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In Islam, Taqiya or Taqiyya (Arabic: تقیة taqiyyah, literally "prudence, fear") is a precautionary dissimulation or denial of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution.
This practice is emphasized in Shia Islam whereby adherents are permitted to conceal their religion when under threat of persecution or compulsion. The practice is much less prominent in Sunni Islam, but may be permitted under certain circumstances such as threats to life. There are two main aspects of taqiyya; avoiding the disclosure of association with the Imams when doing so may expose the community to danger or harm, and keeping the esoteric teachings of the Imams concealed from those who are not prepared to receive them.
Taqiyya was initially practiced under duress by some of Muhammad's Companions. Later, it became particularly important for Shias due to their experience as a persecuted religious minority. According to Shia doctrine, taqiyya is permissible in situations where there is overwhelming danger of loss of life or property and where no danger to religion would occur thereby. Taqiyya has also been politically legitimised, particularly among Twelver Shias, in order to maintain unity among Muslims and fraternity among the Shia clerics.
Yarden Mariuma, sociologist at Columbia University, writes: "Taqiyya is an Islamic juridical term whose shifting meaning relates to when a Muslim is allowed, under Sharia law, to lie. A concept whose meaning has varied significantly among Islamic sects, scholars, countries, and political regimes, it nevertheless is one of the key terms used by recent anti-Muslim polemicists."
The term taqiyya (Arabic: تقیة taqiyyah/taqīyah) is derived from the Arabic triliteral root wāw-qāf-yā, literally denoting "caution, fear", "prudence, guarding against (a danger)", "carefulness, wariness". In the sense of "prudence, fear" it can be used synonymously with the terms tuqa(n), tuqāt, taqwā and ittiqāʾ, derived from the same root. These terms also have other meanings. For example, the term taqwa generally means "piety" (lit. "fear [of God]") in an Islamic context.
A related term is kitmān – the "action of covering, dissimulation". While the terms taqiyya and kitmān may be used synonymously, kitmān refers specifically to the concealment of one's convictions by silence or omission. Kitman derives from the Arabic word 'katama', which is defined as, 'to conceal, to hide'. The Ibadi Muslims used kitmān to conceal their Muslim beliefs in the face of persecution by their enemies.
Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming. (illā an tattaqū minhum tuqāt).
The two words tattaqū ("you fear") and tuqāt "in fear" are derived from the same root as taqiya, and use of the abstract noun taqiya in reference to the general principle described in this passage is first recorded in a Qur'anic gloss by Al-Bukhari (9th century).
Regarding 3:28, Ibn Kathir writes, "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." He quotes Muhammad's companion, Abu Ad-Darda', who said "we smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them," and Al-Hasan who said "the Tuqyah is acceptable till the Day of Resurrection."
A similar instance of the Qur'an permitting dissimulation under compulsion is found in Sura 16:106. Sunni and Shia commentators alike observe that verse 16:106 refers to the case of 'Ammar b. Yasir, who was forced to renounce his beliefs under physical duress and torture.
Shia Islam view
Minority Shi‘a communities, since the earliest days of Islam, were often forced to practice pious circumspection (taqiyya) as an instinctive method of self-preservation and protection, an obligatory practice in the lands which became known as the realm of pious circumspection (dār al-taqiyya).
Two primary aspects of circumspection became central for the Shi‘a: not disclosing their association with the Imams when this could put them in danger and protecting the esoteric teachings of the Imams from those who are unprepared to receive them. While in most instances, minority Shi‘a communities employed taqiyya using the façade of Sunnism in Sunni-dominated societies, the principle also allows for circumspection as other faiths. For instance, Gupti Ismaili Shi‘a communities in the Indian Subcontinent circumspect as Hindus to avoid caste persecution. In many cases, the practice of taqiyya became deeply ingrained into practitioners’ psyche. If a believer wished, he/she could adopt this practice at moments of danger, or as a lifelong process.
Twelver Shia view
The doctrine of taqiyya was developed at the time of Ja'far al-Sadiq (d. 148 AH/765 AD), the sixth Imamiya Imam. It served to protect Shias when Al-Mansur, the Abbasid caliph, conducted a brutal and oppressive campaign against Alids and their supporters. Religious dissimulation or Taqiyya while maintaining mental reservation is considered lawful in Shi'ism "in situations where there is overwhelming danger of loss of life or property and where no danger to religion would occur thereby". Shi'is lived mostly as a minority among a frequently-hostile Sunni majority until the rise of Safavid dynasty. This condition made taqiyya doctrine important to Shias.
Taqiyya holds a central place in Twelver Shia Islam. This is sometimes explained by the minority position Shias had under the political dominance of Sunni Muslims, requiring them to protect themselves through concealment and dissimulation. In Shia legal literature, there is a range of situations in which taqiyya may be used or even required. For Shia Muslims, taqiyya is to conceal their association with their faith when revealing it would result in danger. Taqiyya is done for reasons of safety. For example, a person may fear that he might be killed or harmed if he does not observe taqiyya. In this case, taqiyya is allowed. However, in some circumstances taqiyya may lead to the death of an innocent person; if so, it is not permissible; it is haraam (forbidden) to kill a human being to save one's own life. Some Shias, though, advance taqiyya as a form of jihad, a sort of fighting against their adversaries.
Others relate it to the esoteric nature of early Shia Islam. The knowledge (‘Ilm) given to the Imams by God had to be protected and the truth would have to be hidden before the uninitiated or their adversaries until the coming of the Twelfth Imam, when this knowledge and ultimate meaning can become known to everyone.
Religious rulings of the Shia Imams were also influenced by taqiyya. Some of the traditions from the Imams make taqiyya a central element of Shiism: "He who has no taqiyya has no faith"; "he who forsakes taqiyya is like him who forsakes prayer"; "taqiyya is the believers shield, but for taqiyya, God would not have been worshipped". It is unclear whether those traditions only refer to taqiyya under risk or also taqiyya to conceal the esoteric doctrines of Shiism. Many Shias today deny that taqiyya has any significance in their religion.
Ismaili Shia view
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For the Ismailis in the aftermath of the Mongol onslaught of the Alamut state in 1256 CE, the need to practice taqiyya became necessary, not only for the protection of the community itself, which was now stateless, but also for safeguarding the line of the Nizari Ismaili Imamate during this period of unrest. Accordingly, the Shia Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq stated "Taqiyya is my religion and the religion of my ancestors", a tradition recorded in various sources including Kitāb al-Maḥāsin of Aḥmad b. Muhammad al-Barqī and the Da‘ā’im al-Islām of al-Qāḍī al-Nu‘mān. Such periods in which the Imams are concealed are known as satr, however the term may also refer to times when the Imams were not physically hidden from view but rather when the community was required to practice precautionary dissimulation. During satr the Imam could only be accessed by his community and in extremely dangerous circumstances, would be accessible only to the highest-ranking members of the Ismaili hierarchy (ḥudūd), whose function it was to transmit the teachings of the Imam to the community. Shı’a Imam Ja’far al-S.adiq is reputed to have said, “Our teaching is the truth, the truth of the truth; it is the exoteric and the esoteric, and the esoteric of the esoteric; it is the secret and the secret of a secret, a protected secret, hidden by a secret.” The Fatimid Imam-Caliph al-Hakim expresses the sentiment of taqiyya when he confides to his followers that “if any religion is stronger than you, follow it, but keep me in your hearts.”
According to Shia scholar Muhammad Husain Javari Sabinal, Shiism would not have spread at all if not for taqiyya, referring to instances where Shia have been ruthlessly persecuted by the Sunni political elite during the Umayyad and Abbasid empires. Indeed, for the Ismailis, the persistence and prosperity of the community today owes largely to the careful safeguarding of the beliefs and teachings of the Imams during the Ilkhanate, the Safawid dynasty, and other periods of persecution. The 16th century Ismaili author Khwāja Muḥammad Riḍā b. Sulṭān Ḥusayn, also known as Khayrkhvah-i Harati, referring to the Anjudan period, writes about the end of an era of taqiyya. He explains that thus far “a veil was drawn over the visage of truth,” but now the Imam “allowed the veil to be lifted”. Since the Imam had allowed written correspondence with his followers, he had effectively ended the era of taqiyya.
The Gupti community viewed the Aga Khan III as their spiritual leader and Imam, but concealed these beliefs in order to protect themselves. However, the Guptis used a unique form of taqiyya, they did not appear as Sunni, Sufi, or Ithna ashari, which were the more common identities to take on. Rather they identified as Hindus, and this became a significant aspect of who they were. The Guptis view their taqiyya as a fulfillment and culmination of their outwardly professed faith, rather than contrary to it. The name ‘Gupta’ in Sanskrit, means secret or hidden, which perfectly embodies the concealment of their faith and true identity.
Alawites beliefs have never been confirmed by their modern religious authorities. Alawites tend to conceal their beliefs (taqiyya) due to historical persecution. Some tenets of the faith are secret, known only to a select few; therefore, they have been described as a mystical sect. Alawites celebrate Islamic festivals but consider the most important one to be Eid al-Ghadir.
Because of the Druze's Ismaili Shia origin, they have also been associated with taqiyya. When the Druze were a minority being persecuted they took the appearance of another religion externally, usually the ruling religion in the area, and for the most part adhered to Muslim customs by this practice.
Sunni Islam view
The basic principle of taqiyya is agreed upon by scholars, though they tend to restrict it to dealing with non-Muslims and when under compulsion (ikrāh), while Shia jurists also allow it in interactions with Muslims and in all necessary matters (ḍarūriyāt). In Sunni jurisprudence protecting one's belief during extreme or exigent circumstances is called idtirar (إضطرار), which translates to "being forced" or "being coerced", and this word is not specific to concealing the faith; for example, under the jurisprudence of idtirar one is allowed to consume prohibited food (e.g. pork) to avoid starving to death. Additionally, denying one's faith under duress is "only at most permitted and not under all circumstances obligatory". Al-Tabari comments on sura XVI, verse 106 (Tafsir, Bulak 1323, xxiv, 122): "If any one 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." This verse was recorded after Ammar Yasir was forced by the idolaters of Mecca to recant his faith and denounce the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Al-Tabari explains that concealing one's faith is only justified if the person is in mortal danger, and even then martyrdom is considered a noble alternative. If threatened, it would be preferable for a Muslim to migrate to a more peaceful place where a person may practice their faith openly, "since God's earth is wide." In Hadith, in the Sunni commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari, known as the Fath al-Bari, it is stated that:
أجمعوا على أن من أكره على الكفر واختار القتل أنه أعظم أجرا عند الله ممن اختار الرخصة ، وأما غير الكفر فإن أكره على أكل الخنزير وشرب الخمر مثلا فالفعل أولى
Which translates to:
There is a consensus that whomsoever is forced into apostasy and chooses death has a greater reward than a person who takes the license [to deny one's faith under duress], but if a person is being forced to eat pork or drink wine, then they should do that [instead of choosing death].
Safeguarding of a Muslim’s life is a mandatory obligation that should be observed; and that lying is permissible when the shedding of a Muslim’s blood is at stake.
The Prophet (S) saw 'Ammar Ibn Yasir (ra) crying, so he (S) wiped off his (ra) tears, and said: "The nonbelievers arrested you and immersed you in water until you said such and such (i.e., bad-mouthing the Prophet (S) and praising the pagan gods to escape persecution); if they come back, then say it again."
Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, in his book al-Ashbah Wa al-Naza'ir, affirms that:
It is acceptable (for a Muslim) to eat the meat of a dead animal at a time of great hunger (starvation to the extent that the stomach is devoid of all food); and to loosen a bite of food (for fear of choking to death) by alcohol; and to utter words of unbelief; and if one is living in an environment where evil and corruption are the pervasive norm, and permissible things (Halal) are the exception and a rarity, then one can utilize whatever is available to fulfill his needs.
Abd Ibn Hameed, on the authority of al-Hassan, said: "al-Taqiyya is permissible until the Day of Judgment."
When Mamun became caliph (813 AD), he tried to impose his religious views on the status of the Qur'an over all his subjects, in an ordeal called the mihna, or "inquisition". His views were disputed, and many of those who refused to follow his views were imprisoned, tortured, or threatened with the sword. Some Sunni scholars chose to affirm Mamun's view that the Qur'an was created, in spite of their beliefs, though a notable exception to this was scholar and theologian Ahmad ibn Hanbal, who chose to endure torture rather than to lie.
Following the end of the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, Muslims were persecuted by the Catholic Monarchs and forced to convert to Christianity or face expulsion. The principle of taqiyya became very important for Muslims during the Inquisition in 16th-century Spain, as it allowed them to convert to Christianity while remaining crypto-Muslims, practicing Islam in secret. In 1504, Ubayd Allah al-Wahrani, a Maliki mufti in Oran, issued a fatwā allowing Muslims to make extensive use of concealment in order to maintain their faith. This is seen as an exceptional case, since Islamic law prohibits conversion except in cases of mortal danger, and even then requires recantation as quickly as possible, and al-Wahrani's reasoning diverged from that of the majority of earlier Maliki Faqīhs such as Al-Wansharisi.
This section may contain material unrelated or insufficiently related to its topic. (November 2020)
In the early 21st century, taqiyya has become the subject of debate. According to S. Jonathon O'Donnell, some theories posit "the idea that Muslims have a religious duty to deceive non-Muslims if it furthers the cause" of Islam. He argues the "claim rests on a misreading of the concept of taqiyya, by which believers may conceal their faith if under threat of violence. This misreading is widely deployed in Islamophobic writings."
In 2008 Raymond Ibrahim published in Jane's Islamic Affairs Analyst an article titled "Islam's doctrines of deception". Ibrahim presented his own translation of part of Lebanese Druze scholar Sami Makarem's monograph Al Taqiyya Fi Al Islam ("Dissimulation in Islam"). Ibrahim quoted:
Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it. We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream ... Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era.
Michael Ryan, also in Jane's, characterized Ibrahim's article as "well-researched, factual in places but ... ultimately misleading". Ibrahim responded in 2009 with "Taqiyya Revisited: A Response to the Critics", on his blog and on the Middle East Forum website. Ibrahim was again criticised for his view on Taqiya in 2019, by Islamic scholar Usama Hasan in the Jewish Chronicle. Ibrahim also responded to Hasan in a FrontPage Magazine article titled "Taqiyya Sunset: Exposing the Darkness Shrouding Islamic Deceit."
Stefan Wimmer argues that Taqiyya 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 (giving the example of the Reconquista). Similar views are shown by Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen from the University of Copenhagen.
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Precautionary denial of religious belief in the face of potential persecution. Stressed by Shii Muslims, who have been subject to periodic persecution by the Sunni majority.
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Taqīyah is the precautionary dissimulation of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution.
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Religious dissimulation (Taqiyya) [...] while maintaining mental reservation is considered lawful in Shi'ism in situations where there is overwhelming danger of loss of life or property and where no danger to religioun would occur thereby. [...] Living as a minority among a frequently-hostile Sunni majority, the condition of most Shi'is until the rise of the Safavid dynasty, made such a doctrine important to Shi'is
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