Islamic religious justifications for lying

2 August, 2011

Okay, this is a pretty controversial subject, so you’ll have to bear with me. I’ve noticed that Islamist leaders (e.g. Abu Bakar Bashir, leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, who was convicted for the 2002 Bali bombing) have no trouble lying or misrepresenting themselves when questioned about terrorist activities and fundamentalist aims, and Western journalists tend to let this pass without comment. This is interesting because Westerners, even Christian fundamentalists involved in terrorism, feel compelled to be truthful, even to their disadvantage.

I was finally prompted to Google on this subject by this article (Islamist student group said to terrorize Pakistan campuses), in which an Islamist student leader denied, without shame, using violence and intimidation, even though this had been widely witnessed. It seems strange to a Westerner that a person who regards themself as pious would lie without shame, but this may be a prejudice from Christian and Jewish exortations to truth-telling.

In fact, as I suspected, there are specific verses in various Islamic texts which provide religious justification for lying, and they fall under two recognised categories: Taqiyyah and Kitman. Taqiyyah means saying (or writing) something which isn’t true. Kitman means lying by omission, i.e. leaving important facts unsaid. These justifications were originally developed by the Shi’ites as a defence against Sunni oppression, but now are generally used.

The exact verses used can be read at this page: Permitted to Lie for Islam (Taqiyya and Kitman). The most blatant reference in the Koran is Sura (66:2) – “Allah has already ordained for you, (O men), the dissolution of your oaths.” Also, from Islamic Law: Reliance of the Traveler (p. 746) – “[it is] obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory… Whether the purpose is war, settling a disagreement, or gaining the sympathy of a victim legally entitled to retaliate… it is not unlawful to lie when any of these aims can only be attained through lying. But is is religiously precautionary in all cases to employ words that give a misleading impression…”

There are also justifying events from the life of the Prophet, e.g. the assassination of the poet Ka’b bin al-Ashraf, the assassination of Usayr ibn Zarim, and the breaking of the treaty with the Meccans, all of which involved the Prophet lying or having others lie on his behalf. It is important to remember, of course, that a number of religious figures from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible also lied to and betrayed people, but most Christians regard these as flawed men who predated the New Testament message of peace, love and spiritual self-examination. It will therefore be helpful to Westerners to understand Islam as an Old Testament religion, that is without the civilising and mitigating qualifications of a later revelation.


One Response to “Islamic religious justifications for lying”

  1. Politics On Steroids Says:

    They lie without shame!!! so sad……good read!

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