Speaking Taqiyya

The Pakistani government is firmly in the ideologue-Islamist camp. So is the rest of the Middle East. Thus, Daniel Pipes sounds a warning to those of us — especially us, the optimistic and sometimes fatally hopeful Americans — who fail to see how powerful the Islamofascists will remain, no matter which tyrant dies or is toppled.

one main danger threatens to undo the good news: that a too-quick removal of tyranny unleashes Islamist ideologues and opens their way to power. Sadly, Islamists uniquely have what it takes to win elections: the talent to develop a compelling ideology, the energy to found parties, the devotion to win supporters, the money to spend on electoral campaigns, the honesty to appeal to voters, and the will to intimidate rivals.

This drive to power is nothing new. In 1979, Islamists exploited the shah’s fall to take power in Iran. In 1992, they were on their way to win elections in Algeria. In 2002, they democratically took over in Turkey and Bangladesh. Removing Saddam Hussein, Husni Mubarak, Bashar Assad, and the Saudi princes is easier than convincing Middle Eastern Muslim peoples not to replace them with virulent Islamist ideologues.

This is more than simply “converting” Muslims in the Middle East to democratic reform. What is the point of elections when they do not rest on the fundament of rule of law? Islam rests on something far less flexible and infinitely less merciful: taqiyya.

Whether the politically correct would disown it or not, Western political philosophy is Judeo-Christian in nature. Thus, lying is considered unethical and in some cases unlawful. Western jurisprudence takes seriously the need for truth in the rule of law.

Such restrictions do not hold in Islamic jurisprudence and theology. In fact, taqiyya against unbelievers is a necessary virtue in the waging of jihad. All is fair in war. And all is war until the arrival of the Hour, that time when the world is Allah’s.

The celebration of taqiyya can be traced all the way back to Mohammed and his abrogation of the treaty he made with Mecca. It can be traced forward through the centuries of Muslim conquests, all the way to the Gates of Vienna.

Taqiyya may seem clever to those who use it against the seemingly witless West. Such tenets, however, are in the end self-destructive. They shred the society of believers into ever-smaller tatters. They halt the natural progress toward transparency and flexibility in human interchange. Such a culture is riven with distrust; such a house, divided against itself, cannot stand. However, it can bring the rest of the neighborhood down with it.

For Muslims, that means it will not be a short run up to liberty’s transformative power. First they have to practice truthfulness with all of us.

For the rest of us, it would be well to heed Mr. Pipes’ warning. He praises President Bush’s “steadfast vision of a free Middle East” but warns

his administration should proceed slowly and very carefully about transferring power from autocrats to democrats. The Middle East’s totalitarian temptation, with its deep questions of history and identity, needs first to be confronted and managed. To skip these steps could leave the region even worse off than during the era of unelected tyrants.

In the midst of a much longer passage, Jesus tells this cautionary tale:

When a foul spirit has left a man, it roams about in the Desert, seeking a resting-place; but, unable to find any, it says, `I will return to the house I have left;” 25 and when it comes, it finds the house swept clean and in good order. 26 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more malignant than itself, and they enter and dwell there; and in the end that man’s condition becomes worse than it was at first. 27 (Luke 11:24-26)

If you have ever wondered what that story meant, simply consider “the Middle East’s totalitarian temptation” and the possibility of elected tyrants in place of the despots we are busy destabilizing.

With such destruction is strewn the path of unintended consequences.

6 thoughts on “Speaking Taqiyya

  1. Great post. I think Pipes is very wise, but you can be wise and optimistic at the same time. Much has to be done before we can be sure that part of the world is firmly on the path to freedom.

  2. D, here is one of my favorite stories, relating to the concept of taqiyya in Islam.

    The importance of knowledge for the believer in opposing Shaytan is well illustrated by the following story related by Ibn Abbass:

    The Shaytan says to Iblis, “Master we delight in the death of a man of knowledge more than we rejoice in that of a man of worship. We are harmed by the man with knowledge, but not harmed by the man of worship.”

    Iblis says, “Come on, lets go.” So off they go to a man of worship and they come to him while he is worshipping and tell him they want to ask him a question. Iblis says, “Can your lord put this world inside an egg?”

    “The worshipper replies, “I don’t know.” Iblis says to the Shaytans, “Don’t you see there is disbelief in his answer?”

    They then go to a man of knowledge in his circle joking with his companions and say, “We want to ask you a question.”

    He says, “Ask” so Iblis says to him, “Can your Lord put this world inside an egg?”

    He replies, “Yes.”

    Iblis asks, “How?”

    The man of knowledge says,

    “His command when He desires a thing that He says to it ‘Be’ and it is.” (Qur’an 36:82)

    Iblis says to the Shaytans “Don’t you see that, the man (the worshipper) does not have any effect beyond himself, while this man (the man of knowledge) estranges much of the world from me?”

    Now, Iblis is a fallen being, analogous to Lucifer, and the point of this tale is that knowledge of the Qu’ran is the most dangerous opponent of the Shaytans, (like the USA). Taqiyya, the practice of untruth in the defense of the faith, protects the knowledge of the Qu’ran from detractors. ie, if the “men of knowledge”, those who know the Qu’ran can be overcome, Shaytan will rule.

  3. Jinnji–

    The fascinating thing about taqiyya is that it was originally developed with Islam to dissemble when speaking with other Muslims from different factions. I can’t recall if it was a Sunni ploy originally used against Shi’ites or vice versa. Whichever the case, taqiyya became established practice for interacting with infidels…and, of course, any ‘out’ group of Muslims are infidels.

    I don’t think this doctrine jibes exactly with the Christian idea that the truth can make you free.

    OTOH, Islam is about submission; Christianity is about caritas. They don’t exist in the same moral universe.


  4. Agape is the Greek word for ‘caritas’ but like most words it loses something in translation so Razib has a point. The Latin ‘caritas’ which is about charity — doing for another without thought of gain — cannot carry the self-emptying connotation of ‘agape’…but it’s as close a rendering as you can get.

    The other forms of love: eros, filia (brotherly love) have as their end some gain for ourselves. But agape/caritas does not. The whole Western etymological history of ‘love’ — to which these words refer and can never do justice — is tied up with the the Hellenistic (Pauline) and Judaic (Johnanine) strands in Christianity. You can take them apart for the sake of analysis, but this impoverishes them. Nonetheless, it remains a rewarding endeavor after you have put them back together.

    “Greater love than this has no man, that he lay down his life for his friend.”


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