A discussion in the comments on yesterday’s post about the San Bernardino massacre brought up an important topic: lying and sacred misdirection under Islam. According to Islamic law, lying is not only permissible under certain circumstances, it is mandatory if the goal it serves is obligatory upon Muslims and cannot be accomplished by other means.
Spreading Islam over the entire globe is an obligatory goal for Muslims. For that reason there is absolutely no doubt that Muslims are sometimes lying to us in furtherance of that goal.
I am indebted to Major Stephen Coughlin for the sources and analytical framework used in the following examination of lying and sacred misdirection under Islamic Law.
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In September of 2006 Pope Benedict XVI gave a lecture in Regensburg on the reconciliation of faith with reason. In his address, the pope, speaking in German, quoted an unfavorable remark about Islam made in the 14th century by Manuel II Palaiologos, a Byzantine emperor. Muslims heads of state described it as an “outrage”. Dawah organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood called for a “day of rage”, which actually occurred the same day across the entire Muslim Ummah — a day when people died.
Exactly one month to the day after that happened, an open letter to His Holiness the Pope was written in English by thirty-eight Muslim clerics and posted on the internet. So who was the primary audience for this? Who were its expected readers?
The English-speaking world, of course. We were the intended audience:
What is “Holy War”?
We would like to point out that “holy war” is a term that does not exist in Islamic languages. Jihad, it must be emphasized, means struggle, and specifically struggle in the way of God. This struggle may take many forms, including the use of force. Though a jihad may be sacred in the sense of being directed towards a sacred ideal, it is not necessarily a “war”.
In effect they were saying that Islam has no understanding of holy war, and jihad just means struggle and nothing else. One of the signatories to this document was Sheikh Nu Ha Mim Keller.
It just so happens that we actually have a text of Islamic law that defines jihad. It is called ’Umdat al-salik wa ’uddat al-nasik, or The reliance of the traveller and tools of the worshipper. It is commonly referred to as Reliance of the Traveller when cited in English.
The Revised Edition (published 1991, revised 1994) is “The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law ’Umdat al-Salik by Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (d. 769/1368) in Arabic with Facing English Text, Commentary, and Appendices”. This is an authoritative source on Sunni Islamic law, because it is certified as such by Al-Azhar University in Cairo. There is no higher authority on Sunni Islamic doctrine than Al-Azhar; it is the closest equivalent to the Vatican that can be found in Islam.
Book O, “Justice”, § 9 begins the section on jihad. Jihad is similarly defined in Book X “The Book of Jihad” from Ibn Rushd’s book The Distinguished Jurist, and in Book XIII “Siyar (Relations with non-Muslims)” of the Hidayah:
Jihad means to war against non-Muslims and it is etymologically derived from the word mujahada signifying war to establish the religion. And it is the lesser jihad.
Reliance of the Traveller is a book you that you can get in virtually any Muslim bookstore. It is available on Amazon. The primary target audience for the book is English-speaking Muslims.
And its translator is Nu Ha Mim Keller.
So Nu Ha Mim Keller translated relevant sections of Reliance of the Traveller, a book for Muslims, to the effect that jihad means to wage war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, which signifies “warfare to establish the religion.” Yet at the same time, in a message meant for non-Muslims, he says that he would like to point out that Islam has no understanding of holy war at all!
Is Sheikh Keller being dishonest? No, not really; not from an Islamic point of view. There is a message that Muslims are required to know and there is a message that you, the non-believer, are allowed to know. And those two messages are not the same.
It is important at this point to note what Islamic law says about lying. Reliance of the Traveller, Book R “Holding One’s Tongue,” tells us that lying is forbidden:
Primary texts from the Koran and Sunna say it is unlawful to lie… because of the scholarly consensus of the community that it is prohibited. [section §§r8.0, r8.1]…
…our only concern here being to explain the exceptions to what is considered lying, and apprise of the details.
Ah, the exceptions! §r8.2 explains the exceptions, citing the words of the prophet to back up the law:
He who settles disagreements between people to bring about good or says something commendable is not a liar.
I did not hear him permit untruth in anything people say, except for three things: war, settling disagreements, and a man talking with his wife or she with him. (in smoothing over differences.) [emphasis added]
So lying is permitted when a Muslim is engaged in war. But Islam is, by its own definition and understanding, always at war with us, the non-believers. Therefore, in his interactions with the kuffar, a Muslim is given a wide latitude about what he may utter that is not factually true.
Section r8.2 on “Permissible Lying” cites the iconic Islamic legal jurist Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali:
This is an explicit statement that lying is sometimes permissible for a given interest…When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible (N: i.e., when the purpose of lying is to circumvent someone who is preventing one from doing something permissible) and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory. [emphasis added]
Other excerpts from the same book are also applicable:
Giving directions to someone who wants to do wrong…
It is not permissible to give directions and the like to someone intending to perpetrate a sin, because it is helping another to commit disobedience. [§ r7.0, r7.1]
This is disobedience as understood under Islamic law. Al-Misri gives this as an example:
Giving directions to wrongdoers includes:
1) showing the way to policemen and tyrants when they are going to commit injustice and corruption. [ §r7.1 (1)]
Besides lying, there is §r10.3, giving a misleading impression:
Scholars say that there is no harm in giving a misleading impression if required by an interest countenanced by Sacred Law.
Thus Islamic law permits statements that are not completely truthful to be uttered if doing so would accomplish a purpose approved by sacred law. And if that purpose is an obligation required of Muslims, then misleading others is obligatory, provided that full candor will not accomplish the same purpose.
In a modern Western country, full candor about the nature and purpose of Islam would definitely not serve the interests of Islam. If Westerners ever fully understood what Islamic law requires, the practice of Islam would be circumscribed, suppressed, or forbidden.
Therefore we know that Muslims are lying to us.
They are not always lying. But we have no way to detect which statements are lies and which are true. A general rule might be this: If a Muslim says something that is soothing and makes Islam seem harmless and beneficial in a Western context, he is probably lying.
In yesterday’s post, Hesperado made a comment about the impossibility of knowing whether any given “moderate” Muslim is in fact sincere.
This the central problem for non-Muslims in dealing with Islam, and one to which there is no easy and palatable answer. Any attempt to devise a meaningful solution leads into the sort of ugliness that the average Westerner prefers to avoid thinking about.
The unavoidable fact is that there is no reliable way to determine whether any given Muslim really believes everything in Islamic scripture and law, and is therefore dangerous. He may be a nice guy; he may drink beer and eat bacon and hang out with the kuffar. Yet, since the core tenets of his faith require him to lie, dissemble, and mislead in order to advance the cause of Islam, there is no way to determine his sincerity.
To make matters worse, we have numerous examples of Muslims in the West (often second- or third-generation) who seem fully “integrated”, but who suddenly become more religious and are rapidly “radicalized”. Then come the bodies lying in pools of blood in the street, with all the neighbors saying, “I can’t believe it! He was such a nice, quiet, polite man.”
The problem arises because we have imported millions of Muslims into our midst en masse. Now they are here. They’re not going to suddenly decide to make hijra to Somalia or Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan. So what are we to do?
Ordinary citizens can do nothing, of course; and by the time our governments take action, the situation will of necessity be very ugly indeed.
The only “safe” Muslim is a former Muslim, but even that can be tough to determine for certain as long as the fellow is still alive. A public repudiation of Islam, the profession of another faith, and multiple death fatwas against the murtad for apostasy are fairly reliable indicators. But Muslims who no longer believe in Islam are understandably reluctant to go that route.
It is difficult to envisage a peaceful and humane solution to this problem. There is an inherent horror to it that makes most of us shy away from discussing it, or even thinking about it.
1. Dawah means proselytizing for Islam, According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, Dawah is also described as the duty to “actively encourage fellow Muslims in the pursuance of greater piety in all aspects of their lives,” a definition which has become central to contemporary Islamic thought. Organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood apply an aggressive version of Dawah that includes jihad.
2. Ummah is an Arabic word meaning “community” or “nation”. In the context of Islam, the word ummah is used to mean the diaspora or “Community of the Believers” (ummat al-mu’minin), and thus the whole Muslim world, including Muslims in non-Muslim countries.
4. OPEN LETTER TO HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI, Concerning his Lecture in Germany on September 12, 2006, http://www.duaatalislam.com/english_letter.htm 12 October 2006. (also in Italian, French, German, Arabic, Swahili, Spanish, Bosnian, Albanian, and Russian).
5. Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, ‘Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law), rev. ed. trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Beltsville: Amana Publications, 1994).
6. al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid wa Nihayat al-Muqtasid (The Distinguished Jurist’s Primer), vol. 1, trans. and ed. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, (Reading: Garnet Publishing Ltd, 2002), 454-487.
7. Burhan al-Din al-Farghani al-Marghinani, Al-Hidaya: The Guidance, vol. 2, trans. and ed. Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, (Bristol, England: Amal Press, 2008), 285-348.