Iran’s ‘Word’ Is Worthless: Islam Permits Strategic Lying

By Raymond Ibrahim Published on March 13, 2024

Once again, Iran inadvertently has made clear why its true intentions can never be discerned — why its word can never be taken at face value.

In February, Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Sadiq al-Shirazi’s delivered a sermon, which was followed by a Q&A session. One of the questions submitted was whether it is permissible to break a fast early, “due to taqiyya.”

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to fast during daylight hours, eating only at sunset. So the question was basically if, out of “fear” (the root meaning of taqiyya), it is okay for a Muslim to break his fast before sunset.

The End Justifies the Means

As a doctrine, taqiyya, in short, permits Muslims to say or do anything — from cursing and condemning Muhammad to being baptized and partaking of communion — so long as they remain committed Muslims at heart, and their deception either benefits themselves or Islam. (For copious documentation, see here).

The grand ayatollah replied, “Yes,” it is okay to break a fast early, in the context of taqiyya. He gave several examples of leading Shias throughout history who did not fast properly due to taqiyya, including Jafar al-Sadiq, the Sixth Imam, a very import figure in Shiasm. When the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansour proclaimed a date for Eid al-Fitr (which marks the end of Ramadan and fasting) that was (according to Shia) before the actual date, rather than continue fasting to the correct date, the Sixth Imam broke his fast alongside everyone else lest he be exposed as a Shia.

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His logic: “By Allah, breaking my fast on one day of the month of Ramadan and doing Qada [making up] of the missed duty is more favorable to me than having my head decapitated.”

According to one report on the recent sermon,

Grand Ayatollah Shirazi then concluded: Therefore, if a person does not fast at all, or does not pray at all out of taqiyya, they must do the Qada [make up] of the missed duties, because they did not fast and did not pray. However, if the person breaks his fast earlier than Maghrib [sunset], because they have fasted and only broken the fast before the permissible Sharia-decreed time, the general principles of taqiyya are applied to their situation and there is no need for them to do the Qada. The same applies to a person who performs Salaat [prayers] in a way that is invalid out of taqiyya.

All of this technical wrangling is another way of confirming one thing: Islam is not a religion of principle; circumstance dictates everything — and not just for Shia, but for Sunnis as well (see here and here).

Muhammad Approved of Lying

According to the late Sami Mukaram, the world’s leading authority on taqiyya,

Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it … We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream … Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era.

Moreover, taqiyya is not merely about safeguarding one’s life but can be used to get an advantage over one’s enemy: “Taqiyya,” writes Mukaram, “in order to dupe the enemy is permissible.”

One example from the life of Muhammad: A Jewish poet, Ka‘b ibn Ashraf, had offended the prophet of Islam with his verse, prompting Muhammad once to exclaim, “Who will kill this man who has hurt Allah and his prophet?” A young Muslim named Muhammad ibn Maslama volunteered on condition that in order to get close enough to Ka‘b to assassinate him, he must be allowed to lie to the poet.

Muhammad agreed.

Ibn Maslama traveled to Ka‘b and began to denigrate Islam and Muhammad. He carried on in this way till his disaffection became so convincing that Ka‘b took him into his confidence. Soon thereafter, Ibn Maslama appeared with another Muslim and, while Ka‘b’s guard was down, killed, beheaded him, and took his head to Muhammad, who praised their deed.

Deceit More Important than Courage

Accordingly, normative Islam teaches that deceit is integral to jihad: Ibn al-Arabi declares that “in the Hadith [sayings and actions of Muhammad], practicing deceit in war is well demonstrated. Indeed, its need is more stressed than the need for courage.”

Ibn al-Munir (d. 1333) writes, “War is deceit, i.e., the most complete and perfect war waged by a holy warrior [mujahid] is a war of deception, not confrontation, due to the latter’s inherent danger, and the fact that one can attain victory through treachery without harm [to oneself].” And Ibn Hajar (d. 1448) counsels Muslims “to take great caution in war, while [publicly] lamenting and mourning in order to dupe the infidels.” [The Al Qaeda Reader (New York: Doubleday, 2007), pp. 142-3.]

In short, and to truly understand the impact of taqiyya, consider: If Christians, past and present, preferred martyrdom over renouncing Christ, to Muslims this is a no-brainer: Not only are they permitted to renounce Muhammad and Allah, but they also are permitted to “convert” to Christianity, so long as they are still Muslims at heart and engaging in this farce for their or Islam’s benefit over the infidels they seek to deceive and/or subvert.

Similarly, to better appreciate what this leading Shia cleric is advocating, Western audiences must first appreciate the significance of the examples he provided. Fasting and prayers are absolute pillars of Islam. If any Muslim duty is not to be tampered with, it is precisely fasting and prayer. If Muslims are given a license to compromise these two pillars in the context of taqiyya, then surely nothing is sacred — including a Muslim’s word to the infidels, or, in the context of Iran, its word to the infidels.


Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West and Sword and Scimitar, is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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