The Impact of Colonialism on Contemporary Islamic Experience

Anthropology of Islam: The Impact of Colonialism on Contemporary Islamic Experience

Muhammad Sameel ‘Abd al-Haqq


Many modern Muslim social movements and developments can be seen as reaction not only to emerging modernity, but also as reactions to challenges brought about by European colonialism. The period extending from the beginning of the 13th century to the late 19th century has had a major impact on these emergent and emerging social movements and social trends in the Muslim world. Some cynical western observers, during the period extending from the end of the 19th century to present day, almost believed that Islam, as a world political force and military power was breathing its last breath. The religion itself was soon to follow, powerless in the face of the Western advance, colonialism, neo-colonialism, modernization, westernization and globalization all factors of that imminent decline. Other skeptics and concerned Muslims began expressing, through writing and speeches, the seemingly inevitable transformation of Islam into something more palatable to most Westerners, a “domesticated Islam” ; an Islam devoid of its menacing, destructive potential to bring down Western civilization.

Instead Muslim social movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, reformist movements such as the Salafiyya, Wahhabi, Neo-Khwarijite and Taliban-style movements abound. Without degenerating into terrorism apologetics or blindly accepting the Western anti-Islamic narratives that not only mislabel extremist groups, but misidentify their motives, we can ask why do these movements arise and abound. Why the resistance? Why does another group inevitably arise when one is destroyed? What exactly are they resisting? Some Muslim societies, especially those in the West, began to reinterpret Islam as a result of what was perceived as a threat to Islam, the Muslim way of life, and Muslim control of historically Muslim-majority lands. Others began to fear a sociocultural, if not spiritual incursion on the part of the West that would eventually lead, it was feared, to an Islam unrecognizable to the faithful.

As a result, direct and indirect challenges to this perceived threat have risen and continue to rise the world over. Reactions include attempts at formulating or reformulating an alternative to the “western way of life”, one that met the challenges of globalization and modernization in a post-colonial environment. This of course was done to maintain Islamic traditions, or so the reformers believed, in the context of “creating” or articulating an Islam more compatible with “western ideas such as democracy, human rights within the context of the nation-state, the global village, and modern scientific developments. Yet other reactionary movements saw these movements as traitorous, displaying an inordinate love for all things Western. This love, they accused, manifested itself in the belief that the Muslim world must incorporate or copy certain Western elements in order to remain relevant in the modern world. The ideas and achievements of the Western world seemed to be the frame of reference for all these Muslim reform groups. Indeed terrorist movements are seen as a relatively modern development in Islam.

The results of these reactionary developments, in hindsight probably, were inevitable. Violent conflicts continue to escalate without a viable solution in sight. Movements that began as non-violent,  intellectual activity, increasingly began to resort to violence to realize poorly articulated goals. Religio-spiritual confusion arose among Muslims who believed that Islam must be triumphant, so the cultural, political, and military ascendancy and supremacy of the West was seen as a failure of Muslims to follow Islam correctly. Muslim reformers, later to be called revivalists, began an attempt to purge from Islam all of the unIslamic elements that accrued over the centuries. We will attempt to analyze these movements as well as certain sociocultural trends that arose in the Muslim world as a direct result of colonialism.

Categories: Anthropology of Islam

Taqiyya and Lying in Islam

Taqiyya and Lying in Islam

Muhammad Sameel ‘Abd al-Haqq

Taqiyya is a concept all Islamophobes, including the author of the article How Taqiyya Alters Islam’s Rules of War:Defeating Jihadist Terrorism, Raymond Ibrahim, hardly  understand. The reality is that Islamophobes throw around the word “taqiyya” with little care for its actual meaning.  It is simply sloppy rhetoric, with no real substantive value. So I will suppose if cries of “Islamophobia” by Muslims are intellectual cop outs, designed to silence all criticism of Islam, then cries of “taqiyya” are the ultimate intellectual cop outs of Islamophobes designed to silence rebuttals of Islamophobes.  To be sure, just as there are legitimate instances of Islamophobia, there are also legitimate instances of lazy Muslims crying “Islamophobia!”. And just as there are legitimate instances of Muslim extremists employing their twisted understanding of taqiyya and kitman, there are many instances of Islamophobes crying “taqiyya” in order to silence Mainstream Muslims, and shove down our throats that the extremists’ ideology and narrative is the “real Islam”, firmly rooted in the Islamic tradition, texts, and teachings of Islam.

First off ,telling the truth is commanded in Islam, and honesty is highly praised. It’s as if after learning some legitimate Arabic terms used in Islam such as jihad, shari’ah, taqiyya and kitman, Islamophobes take their twisted or incomplete understanding of the terms and create a new buzz word. How about telling us the meanings of harb, qital, qatal, irhab, hirabah, fiqh, and/or idtirar instead?

Islamophobes simply take the words of the extremists as truth. But wait..Aren’t all Muslims liars, engaged in taqiyya and  active deception? Isn’t lying part of our religion? How do you know the extremists aren’t lying about Islam? When is a Muslim telling the truth? In short, who is practicing taqiyya, the Mainstream Muslim majority or the Muslim extremists and terrorists? After all, our narratives are diametrically opposed to each other, so it can’t be both groups.

From the Qur’an:

And cover not Truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth when ye know (what it is).  [Qur’an, 2:42]”

If ye are on a journey, and cannot find a scribe, a pledge with possession (may serve the purpose). And if one of you deposits a thing on trust with another, Let the trustee (Faithfully) discharge His trust, and let him fear his Lord. Conceal not evidence; for whoever conceals it,- His heart is tainted with sin. And God Knoweth all that ye do.  [Qur’an, 2:283]”

O ye who believe! Stand out firmly For justice, as witnesses To Allah, even as against Yourselves, or your parents, Or your kin, and whether It be (against) rich or poor: For Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (Of your hearts), lest ye Swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline To do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted With all that ye do.  [Qur’an, 4:135]”

But if anyone earns A fault or a sin And throws it on to one that is innocent, he carries (on himself) (Both) a falsehood and a flagrant sin.  [Qur’an, 4:112]”

…Help ye one another In righteousness and piety, But help ye not one another In sin and rancor: Fear Allah: for Allah Is strict in punishment.  [Qur’an, 5:2]”

O ye who believe! Stand out firmly For Allah, as witnesses To fair dealing, and let not The hatred of others To you make you swerve To wrong and depart from Justice. Be just: that is Next to Piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted With all that ye do. [Qur’an, 5:8]”

O you who believe, you shall reverence Allah, and be among the truthful.”  [Qur’an 9:119]

Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids All shameful deeds, and injustice And rebellion: He instructs you, That ye may receive admonition.  (Qur’an, 16:90)”

It is only those who believe not in the Ayah (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah, who fabricate falsehood, and it is they who are liars.” [Qur’an 16:105]

The submitting men, the submitting women, the believing men, the believing women, the obedient men, the obedient women, the truthful men, the truthful women, the steadfast men, the steadfast women, the reverent men, the reverent women, the charitable men, the charitable women, the fasting men, the fasting women, the chaste men, the chaste women, and the men who commemorate GOD frequently, and the commemorating women; Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a great recompense.” [Qur’an 33:35]

Truly Allah guides not one who transgresses and lies.” [Qur’an 40:28]

Woe to each sinful dealer in falsehoods:  [Qur’an, 45:7]”

Oh Prophet! Accept the pledges of the believing women, when they come to take their oaths of allegiance to you. Provided they pledge that they would not join any partners with Allah, would not steal, commit adultery or kill their children, and would not indulge in slander, and would not concoct lies on their own. Also, that they would not disobey you in what is right. Seek forgiveness for them from Allah! Certainly Allah is the most Forgiving and the most Merciful.  [Qur’an, 60:1]

Note: If there is  a claim of abrogation, hope you have fun finding the abrogating verse(s) that says, to the effect, “lying is permissible”.

From the Ahadith:

“Be honest because honesty leads to goodness, and goodness leads to Paradise. Beware of falsehood because it leads to immorality, and immorality leads to Hell.”

Abdullah bin Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Truth leads to piety and piety leads to Jannah. A man persists in speaking the truth till he is enrolled with Allah as a truthful. Falsehood leads to vice and vice leads to the Fire (Hell), and a person persists on telling lies until he is enrolled as a liar”.’

or an alternative rendering,

“It is obligatory for you to tell the truth, for truth leads to virtue and virtue leads to Paradise, and the man who continues to speak the truth and endeavors to tell the truth is eventually recorded as truthful with Allah, and beware of telling of a lie for telling of a lie leads to obscenity and obscenity leads to Hell-Fire, and the person who keeps telling lies and endeavors to tell a lie is recorded as a liar with Allah.”

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The signs of the hypocrite are three: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he is entrusted with something, he betrays that trust.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 33; Muslim, 59)

Hasan bin `Ali (May Allah be pleased with them) said: I remember (these words) from Messenger of Allah (PBUH): “Give up what is doubtful to you for that which is not doubtful; for truth is peace of mind and falsehood is doubt”.  [At-Tirmidhi].

Hakim bin Hizam (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “Both parties in a business transaction have a right to annul it so long as they have not separated; and if they tell the truth and make everything clear to each other (i.e., the seller and the buyer speak the truth, the seller with regard to what is purchased, and the buyer with regard to the money) they will be blessed in their transaction, but if they conceal anything and lie, the blessing on their transaction will be eliminated.’‘

[Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim].

The concept  of taqiyya, as usually understood, comes from this verse, along with a few others:

Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief, except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty.” [Qur’an: Surah 16: 106]

Taqiyya involves the Islamic concept of religious dissimulation, not in fear of persecution, but when actually faced with extreme persecution, imminent death, torture and compulsion. Taqiyya is also defined as the practice of precautionary dissimulation practiced by followers of Shi’a Islam, whereby believers may conceal their Shi’a faith when under threat, persecution or compulsion.

The term taqiyya (تقیه)  is derived from the Arabic triliteral root waw-qaf-ya, denoting “piety, devotion, uprightness, and godliness, and it means the brightest star”, It did not originate among Shi’a, though, but was expanded upon by them. It revolves around the aforementioned Quranic verse. Contrary to what Raymond Ibrahim claims, not only are taqiyya and kitman not a fundamental part of Islam, it is clear that it isn’t necessarily  taqiyya that is used as a form of deceit in times of war. The words for lie in Arabic are:

LIE      إِفْك        IFK

TO LIE           كَذَبَ       KAZABA

In no way does taqiyya involve active deceit. Stating that deceit is doctrinally grounded in Islam is disingenuous. And it is never depicted as superior to such as courage, fortitude, or self-sacrifice in war. In fact, anyone who knows anything about Islam knows that these things, especially shahadat(martyrdom/self-sacrifice) are praised, whereas deceit is only regarded as sometimes a necessity, not something eminently praiseworthy.

The first mistake in assuming that taqiyya is some essential part of Islam is the assumption that Shari’ah is the body of legal rulings that defines how a Muslim should behave in all circumstances( this is fiqh). Jurists have decreed that Muslims are permitted to lie in order to preserve themselves based on Qur’anic verses forbidding Muslims from being instrumental in their own deaths indeed, yet if anyone bothered to read the tafsir surrounding the revelation of the verse in question(Surah 16: 106), one would be familiar with the stories of Bilal, Soumayya, and her husband Yasir(radi Allahu anhum).

If we read “Azbab ul-Nuzul” (The Reasons for Revelation), we find the context of this verse:

Said Ibn ‘Abbas said: “This verse was revealed about Ammar ibn Yasir. The idolaters had taken him away along with his father Yasir, his mother Sumayyah, [etc.]…and tortured them. As for Sumayyah, she was tied up between two camels and stabbed with a spear in her female organ…[and] killed. Her husband Yasir was also killed…As for ‘Ammar, he was coerced to let them hear what they wanted to hear [i.e. renunciation of Islam]. God’s Messenger was told that Ammar has renounced faith, but he said: ‘Never, Ammar is filled with faith from his head to his toes; faith is admixed with his flesh and blood!’ Ammar then went to see God’s Messenger, crying.  God’s Messenger used his hands to wipe Ammar’s tears, and said: ‘If they return to you, let them hear again what you told them’. Then Almighty God revealed this verse [16:1o6].”

Also, Mujahid said: “This verse was revealed about some Meccans who accepted faith [i.e. Islam]… The Quraysh caught up with them…and coerced them to renounce their faith. It is about them that this verse was revealed.”

Although taqiyya is a doctrine further developed in Shi’ism, exactly for the reason of persecution at the hands of the majority Sunnis, as we can see, it is also true that there is some justification for such a belief in Sunni canonical sources. Thus, renouncing Islam under duress, torture, and fear of imminent death, is the only application of taqiyya that exists in Sunni Islam, which 85% of Muslims follow. Virtually all Shi’ites believe in a similar restriction of taqiyya. It is not permissible to lie about Islam.

As far as one of the few books devoted to the subject(which should give you a clue about its actual importance and application in Islam), “At-Taqiyya fi’l-Islam” (Dissimulation in Islam), the author Sami Mukarem, is a Druze. The Druze are famous for dissembling their religious beliefs, and as a mystical offshoot of Ismai’ilism, they are not even regarded as within the fold of Islam by most Muslims. All of the author’s assertions about the fundamental importance and applicability of taqiyya among every “sect” in Islam is to be rejected. Most Muslims have never even heard of this doctrine until an Islamophobe brandishes it in a declaration of (faux) victory.

The claim that Sunnis living in the West today find themselves in the place of the Shi’a is sheer nonsense. Though many Islamophobes would like to persecute us, thankfully(Alhamdulillah), we have not yet reached the stage of the severe persecution the Shi’a faced from some Sunnis.

Qur’anic verse 3:28 is often seen by Islamophobes as another primary verse that sanctions deception towards non-Muslims. But it is their translations that allows them this deceptive idea. Translations such as this:

“Let believers [Muslims] not take infidels [non-Muslims] for friends and allies instead of believers. Whoever does this shall have no relationship left with God—unless you but guard yourselves against them, taking precautions.”

Here is better translation, with the Arabic transliteration:

[Qur’an 3:28]Let not the believers take the kafireen for awliya rather than believers. And whoever does this has no connection with Allah — except that you guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully. And Allah cautions you against His retribution. And to Allah is the eventual coming.

La yattakhithi almu/minoona alkafireena awliyaa min dooni almu/mineena waman yafAAal thalika falaysa mina Allahi fee shay-in illa an tattaqoo minhum tuqatan wayuhaththirukumu Allahu nafsahu wa-ila Allahi almaseeru

Although  many translators translate “awliya” as friends, anyone more familiar with Arabic knows that this word is not properly translated as friend only, but as “protector”, “saint”, and “friend”. ‘Sadiq” word be a more appropriate word here. The verse conveys  two of these connotations at once, and the inclusion of the words, “rather than the believers”, makes it clear that this verse is not about deceiving “infidels”.  More importantly kafir does not signify all non Muslims/nonbelievers, but only those who cover up (the (truth).  A closer analysis of verse 3:28 gives another, totally different, picture.  While many extremists Muslims do believe it is forbidden to become friends with non-Muslims, mainstream Muslims believe the term awliya does not properly translate to “friends.”  Rather, the Arabic term awliya refers to a specific type of friendship, an unequal “friendship”.  And in the context of the verse in question, it refers to two things:

1. A relationship where a Muslim is receiving protection from the non-Muslim; in particular, the Muslim is at the mercy of the non-Muslim.  A better translation of the word awliya would be “protecting friends”, or simply “patrons.”

2. It is also clear that war is also the context, not normal relations.

The prohibition of taking disbelievers as awliya is repeated in verse 60:1, where Allah says:

“O you who believe, do not take My enemies–who are your enemies as well–as your awliya–offering them your love, even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have on the contrary driven out the Prophet and yourselves from your homes, simply because you believe in your Lord Allah!” [Qur’an, 60:1].

This verse makes the context and the meaning of awliya, especially in its Quranic usage, much clearer. A  few lines down it is even clarified that Allah is only talking about those disbelievers who oppress the Muslims by fighting them for their faith and driving the Muslims out of their homes:

“As for those disbelievers who do not fight against you on account of your faith, and who do not expel you from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and equity, for verily God loves the equitable!  God only forbids you from taking as awliya (protecting friends) those who fight you for your faith, and who drive you out of your homes and support others in driving you out.  Those who seek their protection are indeed wrongdoers.” [Quran, 60:8-9]

Even if we accept that the only possible definition of awliya is “friends”, the Quranic verse would only prohibit taking those disbelievers as friends who oppress the Muslims; not all non-Muslims.

And, as  Danios from Loonwatch writes:

“Furthermore, 3:28 was revealed in a certain context: the Prophet Muhammad had begun preaching his new religion in Mecca, his birthplace.  The pagans of Mecca oppressed and tortured his followers.  As has been discussed earlier, the Prophet Muhammad gave permission to some of the weaker and more vulnerable converts to pretend to renounce their faith in order to avoid being tortured and killed.  (This developed into the Shi’ite doctrine of taqiyya.)  Eventually, the persecution reached such a level that the Prophet ordered his followers to flee to the city of Yathrib (Medina), an event that came to be known as the Hijra (Emigration).  However, some of the early Muslims were too weak to travel and/or were prevented from leaving by the pagans of Mecca.  It was these that were permitted to use “taqiyya” to save their lives.

The pagans of Mecca threatened to destroy the city-state of Medina, and with it the religion of Islam.  They established a network of spies in Medina, by reaching out to some of the non-Muslims of Medina as well as some of the Muslims weak in faith.  The looming threat of a pagan conquest of Medina caused many of the weaker willed Muslims to lose their faith in the Prophet; many of them sought the protection of the Meccan pagans.   It was these Muslims that the Quran was calling out in verse 3:28 and 60:1, urging the Muslims not to “take the disbelievers (i.e. the pagans plotting to overthrow Medina) for awliya (protecting friends) rather than believers (the Prophet and the defenders of Medina).”The words “except by way of precaution when you fear them” was referring to those Muslims left behind in Mecca, reassuring them that they were not to be faulted for trying to save their lives (from torture and death) by using “taqiyya.”  However, a key point here is that the Muslims of Mecca were commanded to flee to Medina, and whoever did not do so was considered sinful, except those physically incapable of doing so.  The Quran says:

When the angels collect the souls of those who die in sin against themselves (because they did not emigrate from Mecca), the angels will ask: “What was wrong with you?”  The people will answer: “We were too weak on earth.”  The angels will say: “Was God’s earth not spacious enough for you to migrate to some other place?”  For such the goal is Hell, what an evil refuge!  Except those who are truly weak and prevented by the oppressors, those men, women, and children who have no means in their power to emigrate.  For these, there is hope that God will forgive them: for God blots out sins and forgives again and again.  He who forsakes his home in the Cause of God finds the earth wide and spacious, with many places of refuge.  Should he die as a refugee from his home, his reward from God is sure.  God is Most Forgiving and Most Merciful.  (Quran, 4:97-100)

Clearly, it is not appropriate to analogize the circumstance in verse 3:28 to the situation of Muslim-Americans today.  Unlike the Muslims of pagan Mecca who were tortured and killed if they professed their faith in Islam, Muslim-Americans have freedom of religion.  The state will not kill Muslim-Americans for being Muslim.  Yes, if Muslim-Americans are ever rounded up and sent to concentration camps, as some of the Islamophobes so desire, then in that situation a Muslim-American could use taqiyya to deny that he is a Muslim.  But what relevance is taqiyya when their lives are not at stake?  Even the verse that Spencer himself quotes, verse 3:28, says “except by way of precaution when you fear them.”  Do Muslim-Americans fear for their lives?  Spencer doesn’t even believe that Islamophobia is real, let alone the idea that Muslim-Americans fear for their lives due to their profession of faith, so how does this verse apply at all?

It would only apply to a situation such as the Inquisition in Spain.  And even in this case, the first option would not be taqiyya.  Rather, the Muslims would be commanded to emigrate to another place, such as to the Muslim majority world, wherein they could freely practice their religion.  Any Muslim who willingly stayed behind in Spain and pretended to become Christian might be considered sinful (and therefore deserving of Hell!).  God would only forgive those Muslims who were physically incapable of leaving Spain, due to handicap or prevention by the Spanish authorities.  Therefore, we see that taqiyya is a last case option, and only when there is no other choice.  Even if a Muslim-American felt like there was a  possibility he could be tortured or threatened with death for his faith, in the United States, he would still have the option of migrating to another country.  Taqiyya would simply not be an option, and anyone who resorted to that would be considered sinful and Hell-bound.”

Citing Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari (d. 923) is merely irresponsibly citing medieval opinion while ignoring context and modern Islamic scholarly opinion. Declaring him “author of a standard and authoritative Qur’an commentary” is more rhetoric designed to fool the reader.  At-Tabari does not create Islamic doctrine. Same goes for ibn Kathir, Abu ‘Abdullah al-Qurtubi (1214-73)and Muhyi ‘d-Din ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240).No ‘alim, fuqaha, or mufti or any Muslim has that prerogative.  Any Muslim who declares “Taqiyya, even if committed without duress, does not lead to a state of infidelity—even if it leads to sin deserving of hellfire” is obviously wrong, but only in the sense of it implying that lying is a laudable trait. Rather, what the ‘ulema mean by this statement is that althought lying is a sin, lying when not under duress does not make one a kafir murtad(aposatasizing disbeliever), as taqiyya is only permitted under duress! Claiming, as Ibrahim does, that Muslims can behave like “infidels” and worse—for example, by bowing down and worshiping idols and crosses, offering false testimony, and even exposing the weaknesses of their fellow Muslims to the infidel enemy—anything short of actually killing a Muslim”, ignores, again, that taqiyya can only be employed under duress.

While acknowledging that deception of the enemy during war is only common sense, Ibrahim goes on to elaborate another lie that involves the idea “that war against the infidel is a perpetual affair. In fact, the statement “ all four schools of Sunni jurisprudence agree that “jihad is when Muslims wage war on infidels, after having called on them to embrace Islam or at least pay tribute [jizya] and live in submission, and the infidels refuse”, is a gross misrepresentation, as all schools of Sunni jurisprudence consist of individuals, the majority of whom don’t hold this view. An appeal to this merely ignores the contemporary situation where a cut and dry adherence to a madhabb is not the prevailing circumstance while also disregarding the circumstances that lead to such a view of jihad by some medieval jurists. Dar al-Islam and dar al-Harb is a medieval concept, and many scholars argue that anywhere one is able to practice Islam freely, free from persecution is Dar al-Islam . At the very least Ibrahim ignores that this dichotomous division was:

1. Not something found in the Qur’an, but elucidated by jurists, and

2. It is not the only way the medieval Islamic scholars have “divided the world”.

Moreover there is no obligation to convert everybody to Islam  by force.

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Robert Spencer agrees with Ibrahim and wants to convince the public that Islamic law allows for, and even encourages lying “if it fosters the growth of Islam” and that  “moderate Muslims” are “stealth jihadists”, who are simply using deception to further the faith. Any moral code worthy enough because it avoids fallacies and logical contradictions would allow for lying in certain circumstances. It’s common sense that no moral code should command honesty without exception. It brings to mind the famous Nazi’s at your door story. Or my own “Bin Laden at your door asking for Robert Spencer” comparison. Would you tell the truth and turn in Spencer, who is visiting you at your home? There is no need to touch on the fact that this type of allowance for lying in extreme situations is present in Christianity, Judaism, and even in atheistic or humanistic moral philosophy.

According to ahadith, in Islam, the Prophet Muhammad(saws) allowed for three (and only three) exceptions to the rule of honesty :

Lying is NOT permitted except in three cases: (1) a man’s speaking to his wife to make her happy; (2) lying at times of war; (3) and lying in order to reconcile between people.

Lying in order to reconcile people(s), is based on Islam’s emphasis on peace and a saying of the Prophet(as):

He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar.”

But obviously what we are most concerned with here, primarily, is the idea of war, and how extremists believe Muslims are at war with non-Muslims by virtue of them being non Muslims; and Islamophobes believe the extremists.  Lying to “unbelievers” or “infidels” becomes perpetually permissible by this standard. Prophet Muhammad’s(saws) statement that “war is deceit/deception” has led to a basis for promulgation of this taqiyya-linked idea of the permissibility of lying to all non-believers as standard practice. Yet as the following story shows deception is only permitted in war; war defined as “open hostilities, that both sides acknowledge  that they are at war with each other”, as per Islamic law, and/or armed conflict:

During the Battle of the Trench, the Confederates, led by the Meccans, were threatening to use their overwhelming numbers to destroy Islamic city-state, Medina.  They lay siege to the city. Nuaym ibn Masud was instructed by the Prophet Muhammad(saws)to break the deadly siege. Nuaym said he could do this, but that “this requires me to lie.” The Prophet(as) replied “war is deception.” And so Nuaym went to the various factions making up the Confederates and convinced them of the supposed disloyalty of their own allies.  This sowed discord and disunity in the enemy ranks, which the Muslims capitalized on to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

As you can find here:

along with a thorough refutation of Spencer’s ideas about taqiyya, which also addresses all the falsehoods/points of the article by Ibrahim, there is also this statement:

The ultraconservative Islamic website,, explains the difference between deceit/deception and treachery:

[Question:] Does Islam permit deception in war? Is this considered to be betrayal and treachery?

[Answer:] Praise be to Allaah.

Allaah has forbidden treachery and has condemned those who do it. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“They are those with whom you made a covenant, but they break their covenant every time and they do not fear Allaah” [al-Anfaal  8:56]

And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“Every betrayer will have a banner on the Day of Resurrection, by which he will be known.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6966; Muslim, 1736)

Al-Bukhaari narrated that Ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: ‘The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘There are four characteristics, whoever has them all is a pure hypocrite: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise he breaks it; when he is entrusted with something he betrays that trust; and when he argues, he speaks in an obscene manner. Whoever has one of these traits has a trait of hypocrisy until he gives it up.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3878; Muslim, 58)

And it was narrated that Maalik said: “I heard that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Abbaas said: ‘There is no people who betrays their covenant but Allaah gives their enemies power over them.” (al-Muwatta’, Baab ma jaa’a fi’l-wafa’ bi’l-‘ahd)

Yet despite this condemnation of betrayal, Islam allows deception in war in order to attain victory. Al-Nawawi said: “The scholars are agreed that it is permissible to deceive the kuffaar [infidels] in war in any way possible, except if that would mean breaking the terms of a treaty or trust, in which case it is not permitted.”

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “War is deceit.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3029; Muslim, 58).  One of the most dangerous elements of deceit is taking the enemy by surprise and catching them unawares before they can get ready to fight. When the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) wanted to head for Makkah in order to conquer it, he ordered the Muslims to get ready without telling anyone of his intention until after they had set out for Makkah, and after taking all precautions to prevent news of that reaching the mushrikeen. And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to send out many raiding parties, and he would tell them to travel by night and conceal themselves by day so that they could catch the enemy unawares.

Although it is permissible to use deception in war, we say that Islam has attained a high standard of ethics with regard to the use of these tricks in war. Among the most prominent examples of that are the following:

‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab wrote to the commander of an army that he had sent out: “I have heard that some men among you look for kaafirs, then when they run to hide in difficult mountainous terrain they say, ‘Do not be afraid,’ then when they catch up with them they kill them. By the one in whose hand is my soul, if I hear that anyone has done that I will chop off his head.”

It was narrated that Abu Muslimah said: “ ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab said: ‘By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if any one of you were to point to the sky [i.e., a gesture to imply that he will not harm him] to make a mushrik come down to him and then kill him, I would kill him for that.’”

Islam has forbidden treachery, and treachery is not one of the kinds of tricks and deception that are permitted in war. This Islamic sharee’ah makes a distinction between the kinds of deceit that are permitted and that which involves treachery and breaks treaties. See al-‘Allaaqaat al-Khaarijiyyah fi Dawlat al-Khilaafah, 197. Islam Q&A Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid”

Furthermore Islam does not command that Muslims only be honest with Muslims, but lie to unbelievers. Nowhere will you find in any Quranic verse or Prophetic tradition that says lie to the“unbeliever”, lie to the “non-Muslim”, and/or lie to the “infidel”. Lying is permitted in war, and under specific circumstances, and that the war may be with non-Muslims is entirely incidental.

As for Muslims deceiving non Muslims when they are minorities in Western countries:

“ Allah will not call you to account for what is futile in your oaths, but He will call you to account for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on a scale of the average for the food of your families; or clothe them; or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for three days. That is the expiation for the oaths ye have sworn. But keep to your oaths. Thus doth Allah make clear to you His signs, that ye may be grateful.” Surah 5:89

“Allah will not call you to account for thoughtlessness (vain) in your oaths, but for the intention in your hearts; and He is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing.” Surah 2:225

Danios, whom Spencer refuses to debate, writes “According to Islamic law, the status of citizenship is considered a trust.  It cannot be violated.  Therefore, it would be impermissible for a Muslim-American to violate his American citizenship.  As such, it would be completely forbidden in Islam for a Muslim-American to plot against the United States of America.  Such a person would be resurrected on the Day of Judgment with the Banner of Treachery, according to Islamic theology.

According to Islamic law, when a person enters a non-Muslim country using a visa, by doing so he enters into a covenant of peace with them.  It thereby becomes forbidden for such a person to plot against them, and their wealth, lives, and property are considered sacrosanct.  As the classical Islamic jurist Imam Shafi’i opined: “If he is safe from them, they should be safe from him.”  In other words, a Muslim may not plot against the non-Muslims who allowed him to enter their country.  During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, a man named Mughira bin Shuba converted to Islam while living in the lands of the non-Muslims.  Upon his conversion, Mughira killed the men while they were caught unaware, and ran off with their wealth.  When Mughira fled to the lands of Islam with this wealth, the Prophet Muhammad rejected his action, calling it “treachery.”  The Prophet said: “The wealth…is obtained through treachery, and we have no need of it.”

The ultraconservative Islamic website says:

When a Muslim enters a kaafir country, it is as if he entering into a peaceful agreement with them – which is the visa which is given to him to enable him to enter their country – so if he takes their wealth unlawfully, then he is breaking that agreement, in addition to being a thief.

The wealth that he steals from them is haraam. It was narrated that al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah kept company with some people during the Jaahiliyyah. He killed them and took their wealth, then he came and entered Islam. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “As for your Islam, I accept it, and as for the wealth, I have nothing to do with it.” According to a report narrated by Abu Dawood, “As for your Islam, we accept it, and as for the wealth it is obtained through treachery, and we have no need of it.”

(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2583; Abu Dawood, 2765; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood, 2403)

Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar said:

The phrase “and as for the wealth, I have nothing to do with it” means, I will not touch it because it was obtained through treachery. What we learn from this is that it is not permissible to take the wealth of the kuffaar [non-Muslims] by treachery when they have trusted you and granted you safety, because when people accompany one another (when travelling), they do so on the basis of mutual trust, and that trust should not be betrayed, whether the other person is a Muslim or a kaafir…

Fath al-Baari, 5/341

Al-Shaafa’i (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: When a Muslim enters dar al-harb (the non-Muslim lands) on peaceful terms, and finds himself in position to take something of their wealth, it is not permissible for him to take it, whether it is a little or a lot, because if he is safe from them, they should be safe from him…

Al-Sarkhasi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: It is not right for a Muslim who is on peaceful terms with them to betray them, because betrayal is haraam. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every betrayer will have a banner by his backside on the Day of Resurrection, by which his betrayal will be known.”

If he betrays them and steals their wealth, and brings it to the Muslim lands, it is not right for a Muslim to buy from him if he knows about that, because he has obtained it in an evil manner, and buying from him is encouraging him in that, which it is not right for the Muslim to do. The basic principle in this matter is the hadeeth of al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah (may Allaah be pleased with him), when he killed his companions and brought their wealth to Madeenah and became Muslim, and asked the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to take the khums of his wealth, and he said, “As for your Islam, we accept it, and as for the wealth it is obtained through treachery, and we have no need of it.” Al-Mabsoot, 10/96

Al-Sarkhasi (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: It is not right for a Muslim who is on peaceful terms with them to betray them, because betrayal is haraam. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Every betrayer will have a banner by his backside on the Day of Resurrection, by which his betrayal will be known.” If he betrays them and steals their wealth, and brings it to the Muslim lands, it is not right for a Muslim to buy from him if he knows about that, because he has obtained it in an evil manner, and buying from him is encouraging him in that, which it is not right for the Muslim to do. The basic principle in this matter is the hadeeth of al-Mugheerah ibn Shu’bah (may Allaah be pleased with him), when he killed his companions and brought their wealth to Madeenah and became Muslim, and asked the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) to take the khums of his wealth, and he said, “As for your Islam, we accept it, and as for the wealth it is obtained through treachery, and we have no need of it.” Al-Mabsoot, 10/96″

And if you know anything about fiqh al-aqalliyyat you would know it is very clear that Islam does not permit Muslims living in the West to engage in treachery against their fellow citizens, or against the state. In fact, lying about the religion is considered more heinous than a regular lie, and constitutes an act of kufr;  lying about the religion is forbidden. It is classified as a “lie against Allah and His Messenger”, and leads to Jahannum. There are many ahadith warning about lying about Allah and Muhammad(saws), indicating that what is referred to here is lying about the religion. A  Muslim who deliberately lies about Islam, would be considered an apostate(murtad), which is why many frequently say Allahu A’lam (Allah knows best),or “whatever I say that is true is from Allah, all mistakes are my own or the whispers of shaytan” to avoid this. In addition the claim that Islam permits lying about the religion to further it is a fabrication. There is not a single instance in the life of the Prophet (as) in which he lied about Islam or allowed anyone else to do so.

Allahu A’lam

Categories: Anthropology of Islam

The Idea of a Universal Muslim Identity

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The Idea of a Universal Muslim Identity

Muhammad Sameel ‘Abd al-Haqq

The idea of an anthropology of Islam is potentially very beneficial, but in the wrong hands, potentially useless or even dangerous in certain circumstances, as previously stated in another essay article. The difference between what Islam teaches and how it is understood and manifested among Muslims, that is to say how it is believed and practiced in history as well as contemporarily, are not the only major issues at stake. The origins of religious beliefs, the impact of secularization, westernization, and European colonialism on Muslim societies are important to understand. Also the control of the transmission of the original Message, the impact of Muslim governmental regimes, as well as key definitions and concepts, are important. Common approaches tend to obscure not only the truth of Islam, but the truth about Islam.

Clifford Geertz in his book “Islam Observed: Religious Development in Indonesia and Morocco” has attempted to analyze how the experience of Muslims and the practice of Islam in these modern nations helps to conceptualize a tension that exists between a universal Muslim identity and divergent, nationalistic, almost heterodox manifestation of Muslim identity.

Language usage in the study of Islam is the key factor in perpetuating and originating misconceptions. The concept of “us” versus “them” that pervades even academic discourse in Western societies has filtered into the Muslim world and into studies concerned with Islam. How Islam is perceived defines the approach, and in some cases, the conclusions of any study of Islam. How does Islam  impact pre-existing social structures and shape them, Islamicize them, or reform them?

The imposition of correct, orthodox ideas by assumed authority figures is a prominent feature of the tension between clerically authenticated and dominated Islamic discourse and the practice of Islam on the ground. It is definitely true that Islam must be studied as a discursive tradition that grew out of a specific context of experience. Islam in some sense is monolithic, but is not so rigidly legalistic, as imagined by its detractors, that it cannot be expressed in multiple ways based on the sociocultural milieu in which it finds itself; ways that are all authentically Islamic. Islam offers as range of possible “interpretations”, as long as the original meaning of Islam; the original message of the Prophet Muhammad(saws); and the original objectives of the Qur’an are not overturned in order to create an Islam that is more palatable to non-Muslims.

Geertz raises the issue of orthodoxy in Islam, and I will raise it here. Although many scholars, most of them non-Muslim, have suggested that there is no real orthodoxy in Islam, making it a most fluid religion, I would suggest, as studies of aqida demonstrate, there is an orthodox view in Islam. However the main concern seems to be with orthopraxy, right practice. The idea of a state-sanctioned Islam which we find throughout the Muslim world and which I argue is evidence that currently there are no Islamic States in the world, creates the societal tensions that give rise to the Muslim identity crisis. Many of the “clergy” in these regimes, whether monarchic like Saudi Arabia, theocratic like Iran or Secular like Turkey or Tunisia, have been co-opted by the state. And the ‘ulema, eager to exercise the influence that previous generations of Muslim scholars have had on the Muslim world have allowed themselves to be co-opted. For this reason we see many practices  in such countries as Indonesia or Morocco labeled as unIslamic. Curiously, very few prominent people will also publicly declare what is believed to be uniquely Saudi Arabian Islam(so-called Wahabbism) to be unIslamic.

Globalization in the face of long-standing cultures, which were themselves transformed or “converted” by or for Islam, has created the need to define Islam in ways that established an orthodoxy and passively or sometimes aggressively enforced orthopraxy. Geertz believes, in the interest of avoiding a monolithic definition of Islam, that defining a “global Islam marginalizes non-conforming local groups, with respect to defining orthodox practice and dogma”. This may not necessarily be the case, as there is something about being Muslim that connects me to my brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Bosnia, Albania, Kazakhstan, Chechnya, and everywhere Muslims are found. If there is a universal Muslim Identity then there must be a Global Islam, so what exactly is it that connects us as Muslims? I will not attempt to answer that question in this essay, but it is an important one to consider if we are to consider the idea of a universal Muslim identity at all.

Is this identity to be found in sociocultural, religious or political contexts? It seems with the varying cultures found all over the Muslim world, and with the utter rejection of Arabism as Islam by a majority of the world’s Muslims, a cultural universal identity among Muslims is problematic. A religious universal identity is more feasible and more realistic, but we will not elaborate on it in this article as the subject deserves its own full treatment.

According to Geertz “it is not much easier to conceive of Christianity without Gregory than without Jesus…then Islam without the Ulema than without Muhammad”( Geertz ). This remark illustrates the important role the ‘ulema have in shaping the Muslim identity, so ‘ulema around the world, collectively, it will be posited, must contribute somehow to a universal Muslim identity. We can already agree, in general if not specifically how, that this universal identity is primarily religious by definition. But as Muslims are scattered around the world is it possible to talk of political unity among Muslims?

The modern nation state and specifically pan-Arabism has eclipsed the idea of a universal Muslim identity that would inevitably create this political unity that I am speaking of. If there can be one difference between extremists and mainstream Muslims that will always escape Islamophobes, it will be their understanding of the differing ideas about the Caliphate and it’s revival among groups of Muslims. Many extremists do in fact believe in a realization of a  Global Caliphate in which they envision Islam as the dominant if not only political entity in all the world, spread by any means necessary. Many more extremists have more ephemeral, difficult to discern goals, and their actions are primarily a reaction to neo-colonialism and Western military occupation of Muslim-majority lands. Many, if not most, Mainstream Muslims, even if they will not say so publicly for fear of being labeled as “Islamic Supremacists”, envision a day when Islam will indeed be the dominant religion in the world. The Qur’an seems to say that the world will never be entirely Muslim, so how would this religious domination translate politically?

Various “types” of Islam, from the emphasis on saintliness and moral character found in Morocco, to the reflective, sometimes syncretistic form found in Indonesia, may present as obstacles to a political unity of Muslim states. In response to sociological pressures the approach to consolidating Islam in Morocco has been “rigorism and aggressive fundamentalism, an active attempt to impress a seamless orthodoxy on the entire population”, according to Geertz,(Geertz 16). But in the era and context of Modern States I take the middle position of stating that a revival of the Caliphate would in fact be a political unity among Muslims where a federation of Muslim-majority states is formed in order to secure Muslim self-determination in the world.

It would not be some sort of global empire forged through religious or holy war designed to subjugate, convert, or kill all non-Muslims in a bid to take over the world. This political unity when joined with a sort of religious unity(after all Sufis and some Shi’a are still Muslims), is what is necessary to create a universal Muslim identity. Although the Qur’an does not specify a particular form of government, a confederation of Muslim-majority states adhering to the governmental/political principles of the Shari’ah as found in the Qur’an and the authentic Sunna of the Prophet(saws) is extremely realistic, in theory, in the contemporary context of Modern Nation-States that we find ourselves in. How feasible is it though, in practice?

In short, the  origins of religious beliefs, the impact of secularization, westernization, and European colonialism on Muslim societies are important to understand why Islam is in fact flexible and not monolithic and legalistically rigid. Although many will argue that certain tensions in Muslim societies creates a need to define a “global Islam”, historically Islam has shown itself to be remarkably adaptable to local cultures and sociological conditions. Whether this Islam is more dogmatic or authoritarian in form as a reaction to Western encroachment, or a more peaceful, integrative Islam is entirely up to the mainstream Global Muslim Community. Just as we cannot let extremists or Islamophobes define Islam, we cannot let them shape the Universal Muslim Identity either, whatever that turns out to be.

Categories: Anthropology of Islam

The Academic Approach to the Study of Islam

January 17, 2011 1 comment

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The Academic Approach to the Study of Islam

Muhammad Sameel ‘Abd al-Haqq

The academic approach to the study of Islam seems to have major shortcomings, one of them being the tendency of academics to conflate the delimited categories of Islam and how it, the religion, is manifested and understood by human moral agents. In other words, those who study Islam, both Muslim and non-Muslim, tend to confuse the Muslim understanding of the Deen with what is called Historical Islam. A noted Sufi saying, which I will paraphrase here, illustrates this tendency. People tend to mistake the content for the container. Furthermore, , imagine a path and a vehicle traveling along that path. If the vehicle is on that path with no driver,  or passengers of course, the vehicle will not move and observers may notice and wonder how the vehicle appeared as if out of nowhere, from a vacuum. If there is a passenger in the passenger seat, yet no driver, observers may wonder why this passenger just does not take the wheel and operate the vehicle. If there is a driver, then the vehicle is of course capable of  moving along the path. The question becomes, who can be a driver?

What does the above metaphorical description really represent? In Islam, the drivers are the Prophets and Messengers, possibly Imams, ‘Ulama, and “Saints”; the wilaya. The passengers are the regular adherents of the Faith. The owner’s Manual for this particular vehicle, Islam, is the Authentic Revelation(Qur’an). The vehicle is the external aspect of Islam (namely fasting, salat, etc.). The path( Shari’ah), as opposed to fiqh, or jurisprudence is the circular path that begins and ends with Allah(swt). Thus I think it becomes important to make the distinction between Religion, as a way of life and with a capital “R”, when in authentic form and religion with a lower case “r”, as normally understood, but really referring to religious tradition and the manifested externals from which these traditions stem.

Many scholars have remarked that it is actually impossible to study religion in this way, by studying its externals and religious and historically-shaped traditions, yet are averse to acknowledge that the study of religion, by studying only belief and practice, still yields many misconceptions. The human elements, the sociocultural, historical, and psychological circumstances that give rise to the individuals’ understanding of Religion are largely ignored. The Historicist and Orientalist approach, which tends to partially and erroneously separate belief from practice, has utterly failed to yield an understanding of Islam. Indeed many a scholar and so-called expert on Islam have declared that anyone declaring that there is a “true Islam” or a “true religion” is suspect. Yet without a true Islam there can be no false Islam. Both belief and practice, with respect to religion, are actually mutually driven by each other, as external symbolic representations of contact with the Divine. In essence the True Religion does exist and is something much deeper than its external manifestations for a Muslim, as any who have read the Qur’an with an open heart will attest.

But why an anthropology of Islam, then? The idea of an anthropology of Islam( or Islamic anthropology or Islam studied anthropologically by Muslims) is exciting, even if deemed potentially useless. In the wrong hands many issues pertaining to Islam can be muddled. The issue of the difference of content and container as discussed above are not even the most important. The origins of religion and belief, the impact of secularization(westernization?) on the Muslims, control of the transmission of the Message, as well as key definitions important for understanding Islam are critical. When using the common approaches, most of them indebted to Orientalists, we come up short.

Even when utilizing a newer academic and anthropological approach we come up short, not only because of the tendency to artificially separate belief from practice, but because many “experts”, whether Islamophobe, Missionary, academic, anthropologist or other social-scientist, historian, or neo-Orientalist, tend to either treat Islam as a monolith or present the extremist narrative as normative Islam. In other words in these types of approaches we are not actually studying Islam, but “fundamentalist” or “orthodox conservative” Islam, whereby the definition of “moderates” becomes those who have rejected certain aspects of Islam. In other essays I will begin to discuss the errors and limitations of studying religion by studying religious practices and the behavior of its adherents as well as provide clearer more concise definitions of such terms as “fundamentalist”, “orthodox conservatives” and why I reject the ubiquitous term, “Moderate Muslim”.

The only way to study Islam is holistically, so I envision an academic approach to Islam dominated by Muslim specialists, not the usual Missionaries, Orientalists and so-called Non-Muslim experts on Islam, academic or independent. With the unprecedented loss of authority experienced by the ‘ulama, beginning with the destructiveness of the Mongol invasions, extending to dissolution of the Caliphate,  and culminating in  the colonialist policies of the Western powers, we must all endeavor to empower our scholars with the authority and influence they previously enjoyed. We must also be ready to accept a new branch of ‘ulama, adequately equipped to deal with the issues and challenges modernity presents;  Islamic anthropologists.

Categories: Anthropology of Islam

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Assalamu alaikum to the world


Categories: Anthropology of Islam