نَفْسٍ فَأَنَا حَجِيجُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ
If anyone wrongs a person protected by a covenant, violates his rights, burdens him with more work than he is able to do, or takes something from him without his consent, then I will plead for him on the Day of Resurrection.
Source: Sunan Abu Dawud 3052, Grade: Sahih
This even applies when treachery would result in a military advantage for the Muslims, and the companions of the Prophet strictly followed this practice.
Sulaym ibn Amir reported: There was a peace treaty between Muawiyah and the Byzantines. He was marching towards their country and when the covenant came to an end, he would attack them. A man came on a horse, saying, “Allah is Most Great! Allah is Most Great! Let there be faithfulness and not treachery!” When they looked they found that he was Amr ibn Abasah. Muawiyah sent for him and questioned him about that. He said: I heard the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, say:
مَنْ كَانَ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ قَوْمٍ عَهْدٌ فَلَا يَحُلَّنَّ عَهْدًا وَلَا يَشُدَّنَّهُ حَتَّى يَمْضِيَ أَمَدُهُ أَوْ يَنْبِذَ إِلَيْهِمْ عَلَى سَوَاءٍ
When one has a covenant with people he must not strengthen or loosen it until its term comes to an end or he brings it to an end in agreement with them.
Source: Sunan At-Tirmidhi 1580, Grade: Sahih
In this example, the companions prevented the Caliph Mu’awiyah from marching his army toward the Romans in an attempt to surprise attack them when the peace treaty expired. Marching for war was considered an act of war that was initiated before the expiration of the treaty. Therefore, Mu’awiyah returned with his armies.
In conclusion, Muslims are only allowed to lie if it is necessary to protect themselves from persecution. The general rule is that a Muslim must always speak the truth even against himself. Moreover, the permission for deception during a state of war is consistent with military tactics used by armies since ancient times unto the present, but deception in violation of peace treaties and covenants is strictly forbidden.
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