Every respectable religion should forbid to lie. Mohammed clearly spoke about the importance to tell the truth:
It is obligatory for you to tell the truth, for truth leads to virtue and virtue leads to Paradise, and the man who continues to speak the truth and endeavours to tell the truth is eventually recorded as truthful with Allah, and beware of telling of a lie for telling of a lie leads to obscenity and obscenity leads to Hell-Fire, and the person who keeps telling lies and endeavours to tell a lie is recorded as a liar with Allah. (Sahih Muslim – 32:6309)
However, Islam allows deception and false witness if the final purpose is for the benefit of Islam. The prohibition of lying is a principle whose validity is limited to relations among faithful Muslims, like many other norms within Islam. Speaking of infidels (kuffar) – in particular of enemies of Muslims – Mohammed statetd a completely different principle:
“War is deception” (Sahih Bukhari – 4:56:3030)
The Qu’ran itself also preaches deception:
In other words — the Qu’ran says — Muslims should not be friends with non Muslims (kuffar), except in the case to safeguard themselves. They must feign to be friends but they must not develop a true friendship feeling. (Qu’ran 3:28)
In another verse the Qu’ran says:
Any one who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters Unbelief,- except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in Faith – but such as open their breast to Unbelief, on them is Wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a dreadful Penalty. (Qu’ran 16:106)
Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming. (Qu’ran 3:28)
The word used to reference this kind of deceit is ‘taqiyya’, which usually means to outwardly disavow one’s own faith. A similar principle is the ‘kitman’ concept (“mental reservation”). It consists of telling the truth but not entirely, with the purpose of deceiving the enemy.
Several hadiths show that the principle of taqiyya was practiced since the very first generation of Muslims:
Narrated by Jabir Abdullah:
Allah’s Apostle said, “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” The Prophet said, “Yes,” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab). “The Prophet said, “You may say it.” (Sahih Bukhari – 5:59:369)
It is also because of this doctrine that a sincere attempt to have a “dialogue” with Islam becomes extremely difficult, since one of the two parts is someone that may feel himself authorised by his own God to lie, if he feels himself in difficulty.
This principle should always be considered when we see on TV a spokesperson of Islam proclaim friendship towards infidels (kuffar), proclaim his loyalty to the Laws of the Land in which he lives or when he proclaims the pacific and democratic nature of Islam.
Al-Tabari’s (d. 923) famous tafsir (Exegesis of the Qu’ran) is a standard and authoritative reference work in the entire Muslim world. Regarding 3:28, he writes:
“If you [Muslims] are under their [infidels’] authority, fearing for yourselves, behave loyally to them, with your tongue, while harboring inner animosity for them. … Allah has forbidden believers from being friendly or on intimate terms with the infidels in place of believers — except when infidels are above them [in authority]. In such a scenario, let them act friendly towards them.”