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Sam Shamoun of Answering Islam recently forwarded me an article titled “Tawriya: Islamic Doctrine of ‘Creative Lying’? Response to Raymond Ibrahim,” appearing on a website called Muslim Debate Initiative, and written by one Shadid (“Severe”) Lewis in response to my recent exposition on the doctrine of tawriya. Although this response—poorly written, poorly argued—would normally be ignored, I address it for three reasons: 1) To date, it is the only rebuttal I have seen from a Muslim concerning tawriya; 2) Far from rejecting tawriya, it actually validates it (the author spends his time chasing red herrings, not disproving the doctrine); 3) It is a good example of the speciousness and sophistry employed by those who try to downplay or rationalize some of Islam’s more problematic doctrines, in this case, tawriya. (Note: Although Shadid’s original article is littered with grammatical and punctuation errors, in the interest of readability, I have corrected the more egregious when quoting him.)
At the start, after informing readers that he “read the article of Raymond Ibrahim posted on Frontpagemag.com and I just had to respond,” Shadid argues that tawriya really “means deliberate ambiguity rather than creative lying.” Discerning readers understand such euphemisms change nothing about the doctrine.
After I pointed out that most Muslim scholars (or ulema) are agreed that tawriya should not be used to commit an “injustice,” I added “‘injustice’ as defined by Sharia, of course, not Western standards.” To this, Shadid responds: “Says who? None of the sources he [me] cited said as only defined by Sharia. A commonly known wrong is a commonly known wrong just the same in Islam (stealing, cheating, murder, etc. is wrong and accepted as such in Islam).”
First, of course the Muslim authorities do not bother pointing out that they mean justice and injustice as defined by Sharia; that’s a given. Likewise, anyone familiar with Islamic law and doctrine—presumably Muslims like Shadid himself—know that many of Islam’s views on “right” and “wrong” do not agree with “universal standards.” One example: Islamic law holds that any Muslim who converts out of Islam and refuses to return is an apostate to be executed. Whereas in Islam, such executions are deemed “just,” from a Western point of view, which acknowledges religious freedom, they are unjust. In this context, then, it is “just” to use tawriya (lying) to enable the execution of an apostate.
Next, Shadid distracts the issue by making irrelevant points: “Sheikh Al-Munajjid, another source cited by the article’s author, said excessive use of puns leads to lying. So the claim that this [tawriya] can be used whenever and wherever is a lie in itself.”
Yes, at the very end of his fatwa, after giving many proofs validating tawriya, Munajjid warned that too much tawriya can “lead one to slip into a lie,” meaning that, by getting caught up in one’s own dissembling game, one can end up committing an actual lie—one that is not “technically” true, a criterion of tawriya—without realizing it. More to the point, saying that some ulema warn against using tawriya too much, does not change the fact that Islam permits lying through tawriya, and that it is up to the individual Muslim to decide how much is too much.
Shadid continues: “Al Munajjid said this [tawriya] is used for embarrassing circumstances. Yet the author would have us believe Muslims can use this to lie in business transactions, and to take peoples’ property and other commonly accepted wrong activities.”
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