The Muslim doctrine of taqiyya, which permits Muslims to deceive non-Muslims, is back in the news. In a speech delivered on May 20, 2023, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, according to a report,
used the Islamic concept of ‘Taqiyya’ to describe the regime’s decision to accept the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal with the West. Taqiyya means the permissibility to deny or conceal one’s real beliefs to secure a worthy goal.
Taqiyya, in fact, is one of the most important doctrines that Westerners always overlook in their dealings with Muslims. In short, it permits Muslims to say or do anything—from cursing and condemning Muhammad to being baptized and partaking of communion—so long as they remain committed Muslims at heart, and their deception either benefits themselves or Islam. (For copious documentation, see here).
For those with a discerning eye, taqiyya is all around us. Whether Muslims pretending to convert to Christianity (past and present), or whether an Islamic gunman gaining entrance inside a church by feigning interest in Christian prayers—examples abound on a regular basis.
As such, that Khamenei relied on the concept of taqiyya to pretend Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes is unsurprising.
According to the late Sami Mukaram, the world’s leading authority on taqiyya,
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.
Moreover, taqiyya is not merely about safeguarding one’s life but can be used to get an advantage over one’s enemy: “Taqiyya,” writes Mukaram, “in order to dupe the enemy is permissible.”
One example from the life of Muhammad: A poet, Ka‘b ibn Ashraf, had offended the prophet of Islam with his verse, prompting Muhammad once to exclaim, “Who will kill this man who has hurt Allah and his prophet?” A young Muslim named Muhammad ibn Maslama volunteered on condition that in order to get close enough to Ka‘b to assassinate him, he be allowed to lie to the poet.
Ibn Maslama traveled to Ka‘b and began to denigrate Islam and Muhammad. He carried on in this way till his disaffection became so convincing that Ka‘b took him into his confidence. Soon thereafter, Ibn Maslama appeared with another Muslim and, while Ka‘b’s guard was down, killed him.[Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 367-8.]
Accordingly, normative Islam teaches that deceit is integral to jihad: Ibn al-Arabi declares that “in the Hadith [sayings and actions of Muhammad], practicing deceit in war is well demonstrated. Indeed, its need is more stressed than the need for courage.” Ibn al-Munir (d. 1333) writes, “War is deceit, i.e., the most complete and perfect war waged by a holy warrior [mujahid] is a war of deception, not confrontation, due to the latter’s inherent danger, and the fact that one can attain victory through treachery without harm [to oneself].” And Ibn Hajar (d. 1448) counsels Muslims “to take great caution in war, while [publicly] lamenting and mourning in order to dupe the infidels.” [The Al Qaeda Reader (New York: Doubleday, 2007), pp. 142-3.]
In short, the earliest historical records of Islam clearly attest to the prevalence of taqiyya—deception and betrayal, as in the case of the poet Ka‘b —as a form of Islamic warfare against the non-Muslim infidel. And this is still a legal strategy for Muslims vis-à-vis non-Muslims—especially if the lying is rationalized as a form of jihad to empower Islam or Muslims—including through nuclear armament.
Professor Mukaram continues: “Taqiyya was used as a way to fend off danger from the Muslims, especially in critical times and when their borders were exposed to wars with the Byzantines and, afterwards, to the raids of the Franks and others.” [Mukaram, At-Taqiyya fi ‘l-Islam, pp. 41-42]
Indeed, the widespread use of taqiyya was one of the main reasons that prompted the Spanish Inquisition: hundreds of thousands of Muslims who had feigned conversion to Christianity secretly remained Muslim, conspiring with North African Muslim tribes and Ottomans to reconquer the Iberian Peninsula.
From here one also understands why, according to the report, “the Supreme Leader often speaks with double meanings, leaving room for himself to shirk responsibility if a certain policy proves to be a failure.”
Speaking with double meanings—or a double-entendre—is also promoted by Islamic teaching, through the doctrine of tawriya, or “creative lying.”
Khamenei’s open employment of taqiyya is also unsurprising considering that, when speaking to one another, Muslims regularly reference taqiyya to justify their dealings with infidels.
For example, in 1994, after he made a peace treaty with Israel that was predictably criticized by fellow Arabs as offering too many concessions, PLO leader Yasser Arafat justified his actions by saying, “I see this agreement as being no more than the agreement signed between our Prophet Muhammad and the Quraysh in Mecca”—that is, a truce that Muhammad abolished on a pretext once he was in a position of power and able to go on the offensive.
In like manner, by referencing taqiyya in the context of Iran’s agreement to a nuclear deal with the West, Khamenei is signaling that Iran is only going along for expediency’s sake—until, that is, it finds itself in a position to renege and realize its nuclear aspirations. As Khamanei said during his speech, “Expediency means finding ways to circumvent difficult obstacles and pursuing the same path.”
In short , and as discussed and documented more fully here,
The prophet of Islam, Muhammad … regularly made use of deceit. In order to assassinate a poet (Ka‘b ibn Ashraf) who offended him, Muhammad permitted a Muslim to lie to the poet. Muhammad is further on record giving license to breaking oaths (“if something better” comes along) and openly lying (without even employing tawriya) to one’s wife and in war. As for the latter, which assumes a perpetual nature in the guise of the jihad against the non-Muslim in order to make Islam (and Muslims) supreme (e.g., Qur’an 8:39), deception and lies are certainly permissible.
That said, is there a single authority representing the West at these international nuclear talks that knows—let alone cares about—any of this? Or is the fix already in?