Muhammad Fact Check

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Myth #2: Prophet Muhammad permitted Muslims to lie (Taqiyya) to spread Islam

Did Prophet Muhammad teach Muslims to lie to spread Islam?

The concept of Taqiyya or lying under special circumstances has no basis in Islam. Before addressing this concept directly, we draw the readers’ attention to three things.

First, the Taqiyya argument is the ultimate “cop out” argument. It basically says, “You are wrong, and even if you prove you are right, you are lying, therefore wrong.” In other words, this argument does not prove anything against Islam—it baselessly assumes everything against Islam. Like a fixed sporting event, it determines the winner before the game is played. We find this tactic abhorrent in practical life, and any true seeker after truth should find this tactic abhorrent when discussing intellectual matters..

Second, consider that even Prophet Muhammad’s bitterest enemies, such as Abu Jahl [1], Abu Sufyan [2], Umaiyya and wife [3] all acknowledged that Prophet Muhammad never lied. In fact, when Prophet Muhammad first announced his prophethood to the Meccans, he asked them to acknowledge his truthfulness—which the entire community did [4]. Prophet Muhammad’s attachment to truth was so strict that he instructed his followers to joke only if there was no lie in the joke [5]. Also note that the Holy Qur’an considers speaking truth, not lying, as a religious duty [6], and emphasizes observing truth and justice in every circumstance—even when testifying against oneself [7]. In one famous incident, the Meccans demanded to know if Prophet Muhammad was the person who spoke against their idols. Under that threat of death, Prophet Muhammad spoke only the truth and did not delay the slightest. When the time was ripe to engage in alleged Taqiyya, Prophet Muhammad did the exact opposite and told nothing but the truth. His example in the face of mortal danger and the testimony of even his enemies should be enough for any fair-minded person to recognize that lying has no place in Islam.

Third, the word Taqiyya does not appear even once in the Qur’an or sayings (Ahadith)  of Prophet Muhammad. How Islam can be held accountable for a concept that does not exist in Islamic jurisprudence is beyond us. With this important context, we proceed to repudiate specific allegations critics of Islam make to support their doctrine of Taqiyya.

First, critics often cite Qur’an 16:107. The verse reads, “Whoso disbelieves in Allah after he has believed—save him who is forced thereto while his heart finds peace in the faith—but such as open their breasts to disbelief, on them is Allah’s wrath; and they shall have a severe punishment.” [8] The crucial word is ukriha (forced). Its trilateral root kariha appears 40 times in the Qur’an. It connotes hatred towards a thing, hardship, or coercion.

A subsequent verse [9] defines one who is “forced” as an individual who, due to their faith, emigrates from their homes, thereafter engaging in vigorous preaching and then faced with persecution can recant their faith if they cannot bear the ensuing persecution. This, not professing one’s faith openly and keeping it to oneself for the fear of life, is the alleged “lie” the Holy Qur’an permits—to recant under extreme coercion and hardship.

Furthermore, even when faced with the most hostile circumstances in Mecca, Muslims did not hide their faith and continued to bear extreme persecution for twelve years. If Taqiyya were an Islamic injunction then the Meccan era would have been the best time to use it.

It is also necessary to relate a few Qur’anic verses that demonstrate how vociferously Islam condemns lying. The Qur’an declares, “And confound not truth with falsehood, nor hide the truth knowingly.” [10] “Falsehood cannot approach it either from before or from behind it. It is a revelation from the Wise, the Praiseworthy.” [11] Likewise:

“O ye who believe! Be strict in observing justice, and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are. Therefore follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do.” [12]

Thus, these, and numerous other verses, demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that lying has no refuge in Islam.

Critics also cite the following Hadith:

We were in the company of Abu Musa Al-Ash‘ari and there were friendly relations between us and this tribe of Jarm. Abu Musa was presented with a dish containing chicken. Among the people there was sitting a red-faced man who did not come near the food. Abu Musa said (to him), “Come on (and eat), for I have seen Allah’s Apostle eating of it (i.e., chicken).” He said, ‘I have seen it eating something (dirty) and since then I have disliked it, and have taken an oath that I shall not eat it.’ Abu Musa said, ‘Come on, I will tell you (or narrate to you). Once I went to Allah’s Apostle with a group of Al-Ash’ariyin, and met him while he was angry, distributing some camels of Zakat. We asked for mounts but he took an oath that he would not give us any mounts, and added, ‘I have nothing to mount you on.’ In the meantime some camels of booty were brought to Allah’s Apostle and he asked twice, ‘Where are Al-Ash’ariyin?’ So he gave us five white camels with big humps. We stayed for a short while (after we had covered a little distance), and then I said to my companions, ‘Allah’s Apostle has forgotten his oath. By Allah, if we do not remind Allah’s Apostle of his oath, we will never be successful.’ So we returned to the Prophet and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! We asked you for mounts, but you took an oath that you would not give us any mounts; we think that you have forgotten your oath.’ He said, ‘It is Allah Who has given you mounts. By Allah, and Allah willing, if I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath.’ [13] (emphasis ours).

First, regarding oaths in court, Prophet Muhammadsa said, “If someone swears a false oath near this pulpit of mine, he will take his seat in the Fire.” [14] Again, he said, “Shall I inform you about the greatest of major sins? They are three: to associate partners with Allah, to disobey your parents, and to bear false witness (or he said) to speak falsely.” [15] The Holy Qur’an corroborates the essence of these statements. [16]

Second, a substantive difference exists between an oath of allegiance and the regular pledges one makes on a daily basis—and the Hadith (tradition) clearly refers to the latter. Whereas regular pledges cannot be broken, superior pledges can replace them. Even Abu Sufyan, a then staunch enemy of Prophet Muhammad, could not relate to Heraclius Caesar a single oath Prophet Muhammad ever violated. In this Hadith, Abu Musa is trying to convince a man who has taken an oath never to eat chicken to eat the chicken he was served. The importance of keeping an oath under all circumstances and the fear of breaking one was so engraved in the hearts of Muslims that this man refused to touch the chicken. This act only further confirms the allegiance to truth Islam infused into its adherents. Abu Musa cited Prophet Muhammad’s example, who had at one point pledged not to give any camels to a group of Al-Ash’ariyin. When circumstances changed and he had possession of more camels, however, Prophet Muhammad distributed the camels among them.

Finally, it is crucial to recognize the pretext with which Prophet Muhammad changed his position—he found “something better.” Better for whom? Certainly not for himself. He found a method by which he could help others more effectively. In giving the Al-Ash’ariyin the camels, Prophet Muhammad violated no one’s rights, committed no injustice, and deceived no one. On the contrary, he changed his position because he realized the change would allow him to more effectively help those in need. Prophet Muhammad’s act was no different than a person who pledges $1 to charity, receives unexpected funds, and therefore increases his pledge—his oath—to $100. Can such a person be called a liar? Absolutely not.


[1] Dala’il al-Nabuwwah, Baihaqi, Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, Beirut, Lebanon
[2] Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 52, #191.
[3] Bukhari, Vol. 4, Book 56, #826.
[4] Muslim, Book 1, #406.
[5] Sunan Tirmidhi, Book of Righteousness.
[6] Qur’an 2:9-21; 4:70, 136; 5:9; 9:119; 33:36; 61:3-4.
[7] Qur’an 4:136.
[8] Qur’an 16:107.
[9] Qur’an 16:111.
[10] Qur’an 2:43.
[11] Qur’an 41:43.
[12] Qur’an 4:136 (emphasis added).
[13] Bukhari, Book 67.
[14] Muwatta, Book 8.
[15] Muslim, Book 1.
[16] Qur’an 3:77-78; 16:92-93.


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