What is Taqîyya?

Taqîyya, literally “abstaining from something out of fear,” and kitmân, literally “hiding, disguising”; two words, synonymous in the context they have here, both refer to 1) the faithful believers’ hiding their association with the Cause of the Imâms when being open about it would expose them to real danger; and especially, 2) keeping the occult teachings of the Imâms secret. Most specialists have only remembered the first of these two aspects, since they have seen nothing more than a political religious movement in Imamism, and perhaps also because the word taqîyya is of Khârijite origin…Not only are the two aspects connected, but the second is by far the more important from a doctrinal point of view, since it concerns the initiated, while the first is related to the mass of the faithful. We prefer “keeping the Secret,” [as] a translation in the first degree…

Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi THE DIVINE GUIDE IN EARLY SHI’ISM: The Sources of Esotericism in Islam (trans.) David Streight, State University of New York Press (Albany: 1993), p. 230, n.680.

The doctrine of the satr [concealment] explained Hassan III’s [post-qîyâmat] reform [beginning in 1166-7 of the common era] and at the same time reinterpreted the doctrine of the qîyâma [resurrection]. It was explained that the qîyâma [proclaimed by his predecessor Hassan II] was not necessarily a final event but a transitory condition of life, when the veil of the taqîyya [keeping the secret] was lifted so as to make the unveiled truth available to all. The tacit identification between the sharî’a [ritual religious law] and taqîyya, implied in the teachings of Hassan [II]was thus confirmed, and so was the identification between qîyâma [resurrection] and haqîqa [truth/reality]. Accordingly, the strict imposition of the Sunni Sharî’a by Hassan III [post 1166-7 CE] was depicted as a return to [the pre-1165 practice of] taqîyya, or precautionary dissimulation of one’s true religious beliefs, and to a new period of satr or concealment, when the truth would be once again hidden in the bâtin [interior reality]. The condition of the qîyâma [resurrection] could, in principle, be granted or withheld by the current Imâm to mankind, or to the [gnostic] elite, at any time; consequently, at the will of the Imâm, human life could alternate between the times of qîyâma, when reality is manifest, and satr, when reality is hidden…and the practice of taqîyya is in place…

Farhad Daftary THE ISMA’ILIS: Their history and doctrines, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge: 1994), p. 410.

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