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In Shi'a Islam, taqiya (تقیة taqiyyah/taqīyah) is a form of religious dissimulation,[1] or a legal dispensation whereby a believing individual can deny his faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts, especially while they are in fear or at risk of significant persecution.[2]

Al-Jamil's "Hiding in Plain Sight" explains: behaviors associated with religious dissimulation - known as "taqiyya,” a practice in which a Shi’ite can lie about their faith in order to save a life."[3]

This practice was emphasized in Shi'a Islam whereby adherents may conceal their religion when they are under threat, persecution, or compulsion.[4] Taqiyya was developed to protect Shi'ites who were usually in the minority and under pressure from the majority Sunni Muslims, and Shi'a Muslims as the persecuted minority have taken recourse to dissimulation from the time of the mihna (persecution) under Al-Ma'mun in the 9th century, while the politically dominant Sunnites rarely found it necessary to resort to dissimulation.[5]

In summary, 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"[6]

In Sunni jurisprudence, denying faith under duress or other permissible reasons as per Islamic law is viewed "only at most permitted and not under all circumstances obligatory".[7]

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.[1] Taqiyya has also been legitimised, particularly among Twelver Shia, in order to maintain Muslim unity and fraternity.[8][9]


  • Etymology and Quranic basis 1
  • Shi'a Islam view 2
    • Twelver Shi'a view 2.1
    • Ismaili Shi'a view 2.2
    • Alawite view 2.3
    • Druze view 2.4
  • Sunni Islam view 3
    • Examples 3.1
  • Contemporary debate 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Etymology and Quranic basis

The term taqiyya (Arabic: تقیةtaqiyyah/taqīyah) is derived from the Arabic triliteral root wāw-qāf-yā, denoting "fear", or "prudence, guarding against (a danger)".[10] Term taqwa "piety" (lit. "fear [of God]") is from the same root.[11] The term is derived from the Quranic reference to religious dissimulation in Sura 3:28:

"Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends 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 this root, and the abstract noun taqiyyah refers to the general principle connected with the situation described here, first recorded in a Qur'anic gloss by Al-Bukhari (9th century).[12]

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."[13]

A similar instance of the Qur'an permitting dissimulation under compulsion is found in Sura 16:106,[14] 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.[5] The term for the related concept of kitman "secrecy, concealment" is derived from a root kāf-tā-mīm (ك ت م) "conceal".[15] The two terms taqiyyah and kitman may be used synonymously, although the former has the more inclusive meaning of "dissimulation" in general, while the later refers to the "concealment" of one's convictions by silence or omission.[5]

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.[1] 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.[1]

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.[16] Some Shi'ites, though, advance taqiyya as a form of jihad, a sort of fighting against their adversaries.[17]

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.[18][19]

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.[20] Many Shi'ites today deny that taqiyya has any significance in their religion.[21]

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.[22] Accordingly, the Shi'a Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq stated "Taqiyya is my religion and the religion of my ancestors",[16] 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.[23] 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.[24] 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.

Alawite view

Alawites beliefs have never been confirmed by their modern religious authorities.[25] Alawites tend to conceal their beliefs (taqiyya) due to historical persecution.[26] Some tenets of the faith are secret, known only to a select few;[27][28] therefore, they have been described as a mystical sect.[29] Alawites do only celebrate Islamic festivals, their most-important feast is Eid al-Ghadeer.

Druze view

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.[30]

Sunni Islam view

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.[31]

Sunni jurisprudence does not use the term taqiyya,[32] yet it is de facto practiced as such according to Islamic law against sinners.[33][34] 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.[35] Some Sunnis also disagree with some of the Shi'a's view of Taqiyya.[32]

Additionally, denying one's faith under duress is "only at most permitted and not under all circumstances obligatory".[7] 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."[7] In Hadith, in the Sunni commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari, known as the Fath al-Bari, it is stated that:[36]

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.[37] Some Sunni scholars chose to affirm Mamun's view that the Qur'an was created, in spite of their beliefs[5] 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.[2][38][39][40] 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,[41] and al-Wahrani's reasoning diverged from that of the majority of earlier Maliki Faqīhs.[40]

Contemporary debate

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"[42] while their critics accuse them of practicing "taqiyya about taqiyya" (Raymond Ibrahim, 2014).[43]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Momen, Moojan (1985). An Introduction to Shi'i Islam. Yale University Press. pp. 39, 183.  
  2. ^ a b Stewart, Devin. "Islam in Spain after the Reconquista". Teaching Materials. The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at  
  3. ^ Al-Jamil, Tariq. "Hiding in Plain Sight: Shi’i Islam, Secrecy and Religious Dissimulation in Social Practice, Published by Swarthmore College. Assistant Professor of Religion Tariq al-Jamil explores the bodily practices and social behaviors associated with religious dissimulation - known as "taqiyya,” a practice in which a Shi’ite can lie about their faith in order to save a life - in 13th- and 14th-century Iraq. Professor al-Jamil is an expert on medieval Islamic social history and law, with a particular focus on Shi'ism. He has conducted research on Sunni-Shi'i relations and can address issues related to the academic study of Islam and the social history of Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. His published works and research interests include Islam and inter-communal violence, pre-modern religious identity, religious dissimulation, the transmission of knowledge in Islam, and women in Islamic jurisprudence." (2011).
  4. ^ "Taqiyah". Oxford Dictionary of Islam. John L. Esposito, Ed. Oxford University Press. 2003. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Virani, Shafique N. (2009). The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 47f.  
  6. ^ Mariuma, Yarden. "Taqiyya as Polemic, Law and Knowledge: Following an Islamic Legal Term through the Worlds of Islamic Scholars, Ethnographers, Polemicists and Military Men." The Muslim World 104.1-2 (2014): 89-108.
  7. ^ a b c R. Strothmann (2000). "Takkiyya". In P. J. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C. E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W. P. Heinrichs.  
  8. ^ Maréchal, Brigitte; Zemni, Sami, eds. (29 May 2013). The Dynamics of Sunni-Shia Relationships: Doctrine, Transnationalism, Intellectuals and the Media. Hurst Publishers. p. 76.  
  9. ^ Gerhard Böwering; Patricia Crone; Mahan Mirza (2013). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (illustrated ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 136.  
  10. ^ root:وقي (
  11. ^ Lewisohn, L. "Taḳwā (a.)." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman; , Th. Bianquis; , C.E. Bosworth; , E. van Donzel; and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010. Brill Online. University of Toronto. 13 July 2010 [3]
  12. ^ Goldziher (1906:216).
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Quran 16:106 "He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief-- on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement." (Arabic original)
  15. ^ root:كتم (
  16. ^ a b al-Taqiyya/Dissimulation
  17. ^ Israeli, Raphael (2002). Islam in China: religion, ethnicity, culture, and politics. Lexington Books. p. 152.  
  18. ^ Kohlberg, Etan (1995). Secrecy and Concealment. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 345.  
  19. ^ L., Clarke (2005). Todd Lawson, ed. Reason and inspiration in Islam. I.B.Tauris. pp. 46–47.  
  20. ^ Kohlberg, Etan (1995). Secrecy and Concealment. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 373.  
  21. ^ Gleave, Robert (2000). Inevitable doubt: two theories of Shīʻī jurisprudence. Brill. p. 75.  
  22. ^  
  23. ^  
  24. ^ Tarikhush Shi'ah, p.230
  25. ^ 'Abd al‑Latif al‑Yunis, Mudhakkirat al‑Duktur 'Abd al‑Latif al‑Yunis, Damascus: Dar al‑`Ilm, 1992, p. 63.
  26. ^ Secretive sect of the rulers of Syria, The Telegraph, 05 Aug 2011
  27. ^ "Alawi Islam". 
  28. ^ The Nuaayri-Alawis (2009) Yaron Friedman
  29. ^ Lebanon: current issues and background, John C. Rolland (2003). Nova. 1 August 2003.  
  30. ^ Rogan, Eugene L. (2001). The war for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948. Cambridge University Press. pp. 74–75. 
  31. ^ Adamec, Ludwig W. (2009). Historical dictionary of Islam. Scarecrow Press. p. 73.  
  32. ^ a b al-Munajjid, Muhammad. "#178975: What is taqiyyah (dissimulation)? Is it used by Ahl as-Sunnah (Sunnis)?". IslamQA. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  33. ^ Al Taqiyya fil Islam (Dissimulation in Islam), Sami Makarem, 2004
  34. ^ Although some Wahhabis staunchly argue their aforementioned statements, and aggressively defame the Shi’a and refute their doctrines, they have failed to explain the validity of their argument vis-a-vis the existence of these same doctrines in their own books, as has been demonstrated in all the past posts about the Shi’a.
  35. ^ Iqbal, Javid; 'Umar, Muhammad Suhail (2000). The concept of state in Islam: a reassessment (Volume 13 of Iqbal Academy brochure series). Iqbal Academy Pakistan, original from the University of Michigan. p. 12.  
  36. ^ فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري , كتاب الإكراه , باب من اختار الضرب والقتل والهوان على الكفر
  37. ^ Patton, Walter Melville (1897). Ahmed Ibn Hanbal and the Mihna. Leiden: Brill. pp. 79–91.
  38. ^ Stewart, Devin (ed.). "Primary Documents on Islam and the Reconquista". Teaching Materials.  
  39. ^  
  40. ^ a b Miller, Kathryn A. (2008). Guardians of Islam: Religious Authority and Muslim Communities of Late Medieval Spain. New York:  
  41. ^ Kraemer, Joel L. (2010). Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization's Greatest Minds. New York:  
  42. ^ Musaji, Sheila (30 May 2010), "The Taqiyya Libel Against Muslims", The American Muslim
  43. ^ Raymond Ibrahim, "Taqiyya about Taqiyya", 12 April 2014.

Further reading

  • Bar-Asher, Me'ir Mikha'el (1999). Scripture and Exegesis in Early Imami Shiism. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-11495-5
  • Cook, Michael (2003). Early Muslim Dogma: A Source-Critical Study. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-54572-2
  • Daftary, Farhad (1992). The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42974-9
  • Goldziher, I., Das Prinzip der takijja im Islam, ZMLG 60 (1906), 213–226.[4]
  • Emadi, Hafizullah (1998). The end of taqiyya: reaffirming the religious identity of Ismailis in Shughnan, Badakhshan – political implications for Afghanistan. Middle Eastern Studies. 34(3): 103–120.
  • Emadi, Hafizullah (2000). Praxis of taqiyya: perseverance of Pashaye Ismaili enclave, Nangarhar, Afghanistan. Central Asian Survey. 19(2): 253–264.
  • Firro, Kais (1999). The Druzes in the Jewish State: A Brief History. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-11251-0
  • Gleave, Robert (2000). Inevitable Doubt. Two Theories of Shi'i Jurisprudence. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-11595-1
  • Kohlberg, Etan (July–September 1975). "Some Imāmī-Shīʿī Views on Taqiyya".  
  • Misri, Ahmad ibn Naqib al- (1997). The Reliance of the Traveler, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Amana Publications.
  • Makarem, Sami (2004). Al-Taqiyya Fi Al-Islam (Dissimulation in Islam), Druze Heritage Foundation. ISBN 978-1-904850-02-1 (in Arabic)

External links

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