see also DECEPTION.
The morality of lying is one of the most confusing aspects of Islamic thought and, as a result, creates the impression that whether a person is truthful, or deceitful, depends entirely on the ethics of the situation.
At first glance, Islam appears to place great importance on the truth:
There are TWO categories of lies which are not tolerated in Islam:
1. A lie against Allah.
2. A Lie against Muhammad
Lying to, or about, fellow Muslims is also a sin according to the Traditions.
Cases in which lying IS permitted
One of the most interesting moral dilemmas for Islam are the cases in which lying is permitted
The Traditions tell us that there are three instances where deception can be used:
More information is provided by William Muir's "Life of Mahomet", Volume I, footnote 88:
1st, to save one's life;
2nd, to effect a peace or reconciliation;
3rd, to persuade a woman;
4th, on the occasion of a journey or expedition.
To save one's life
To effect a peace or reconciliation
To persuade a woman
[This article provides more information on this incident.]
On the occasion of a journey or expedition
What was Muhammad's attitude towards lying?
Muhammad treated truth and deception according his own style of situational ethics. Muhammad condoned, and actually permitted, lying to further his goals:
Allah's Apostle said, "Who is willing to kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, "O Allah's Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?" The Prophet said, "Yes," Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab). "The Prophet said, "You may say it." ... (Sahih al-Bukhari 5.369, cf. the article on Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf for further details)
Muhammad clearly condoned dishonesty, as well as murder, when it suited his purposes.
Imam Abu Hammid Ghazali says: "Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish through lying because there is no need for it. 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." (Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, The Reliance of the Traveller, translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller, amana publications, 1997, section r8.2, page 745)
Note that Al-Ghazali is one of the most famous and respected Muslim theologians of all time.
Articles which are exploring this topic further:
One of the foundational theological problems for Islam in this matter is the fact that Allah prides himself to be "the best of deceivers" (Âl 'Imran 3:54, Al-Anfal 8:30). How then can deception be negative and morally wrong for Muslims when it is a matter of pride for Allah, the god of Islam? For a detailed discussion of this matter, see Allah – The Greatest Deceiver of them All and further articles listed under DECEPTION.
One specific instance of a Muslim missionary using deception to make Islam look more acceptable to a Western audience: Sunni Muslims and Taqiyyah.
One should always be very cautious and careful regarding debating Muslims, as many see no problem to use lies and deception on those occasions. Oftentimes, they do not understand dialogue and debate meetings as an open and honest exchange of convictions, but it is part of the Islamic war against unbelievers in another form, and "war is deceit" as Muhammad said. A couple of examples are given in these articles:
And deception (a.k.a. the wise choice of words) also features in the high-profile "dialogue" initiated by a letter of 138 Muslim scholars to the leaders of all Christian churches, see the detailed analysis The Truth About "A Common Word" and other material provided in our overview page on "A Common Word Between Us And You".
For further implications and current reality, see e.g.
Two articles giving details regarding a particularly blatant case of Muslim lies for political expediency:
One particular deception that resulted in great destruction and the killing of innocent people:
Sunni Muslims often criticize the Shi'a for their use of Taqiyya, or not showing their faith openly. In other words, if a Shi'a Muslim's life is in danger, he may lie as long as he holds true to Ali in his heart.
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