Deception in Islam
June 2007 version
Etymology of the Word Makara
"and [they] deceived and Allah deceived and Allah is the best of deceivers"
Sura 3:54 Arabic: Wa Makaru wa makara Allah wa Allah Amkaru al Makireen.
Likewise the phrase of Allah "being the best deceiver". kheir ol makarein, is also used of Allah in Suras 8:30 and 10:21. Sura 10:21 says Allah is the fastest in planning/deceit
Yet English translations of the Qur’an typically have a softer phrase, as Appendix I shows. So in these verses, specifically how should this word be more accurately translated, and generally, what is the role of deception in Islam?
Sura 3:54 says that Allah makara. The Arabic word makara means to deceive, scheme, or plan. The Arabic Bible in Genesis 3:1 uses the same word for Satan. However, the Vand Dyck and Jerusalem Bibles use the root word hayala.
This word "schemer" (maakir) is a very strong word which Wehr and Abdel-Nour define as "sly, cunning, wily". The Arabic-Arabic unjid defines it with khuda`a which means exactly the same thing (by Bill Campbell in his book The Qur'an and the Bible in the Light of History and Science p.217-218).
The context of this story is very important. Sura 3 is regarded to be the great dialogue of Muhammad with the Christians. Al-Tabari says here that the deceit of Allah applies to the time where the Jews wanted to kill Isa the son of Mary. In order not to be killed Allah put the appearance of Jesus’ face on someone else, who was crucified instead of Jesus. This is how Allah had everybody, even Jesus get deceived.
During the Second Gulf War, the Iraqi Information minister justified his false reports of Iraqi victories by quoting Sura 3:54, saying that "Allah was the best of deceivers". So this is how this Muslim applied this word and this verse.
Around 686 A.D. Za'idah bin Qudamah saw the deceiving plot of another and quoted "God is the best of plotters" (Sura 3:54) al-Tabari vol.20 p.188
http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Quran/011-taqiyya.htm says that on the transmission on 9-11 flight 93, the hijackers told the passengers there was a bomb on board, but that everyone will be safe if their demands are met. That was certainly a lie, but were the 9-11 hijackers being hypocrites here? No, they were not, because the hadiths said they could practice deception in war. But again, until the hijackers took over the plane, the men, and even women and children on board had no idea their fellow passengers were at war with them.
Now Muslim scholars do not say Muslims can lie any time the want to, but rather they can lie to non-Muslims for purposes of war, safety, and advancing Islam. This last reason may explain why some (though not the majority) of Muslims I have corresponded with will say false things in order to try to advance Islam.
On one hand, I have received the following from a Muslim: "Telling a layman lies in order to convert to Islam is Ha’ram (unlawful) and condemned by Allah but a layman is responsible for seeking knowledge independently as prophet Muhammad also said: ‘It is mandatory for all Muslims both (Male and Female) to seek knowledge before worshipping Allah’ Hadith Qurisiy. But we can tell lies to settle a dispute or conflict, that’s lawful and rewarding. I studied from various roots."
On the other hand, I have seen blatant lies told by some Muslims about Christianity. But when the factual error is pointed out, they keep those same things on their web site; they neither correct or address their error, nor explain why they think it is not an error after all.
Telling flattering lies to make peace is OK! "He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar." Bukhari vol.3 book 49 ch.2 no.857 p.533.
See also Ibn-i-Majah vol.4 book 20 ch.5 no.2544 p.6
"Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) said, 'If one hides (the sins of) a Muslim, Allah will hide (his sins) in this world and the Hereafter. (1)"
Footnote (1) by the translator says, "Another translation of this is: if anyone provides some clothe to a Muslims to cover his private parts. Hadith No. 2546 supports this translation."
"Narrated Jabir: The Prophet said, ‘Who is ready to kill Ka’b bin Ashraf (i.e. a Jew).’ Muhammad bin Maslama replied, ‘Do you like me to kill him?’ The Prophet replied in the affirmative. Muhammad bin Maslama said, ‘Then allow me to say what I like.’ [i.e. to lie]. The Prophet replied ‘I do (i.e. allow you).’" Bukhari vol.4 book 52 ch.159 no.271 p.168. al-Tabari vol.7 p.95 likewise reports Jabir saying "We shall have to tell lies." and Mohammed telling him "Say what you like."
Bukhari vol.3 book 45 ch.3 no.687 p.415 "Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Who would kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf as has harmed Allah and His Apostle? Muhammad bin Maslama (got up and) said, ‘I will kill him.’ So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to Ka’b and said, ‘I want a loan of one or two Wasqs of foodgrains.’" After dickering over what to hold as mortgage, they agreed that Muhammad bin Maslama would mortgage his weapons. So he promised him that he would come with his weapons next time." Then Jabir returned, when Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf was expecting him to come peacefully, and Jabir deceptively killed him.
The following also discuss the assassination of Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf, and their narratives all match. Bukhari vol.5 book 59 ch.14 no.369 p.248; Sahih Muslim vol.3 book 17 ch.744 no.4436 p.990-991; Abu Dawud vol.2 book 9 ch.1015 no.2762 p.775; Abu Dawud vol.2 book 13 ch.1110 no.2994 p.850. al-Tabari vol.9 p.121 says this occurred between the battles of Badr and Uhud.
War is guile. Ibn-i-Majah vol.4 book 24 (Jihad) ch.27 no.2833 p.181. War is deceit according to Bukhari vol.4 book 52 ch.157 no.268,269 p.167. The trouble with applying this in Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf is that Ka’b had no idea Jabir was at war with him. Thus if a Muslim decides he is "at war" with you (an infidel), he can with a clear conscience lie to you while you think he is your friend and he comes to borrow something from you.
Bukhari vol.7 book 67 ch.26 p.309 Mohammed said, "By Allah, and Allah willing, if I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath."
Sura 9:3 Allah and His Messenger Dissolve obligations with Pagans.
Sura 66:2a says "Allah has already ordained For you, the expiation of your oaths"
When Allah allegedly had only the appearance of Jesus die on the cross, that deceived the Jews who thought they had crucified him. Now if Allah really did plot this "great switcheroo", you would have to agree the effect to extremely successful at not only completely deceiving all the Romans, and Jews, but the followers of Jesus also.
www.BibleQuery.org/History/ChurchHistory/WhatEarlyChristiansTaught.htm gives more than 80 writers, prior to the Nicene Council in 325 A.D., who taught, and in many cases died for, the belief that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.
Sura 40:32: "O my People! I fear a Day when there will be mutual wailing. No one shall defend you against Allah. Any whom Allah causes to err, there is no guide. That is how Allah leads the skeptic astray."
Sura 40:32 says that Allah leads the skeptic astray. The context of this is going to Paradise or Hell. So if a person bound for Hell is believing idols, is Allah
a) Angry with them because they are not believing what they are supposed to
b) Happy that they are believing what they are supposed to believe, because Allah led them to believe that.
If a Muslim answers "a" (like they usually will), then why is Allah angry with people who followed where He led them?
Nowhere in the Bible does God lie, deceive, or create a delusion, though God can send a delusion and harden hearts. While in the Bible God hardened Pharaoh's heart, Pharaoh first hardened his own heart too. Likewise for people today who choose to harden their hearts against God, one consequence is that God further hardens their hearts. For those who chose to exchange the truth of God for the lie, in Romans 1:25-31, God gives them over to vile passions. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 for those who did not receive the love of the truth, God will send them a strong delusion. So God did not create the delusion, but He deliberately sent it their way. You can read a detailed account of one case of this in 1 Kings 22:19-23.
For Muslims there might be a similar concept of either allowing non-believers to stay deceived, or letting non-believers be further misled. Sura 5:41 says "If any one’s trial [of unbelief] is intended by Allah, thou hast no authority in the least for him against Allah. For such-it is not Allah’s will to purify their hearts."
Sura 74:31 "…Thus does Allah leave to stray Whom He pleaseth, and guide Whom He pleaseth; and none Can know the forces of thy Lord,…"
However according to Islam Allah deceived even His own followers in Jesus time. In the next section, Allah personally deceives even his own Muslim followers too.
Here is how God and Satan handle lying in the Bible.
The Bible warns us not to believe every spirit but to test the spirits (1 John 4:1) and to beware of false prophets (Matthew7:15).
So how can someone tell if they are mistakenly following a spirit that lies?
"...and then only this nation (i.e., Muslims) will remain, including their hypocrites. Allah will come to them in a shape other than they know and will say, ‘I am your Lord.’ They will say, ‘We seek refuge with Allah from you. This is our place; (we will not follow you) till our Lord comes to us, and when our Lord comes to us, we will recognise Him.’ Then Allah will come to them in a shape they know and will say, ‘I am your Lord.’ They will say, (no doubt) You are our Lord,’ and they will follow Him." Bukhari vol.8 book 76 ch.52 no.577 p.375. See also Sahih Muslim vol.1 book 1 ch.81 no.349 p.115.
Now one Muslim pointed out to me that the word "deceive" is not present in the quote, Allah did not speak any lying words, and this occurs in Heaven, not on earth. However, it is not required that the word "deceive" be used to deceive people, as when Allah impersonated one who is not Allah. Those who believed Allah’s words when Allah chose to be in this false shape go to Hell. If this is not deception, then what is? We can all agree that this hadith teaches that at a future time Allah will deliberately misrepresent himself to Muslims in a "shape other than they know".
What is Allah’s shape? I had not heard a Muslim say, until one Muslim told me Allah probably had a humanoid shape. Here is what Bukhari vol.9 book 93 ch.24 no.532b p.396 tells us. "When there remain only those who used to worship Allah (Alone), both the obedient ones and the mischievous ones, [and they will say] ‘and now we are waiting for our Lord.’ Then the Almighty will come to them in a shape other than that which they saw the first time, and He will says, ‘I am your Lord,’ and they will say, ‘You are not our Lord.’ And none will speak to Him then but the Prophets, and then it will be said to them, ‘Do you know any sign by which you can recognize Him?’ They will say, ‘The Shin,’ and so Allah will then uncover His Shin whereupon every believer will prostrate before Him and there will remain those who used to prostrate before Him just for showing off and for gaining good reputation. These people will try to prostrate but their backs will be rigid like one piece of a wood (and they will not be able to prostrate). Then the bridge will be laid across Hell,…"
So, despite what Muslims today might say, Bukhari says that Allah will have a true physical form in Heaven, and Allah himself will also appear to Muslims in a false physical form, as sort of a temptation to them.
In contrast, James 1:13 says, "When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone."
Bukhari vol.6 book 60 ch.9 no.8 p.10 "’Umar said, ‘Our best Qur’an reciter is Ubai and our best judge is ‘Ali; and in spite of this, we leave some of the statements of Ubai because Ubai says, ‘I do not leave anything that I have heard from Allah’s Apostle while Allah said, ‘What ever verse (Revelations) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten but We bring a better one or similar, to it … (2: 106)"
What do you think abrogated verses means?
a) Verses that are still in the Qur’an, but Muslims are not supposed to follow it?
b) Verses that used to be in the [some say unalterable] Qur’an, but are no longer there anymore
c) We can find examples of both
It turns out that Muslim hadiths show us that c) is the correct answer.
Example of a) Sura 73:2-3 is abrogated by Sura 73:20. Abu Dawud vol.1 book 2 ch.457 no.1299 p.343
An example of an abrogated tradition is that Mu’tah (temporary marriage) for a short time such as a day or week, was allowed by Mohammed, but, according to Sunnis, later abrogated. However, Shi’ites believe that was not abrogated.
Example of b) "Narrated Anas bin Malik: ... There was revealed about those who were killed at Bi’r-Ma’una a Qur’anic Verse we used to recite, but it was cancelled later on. The verse was: ‘Inform our people that we have met our Lord. He is pleased with us and He has made us pleased.’" Bukhari vol.4 book 52 ch.19 no.69 p.53. This is not in any Qur’an today.
By the way, I hope nobody has tried to deceive you into thinking the Qur’an has not been changed, or that everything is to be followed. The Fihrist p.81-82 lists 18 books about the Abrogating and the Abrogated in the Qur’an. Among Muslims scholars, the translator in Bukhari vol.6 footnote 1 p.506 mentions a special term for Qur’anic verses that have not been abrogated: muhkam, though other sources call them mohkam.
One Answer from Islam: You had better not ask too many questions.
Bukhari vol.2 book 24 ch.52 no.555 p.323 "I heard the Prophet saying, ‘Allah has hated for you three things: - … And asking too many question…"
Sura 5:101 "Believers! Do not ask questions about things which if made plain and declared to you, may vex you, causing you trouble."
Sura 5:102 "Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account they lost their faith and became disbelievers."
So even though Allah could come in a deceiving shape, and ghulat Muslims might be deceived in worshipping the wrong Allah, thinking that ‘Ali and Mohammed are divine and parts of Allah, the hadiths say Satan cannot impersonate Mohammed.
"... and whoever sees me [Mohammed] in a dream, he surely sees me, for Satan cannot impersonate me (appear in my figure). And whoever intentionally ascribes something to me falsely, he will surely take his place in the (Hell) Fire." Bukhari vol.8 book 73 ch.109 no.217 p.139-140. (also Sahih Muslim vol.4 book 27 ch.948 no.5635-5639 p.1225-1226)
One answer I have never heard (yet) from a Muslim, is why Muslims think God will chooses to appear in a deceiving, people can be deceived in worshipping a false impersonation of God, yet Satan will never impersonate Mohammed.
To answer that question for me, or for more info contact www.MuslimHope.com
English translations of the Qur’an seem to conceal part of the true meaning.
Yusuf ‘Ali’s Translation of 3:54 "And (the unbelievers) Plotted and planned, And Allah too planned, And the best of planners Is Allah."
J.M. Rodwell’s translation of Sura 3 between 40 and 50: "And the Jews plotted, and God plotted: But of those who plot God is the best."
Pickthall’s translation of 3:54: "And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them); and Allah is the best of schemers."
(translated by Maulawi Sher Ali, an Ahmaddiyya) "And they planned, and Allah also planned; and Allah is the Best of planners."
Yusef Ali, in his version of the Qu’ran, says that makara can be "good or bad", positive or negative. (p.156, footnote 393 on Sura 3:54)
In Farsi, the words, makr and makar are from the Arabic, and it apparently is always negative.
Translations of the Qur’an are taken from Yusuf Ali’s revised translation.