Foreign Minister Zarif’s 'Takiya Theater' and the Iranian Nuclear Talks

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet [Muhammad] said, “Khosrau [Sassanid Zoroastrian ruler] will be ruined, and there will be no Khosrau after him, and Caesar [Byzantine Christian ruler] will surely be ruined and there will be no Caesar after him, and you will spend their treasures in Allah’s Cause.” He called, “War is deceit.”(Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 267); Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle called,“War is deceit.” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 268); Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: The Prophet said, “War is deceit.” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 269)

Islamic law [sharia] exists to serve the interests of the Muslim community and of Islam. [Therefore,] to save Muslim lives and for the sake of Islam’s survival it is obligatory to lie, it is obligatory to drink wine [if necessary]—Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, from his speech addressing Revolutionary Guard commanders, and others, July 31, 1981.


One day after Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress (3/3/15), NBC News’ Ann Curry interviewed Iran’s Foreign Minister Muhammad Javid Zarif, on Wednesday, March 4, 2015.

Engaging in an act of brazen takiya—sacralized Islamic religious dissimulation to “promote Islamic goals,” as promulgated by seminal Shiite legists for over a millennium, through the present era—Zarif opined:

The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog of the United Nations, has come out and said, “There is nothing that is going on behind—public attention in Iran.” And we are confident that, with an agreement, where we will have even more monitoring and more scrutiny—it will be clear to the international community that our nuclear program is exclusively peaceful.

Ms. Curry, to her credit, followed up with this question about Iranian “stalling,” after Zarif alluded to the IAEA:

You’ve mentioned the IAEA. As you know—it says that Iran has been stalling on answering certain questions about past nuclear activities, specifically about whether or not Iran was involved in trying to develop a weapon. So why is Iran stalling on these questions?

The Iranian Foreign Minister replied,

No, we're not stalling. The problem is that we have been negotiating within the group of whatever you wanna call it, E3 plus three or [P] five plus one, about how to proceed. And we have been waiting within this process for the questions that we need to answer.

Zarif’s response was unabashedly mendacious as can be gleaned from the IAEA’s own public reports, and statements.

For example, reviewing over a decade of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) analyses (and some other corroborative investigative findings), an independent report of 102 pp. issued on November 20, 2014, concluded (despite repeated, disingenuous countervailing protests) that the Iranian regime continued to engage in “systematic,” “vigorous” combined military, and dual military-civilian efforts “such as enrichment, weaponization, warhead, and delivery system at some stage,” whose ultimate goal was procuring nuclear weapons capability. There were “no serious indications that Tehran has stopped or abandoned this project or intends to do so.” Iran, on the contrary, “has resorted to further secrecy and concealment to keep its program intact and unhindered.” Additional discoveries and data all underscored how “a military program and military related activities” remain “at the heart of the Iranian nuclear program.”

A subsequent updated report by the IAEA, exclusively, which was leaked to the New York Times and disclosed on February 20, 2015, stated that the agency “remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.” Adding Iran had not provided explanations for the IAEA’s queries about all Iranian nuclear-related work, the IAEA report claimed the agency was “not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

Validating the IAEA’s gravest concerns, just 4 days later, Tuesday, February 24, 2015, the Iranian opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) claimed that a complex, dubbed Lavizan-3, on the outskirts of Tehran, was “buried deep underground in tunnels and underground facilities” with “radiation-proof doors” to prevent any leaks that could be detected by the IAEA inspectors. The NCRI claimed it smuggled out a photograph demonstrating a 1-foot thick lead-lined door which shields the complex from radiation, alleging further that the clandestine rooms and hallways are insulated for sound and radiation leaks so that they would remain undetected. The NCRI also maintained that the Iranian regime has secretly used the site to enrich uranium with advanced centrifuges since 2008, consistent with a long established deceptive pattern of hiding its actual nuclear activities.

Within 3-weeks of the interim “P5 (the U.S., Russia. China, France, and Britain) + 1 (Germany)” agreement announcement with Iran, on November 23, 2013,  per Islam’s prophet Muhammad’s tactical formulation when waging jihad, “War is deceit,” the Islamic doctrine of takiya, or kitman (“concealment”; “disguise”), and the modern analogue of Soviet Communist deceit and conspiracy, “moderate” Iranian Middle East analyst Mohammad Sadeq al-Hosseini, noted:

Incidentally, for your information, when you conduct political negotiations with Iran, you lose even when you think you have won. The [Iranians] have raised the level of uranium enrichment far beyond the level they really needed, so that when the level would be lowered, they would emerge victorious.

El-Hosseini’s candor helped elucidate a practical application of “takiya”/”kitman” as defined more broadly in the respected The Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam (edited by H.A.R. Gibb and J.H. Kramers, Leiden/New Delhi, 1953/2008, pp. 795-796):

Muhammad himself avoided the Passion motive in religion—in dogmatics by docetism (Koran 4:157) [i.e., the heretical early Christian belief that Christ only seemed to have a human body and to suffer and die on the cross, repeated at Koran 4:157] in his own life by the Hidjira [Muhammad’s emigration from Mecca to Medina] and further by allowing in case of need the denial of the faith (Koran 16:106), friendship with unbelievers (Koran 3:128) and the eating of forbidden foods (Koran 6:119, 5:3). This point of view is general in Islam…Tabari [Al- Tabari (838-923), born in Tabaristan, died in Baghdad; historian, theologian, and jurisconsult; author of a monumental commentary on the Koran, and a universal history, Annals, and Kitab al-Jihad (Book of the Holy War)] says on Koran 16:106. “If anyone is compelled and professes unbelief with his tongue, while his heart contradicts him, to escape his enemies, no blame falls on him, because Allah takes his servants as their hearts believe.”…In Shi’i [Shiite] biographies concealment is a regular feature; we are told, and not at all in an apologetic way, that the hero broke the laws of religion like the prohibition of wine under compulsions…[T] following sayings of Ali [d. 661, cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, and the fourth “Rightly Guided Caliph,” revered by Shia as the threefold imam, warrior, and saint of Islam] in juxtaposition:… “He among you who is most honored before Allah is the most fearful (of Allah),” that is “he who uses the takiya most,”; and it is also said, “The kitman [synonymous with takiya] is our jihad.”

Sami Mukaram [Makarim], a former Islamic studies professor at the American University of Beirut, wrote the contemporary treatise on takiya, At-Taqiyya fi ‘l-Islam (“Dissimulation in Islam”) published in 2004. Confirming the Shorter Encylcopaedia of Islam summary discussion (above) from 50 years before, Mukaram highlighted the ongoing mainstream nature, pervasiveness, and centrality of takiya, in particular, as an Islamic political tool:

Taqiyya [takiya] 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 (At-Taqiyya fi ‘l-Islam, (“Dissimulation in Islam”) London, Mu’assisat at-Turath ad- Druzi, 2004, p. 7, cited in, Raymond Ibrahim, “How Taqiyya Alters Islam’s Rules of War”, Middle East Quarterly Winter, 2010, pp. 3-13, extract translated by Ibrahim)

Orientalist par excellence Ignaz Goldziher* made the following observations about takiya in the Shiite traditions, specifically:

Ali [the 4th, “Rightly Guided” Caliph, revered by Shiites] is shown at the conversion of a Greek philosopher explaining the details of taqiyya. After he has presented him with the basic dogmas of Shia Islam, he issues an extensive admonition: “I instruct you in your faith to use taqiyya (he quotes sura 3:verse 28). I permit you to say that our enemies are better, if fear drives you to that. I permit you to publicly reject us .You may neglect obligatory prayers if their performance would bring you harm. Preferring our enemies to us if you are afraid cannot help them or hurt us. We suffer no disadvantage if you reject us out of fear. For you are only saying that, and temporarily, and are keeping faith inwardly, so that you may save your life and spare for the following months and years those of the faithful and brothers whom you know, until the affliction is gone and the wretched situation dissipates. This is preferable to exposing yourself to destruction and cutting off all possibility of working for the faith and the salvation of your brothers. Therefore, do not fail to make use of the taqiyya I commend to you, for you could shed your own blood and that of your brothers, expose your and their well-being to ruin and deliver yourself and them into the hands of the enemies of the religion. God has commanded you to bring luster to his faith and its faithful. If you act against my command, you will be damaging yourself and your brothers more than the nawasib [term used by the Shiites for persons whom they claim abhor the Ahlul Bayt, the family of Muhammad], and the infidels do.” We see from this admonition that taqiyya if first and foremost advanced in the interest of the security of allies, whose welfare could be put at risk by the bravery and martyr’s courage of an individual. Therefore, taqiyya appears mostly in connection with the hukuk al-ikhwan, the “interests of the brothers.” Imam Ali b. Muhammed [Alī ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Alī. , the tenth imam, fl. 9th century]was asked, “Who is the most complete person in good characteristics?” He answered, “He who most carefully uses taqiyya. gaining his brothers most good.” (Ignaz Goldziher, “Das Prinzip der takijja im Islam” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 1906, S. 213–226; from pp. 219- 220, translation by Professor James L. Hodge; * Goldziher [1860–1921], the preeminent Hungarian scholar of Islam, has been widely acclaimed as one of the most profound and original European scholars from an era that produced seminal investigators. The English translations of his major works published between 1967 and 2006, include: Muslim Studies, A Short History of Classical Arabic Literature, The Zahiris, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, and Schools of Koranic Commentators.)

And Etan Kohlberg’s 1975 analysis of takiya emphasized the critical bearing this doctrine had on the Shiite way of life:

…[W]itness the numerous claims in Imami literature that many professed Sunnis had in fact been Shi’is practising taqiyya. The disappearance of the twelfth Imam (in 874) is explained as an act of taqiyya [takiya] designed to save him from harm until his return as Mahdi. There even exists a special legal term, dar al-taqiyya, denoting the areas where taqiyya is obligatory. The notion of taqiyya likewise had important implications for various facets of Shi’i hadith. In early Shi’i circles, for instance, great stress was laid on the principle that genuine Shi’i traditions should be concealed from strangers (kitman, taqiyya) and be propagated (idhdi’a) only among the faithful. The principle of taqiyya was not restricted to the hostile outside world, but was sometimes applied to relationships among the Shi’is themselves. (Etan Kohlberg, “Some Imāmī-shīʿī Views on Taqiyya,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1975, Vol. 95, No. 3, pp. 395-402; p. 397)

More than a century earlier, Orientalist, and French chargé d’affaires in Tehran (from 1855-1858), Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, made these observations about the doctrine and practice of kitman (takiya), based upon his first hand experiences:

[I]t is not a good idea to expose one’s faith to the insult of disbelievers…The possessor of truth must not expose his person, his worldy goods or esteem to the aberration, to the folly, the perversity of those whom it has pleased God to lead into and to keep in error. As long as he is sensible and walks the right path he is precious to God; his health and prosperity are of consequence to the world. Never could speaking lightly bring advantage; for God knows what he wants, and if it suits him that the infidel or the wayward believer discover the true path, he needs help from no one to bring about the miracle. Silence must therefore be considered useful, as well as knowing that speaking and exposing the believer and perhaps even the religion, is ill-advised and at times may even amount to impiety. However there are cases where silence is no longer sufficient, where it could pass for an admission. In that case there is no hesitation. One should not only renounce one’s real opinion but its imperative that one misleads one’s adversary by all manner of ruse. One makes all the professions of faith that may please him, performs all the most senseless of rites, distorts one’s own books, exhausts all the possibilities of deception. In this way one acquires the multiple satisfaction and merit of having safeguarded oneself and one’s loved ones, of not having exposed a venerable faith to horrid contact with the infidel, and finally of having imposed on the former [the infidel] the spiritual shame and wretchedness he deserves by tricking him and confirming him in his error… Kitman ennobles him who practises it. The believer raises himself to a perpetual state of superiority over the person he deceives, be it a minister or a powerful king, no matter; for he who uses kitman against him he is above all a poor wretch to whom one closes the true path and who suspects nothing; ragged and starving you stand, outwardly quaking in your boots before deceived might, yet thine eyes are filled with light; thou treadst in brightness before thy foes. You ridicule an unintelligent being; you disarm a dangerous beast. What multifarious delights! (Comte de Gobineau and Orientlaism—Selected eastern writings, translated by Daniel O’Donoghue, edited by Geoffrey Nash, 2009, New York, pp. 119-120.)

Finally, as per the consensus view of Sunni and Shiite Islam’s most authoritative Koranic commentators, classical and modern alike, Koran 3:28 is the keystone verse sanctioning Muslim deception towards non-Muslims, as elaborated further in the doctrine of takiya/ kitman. What follows are the glosses on Koran 3:28, in chronological order, across a millennium, by: al-Tabari (d. 923; see above); Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), one of the best-known historians and traditionalists of Syria during the reign of the Bahri Mamluks, who also compiled an important Koranic commentary; al-Suyuti (d. 1505) recognized as a brilliant jurist, historian, and biographer, among whose many scholarly contributions are about twenty works of Koranic studies, including seminal Koranic commentaries; Maulana Muhammad Shafi (d.1976), former grand mufti of India (prior to the August, 1947 partition), author of Maariful Qur’an, which remains the best-known Koranic commentary in Urdu, who wrote more than three hundred books, and in addition to these literary works, broadcasted tafsir of the Koran on Radio Pakistan for a number of years; and most aptly, Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai (d. 1981), the pre-eminent 20th century Shiite Koranic commentator, and renowned Muslim philosopher-educator:

(Tabari) 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. (Abu Ja’far Muhammad at-Tabari, Jami’ al-Bayan ‘an ta’wil ayi’l-Qur’an al-Ma’ruf: Tafsir at-Tabari, Beirut: Dar Ihya’ at-Turath al-‘Arabi, 2001, vol. 3, p. 267, translated in Ibrahim, “How Taqiyya Alters Islam’s Rules of War”)

(Ibn Kathir) [B]elievers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers...such believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers outwardly, but never inwardly. For instance, Al-Bukhari [d. 869, author of the most important of the six canonical hadith collections] recorded that Abu Darda said, “We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them.” Al- Bukhari said that Al-Hasan said, “The Tuqyah [takiya] is allowed until the Day of Resurrection.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, English translation produced by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Vol. 2, 2000, Riyadh, p. 142)

(al-Suyuti) The believers should not take unbelievers as friends and protectors rather than the believers. Anyone who does that and befriends unbelievers has nothing whatsoever to do with the din [religion] of Allah—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. (Tafsir al- Jalalayn, 2008, translated by Aisha Bewley, London, pp. 122-124.

(Shafi) [F]riendship which binds a Muslim in very close ties with non-Muslims is not permissible under any condition…politeness and friendly treatment is… permissible when the purpose is to entertain a guest, convey Islamic teachings to non-Muslims or to stay safe against being hurt or harmed by them. (Ma’ariful Qur’an, 2009, Vol. 2, Karachi, p. 58)

(Tabatabai) The verse [3:28] clearly allows taqiyyah, as is shown by the traditions of the Imāms of Ahlu ’l-bayt [the family of Muhammad; Shias believe they consist of Muhammad, Fatima, and Muhammad’s “successors,” Ali, Hasan and Husayn]… The Qur’ān and the sunnah both agree that taqiyyah is permissible in places. Also, reason supports it. The main purpose of the religion and the Apostle is to keep the truth alive; and sometimes this purpose can be achieved by practicing taqiyyah, by keeping good relations with the enemies of the religion, while discarding taqiyyah would serve no purpose at all. It is a reality which no reasonable man can deny… The tafsīr as- Sāfī [Koranic commentary, in this case, written by 17th century Shi’ite scholar Mohsen Fayz Kashani (d. 1679)], quotes under the words: except (when) you guard yourselves against (them) . . ., from al-Ihtijāj, that the Commander of the faithful (a.s.) said, inter alia, in a tradition: ‘‘and He ordered you to practice taqiyyah in your religion; because Allāh says: Be careful, and be careful again, not to expose yourself to perdition, and not to neglect taqiyyah which I have ordered you (to practise); otherwise, you will cause shedding of your blood and the blood of your brethren (as well); will expose your bounties as well as theirs to ruin; and will cause their humiliation at the hands of the enemies of the religion of Allāh, while Allāh has ordered you to exalt them.’’ as-Sādiq (d. 765, sixth Shi’ite imam and jurist) said: ‘‘The Apostle of Allāh used to say: ‘He has no religion who does not have taqiyyah;’ then he used to say: ‘Allāh says: except (when) you guard yourselves against them for fear from them.’’ (al-‘Ayyāshī, fl. ? 2nd half of the 9th century, the Shi’ite commentator and traditionalist) al-Bāqir (d. 733, fifth Shi’ite imam and jurist) said: ‘‘taqiyyah is (allowed) in every matter about which a man falls in predicament; and Allāh has made it lawful to him.’’ (al-Kāfī; a Shiite hadith collection compiled by Muhammad Ya‘qūb Kulaynī [d. 941]) The author says: There are very many traditions from the Imāms of Ahlu ’l-bayt — probably reaching the limit of mutawātir [‘that which comes successively’; it can denote a Prophetic tradition, hadith, or, in general, any report), with multiple chains of transmission] containing the permission of taqiyyah; and you have already seen how the Qur’ānic verses [notably Koran 3:28] incontestably prove it. (Sayyid Muhammad Husayn at-Tabataba’i, Al-Mizan fe Tafsir al-Quran, translated by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, 1982, Vol. 3, Tehran, pp. 221-222, 234-235)

Igor Lukes has analyzed the marked concordance between Soviet Communist “linguistic maneuvers,” and takiya/ kitman, the Islamic doctrine of deception:

It is hard to ignore the existence of clear parallels between the defensive deceptions of Islamic kitman and the more global linguistic maneuvers of the Kremlin decision makers…[D]eception and conspiracy were to become a way of life of all communist movements. Indeed the long careers of Philby et al. [Harold Adrian Russell “Kim” Philby (d. 1988) was a high-ranking member of British intelligence, and Soviet double agent, who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963, having been an operative of the Soviet NKVD/KGB, as part the spy ring now known as the “Cambridge Five”] demonstrate that kitman is as Soviet as it is Middle Eastern. (from Joseph S. Douglass, Jr., Why the Soviets Violate Arms Control Treaties, 1988, Cambridge, MA.; Lukes’ essay, “Linguistic Deception and U.S.-Soviet Arms Control Treaties,” Appendix C, pp. 138-154; on p. 140)

Beyond the foreboding chronological symmetry—recognition of the Soviet Union on November 16, 1933, and almost precisely 80 years later, the announcement of the “P5 + 1” interim agreement, November 23, 2013—two essential likenesses are immediately apparent, and ominous:

  • Lying about the intrinsic nature of both the November, 1933 and November, 2013 agreements to deny or conceal their intractable strategic, and moral failures.

President Reagan’s landmark March, 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals included this gimlet-eyed description of the “totalitarian darkness” at Communism’s ideological core:

… they [Communists] preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the Earth.

What Ronald Reagan understood—and articulated—was elaborated more concretely by Robert Conquest, the nonpareil historian of Communist totalitarianism’s ideology, and resultant mass murderous depredations.

The Soviet Union, right up to the eve of its collapse, was committed to the concept of an unappeasable conflict with the Western world and to the doctrine that this could only be resolved by what Foreign Minister Andrey [Andrei] Gromyko described as officially as one could imagine, in his 1975 book The Foreign Policy of the Soviet Union, as world revolution: “The Communist Party of the Soviet Union subordinates all its theoretical and practical activity in the sphere of foreign relations to the task of strengthening the positions of socialism, and the interests of further developing and deepening the world revolutionary process.” One could hardly be franker.

There is a striking similarity between Soviet linguistic maneuvers of deceit, especially during arms control negotiations, and their ancient antecedent, takiya/ kitman, the Islamic doctrine of deception. Serious, honest U.S. negotiators, entrusted with the security of the American population, ignore these parallels at our collective peril.