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The doctrine of Lying in Islamic Jurisprudence

Published by Steven Masood - January 12th 2017
The doctrine of Lying in Islam

In Islamic theology, the terms kitman, taqqiyya / tuqya, etc. stand for telling a lie, concealing the true intention or misleading for a greater purpose.  In general, Muslims have used it since the 7th century to confuse and split their enemies. A favored tactic is “deceptive triangulation” to persuade the enemy that Jihad is not aimed at them but rather at another enemy. It also refers to how a Muslim may lie, mislead or avoid truthfulness to achieve a purpose if the goal is for the benefit of the Muslim community.

In response to one of our articles, “Why is Islam spreading fast in the USA?,” a few Muslims commented, denying the existence of taqqiyya in Islam. (To read the article and comments, click here).

For example, one writes: “There is nothing hidden and the religion doesn’t preach telling lies. Islam is the most open Best Religion that shows the world what true faith is.” (Muhammad Alam)

Another claims: “Muslims are not allowed to lie for any greater purpose what so ever. Please refer to Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammad for the truth…. If lying is required to convince someone that means, it's not good enough. So any Muslims using a lie to preach Islam he is doing a grave mistake.” (Faran Hussain)

Our Response: Muslim scholars agree that in general, Islam does not teach lying. However, in certain circumstances, a Muslim is allowed to lie and give misleading information. For example, consider the following screen shot picture of the fatwa or answer by a Muslim scholar at the site of the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, quoting from a classical exegete Ibn Kathir (d. 1373). The reference tells how teachers have allowed this doctrine to be used by Muslims, especially in their relations with non-Muslims. It is even claimed that this doctrine will continue to be practiced until the final Day. (http://www.amjaonline.org/fatwa-80194/info) 

In case some may question whether Ibn Kathir said what is mentioned above, see below in Arabic from the tafsir of Ibn Kathir's (d. 1373) on Sura 3:28. In fact, Ibn Kathir also quotes from Al-Bukhari (d. 870), the collector of the most authentic traditions of Islam, in favor of this doctrine.

Another jurist, Ahmad Ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 1367), in his classical manual of fiqh for the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence, relates how Islam allows a Muslim man to lie to his wife, and an arbiter to lie so to bring peace between two Muslim communities. A Muslim may avoid giving a true answer and may lie or give misleading impressions, not only to unbelievers but also to other Muslims, if it will bring some good results in their favor. The pictures (from pages 744-748) are readable and are clear evidence, in contradiction to those who claim Islam does not allow lying.

 

The above proves the point that although Islam forbids Muslims to lie in general, it does allow its believers to lie to meet a “greater” purpose.

After I had finished the above article, I received an e-mail from a Muslim friend asking me to give any example from Muhammad's life. Well, here is an example from his first biographers, Ibn Ishaq (d. 761) and Ibn Hisham (d. 833), in their Sira Rasul, which Bukhari also recounts. It is about the murder of a poet, Ka'b bin al-Ashraf, at Muhammad's insistence. The conversation suggests that Muhammad gave permission to lie to the man who volunteered to kill Ka’b. 

Muhammad bin Maslama deceived Ka’b by gaining his trust, pretending that he had turned against Muhammad.  This drew the victim out of his fortress, whereupon he was brutally slaughtered, despite putting up a ferocious struggle for his life.   (Ibn Hisham, Sira al-Nubwiahha', p. 11-13; Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 369).

In conclusion, Muslims can lie or deceive people if the result is considered to be in their favor. If any Muslim disagrees when discussing the Muslim doctrine of taqqiyya, ask him or her the following question:  Why did Muhammad give Muhammad bin Maslama permission to deceive Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf? Muhammad’s permission is evidence for taqqiyya in Islam. Muslim friends who agree that God has allowed Muslims to lie to their wives, to each other and to non-Muslims, what's left in one's daily life to merit truthfulness? Even on a family base, how would a wife feel who is not sure whether the husband is telling the truth or lying? If a jurist has brought peace between two Muslims by lying, misleading or by exaggeration, the question remains: What will happen when the two find out that it was all a lie? Where does this finish? Where does one draw the line?

A Biblical Approach

For a believer in Jesus, the Bible is the basis of all instructions. We have this advice: ‘Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.’ (Colossians 3:9-10). Elsewhere we are advised, ‘…each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body’ (Ephesians 4:25).

In the Bible, Satan is described as the liar because he is against the truth. Since he is against God, he is against the absolute truth. The Bible declares Satan as the source of all that is untrue.  One day Jesus said to some of the unbelieving and those who opposed him: ‘You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).

Centures before Jesus came, through Moses, God instructed people in such words, ‘Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord’ (Leviticus 19:11-12).

In the light of the Qur’an and Muhammad’s instruction, we see that Islamic jurisprudence allows lying, misleading and deceiving others in certain matters. On the other hand, we do not find such instructions in the Bible. In fact, the Bible declares ‘liars’ will be punished and not will not see eternal life in heaven (Revelation 21:8).

Here are two video clips of Muslims to show how lying and misleading intentions are justified in Islam.

The second video details how a Muslim is allowed to lie if it will help to convert an unbeliever to Islam. An Egyptian cleric, Mahmoud Al-Masri relates how a Muslim deceived a Jew, who liked drinking, into converting to Islam. After becoming Muslim, he was told if he were caught drinking, he would be punished. If he left Islam, he would face the death penalty.

 

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