The word ‘Taqaiyyya’ literally means ‘fear, caution, carefulness, guarding against danger, or wariness. In Islamic terminology, the term refers to a precautionary denial of religious belief in cases of potential persecution, constraint and when there is a possibility of harm.
However, Taqaiyya has become commonplace in social media and journalistic discourse, particularly since 9/11, because Muslims claim that Islam is a religion of peace and Jihad is mainly a struggle against one’s own evil desires, whereas non-Muslims can see that many Muslims are engaged in killing each other as well as non-Muslims in several parts of the world. They also see that when the leader of so-called Islamic State “Khalifa” al-Baghdadi and his followers said that “Islam has never been a religion of peace, not even for a day; it has always been a religion of war,” Muslim ulema and media remained largely silent,as if they agreed with him. It has also become easy now, in the present internet age to get acquainted with Islamic history which is strewn with episodes of war and atrocities of all sorts.
Muslim hereditary kings that wore the religious garb of being a Khalifa engaged in brutal atrocities of all kinds on their own people as well as others. Non-Muslims today can also read classical theological books in which Jihad is described as a fight against infidels who refuse to accept Islam. So, when Muslims claim that Islam is a religion of peace and Jihad is mainly against one’s own nafs or negative ego, non-Muslims take it as an example of Taqaiya.
This, however, is not the case. Muslims speak from their heart. They are saying only what they have been taught in their homes and schools. They are saying only what they believe in, regardless of what militant Jihadis may be saying and doing.
Let’s now see in some detail what Taqiyya stands for; it’s history, meaning and usage.
Taqaiyya is mostly practiced by Shias when they are subject to persecutions or compulsion. Taqaiyyya, though not so much common among Sunnis, is permitted under certain conditions such as threats to life, loss of property; while martyrdom in such cases is more honourable.
The studies of Islamic traditions suggest that Taqaiyya is agreed upon by scholars of several schools of thought in Islam. Sunnis restrict it to deal with non-Muslim persecutors and when under compulsion and persecution, while Shia scholars also justify it to deal with Sunni Majority Muslims and other necessary issues.
Sunni scholars allow Taqaiyya only under utmost compulsion and when there is fear of persecution. A popular exegete of the Quran Al-Tabari comments, “if anyone is compelled and professes unbelief with his tongue, while his heart contradicts him, in order to escape his enemies, no blame falls on him because God takes his servants as their hearts believe” (also quoted in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, 134)
Imam Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad Al-Ghazali writes in his masterpiece and the most authoritative book on Islam, IhyaUlum Al Din(“The Revival of the Religious Sciences”), “safeguarding of a Muslim’s life is a mandatory obligation that must be observed and that lying is permissible only when the shedding of a Muslim’s blood is at stake”.
But after the 9/11 attacks, a blame is often made by writers and commentators on social websites and in mainstream media that Muslims use Taqaiyyato deceive non-Muslims for the objective of expanding their religion. This is mainly a misunderstanding of the word Taqaiyyya.
The Orientalist Stefan Jakob Wimmer explains that Taqaiyya is not a tool to deceive non-Muslims and spread Islam but instead a defensive mechanism to save one’s life when it is in great danger, such as Muslims’ lives during the Reconquista. Similar views are shown by Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen from the University of Copenhagen. (Wikipedia)
To sum up, Taqaiyyamay be exercised under utmost conditions of persecutions or life-threatening situations but it is not allowed for Muslims to deceive non-Muslims in any other interactions. The use of Taqaiyya for expanding the religion of Islam is incompatible with Islamic objectives, as it corrupts the soul of Islam based on submission, truth, mental and spiritual purity. Islam teaches Muslims to be straightforward in their dealings with others, both Muslims and non-Muslims. The Quran clearly condemns the acts of lying and deception in several verses;
“…then He will judge between us in truth. And He is the Knowing Judge” (30:26). At a place, the Quran terms ‘lying’ a disease of the heart which gets worse if left uncorrected, “In their hearts is disease, so Allah has increased their disease: and for them is a painful punishment because they habitually used to lie” (2:10), “Allah does not one who is a transgressor and a liar” (40:28), “This is the Day when the truthful will benefit from their truthfulness..”.
Such teachings of the Quran make it incumbent upon us not to deceive anyone by lying or cunning, then how can Taqaiyya be allowed to deceive non-Muslims?!
Non-Muslims should understand that Muslims are speaking from their heart when they make claims of peace and a permanent struggle against one’s own evil desires that they have to wage as Jihad. However, people must distinguish between Islam and Muslims. Islam is one thing and Muslims quite another. This is actually the case with all religions and philosophies. Christianly is a region of forgiveness and turning the other cheek, but Christians are the only people to have used atom bombs on peaceful citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not to speak of killing six million Jews in the Holocaust and innumerable pogroms, massacres, genocides and atrocities of all sorts. Can we blame Christianity for these atrocities? I suppose not. Same is the case with teachings of Islam and the practices of Muslims. Muslims do not practise Taqaiyya, except in extreme cases of persecution and only to save their lives.