The doctrine of taqiya

We have heretofore noted that Imam Muhammad al-Bakir had articulated the implication of the doctrine of taqiya in Shiism, and we may attribute the rudiments of its theory to him. But it left to his son, Jafar Sadik to give it a final form abreast of time and make it an absolute condition of the faith.

Looking the changing condition radically then prevailing in the Arab society, it was a wise move by Imam Jafar Sadik to broach his followers the doctrine of taqiya (precautionary dissimulation), and made it the Shiite article of faith. He is reported to have said that, "Taqiya is of my religion and of the religion of my forefathers. One who does not keep taqiya he has no religion." He also said on another occasion that, "Fear for your religion and protect it with taqiya." He further said, "Our belief concerning taqiya is that it is obligatory and he who forsakes, it is in the same position as he who forsakes prayer."

Jafar Sadik had certainly worked out that an open dawat based on esoterism in the line of Ismail would mean a sure doom in the powerful Abbasid regime. It was, of course, risky for the Imams and their followers to openly propagate their minoritarian beliefs then onwards, therefore, the secret mission system was introduced with the help of taqiya, which could also avoided great deal of persecution. Farhad Daftary writes in "The Ismailis: their History and Doctrines" (London, 1990, p. 85) that, "The practice of taqiya conveniently protected the Shi'is, especially the later Ismailis, from persecution, and served in the preservation of their sectarian existence under hostile circumstances."

The word taqiya is derived from the root tuqat, means "conceal" or "hide". It is also suggested that it is rooted from waqqa, means "keep or guard from someone". The Koranic term tauqqat is also taken in the meaning of taqiya, to which divergance of opinions have been advanced. Baidawi (d. 685/1286) writes in his "Anwar al-Tanzil" that, "The qirah of Imam Yaqub (d. 205/820) contains the word taqiyainstead of tauqqat." Similar word is also traced in the meaning of taqiya in Bukhari (vide "Kitab al-Iqrah", 28:50). Ibn Hajar (d. 852/1449) also admits in "Fateh al-Bari" (28:50) that tauqqat and taqiya are same in meaning. Zamakhshari (d. 538/1144) in "Tafsir al- Kashshaf" (Cairo, 1953, 2nd vol., p. 16), Raghib Ispahani (d. 502/1108) in "Tafsir al-Gharaib al-Koran" (Cairo, 1894, 1st vol., p. 313), Baidawi (d. 685/1286) in "Anwar al-Tanzil" (Beirut, 1958, 1st vol., p. 153) and Fakhruddin Razi (d. 606/1209) in "Tafsir al-Kabir"(Cairo, 1890, 2nd vol., p. 646), etc. have concured the doctrine of taqiya permissible in Islam in the light of the Koranic verse, which reads:- "Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers, and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of God, except when you have to guard yourselves against them for fear" (3:27).

Another Arabic word kitman is also used for taqiya. The Arabic lexicons however render the meaning of taqiya as "to arrange for protection." In sum, taqiya is a practice permissible in Islamic jurisprudence. It is a doctrine allowing the disciples to conceal their faith during the time of trouble. According to "Urdu Encyclopaedia of Islam" (6th vol., p. 581), "The Shiites were suspected in some matters in non-Shiite rules, therefore, the doctrine of taqiya exercised special importance among them."

Imam Jafar Sadik also then seems to have realized the significance of a tight, well-knit and secret organisation to face the emerging challenges in Arab society. For that purpose, he employed his Iranian client (mawla), named Maymun al-Qaddah, who had a skill for organising the vast network of an underground mission. The Arabs, it must be noted, were not traditionally and temperamentally suited for secretive and underground functionings. They had always lived in an open and free society in the desert without the paraphernalia of state and political intrigues. Comparatively, the character of the Abbasid empire at the same time, was also different from that of the Umayyads in as much as it was an empire of neo-Muslims of which the Arabs were only a part. It was mainly due to the support and strategy of the non-Arabs sections of people of Iran that the Abbasid succeeded in establishing their empire, chiefly by Abu Muslim Khorasani, who did much to bring the Abbasids to power.

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