"Taqiyah" redirects here. For the cap worn for religious purposes, see Taqiyah (cap).

Taqiya (Arabic: تقیة taqiyyah/taqīyah, literally "prudence, fear, caution")[1][2] is an Islamic term referring to precautionary dissimulation or denial of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution.[3][4][1][5] Another term for this concept, kitmān (lit. "action of covering, dissimulation"), has a more specific meaning of dissimulation by silence or omission.[6][7]

This practice is emphasized in Shia Islam whereby adherents are permitted to conceal their religion when under threat of persecution or compulsion.[3][8] However, it is also permitted in Sunni Islam under certain circumstances.[9][10]

Taqiyya was initially practiced under duress by some of Muhammad's Companions.[11] Later, it became particularly important for Shias due to their experience as a persecuted religious minority.[8][12] According to Shia doctrine, taqiyya is permissible in situations where there is overwhelming danger of loss of life or property and where no danger to religion would occur thereby.[8] Taqiyya has also been politically legitimised, particularly among Twelver Shias, in order to maintain unity among Muslims and fraternity among the Shia clerics.[13][14]

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, it nevertheless is one of the key terms used by recent anti-Muslim polemicists."[15]

Etymology and related terms

The term taqiyya (Arabic: تقیة taqiyyah/taqīyah) is derived from the Arabic triliteral root wāw-qāf-yā, denoting "fear", or "prudence, guarding against (a danger)".[16] In the sense of "prudence, fear" it can be used synonymously with the terms tuqa(n), tuqāt, taqwā and ittiqāʾ, derived from the same root.[6] These terms also have other meanings. For example, the term taqwa can mean "piety" (lit. "fear [of God]").[17] An alternative term for religious dissimulation is kitmān "action of covering, dissimulation".[6] The terms taqiyya 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.[7]

Quranic basis

The technical meaning of the term taqiyya is derived from the Quranic reference to religious dissimulation in Sura 3:28:

"Let not the believers take the unbelievers for protectors 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 the same root as taqiya, and use of the abstract noun taqiya in reference to the general principle described in this passage is first recorded in a Qur'anic gloss by Al-Bukhari (9th century).[18]

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."[19]

A similar instance of the Qur'an permitting dissimulation under compulsion is found in Sura 16:106.[20] Sunni and Shia 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.[7]

Shia Islam view

Twelver Shia 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 Shias when Al-Mansur, the Abbasid caliph, conducted a brutal and oppressive campaign against Alids and their supporters.[21] 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 Shias.[8]

Taqiyya holds a central place in Twelver Shia Islam. This is sometimes explained by the minority position Shias had under the political dominance of Sunni Muslims, requiring them to protect themselves through concealment and dissimulation. In Shia legal literature, there is a range of situations in which taqiyya may be used or even required. For Shia 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.[22] Some Shias, though, advance taqiyya as a form of jihad, a sort of fighting against their adversaries.[23]

Others relate it to the esoteric nature of early Shia 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.[24][25]

Religious rulings of the Shia Imams was also influenced by taqiyya. Without it, basic articles of early Shiism do not make sense and lose coherence because of contradictions. Some of the traditions from the Imams make taqiyya a central element of Shiism: "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 Shiism.[26] Many Shias today deny that taqiyya has any significance in their religion.[27]

Ismaili Shia 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.[28] Accordingly, the Shia Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq stated "Taqiyya is my religion and the religion of my ancestors",[22] 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.[29] 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 Shia scholar Muhammad Husain Javari Sabinal, Shiism would not have spread at all if not for taqiyya, referring to instances where Shia have been ruthlessly persecuted by the Sunni political elite during the Umayyad and Abbasid empires.[30] 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.[31] Alawites tend to conceal their beliefs (taqiyya) due to historical persecution.[32] Some tenets of the faith are secret, known only to a select few;[33][34] therefore, they have been described as a mystical sect.[35] Alawites celebrate Islamic festivals, their most-important feast is Eid al-Ghadeer.

Druze view

Because of the Druze's Ismaili Shia 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.[36]

Sunni Islam view

The basic principle of taqiyya is agreed upon by Sunni scholars, though they tend to restrict it to dealing with non-Muslims and when under compulsion (ikrāh), while Shia jurists also allow it in interactions with Muslims and in all necessary matters (ḍarūriyāt).[37] In Sunni jurisprudence 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 food to avoid starving to death.[38] Additionally, denying one's faith under duress is "only at most permitted and not under all circumstances obligatory".[10] 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."[10] In Hadith, in the Sunni commentary of Sahih al-Bukhari, known as the Fath al-Bari, it is stated that:[39]

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.[40] Some Sunni scholars chose to affirm Mamun's view that the Qur'an was created in spite of their beliefs,[7] though a notable exception to this was noted scholar and theologian Ahmad ibn Hanbal, who chose to endure torture rather than to lie.[41]

Following the end of the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula in 1492, Muslims 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 concealment in order to maintain their faith.[5][42][43] 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,[44] and al-Wahrani's reasoning diverged from that of the majority of earlier Maliki Faqīhs such as Al-Wansharisi.[43]

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"[45] while their critics accuse them of practicing "taqiyya about taqiyya" (Raymond Ibrahim, 2014).[46]

See also


  1. 1 2 R. STROTHMANN, MOKTAR DJEBLI. Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed, Brill. "TAKIYYA", vol. 10, p. 134. Quote: "TAKIYYA "prudence, fear" [...] denotes dispensing with the ordinances of religion in cases of constraint and when there is a possibility of harm.".
  2. Stewart, Devin (8 January 2014). "Dissimulation in Sunni Islam and Morisco Taqiyya". Al-Qanṭara. 34 (2): 439–490. doi:10.3989/alqantara.2013.016.
  3. 1 2 John L. Esposito, ed. (2014). "Taqiyah". The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (subscription required (help)). Precautionary denial of religious belief in the face of potential persecution. Stressed by Shii Muslims, who have been subject to periodic persecution by the Sunni majority.
  4. Paul E. Walker (2009). "Taqīyah". The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (subscription required (help)). Taqīyah is the precautionary dissimulation of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution.
  5. 1 2 Stewart, Devin. "Islam in Spain after the Reconquista". Teaching Materials. The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  6. 1 2 3 Strothmann, R. and Djebli, Moktar (2012). "Taḳiyya". In P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam (Second ed.). Brill. (subscription required (help)).
  7. 1 2 3 4 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. ISBN 978-0-19-531173-0.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Momen, Moojan (1985). An Introduction to Shi'i Islam. Yale University Press. p. 183. ISBN 978-0-300-03531-5. Religious dissimulation (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 religioun would occur thereby. [...] Living as a minority among a frequently-hostile Sunni majority, the condition of most Shi'is until the rise of the Safavid dynasty, made such a doctrine important to Shi'is
  9. Abdul-Raof, Hussein (2013). Schools of Qur'anic Exegesis: Genesis and Development. Routledge. p. 75. ISBN 9781135240967.
  10. 1 2 3 R. Strothmann (2000). "Takkiyya". In P. J. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C. E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W. P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam. 10 (2nd ed.). Leiden: Brill Publishers. pp. 134–135. ISBN 978-90-04-11211-7.
  11. "Takiyya". Encyclopedia of Islam. Edition II. Brill. 10: 134–5. 2000.
  12. R. Strothmann-[Moktar Djebli]. Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed, Brill. "Taḳiyya", Vol. 10, p. 135. Quote: "Taḳiyya is above all of special significance for the Shī'a [...] The peculiar fate of the Shī'a, that of a suppressed minority with occasional open but not always unheroic rebellions, gave them even more than the Khāridjites occasions and examples for extreme taḳiyya and its very opposite"
  13. Maréchal, Brigitte; Zemni, Sami, eds. (29 May 2013). The Dynamics of Sunni-Shia Relationships: Doctrine, Transnationalism, Intellectuals and the Media. Hurst Publishers. p. 76. ISBN 9781849042178.
  14. Gerhard Böwering; Patricia Crone; Mahan Mirza (2013). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought (illustrated ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 136. ISBN 9780691134840.
  15. 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.
  16. "The Quranic Arabic Corpus - Quran Search".
  17. 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
  18. Goldziher (1906:216).
  19. bin Kathir, Isma'il bin 'Umar (26 October 2002) [c. 1370]. "The Prohibition of Supporting the Disbelievers". Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim. Dar-us-Salaam Publishing. Archived from the original on 2011-07-28. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
  20. 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)
  21. Momen, Moojan (1985). An Introduction to Shi'i Islam. Yale University Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-300-03531-5. The doctrine of taqiyya (religious dissimulation) was also developed at this time. It served to protect the followers of as-Sadiq at a time when al-Mansur was conducting a brutally repressive campaign against `Alids and their supporters.
  22. 1 2 "AlTaqiyya, Dissimulation Part 3". Al-Islam.org.
  23. Israeli, Raphael (2002). Islam in China: religion, ethnicity, culture, and politics. Lexington Books. p. 152. ISBN 9780739103753.
  24. Kohlberg, Etan (1995). Secrecy and Concealment. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 345. ISBN 9789004102354.
  25. L., Clarke (2005). Todd Lawson, ed. Reason and inspiration in Islam. I.B.Tauris. pp. 46–47. ISBN 9781850434702.
  26. Kohlberg, Etan (1995). Secrecy and Concealment. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 373. ISBN 9789004102354.
  27. Gleave, Robert (2000). Inevitable doubt: two theories of Shīʻī jurisprudence. Brill. p. 75. ISBN 9789004115958.
  28. Virani, Shafique N. (2007). The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-19-531173-0.
  29. Virani, Shafique N. (2007). The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-19-531173-0.
  30. Tarikhush Shi'ah, p.230
  31. 'Abd al‑Latif al‑Yunis, Mudhakkirat al‑Duktur 'Abd al‑Latif al‑Yunis, Damascus: Dar al‑`Ilm, 1992, p. 63.
  32. Secretive sect of the rulers of Syria, The Telegraph, 05 Aug 2011
  33. "Alawi Islam". Globalsecurity.org.
  34. The Nuṣayrī-ʻAlawīs.
  35. Lebanon: current issues and background, John C. Rolland (2003). Nova. 1 August 2003. ISBN 9781590338711. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  36. Rogan, Eugene L. (2001). The war for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948. Cambridge University Press. pp. 74–75.
  37. Louis Medoff, "TAQIYA i. In Shiʿism," Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2015
  38. 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. ISBN 978-969-416-294-2.
  39. "عرض صفحة الكتاب - الحديث - موقع الإسلام".
  40. Patton, Walter Melville (1897). Ahmed Ibn Hanbal and the Mihna. Leiden: Brill. pp. 79–91.
  41. M. E. McMillan (2013), Fathers and Sons: The Rise and Fall of Political Dynasty in the Middle East, p. 149, ISBN 978-1-137-30811-5
  42. Kamen, Henry (1998). The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 219–220. ISBN 978-0-300-07522-9. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  43. 1 2 Miller, Kathryn A. (2008). Guardians of Islam: Religious Authority and Muslim Communities of Late Medieval Spain. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-231-13612-9. Retrieved 27 May 2011. Unlike the majority of Maliki scholars before him, he openly embraced the idea of a Mudejar jihad that was bound to the notion of inner steadfastness under persecution...
  44. Kraemer, Joel L. (2010). Maimonides: The Life and World of One of Civilization's Greatest Minds. New York: Doubleday. pp. 100–101. ISBN 978-0-385-51200-8. Retrieved 26 May 2011. A responsum (fatwa) by 'Ubaydallah al-Wahrani, issued in December 1504, permitted [the Moriscos] to exercise prudent dissimulation (taqiyya) by pretending to be Christians. ... The Moriscos' behavior was exceptional, however, and a departure from a general Islamic norm – Muslims may not convert to another religion unless their lives are in mortal danger, and then they must end their new status as quickly as possible.
  45. Musaji, Sheila (30 May 2010), "The Taqiyya Libel Against Muslims", The American Muslim
  46. Raymond Ibrahim, "Taqiyya about Taqiyya", 12 April 2014.

Further reading

External links

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