a short course, part 5

Taqiyya: A Concept of Deceit that Security Professionals Must Know


Closely associated with shariah doctrine on lying is the concept of taqiyya, which is generally described as lying for the sake of Islam. National security professionals must understand taqiyya and its use as a major tool by Islamic terrorist organizations and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Taqiyya is a concept in Islamic law that translates as “deceit or dissimulation,” particularly towards infidels. Taqiyya is based on Quran 3:28 and 16:106 as well as hadiths, tafsir literature, and judicial commentaries that permit and encourage precautionary dissimulation as a means for hiding true faith in times of persecution or deception when penetrating the enemy camp.

Quran 3:28 teaches, “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as friends instead of the believers, and whoever does that, will never be helped by Allah in any way, unless you indeed fear a danger from them.”

According to the authoritative Arabic text, Al-Taqiyya fi Al-Islam,

“Taqiyya [deception] is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees with 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.”

The Pentagon has recognized taqiyya, without using the word, in its military briefings on enemy tactics abroad, calling it denial and deception. However, from a homeland security standpoint, it is important to recognize the use of taqiyya in American and Western civil society.

A respected modern-day authority on Islam, William Gawthrop, has observed in connection with the practice of taqiyya:

“Concealing or disguising one’s beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of imminent danger, whether now or later in time, [is permissible] to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury. Taqiyya has been used by Muslims since the 7th century to confuse and split ‘the enemy.’ One result is the ability to maintain two messages, one to the faithful while obfuscation and denial is sent – and accepted – to the non-Muslim audience.”

We find taqiyya as a basic instrument of the Muslim Brotherhood’s modus operandi in the United States and elsewhere. Omar Ahmad, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist funding trial, discussed separating the information role of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim Brotherhood front, from the terrorist support operations role of the Holy Land Foundation.

In evidence presented at the trial, Ahmad had this to say regarding an information campaign against the United States:

I believe that our problem is that we stopped working underground. We will recognize the source of any message which comes out of us. I mean, if a message is publicized, we will know. . . . , the media person among us will recognize that you send two messages, one to the Americans and one to the Muslims. If they found out who said that – even four years later – it will cause a discredit to the Foundation as far as the Muslims are concerned as they say ‘Look, he used to tell us about Islam and that there is a cause and stuff while he, at the same time, is shooting elsewhere.’” (Emphasis added)

Taqiyya in practice

A classic example of the shariah practice of taqiyya can be found in the dual messaging of Yousuf al-Qaradawi, best known as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. For an intended Muslim audience, he wrote in the Saudi Gazette of June 11, 2010:

“. . . The acceptance of secularism means abandonment of shariah, a denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions. . . . For this reason, the call for secularism among Muslims is atheism and rejection of Islam. Its acceptance as a basis for rule in place of shariah is downright apostasy. . . .”

Six years earlier, at a Democracy and Political Reform conference held in Qatar, al-Qaradawi declared, “There are those who maintain that democracy is the rule of the people, but we want the rule of Allah.”

Al-Qaradawi’s rejection of Western-style liberal democracy could not have been more clearly stated. He made his statements as an Islamic jurist, providing legal opinions specifically sourced back to the Quran and shariah. This is not the message he gives to other audiences, however.

For instance, during a January 2010 interview in the Egyptian newspaper Al -Shorouk, al-Qaradawi saw advantage for the Muslim Brotherhood and shariah in extolling the virtues of democracy – as a means of ending the rule of President Hosni Mubarak (who mostly suppresses the Brotherhood) and bringing the Brotherhood to power. Al-Qaradawi said, “Egypt will not regain its status, its well-being and its role unless it opens the windows of freedom. It must open the doors completely and make way for [new] figures and competition, as real democracy is the solution, not fake [democracy].”

Similarly, in the Muslim Brotherhood’s online forum, IslamOnline.net, which is published in English and aimed at a Western audience, al-Qaradawi went so far as to suggest that shariah actually embraces democracy: “Islam calls for democracy and grants people the right to choose their governor.”

In short, what Muslim audiences are required to know about Islam is not the same as what non-Muslim Western audiences are allowed to know – or encouraged to think – by Islamic authorities. Taqiyya provides the legal and moral basis under shariah for this sort of deceptive dual messaging.

Real-world consequences of taqiyya

The consequences of taqiyya extend to real world issues related to pluralism, understanding and reconciliation, so we need to know what taqiyya is all about. Taqiyya is related to Muslim overtures for interfaith dialogue, peace, respect and mutual tolerance – all of which we must view in light of Islamic doctrine on lying.

Team B does not argue for trusting or mistrusting someone in any particular circumstance. It does, though, argue for professionals to be aware of these facts, to realize they are dealing with an enemy whose doctrine allows – and at times even requires – its adherents not to disclose fully all that they know, and deliberately to misstate that which they know to be the truth.

In the next section of this series, Part 6, we will look at the shariah concept of slander.