The Real Meaning of “Taqiyya”
The origin of this conjured term however is a ruling that permits a believer to conceal his or her faith when under the threat of persecution or attack from forces hostile to Islam (Qur’an 16:106, 3:28). The word literally connotes being ‘fearful’ (Lane’s Lexicon, p. 310), and in fact conveys a commonsense notion present amongst all cultures and faiths – in a context in which someone is trying to kill you or others because of your beliefs, it is appropriate to hide those beliefs. Another famous example is Corrie Ten Boom lying to Nazis that she was hiding Jews in her attic – no one with a moral conscience would fault her for lying to save lives from murderous criminals.
Given that the word ‘taqiyya’ has only been used in Islam to refer to Muslims saving themselves from mortal danger by concealing their faith, that should readily dismantle the Islamophobic claim that Muslims are generally taught to lie to non-Muslims. However, when confronted with the fact that their use of the term ‘taqiyya’ is a grotesque misrepresentation, Islamophobes run to another concept in an attempt to buttress their caricature of Muslims as dishonest criminals. They cite a saying of the Prophet that “Warfare is deceit (Ar. khida’ah).” But here again they find no support as this reference to military strategy involving tricks has been echoed by practically every civilization in human history. It is most famous on the lips of Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu who stated in The Art of War, “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” Once again, we find that behind the seemingly scary use of Arabic jargon, there are nothing more than run-of-the mill commonsense notions that every civilization has expressed.
Moreover, by unanimous consensus, Muslim scholars have explicitly pointed out that tricking the enemy on the battlefield (khida’ah) is very different from treachery (khiyanah) or breaking a covenant, the latter being universally prohibited.
The lie that Islam condones lying
What Islamophobes who peddle the myth of taqiyya choose to ignore is that while Islam permits believers to conceal their faith in the face of persecution, nowhere does Islam grant Muslims general permission to lie with the intention of deception. In fact, Islam strongly condemns dishonesty as a trait that is antithetical to true faith in God, and a sign of hypocrisy.
Ayesha, the wife of the Prophet, said: “There was no behavior more hateful to the Messenger of Allah than dishonesty. A man would lie when narrating something in the presence of the Prophet and he would not be satisfied until he knew that he had repented.”
Moreover, Muslims must be entirely honest and truthful when conveying the teachings of Islam; the Qur’an states that one of the greatest evils is for a person to lie about the teachings of Islam, inventing a lie against God (Quran 39:32).