Kitman

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For the Hong Kong singer, see Kitman (singer).

In Islamic jurisprudence kitmān (كتمان "secrecy, concealment") is a subfield of Ḥiyal (the science of deception or legal trickery), consisting of the art of making ambiguous statements, paying lip-service to authority while reserving personal opposition, in a kind of political camouflage or reservatio mentalis. The use of such practices to conceal one's religious affiliation when facing persecution or oppression is known as taqiyya.

Some early Muslim jurists such as Muadh bin Jabal were opposed to the concept altogether as they felt it implied “lying” (kidhb) and “hypocrisy” (nifaq). In the Ibadi denomination of Islam, the concept is considered an important one as the denomination's minority status and secretive nature drove many adherents to conceal their creed in order to survive.[1]

Czesław Miłosz in the The Captive Mind uses the concept (spelled Ketman) as a metaphor for understanding how intellectuals behaved under the totalitarian regimes in the postwar communist Eastern Bloc. Miłosz makes parallels between kitman and the act of public hypocrisy (that is, publicly professing orthodoxy, while privately believing heterodoxy with the hope of one day being in a position of authority to spread one's hidden ideas) in the name of individual conscience.[2] Milosz likened this mentality to a kind of acting, similar to the dissimulations of heretics in Persian Islam, who take great pleasure in pretending to be what they are not in order to avoid censure or punishment, and about whom Arthur Gobineau wrote:

"Ketman fills the man who practices it with pride. Thanks to it, a believer raises himself to a permanent state of superiority over the man he deceives, be he a minister of state or a powerful king; to him who uses Ketman, the other is a miserable blind man whom one shuts off from the true path whose existence he does not suspect [while] ... your eyes are filled with light, you walk in brightness before your enemies. It is an unintelligent being that you make sport of; it is a dangerous beast that you disarm. What a wealth of pleasures!"[3]

Nearly every clash of ideas, doctrines, and ideologies are accompanied by some form of kitman. Consider the Nicodemite who were concealed Christians under the Roman Empire or the Marranos in fifteenth-century Spain.[4]

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