This is Inoconnu’s refutation of Chapter 6 of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). After reading this, check out Danios’ article at SpencerWatch, which analyzes the concept of taqiyya in great detail..
An oft-used intellectual cop-out by many Islam-haters is the so-called doctrine of taqiyya. The Islam-haters, such as Robert Spencer, claim taqiyya is the willful deception of Muslims towards non-Muslims. Whenever a Muslim would say or write something positive about Islam, it is all taqiyya. This is what Spencer has to say in his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades):
Muhammad minced no words about the necessity of telling the truth…However, as with so many other Islamic principles, this is largely a matter between believers. When it comes to unbelievers–particularly those who are at war with Muslims–Muhammad enunciated a quite different principle: “War is deceit.” Specifically, he taught that lying was permissible in battle…
When Shi’ite Muslims were persecuted by Sunnis, they developed the doctrine of taqiyya, or concealment: They could lie about what they believed, denying aspects of their faith that were offensive to Sunnis…Closely related to this is the doctrine of kitman, or mental reservation, which is telling the truth, but not the whole truth, with an intention to mislead…Remember that the next time you see a Muslim spokesman on television professing his friendship with non-Muslim Americans and his loyalty to the United States. Of course, he may be telling the truth–but he may not be telling the whole truth or he may be just lying. (pp.79-81)
Clearly, his implication is the latter, not the former: the Muslim is not telling the whole truth or “may be just lying.”
Yet, it is necessary to begin with the principle of truthfulness in Islam, which Spencer himself admitted the Prophet Muhammad stressed. Many thanks to Sheila Musaji for compiling the following verses and Prophetic traditions, of which are posted a few:
“And cover not Truth with falsehood, nor conceal the Truth when ye know (what it is). (Qur’an, 2:42)”
“If ye are on a journey, and cannot find a scribe, a pledge with possession (may serve the purpose). And if one of you deposits a thing on trust with another, Let the trustee (Faithfully) discharge His trust, and let him fear his Lord. Conceal not evidence; for whoever conceals it,- His heart is tainted with sin. And God Knoweth all that ye do. (Qur’an, 2:283)”
“O ye who believe! Stand out firmly For justice, as witnesses To Allah, even as against Yourselves, or your parents, Or your kin, and whether It be (against) rich or poor: For Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (Of your hearts), lest ye Swerve, and if ye Distort (justice) or decline To do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted With all that ye do. (Qur’an, 4:135)”
Abdullah bin Mas`ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Truth leads to piety and piety leads to Jannah. A man persists in speaking the truth till he is enrolled with Allah as a truthful. Falsehood leads to vice and vice leads to the Fire (Hell), and a person persists on telling lies until he is enrolled as a liar”.’
It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The signs of the hypocrite are three: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise, he breaks it; and when he is entrusted with something, he betrays that trust.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 33; Muslim, 59)
Hasan bin `Ali (May Allah be pleased with them) said: I remember (these words) from Messenger of Allah (PBUH): “Give up what is doubtful to you for that which is not doubtful; for truth is peace of mind and falsehood is doubt”. [At-Tirmidhi].
Hakim bin Hizam (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that: Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: “Both parties in a business transaction have a right to annul it so long as they have not separated; and if they tell the truth and make everything clear to each other (i.e., the seller and the buyer speak the truth, the seller with regard to what is purchased, and the buyer with regard to the money) they will be blessed in their transaction, but if they conceal anything and lie, the blessing on their transaction will be eliminated.’‘
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
It is clear that Islam (and its Prophet) stresses the utmost importance of speaking the truth and being as truthful as possible. Spencer himself admits this, but he inserts a (huge) caveat that it is only “between believers.” As will be seen, this is completely untrue.
Let us begin with Spencer’s first indictment of the Prophet: “War is deceit.”
This statement comes from the Battle of the Trench. After the siege of the city of Medina had lasted for almost 30 days, and the Muslims were in dire straits. The Prophet Muhammad asked a man named Nuaym ibn Masud to break the deadly siege somehow. Nuaym said he could do this but that “this requires me to lie.”
Let’s stop here. Why did he ask this permission from the Prophet Muhammad if, according to Spencer, lying to non-believers is standard practice? Because, as noted above, the principle in Islam is honesty. The Prophet gave him specific permission to lie saying, “War is deceit.”
This is the context of the Prophet’s statement, “War is deceit.” Spencer, however, claims that this phrase, “War is deceit,” gives Muslims carte blance to lie to all non-Muslims all the time. Logically, it is pure rubbish.
Yet, when one thinks of it, is not good policy to deceive one’s enemy during war? Is it not good strategy to decieve the enemy in order to defeat him? What is wrong with saying, “War is deceit”? Yet, are there others that have said the same thing?
In fact, “War is deceit” is one of the oldest military principles in history. It is found in none other than The Art of War by Sun Tzu, a Chinese strategist from the Sixth Century B.C. This book is the oldest military treatise in the world. In Part I, principle No. 18 says:
All warfare is based on deception.
Was Sun Tzu advocating Taqiyya? Is this something to be condemned, as Spencer condemns the Prophet?
How about the Trojan Horse, a story from one of the oldest poems in Western Civilization?
Still seeking to gain entrance into Troy, clever Odysseus (some say with the aid of Athena) ordered a large wooden horse to be built. Its insides were to be hollow so that soldiers could hide within it.
Once the statue had been built by the artist Epeius, a number of the Greek warriors, along with Odysseus, climbed inside. The rest of the Greek fleet sailed away, so as to deceive the Trojans.
One man, Sinon, was left behind. When the Trojans came to marvel at the huge creation, Sinon pretended to be angry with the Greeks, stating that they had deserted him. He assured the Trojans that the wooden horse was safe and would bring luck to the Trojans.
Only two people, Laocoon and Cassandra, spoke out against the horse, but they were ignored. The Trojans celebrated what they thought was their victory, and dragged the wooden horse into Troy.
That night, after most of Troy was asleep or in a drunken stupor, Sinon let the Greek warriors out from the horse, and they slaughtered the Trojans.
Were the Greeks also practicing Taqiyya? Why doesn’t Spencer condemn the Greeks, the Fathers of Western Civilization, for practicing deceit in times of war?
Not only did Sun Tzu write of deception in warfare, but Italian Renaissance thinker Niccolo Machiavelli wrote:
Though fraud in other activities may be detestable, in the management of war it is laudable and glorious, and he who overcomes the enemy by fraud is as much to be praised as he who does by force.
How about more recent times? During World War II, there was a military operation called “Operation Fortitude.” It was a disinformation campaign to deceive the Germans about the Normandy invasion:
“Fortitude” was the codename given to the decoy (or disinformation) mission mounted by the Allies to deceive the Germans about the date and above all the place of the landings. The latter were convinced that the British and American attack would come in the Pas-de-Calais area and it was important not to disillusion them. They therefore had to be made to think that a whole group of armies was present in Kent, opposite the Pas-de-Calais.
To deceive the German observation planes, which their antiaircraft defences did their best to avoid, the local estuaries, creeks and harbours were crammed with dummy landing craft, made out of bits and bobs. A giant oil pumping head for PLUTO (made from papier mâché) was erected near Dover, while large numbers of inflatable rubber tanks were positioned in the fields. Plywood vehicles and guns lined the roadsides. At night, convoys of lorries ‑ always the same ones – drove back and forth across the region. For the benefit of the Germans, a team of technicians maintained constant radio traffic between totally fictitious units.
Fortitude succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Long after June 6th, Hitler remained convinced that the Normandy Landings were a diversionary tactic to induce him to move his troops away from the Pas-de-Calais, so that a decisive attack could then be launched there. He therefore kept his best units in readiness there, until the end of July, desperately scanning an empty horizon, while the fate of the war was being decided in Normandy.
Dr. Joseph Caddell, Lecturer on Military History at North Carolina State University, wrote in 2004:
Deception in warfare is probably as old as armed conflict itself. The logic of confusing an adversary is obvious, and the rewards can be realized very quickly.
On the website of the Air University, the military education system for the United States Air Force, there is a list of numerous books, documents, and periodicals that chronicle deception in WW I and WW II. Here is just some of the examples of the books written about deception in warfare:
Barros, James and Gregor, James. Double Deception: Stalin, Hitler, and the Invasion of Russia. DeKalb, IL, Northern Illinois University Press, 1995. 307 p.
Book call no.: 940.532247 B277d
Basic Deception and the Normandy Invasion. New York, Garland, 1989. 1 vol.
Book call no.: 940.5485 C873 v.15
Breuer, William B. Hoodwinking Hitler: The Normandy Deception. Westport, CT, Praeger, 1993. 263 p.
Book call no.: 940.54 B846h
Breuer, William B. The Secret War with Germany: Deception, Espionage, and Dirty Tricks 1939-1945. Novato, CA, 1988. 318 p.
Book call no.: 940.5485 B846s
As is quite clear, deception during times of warfare is not only standard procedure, but is a laudable and necessary tactic. Our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan use deception every single day to try to defeat the enemy. They would be blameworthy if they did not do so. Why doesn’t Robert Spencer condemn Sun Tzu, or the Greeks, or Allied Forces in WW II, or the U.S. Air Force for advocating deception in warfare? After all, all of these people also believe, as the Prophet Muhammad did, that “war is deceit.”
Robert Spencer’s claim that “war is deceit” to impugn the Prophet Muhammad and Islam is another case of Spenceritis. It is logical rubbish, and makes a mockery of the claim that Robert Spencer is any sort of “scholar” about Islam.
Also check out Danios’ excellent article on the same topic available on SpencerWatch.com. He refutes every single argument the Islamophobes raise about taqiyya.