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Koranic Dissimulation—Sanctioned by Classical and Modern Koranic Commentators

February 15th, 2011 · No Comments · Essays

Tabari’s Koranic Tafsir (Commentary): Sanctioning a millennium (and ongoing) of Koranic dissimulation

Yesterday (2/14/11) Sean Hannity asked whether the Koran sanctioned lying/ dissimulation (or “taqiyya”) during a debate between Robert Spencer and Michael Ghouse.

Spencer appropriately cited Koran 3:28, and alluded to one classical Koranic commentary on this verse. Below are two translations of Koran 3:28 and its mainstream exegesis or interpretation from classical works of “tafsir” or Koranic commentary by renowned Muslim commentators. They provide a remarkably consistent millennial long continuum of interpretation dating from Tabari (d. 923) the greatest early commentator, through two luminaries of the 14th and early 16th centuries, Ibn Kathir, and Suyuti, respectively, concluding with the late Grand Mufti of Pakistan,  Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi (1898-1976)—the most important modern Koranic commentator in Urdu.

[Pickthall] Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security. Allah biddeth you beware (only) of Himself. Unto Allah is the journeying.

[Arberry] Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends, rather than the believers — for whoso does that belongs not to God in anything — unless you have a fear of them. God warns you that You beware of Him, and unto God is the homecoming.

Tabari (d. 923) (English translation by Raymond Ibrahim):

If you [Muslims] are under their [non-Muslims’] authority, fearing for yourselves, behave loyally to them with your tongue while harboring inner animosity for them … [know that] God has forbidden believers from being friendly or on intimate terms with the infidels rather than other believers—except when infidels are above them [in authority]. Should that be the case, let them act friendly towards them while preserving their religion.

Ibn Kathir (d. 1373)

The Prohibition of Supporting the Disbelievers

Allah prohibited His believing servants from becoming supporters of the disbelievers, or to take them as comrades with whom they develop friendships, rather than the believers. Allah warned against such behavior when He said, (And whoever does that, will never be helped by Allah in any way) meaning, whoever commits this act that Allah has prohibited, then Allah will discard him. Similarly, Allah said, (O you who believe! Take not My enemies and your enemies as friends, showing affection towards them), until,(And whosoever of you does that, then indeed he has gone astray from the straight path.) [60:1]. Allah said, (O you who believe! Take not for friends disbelievers instead of believers. Do you wish to offer Allah a manifest proof against yourselves) [4:144], and,

(O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as friends, they are but friends of each other. And whoever befriends them, then surely, he is one of them.) [5:51].

Allah said, after mentioning the fact that the faithful believers gave their support to the faithful believers among the Muhajirin, Ansar and Bedouins, (And those who disbelieve are allies of one another, (and) if you do not behave the same, there will be Fitnah and oppression on the earth, and a great mischief and corruption.) [8:73].

Allah said next, (unless you indeed fear a danger from them) meaning, except those believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers. In this case, such believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly. For instance, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Ad-Darda’ said, “We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.” Al-Bukhari said that Al-Hasan said, “The Tuqyah is allowed until the Day of Resurrection.” Allah said,(And Allah warns you against Himself.) meaning, He warns you against His anger and the severe torment He prepared for those who give their support to His enemies, and those who have enmity with His friends, (And to Allah is the final return) meaning, the return is to Him and He will reward or punish each person according to their deeds. (29. Say: “Whether you hide what is in your breasts or reveal it, Allah knows it, and He knows what is in the heavens and what is in the earth. And Allah is able to do all things.”) (30. On the Day when every person will be confronted with the good he has done, and all the evil he has done, he will wish that there were a great distance between him and his evil. And Allah warns you against Himself and Allah is full of kindness with the servants.

Suyuti (d. 1505)

The believers should not take unbelievers as friends and protectors rather than believers. Anyone who does that and befriends unbelievers has nothing whatsoever to do with the din [religion] of Allah [Islam]—unless it is because you are afraid of them, unless it is dissimulation out of fear of them so that the befriending takes place with the tongue alone and not the heart.

Muhammad Mufti Shafi (d. 1976; former Grand Mufti of Pakistan, from his Maariful Quran):

..the purpose is to stay safe from any possible harm coming through them. The words (“unless you have a fear of them”) appearing in this verse means that…friendship with disbelievers is not permissible except when you are in a situation where you want to defend yourself against them


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