No, there is no "taqiyya" doctrine that lets all Muslims lie for the good of the faith

The Egyptian MB, or at least significant factions thereof, is moderate. Relative to al Qaeda. Probably not so much relative to the Turkish AKP. But it’s all on a sliding scale. If the claim is just that the EMB is as currently configured is more moderate than the jihadist-salafists like GIA/GSPC or even Hamas, I’d have to agree.

But at any rate I’d also agree this seems to be a bit of hijack to the thread.

And just for the additional pedantic quotient, while it is true that taqiyya is a Shi’a notion, it is probably worth noting that it is not even universal there. The Zaydi Shi’a in particular directly reject such dissembling as a matter of faith.

See post #38.

Much obliged if you could post that in this thread where it belongs, thankee-sai.

Tamerlane: well, hell, compared to Al Quaeda almost everybody is a moderate. But people whose official position is to murder apostates and adulterers and to “punish” gays is hardly a moderate faction. That’s like claiming that the Iranian theocracy is also moderate… but Glutton also has claimed that Iran is a thriving civil society.
Trying to claim, as Glutton did, they they the MB is less extreme than the American religious right is beyond absurdity. Then claiming that people are distrustful of the MB’s propaganda efforts, and the Westerners who spread them, due go some sort of Islamapobic misuse of terms, when not one single Doper or MSM source is offered as a basis for such a claim?

And still no retraction from Glutton about how moderate the MB is and how the American religious right is worse. But that’s okay because hey, some uncited, unquoted, unnamed people disagree with Glutton due to Islamaphobic nonsense about the MB.

Yes. I know. No retraction of your absurd error. No proof ghat any on the dope or in the MSM ever said anything like what you’re arguing about here. No cite to back up your claim that I “misused” the concept of Taquiya.
But, after refusing to retract your error, you did start a thread alleging that people were objecting to your error based on some sort of a Islamophobic basis. You can’t cite any of them though.

My point, more or less. They generally don’t seem to be bright-line extremists of the “let’s exterminate the takfiri” sort. But they aren’t the least conservative flavor of Islamism, either. And all Islamists are going to be on the conservative side of the coin relative to secularists.

I haven’t been following these debates closely, as I’ve grown weary of this set of topics over the years. But in general, yes, EMB is probably more conservative than the average conservative American evangelical, most of whom aren’t genuine theocrats ( ETA: though to be fair most Sunni Islamists aren’t exactly theocrats either, some oddball Khomeini-admiring groups like the flavors of Islamic Jihad possibly excepted ). However on the fringe I’d say Christian Reconstructionists are probably loosely analogous.

Sure, and the Dominionists are some scary fuckers. But those who want to murder adulterers and apostates and “punish” gays are anything but moderate or safe to trust with power. And arguing that people are distrustful of the MB due Islamaphobic bias, sans cite, is obfuscatory.

Sorry, that must have sounded snarky; I meant only that Tamerlane’s contribution to the other thread would be valuable.

While I don’t remember seeing anyone claim that the Muslim Brotherhood specifically cannot be trusted because they are practicing “taqiyya,” I have seen how certain sectors of American society have recently applied the term “taqiyya” to the perceived inclination of Muslims to lie to non-Muslims about distasteful beliefs/practices in Islam as some kind of divinely mandated PR strategy.

Needless to say, this is a twisted viewing of what taqiyya actually is, and the implications of this view lead quite clearly to unnecessary anti-Islamic prejudice. However, while the view of taqiyya the OP counters with is far closer to the truth, I also find it lacking, so I’m going to give a brief overview of this fascinating concept.

The first point I want to make is that when it comes to Shia (specifically, Imami or Twelver Shi’ism, the kind that I’ll be spending the most attention on and the kind that is the dominant faith of Iran) Islam, taqiyya is not just a name for not drawing attention to yourself as a Shia when big men with swords are about. In fact, both non-Shia Muslim and Western scholars have traditionally seen taqiyya as an essential element of Imami Shi’ism, practiced and encouraged by Imami leaders throughout the ages. Examining the Imami tradition’s views makes this idea much more complicated, but the main point is this: taqiyya has been instrumental in the development and preservation of Imami Shi’ism.

Before looking at what exactly this concept that I’ve declared so big and important means, we should think about the historical context that gave it life. The first mentions of taqiyya in Imami literature come from the Imamates of Muhammad al-Baqir (the 5th one) and his son Jafar al-Sadiq (the 6th one) in the middle of the eighth century, or a century plus after the death of Muhammad. This was a tumultuous time in Islamic history; the transition from the Umayyad to Abbasid caliphate, and the beginning of the formation of Imami Shi’ism as a distinct sect within the party of Ali, were happening. Previous to this, the Shia had fought for their claims, and the martyrs of that era are still revered, despite the Wikipedia article’s snobbish insinuations that only Sunnis admire people willing to die for their beliefs. The activist phase ended after the slaughter at Karbala, and the Imami found themselves in a painful situation. Unlike certain other religious minority groups, such as Sunnis in Spain after the Reconquista, they were right in the middle of the oppressive empire and they clearly did not see emigration as a viable option for their community. Staying alive was the only thing that could be done to ensure the survival of the community.

Understanding the tremendous persecution of the Shia is essential to understanding taqiyya and in general the Shia mindset. The Imami elaborated taqiyya in response to their persecution, and justified it with some verses from the Qur’an. So, ok, the Shia concealed their religion from people who might oppress them, at times even to the point of lying about what they believed in or acting like Sunnis in order to avoid harm. But this simple concept quickly took on an almost unbelievably central place in Shia thought. Imam Sadiq, alluding to Quran 49:13, said, “He is most excellent in performing his religious duties in the eyes of God who is best at observing taqiyya.” He compared the situation of the Shia to bees among birds: If the birds realized the bees had sweet honey inside them, they would eat the bees out of envy.

The obsession with secretism was a big part of Imami Shi’ism, with one medieval Shia scholar writing that God imposed Shi’ism in secret and will not allow believers to publicly acknowledge their faith, to the point where the guardian of paradise (the angel Ridwan) will not even notice the Shia entering heaven until the day of Resurrection. You don’t just get the sense that people had to hide distinctive marks in public, key doctrines and hadiths also had to be hidden lest they arose ire from the community. An example of this is the Imami doctrine of “raja” that asserted that some would resurrect before the “main event” Resurrection. Opponents like the medieval Mutazilite (a later discredited theological party) al-Khayyat observed that holding this doctrine was, for the bulk of Muslims, like committing apostasy and so it was kept secret by the Shia.

Here you can see the seeds of “lying to the Sunni dogs” that Sunnis felt was going on.

So you had a bunch of Imami Shia who were persecuted. And they decided to not fight or leave, so the only hope was this concept of taqiyya. What did it actually involve? As a technical term, we can understand taqiyya to mean “precautionary dissimulation.” It involved both concealment in a passive way (kitman) and actually dissembling. The outward expression of this has already been covered, but there was also inward taqiyya, which was just as important.

The first type of inward taqiyya was concealing texts, beliefs, and information on the Imams from other Shia. You get this interesting rebuke from Imam Sadiq: Whoever propagates our traditions is like someone who denies it.” The reason for this is simple. If you tell everyone about the secrets, (and in Imami thought, the Imams possessed special knowledge) then it could get back to the leaders andthat’s bad. The Imams were somewhat untrustworthy of their followers’ ability to keep a secret. When Imams would provide contradictory answers to the same questions, that was also a form of taqiyya, the one inconsistent with the Sunni position was seen as the true version.

The second kind of inward taqiyya was more reminiscent of the Gnostics. Shi’ism was really concerned with keeping secrets from the uninitiated. There was a very strong distinction between the elite and the masses. Imam Sadiq claimed that God gave the Imams knowledge not even the angels or prophets could bear. Part of this secret knowledge could be revealed to Shi’is but part of it would have to wait, possible until the coming of the Messiah. So there is that. Especially on controversial issues, it is hard to note when taqiyya is being practiced to protect the community from harm, or out of this notion of keeping special knowledge. There was a clear hierarchy of knowledge and revealing esoteric Shia doctrines to those who were not ready for them was bad. This helps to explain the Imam’s statements on taqiyya like “he who has no taqiyya has no faith” even though the concept of taqiyya as protecting yourself from outside influences was clearly seen as a temporary and non-universal state of affairs that would eventually end. Though circumstances at times dictated when taqiyya was an obligation, Imam al-Bariq noted that it was always, in the end, the choice of the believer when and how to exercise it.

As you can imagine, taqiyya really annoyed the Sunni. Not so much because it allowed the Shi’a to keep on living (though they did call out that aspect of it as cowardly) but because they saw it as a Shia strategy to explain away history that seemed to disprove Shia doctrine. Sunni scholars felt like, whenever they would say something like, “Ali recognized the rule of the other Caliphs! If he was deprived of his rights, why didn’t he fight?” Shia would just say “oh, Ali was practicing taqiyya.” Now, Shia don’t actually say that Ali practiced taqiyya per se, but they did claim a number of famous Sunni as being Shia who were practicing taqiyya. Because taqiyya became used as a way to justify the superiority of Shi’ism, it fell under extreme criticism from the Sunni. I’ve met Sunnis from Iraq who will still complain about Shia using taqiyya in pretty derogatory language.

So the Shia, especially after the occlusion of the 12th Imam (which was termed an act of taqiyya) were not happy to hear this criticism, and they were eager to expound on the righteousness of their beliefs whenever they could, which did start to become a bigger area over time. So you do get much more of the notion in medieval Imami thought that suffering for your faith is more virtuous than concealing it, and that taqiyya is more properly thought of as a dispensation rather than an obligation. It was a mercy given by God to his weak believers. So rules started to develop about when it was OK to use taqiyya, and when you had to stand your ground. These rules generally depended on the situation on the ground. A great source is al-Shaykh al-Mufid, a Persian scholar. He wrote that taqiyya is only meant to be done when you are reasonably sure that not doing it will result in harm to the true religion or its believers.

People were eager to spread their beliefs because if you constantly live a secret life, eventually you have a hard time telling what is true and what is not. This is a big problem for the Shia. If their followers live every day like Sunni, will they become Sunni? And how can you teach others if you don’t spread your faith? This was a force against taqiyya within the Shia tradition.

More contemporary scholars like al-Ghita did try to minimize it a lot, emphasizing the reasonableness of not dying for a religious point. He asked his Sunni readers, “don’t make the practice of taqiyya necessary then criticize us for doing it.” But again, he is writing for a Sunni audience, and that would play a role in how he wrote. There is no discussion of the keeping of secret knowledge, for example.

So now we have the issue that confronts us, oddly enough, with the Muslim Brotherhood in this thread, which is, when a Shia scholar makes a pronouncement on taqiyya, or indeed, any other sensitive topic, how do we know it’s not taqiyya? After all, many Shia will explain offsetting statements of historical figures by saying they used taqiyya themselves, so it’s clearly something that happens. In this situation, what we just have to do is look at the audience of the statement, the conditions it was written in, and previous literature. This is why we can trust al-Mufid more than another scholar who was writing in a state of oppression.

If we promote an environment where someone feels secure they are more likely to succumb to the impulse of proclaiming their faith then hiding it as some kind of long-term ploy. Thankfully, I have never heard of America being called “dar al-taqiyya.” (a place where taqiyya is required, no largely defunct term)

Taqiyya as a protection measure is much less important now than it used to be, because now there are actual Shi’a states. You don’t see Ahmadinejad or Hezbollah saying that they are Sunnis, right. Interestingly, in Iran, where taqiyya is a social institution, you are far more likely to find it, in practice if not in name, among the Jews, Christians, and especially Baha’I who suffer persecution there. If you look at the book of Esther in the Bible, you can see that the practice of taqiyya, in certain forms, stretch back to far beyond the Islamic days of Iran. Where there is no persecution, the need for taqiyya dries up, and that’s seen as a good thing. If you see Saudi Arabia go nuclear and then Iran start calling itself a Sunni country, that’s taqiyya. The idea that taqiyya is not a temporary state, or that it is a requirement of all muslims, or even all Shia, fails when you see taqiyya being abandoned as freedom grows.

I reiterate the idea that we can get a good judge of what the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood thinks by examining their historical statements and literature, and that if they are lying at this moment, it is not out of their conscious adherence to the Shia doctrine of taqiyya. There are plenty of ways to justify whatever they do within the confines of Sunni Islam. They don’t need to go looking for help from the Shia.

To the extent that taqiyya is relevant in world events today, I would say it is more about it being meaningful as a theological and cultural concept dealing doctrinal issues, minorities, and spiritual hierarchies, rather than practical political strategy. The last true instance of protection taqiyya I’m aware of deals with the Ismaili Shia in Afghanistan, who have long been persecuted for supposedly being too promiscuous. I do know Shia have trouble in a variety of other nations, though, I can’t say for sure.

I guess you could say that if there was a Shia (Or Sunni, if you want) cleric who made a habit of saying in Britain moderate things in order to keep his Visa and then back home in a different country saying much more extreme things, then you could define it as taqiyya. This, I think, is what some opponents of Islam get angry about. But this is not really taqiyya as the term is historically conceived of. There is no threat of death, among other things. It’s more useful to just call it lying.
Oh, man, I wrote a lot. Does it even make any sense? Did anyone read it? If not, here’s my TLDR version for now:

Taqiyya is a Shia concept that was born out of intense persecution. It is very Imami and very Persian, and many Sunni scholars spent a lot of time attacking it, so it’s unlikely that they would adopt it. It not only involves concealing or dissimulating about your beliefs in order to protect the community, but also keeping secret knowledge from the unready, untrustworthy, or uninitiated. It holds a central place in Shia history, but its practical applications are today limited by the increasing power of many Shia communities. It’s about core beliefs, practices, and doctrines, not politics. The actions of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are not Shia in Egypt, don’t have anything to do with taqiyya as a doctrinal concept. That said, while the secret knowledge part is more particular to Shi’ism, the behavioral parts of taqiyya are relatively unremarkable and can be justified in a huge variety of religious traditions who use their own terminology. It’s best we just judge motivations of modern groups using all available evidence.

I hope that some of the knowledgeable dopers we have here will offer their comments and critique, since I have no doubt I made some errors. I’m sorry to just lay a huge essay on you all. I hope I’ve informed as much as I’ve amused and frustrated.


Etan Kohlberg, Some Imami Views on Taqiyya
Etan Kohlberg, Taqiyya in Shia Theology and Religion
Cyrus Gordon, The Substratum of Taqiyya in Iran

I take it that this statement is an example of taqiyya? :stuck_out_tongue:

Actually I read the whole thing. Quite fascinating, especially the bits about inward taqiyya. Thanks.


thank you, that was a terrific post.

I had no idea Shi’a Islam included such mystery-religion aspects.

Just goes to show how little you know. Thirty-four per cent of Mexicans are secret muslims with the agenda to spread Sharia through illegal immigration into the US.

Canada is the last bastion of white christian supremacy.

It’s generally rife with this kind of stuff, but that varies quite a bit by sect, of course.

Leaving aside the inapplicability of a Shi’a concept to Sunni Muslims, I’d like to confirm that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is indeed a moderate organization as strange (and ulcer-inducing, to a certain one or two) as it may sound. The MB has softened a fair bit over the years, becoming virtually the only opposition voice in Egyptian politics and thus attracting all sorts of members (not just rabid Islamists) who had very few other options if they wanted to have any form of political expression.

The MB is playing a very clever game at the moment. It knows that it has little chance of taking power, lacking both a charismatic leader and meaningful support among the largely secular and youthful protest movement (not to mention zero support among the secular military), so it is positioning itself quite shrewdly for a long game: portraying itself as equitable, willing to share, and even putting its raison d’etre on the backburner.

Personally I despise and mistrust any theocratic political agenda, and many factors in Egypt worry me considerably. Not just the Muslim Brotherhood, who at least can be said to be moderately educated and savvy, but more so the radicalization of the population following decades of poverty, repression, and the funnelling of political activism into a religious forum.

Which of the following three beliefs is a moderate position, and why:

-Killing people who commit adultery
-Killing people who exercise freedom of religion and leave Islam
-“punishing” gays for being gay

Never said these were moderate positions, or that the Brotherhood’s agenda is moderate - they want a theocratic government, for crying out loud! That’s not moderate by any definition.

The point is that the composition of the BM (in spite of some sharp angles) is not as radical as you paint it. No question, there are rabid Islamists and fanatics in the party, but the entire party is very varied and on average highly educated.

Those who disagreed with Mubarek’s regime really only had one choice if they wanted to be in politics: the Muslim Brotherhood. The only forum Mubarek could not shut down was the mosque, and as a result the only real party that was tolerated was the Brotherhood. This led to its ranks becoming swelled with people who do not necessarily agree with radical Islamist ideology, and that’s part of why the Brotherhood is more moderate than you’d expect at first glance.

Your argument is specious. You admit that the MB’s positions are not moderate, and that their agenda is not moderate. But you claim they are moderate, anyways. And you attempt to claim that the issue is whether or not to paint their membership as radical.

It’s not.

An organization that wants to murder apostates and adulterers, and persecute gays, as their organization’s official position, is not moderate. No, not even if you suggest that your position gives people ulcers.

The point is not that the MB is radical or moderate, the point is that it’s a complicated question and the points you make do not simplify it. MB was the only sometimes-nearly-tolerated opposition organization in Egypt for the past couple of decades, so it attracted everyone dissatisfied. There are ideological and generational divisions within it. al-Qaeda definitely considers MB a sellout of the jihad. Fascinating article from The Nation: “The Muslim Brotherhood in Transition.”

Oh, you mean simplify it like claiming that they’re less extreme than the American religious right, and then never retracting that error no matter what?
But, no, of course the fact that the MB’s own official position is violent and non-moderate goes to whether or not the organization is a moderate organization. The fact that their official position is to murder apostates and adulterers, and to persecute gays, shows that they are not a moderate organization.

Handwaving about their membership is obfuscatory when the issue is their positions and their agenda. Handwaving about their membership while babbling about “neocons” is a further absurdity, when the issue is their positions and their agenda. At the stage where you have to point to Al Quaeda to provide contrast, you’ve pretty much conceded the facts.

That some of the MB’s members do not agree with the group’s agenda does not make it a moderate organizations. The positions it espouses and the agenda it holds determines whether or not it holds moderate positions and espouses a moderate agenda. Now, if you’d like to adopt an intellectually honest position, you can say that the MB is currently an extremist organization (just less extreme than Al Quaeda), and they want to murder people based on religious laws, but there’s a schism within their organization that might see them reformed at some point. Or that, should the schismatics leave, then the splinter group will be moderate and the MB will remain extremists. Fair play. But pointing out that they might, at some point, be reformed or have a moderate offshoot is hardly germane to the subject of whether they are, right now, moderate or not.

No, I said the MB is “less violent, less bigoted and less ignorant” than the American RR, of which I remain convinced, based on their actions, not their doctrine.

Oh, of course, less violent, bigoted and ignorant isn’t the same thing as being more moderate at all.

And of course you remain convinced. The MB wants to execute people who leave Islam and who fool around while married, and they want to persecute gays. All that is obviously much less violent or bigoted, (and much more enlightened and knowledgeable) than the dreaded American religious right.