Are Muslims Encouraged to Lie to Non-Muslims?

Once again the anti-Muslim bloggers have been having a field day, this time with the concept of “taqiyah” or dissimilating (lying). It is said that the Qur’an teaches the Muslims are allowed to lie to non-Muslims, and that Muslims can thus have a secret agenda. Thus when they assert that theirs is a religion of peace, they can secretly be planning religious war against non-Muslims.

Let’s take a look at this.

First there are several verses in the Qur’an that are said to support such lying. The most common is , 2:26, taken from the Yusof Ali translation. (Others include 2:225 and 16:106)

2:26: “The believers never ally themselves with the disbelievers, instead of the believers. Whoever does this is exiled from GOD. Exempted are those who are forced to do this to avoid persecution. GOD alerts you that you shall reverence Him alone. To GOD is the ultimate destiny.”

The key sentence is “Exempted are those who are forced to do this to avoid persecution,” in which the word “taqiyah” appears meaning “to take preventative measures” or in this case “to avoid.” In this case persecution.

Let’s begin by reminding ourselves that for Muslims the only legitimate interpretation of the Qur’an is based entirely on the Arabic by a trained interpreter – so that any amateur interpretation by a non-Muslims reading English has no relevance to what Muslims actually believe.

And let’s remind ourselves that all verses in the Qur’an are situational. Muslims understand that they were revealed in specific contexts, and refer to these contexts. In this case the context is clear, the possibility of persecution.

And let’s remind ourselves that words in Arabic, in context, have specific meanings. Take the word translated here as “disbeliever.” To whom does it refer? Jamal Badawi, a well known contemporary scholar of Islam, maintains (with good backing from classical Islamic sources) that the term does not refer to Christians, Jews, and other monotheists but rather to heretical Muslims. Thus his interpretation would be that Muslims, if faced with persecution by heretical Muslims, could befriend those heretics in order to save their own lives.

And indeed this has been, for over 1000 years, the traditional interpretation of these verses. Even apart from this classical interpretive tradition, and modern interpretations by Muslim scholars, these verses cannot be read to justify secret agendas. Rather they justify lying about one’s specific religious beliefs to avoid persecution by heretics. The various interpretations offered at the blogsites that pop up on Google are bogus both from the standpoint of a clear reading of the text and the classical Muslim interpretive tradition. They appear to be trying to manufacture fear and mistrust where none is justified.

Ultimately, to reiterate an earlier posting, “if Christians want to know what Islam teaches then the only source to whom they can reliably turn is contemporary Muslims themselves. They are the only legitimate spokespersons for their religion. When Christians choose to listen to this Muslim voice they will find that it may be troublingly inconsistent. Different Muslims will say different things about specific issues; consequentially different things. How do we judge between them? We don’t. We must deal with Islam as it presents itself to us in specific situations through specific people. There is no short cut to actual dialogue with our immediate Muslim neighbors. No website, no blog, (including this one), and no book, is a substitute for face to face conversation. Anything less is merely looking into the mirror of our own fears, bias, and ignorance.”

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