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Taqiya (Arabic: تقیة taqiyyah, literally "prudence, fear") is an Islamic term which refers to precautionary dissimulation or denial of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution. Another term for this concept, kitmān (lit. "action of covering, dissimulation"), has a more specific meaning of dissimulation by silence or omission.
This practice is emphasized in Shia Islam whereby adherents are permitted to conceal their religion when under threat of persecution or compulsion. However, it is also permitted in Sunni Islam under certain circumstances.
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 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." Islamic scholars claim that taqiyya is only permissible under duress, and that the inflationary use of the term qualifies as "a staple of right-wing Islamophobia in North America" (Mohammad Fadel 2013), or "Taqiyya libel against Muslims" while their critics accuse them of practicing "taqiyya about taqiyya" (Raymond Ibrahim, 2014).
The term taqiyya (Arabic: تقیة taqiyyah/taqīyah) is derived from the Arabic triliteral root wāw-qāf-yā, denoting literally 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. An alternative term for religious dissimulation is kitmān "action of covering, dissimulation". The terms taqiyya and kitman may be used synonymously, although the former has the more inclusive meaning of "dissimulation" in general, while the latter refers to the "concealment" of one's convictions by silence or omission.
- "Let not the believers take the unbelievers for protectors 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 (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
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 was also influenced by taqiyya. Without it, basic articles of early Shiism do not make sense and lose coherence because of contradictions. 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.
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.
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, their most-important feast is Eid al-Ghadeer.
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 Sunni 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 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].
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, 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 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 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.
In 2004, Lebanese Druze scholar Sami Makarem published the monograph Al Taqiyya Fi Al Islam ("Dissimulation in Islam"), arguing that the concept should be considered "mainstream" and ubiquitous in modern Islamic politics,
- "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." (p. 7, trans. Raymond Ibrahim).
Since the 2000s, taqiyya has become a frequently invoked concept in debates surrounding criticism of Islam and especially Islamic extremism. Islamic scholars tend to emphasize that taqiyya is only permissible under duress, and that the inflationary use of the term qualifies as "a staple of right-wing Islamophobia in North America" (Mohammad Fadel 2013), or "Taqiyya libel against Muslims" while their critics accuse them of practicing "taqiyya about taqiyya" (Raymond Ibrahim, 2014).
- R. STROTHMANN, MOKTAR DJEBLI. Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed, Brill. "TAKIYYA", vol. 10, p. 134. Quote: "TAKIYYA "prudence, fear" [...] denotes dispensing with the ordinances of religion in cases of constraint and when there is a possibility of harm.".
- Stewart, Devin (8 January 2014). "Dissimulation in Sunni Islam and Morisco Taqiyya". Al-Qanṭara. 34 (2): 439–490. doi:10.3989/alqantara.2013.016.
- John L. Esposito, ed. (2014). "Taqiyah". The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Subscription required (. ))
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.
- Paul E. Walker (2009). "Taqīyah". The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Subscription required (. ))
Taqīyah is the precautionary dissimulation of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution.
- Stewart, Devin. "Islam in Spain after the Reconquista". Teaching Materials. The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
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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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The doctrine of taqiyya (religious dissimulation) was also developed at this time. It served to protect the followers of as-Sadiq at a time when al-Mansur was conducting a brutally repressive campaign against `Alids and their supporters.
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A responsum (fatwa) by 'Ubaydallah al-Wahrani, issued in December 1504, permitted [the Moriscos] to exercise prudent dissimulation (taqiyya) by pretending to be Christians. ... The Moriscos' behavior was exceptional, however, and a departure from a general Islamic norm – Muslims may not convert to another religion unless their lives are in mortal danger, and then they must end their new status as quickly as possible.
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