In Islam, taqiyya تقية (alternative spellings taqiyeh, taqiya, taqiyah, tuqyah) is a form of religious dissimulation, or a legal dispensation whereby a believing individual can deny his faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts while they are in fear or at risk of significant persecution.
This practice was emphasized in Shi'a Islam whereby adherents may conceal their religion when they are under threat, persecution, or compulsion. Taqiyya was developed to protect Shi'ites who were usually in minority and under pressure. In the Shi'a view, taqiyya is lawful in situations where there is overwhelming danger of loss of life or property and where no danger to religion would occur thereby.
The term taqiyya does not exist in Sunni jurisprudence. In the Sunni view, denying faith under duress is "only at most permitted and not under all circumstances obligatory". However, there are a few examples of practicing taqiyya among Sunnis where it was necessary.
The term taqiyya (Arabic: تقیة taqiyyah/taqīyah) (pronounced as tagiye [tæɢiːje] by speakers of Persian) is derived from the Arabic triliteral root waw-qaf-ya, denoting "piety, devotion, uprightness, and godliness, and it means the brightest star". In Arabic taqiyya literally means caution, but came to be used as a technical term by some jurists meaning dissimulation. Kitman is used synonymously and means concealment.
Although the word "taqiyya" does not occur in the Qur'an, the practice of concealing one's beliefs in dangerous circumstances originates in the Qur'an, which deems blameless those who disguise their beliefs in such cases. The practice of taqiyya in difficult circumstances is considered legitimate by Muslims of various sects. Sunni and Shi'a 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.
Quran 3:28 enjoins Muslims not to take the company of non-Muslims over Muslims unless as a means of safeguarding themselves. "Let not the believers take those who deny the truth for their allies in preference to the believers – since he who does this cuts himself off from God in everything – unless it be to protect yourself against them in this way…" Regarding 3:28, Ibn Kathir, a prominent authority 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."
Shi'a Islam view
Twelver Shi'a 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 Shi'ites 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 Shi'is.
Taqiyya holds a central place in Twelver Shi'a Islam. This is sometimes explained by the minority position Shi'ites had under the political dominance of Sunni Muslims, requiring them to protect themselves through concealment and dissimulation. In Shi'a legal literature, there is a range of situations in which taqiyya may be used or even required. For Shi'a 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 Shi'ites, though, advance taqiyya as a form of jihad, a sort of fighting against their adversaries.
Others relate it to the esoteric nature of early Shi'a 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 Shi'a Imams was also influenced by taqiyya. Without it, basic articles of early Shi'ism do not make sense and lose coherence because of contradictions. Some of the traditions from the Imams make taqiyya a central element of Shi'ism: "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 Shi'ism. Many Shi'ites today deny that taqiyya has any significance in their religion.
Ismaili Shi'a view
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 Shi'a 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.
According to Shi'a scholar Muhammad Husain Javari Sabinal, Shi'ism would not have spread at all if not for taqiyya, referring to instances where Shi'a 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.
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 do only celebrate Islamic festivals, their most-important feast is Eid al-Ghadeer.
Because of the Druze's Ismaili Shi'ite 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
No term such as taqiyya is used 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 or Haram food to protect one's life, e.g. starving to death. Sunnis believe that it is allowed to deny faith under compulsion, threat, and fear of death, as long as the heart remains firm in faith,. They also greatly disagree with some of the Shi'a's view of Taqiyya.
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].
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 noted scholar and theologian Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
In 16th century Spain, following the end of the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, Muslims and Jews 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 sixteenth 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 taqiyya 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.
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