by Andrew Campbell
Taqiyya is a traditional Islamic technique of holy deception used by Muslim extremists to conceal their “true” beliefs and to maintain operation security for their jihad/terrorist missions, writes Andrew Campbell.
On 19 November 2003, in the United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division, Judge Steven Whalen concluded a four-page indictment against Mahmoud Youseff Kourani.
The indictment described Kourani as a dedicated member of Hezbollah who had received specialised training in radical Shiite fundamentalism, weaponry, spy craft and counter-intelligence in Lebanon and Iran and a dedicated member/fighter/recruiter and fundraiser for Hezbollah:1
“While in the United States, Kourani employed ‘taqiyya’: a Shia Muslim doctrine of concealment, pretense and fraud. This meant amongst other things that Kourani would, when he thought it necessary, avoid going to mosques, not attend Shiite religious rituals, shave his beard, and otherwise keep his true beliefs secret while inside what he considered to be hostile territory — the United States of America.”
What is taqiyya, as referred to in the indictment? The Islamic tradition of taqiyya stretches back to the sixth-century AD when, following disputes over succession after the Prophet Mohammed’s death, the minority Shiites developed taqiyya, or “holy deception”, to conceal their “true” beliefs from the Sunni majority and to maintain operational security for their jihad/ terrorist missions in the Dar el Haab —The Domain of War.2
Taqiyya is inspired by the example and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed praised in the Hadiths (the sayings of the Prophet) as “the greatest deceiver”, and praised in the Koran. Muslims have used taqiyya (pronounced tark-e-ya) described variously as “precautionary dissimulation,” “religiously-sanctioned deception,” “lying” or “deception” and “keeping one’s convictions secret” and “tactical dissimulation” or “holy deception”.
Two texts in the Koran specifically refer to taqiyya. The Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam reportedly said:3
“[H]e who keeps secrets shall soon attain his objectives. … All War is a ruse” and “Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers; if any do that, they shall have no relation left with Allah except by way of precaution … [taqiyya] that ye may guard yourselves”. [Koran 3:28 and 40.28, emphasis added]
Early Islamic texts refer to the covert nature of taqiyya:4
“Al Taqiyya is with the tongue only; not the heart. A believer can make any statement as long as the ‘heart is comfortable …”; “God gave the believers freedom of movement by takiyya; therefore conceal thyself …”; “Takiyya is a cloak for the believer: he who has no religion has no takiyya, associate your opponents only outwardly and oppose them inwardly”.
Related terms include: protection of the secret (hifz-al sirr), secrecy (katm or kitman), deception (making something ambiguous) and hiding the real state of one’s convictions (talbis). Early Muslim sects, the Najadt and the Kharjites, referred to particular regions outside their communities as “the abode of dissimulation” (dar al taqiyya).
A contemporary definition of taqiyya is religiously-sanctioned deception for the purposes of concealing terrorism. German terrorism expert and Middle East scholar, Basam Tibi, defined taqiyya as: “You are two-faced. You hate me, but you smile at me.”
Bernard Lewis — the pre-eminent Middle East historian and scholar, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near East Studies Emeritus at Princeton University – defined taqiyya in his early study of the Assassins (1090-1275), a prototypical Islamic terrorist organisation which is discussed in greater detail below. He said:5
“The term taqiyya, caution, precaution, denotes an Islamic concept of dispensation – the idea that under compulsion or menace, a believer may be dispensed from fulfilling certain conditions of religion … It was used to justify the concealment of beliefs likely to arouse the hostility of the authorities or the populace.”
Taqiyya informs Shia and Sunni political and religious discourse. The Sunni Moroscos survived in Spain by using taqiyya and washing off holy water after attending mass. Cox and Marks in their monograph, The West, Islam and Islamism, note that taqiyya is referred to in Sunni religious and political discourse and cite Surrah 16:106, about which al Atabari, the famed Sunni commentator, said: “If anyone is compelled and professes unbelief with his tongue, while his heart contradicts him, to escape his enemies, no blame falls on him, because God takes his servants as their hearts believe”. Cox and Marks also note:6
Thus, in extreme circumstances, deception and lying are permitted and the end justifies the means. These doctrines can clearly provide religious justification for deliberate deception – provided that the situation is perceived as threatening, which many Islamists believe is currently the case. The doctrine [taqiyya] could apply to those, for example, who quote a peaceful or tolerant verse from the Koran to show Islam as a religion of peace but fail to mention other verses which are warlike or intolerant”.
Taqiyya is also used by many Middle Eastern ruling elites and sects, including the Yezdi, Alaawites (the present Syrian ruling family), Sabaeans and the Druze whose use of taqiyya dates back to c. 966-1021. In the harsh Middle East environment, taqiyya became a necessary protection to conceal esoteric beliefs or terrorist plans and maintain operational security.
As previously noted, the Islamic tradition of taqiyya stretches back to the sixth century AD when, following disputes over succession after the Prophet’s death, the minority Shiites developed taqiyya or “holy deception” to conceal their “true” beliefs from the Sunni majority and to maintain operational security for their jihad/ terrorist missions in the Dar el Haab —The Domain of War. Daniel Pipes locates the spirit of taqiyya in the Syrian Alawis (also known as the Nusayris), a Shiite sect, saying:7
“We are the body and other sects are but clothing. However a man’s dress does not change him. So we always remain Nusayris, even though we externally adopt the practices of our neighbors. Whoever does not dissimulate is a fool, for no intelligent person goes naked in the market”.
According to Pipes:
“Taqiyya permits a Shi’i to pray with Sunnis, even while silently cursing the Sunni caliphs, and to raise children falsely to tell strangers they are Sunnis.”