Iran “not only has a track record of nuclear cover-ups but considers lying a religious duty if convenient.”
Taqiyya as a specific concept by that name was developed during the time of the sixth Imam, Jafar al-Sadiq, in middle of the eighth century, when the Shi’ites were being persecuted by the Sunni caliph al-Mansur. Taqiyya allowed Shi’ites to pretend to be Sunnis in order to protect themselves from Sunnis who were killing Shi’ites. Until the conversion of Persia to Shi’ism, taqiyya was an important element of Shi’ite survival, for Sunnis, in the majority almost everywhere, would not infrequently take it upon themselves to cleanse the land of those whom they referred to as Rafidites, that is, rejecters — those who rejected the caliphates of Abu Bakr, Umar, and Uthman.
Some Shi’ite thinkers turned the secrecy that had become a necessity into a virtue. The medieval Shi’ite scholar Ali ibn Musa ibn Tawus, who died in 1266, taught that Allah had revealed Shi’ism secretly, and it was incumbent upon the believers to practice it in secret. At the end of days, Allah will admit them secretly into Paradise. Some secrets were never to be revealed under any circumstances. The fifth imam, Muhammad al-Baqir, who died in 732, once gave a book to one of his disciples, telling him, “If you ever transmit any of it, my curse and the curse of my forefathers will fall upon you.”
The sixth Imam, Jafar Al-Sadiq, who died in 765, had a servant who was suspected of having revealed some of the secrets of the faith. The Imam lectured, “Whoever propagates our tradition is like someone who denies it.…Conceal our doctrine and do not divulge it. God elevates in this world one who conceals our doctrine and does not divulge it and he turns it in the next world into a light between his eyes which will lead him to Paradise. God abases in this world one who divulges our tradition and our doctrine and does not conceal it, and in the next world he removes the light from between his eyes and turns it into darkness which will lead him to hell. Taqiyya is our religion and the religion of our fathers; he who has no taqiyya has no religion.”
Other Imams also emphasized the cardinal importance of taqiyya, apparently not only because Shi’ites were under constant threat from Sunnis, but because Shi’ite Islam contained doctrines that must stay hidden from outsiders. Some sayings of the Imams include, “He who has no taqiyya has no faith”; “he who forsakes taqiyya is like him who forsakes prayer”; “he who does not adhere to taqiyya and does not protect us from the ignoble common people is not part of us”; “nine tenths of faith falls within taqiyya”; “taqiyya is the believer’s shield (junna), but for taqiyya, God would not have been worshipped.”
Taqiyya is ultimately practiced in order to protect Islam and the Muslim community. In contemporary Iran, it is used to try to prevent closer scrutiny of the country’s nuclear program.
“Iran’s Ex-Nuclear Chief Confirms Weapons Cover-Up,” by Faramarz Davar, Iran Wire, November 29, 2021:
On the anniversary of the assassination of nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, and on the eve of the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, a former head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency (2011-2013), confirmed that Fakhrizadeh was active in a program to build nuclear weapons. This is the first such admission from a government official in the history of the Islamic Republic.
Eighteen years ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) launched its first investigations into possible Iran’s nuclear program. The doubts and questions have lingered ever since. The Islamic Republic has constantly maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, in deference to a fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini that banned the production, stockpiling and using of nuclear weapons. Of course, in Shia tradition, anybody whose chosen “source of emulation” is not Khamenei is not obligated to follow his fatwas.
In 2003, then-IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei visited the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility to assess the status of Iran’s nuclear program. He then met with President Mohammad Khatami, and was astonished by Khatami’s knowledge of very technical aspects of uranium enrichment. This made him suspicious: “President Khatami, a cleric by training, had just referred to a means of cold-testing a centrifuge without using nuclear material. His point was that Iran had not violated any nuclear reporting requirements. But why would Khatami know about testing with inert gas? I wondered,” wrote ElBaradei in his book Age of Deception: Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times.
During the same visit to Iran, ElBaradei also met with Khatami’s predecessor Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was then chairman of the Guardian Council. In his nuclear memoir, ElBaradei wrote that Hashemi Rafsanjani had told him: “I saw so many of our people killed with chemical weapons during Iran-Iraq war. I couldn’t be advocating dialogue among civilizations and at the same time developing nuclear weapons.”
Later, ElBaradei would reflect: “I was told by a number of people, including President Mubarak of Egypt, that according to Shiite theology it is sometimes acceptable to deceive for the right cause. The concept is called taqqiya [dissimulation], meaning to protect oneself or those under one’s care from harm. I made it clear to our Iranian counterpart that regardless of the origins of this behavior, their denials and on-ongoing cover-ups had deeply hurt their credibility with the international community. From the outset they had dug a hole that would undermine their own diplomatic endeavors, what I referred to as starting out with a confidence deficit.”…
The Mastermind Behind the Nuclear Weapons Project
Now, close to two decades after ElBaradei raised concerns about a “confidence deficit”, ex-Atomic Energy Agency chief Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani has become the latest Iranian official to evidence why such a deficit exists. Abbasi-Davani gave an interview with state newspaper Iran in which he openly stated that not only had Mohsen Fakhrizadeh spearheaded efforts to build a nuclear weapon, but others with the same “mindset and worldview” as he were involved in Iran’s nuclear program today.
“It is quite clear that our restraint about nuclear weapons was based on the explicit fatwa by the exalted Supreme Leader,” Abbasi-Davani said. “But Fakhrizadeh created the system, and his motive was not only defending our country – because our country supports the [anti-Israel] Resistance Front. When you get into these issues, the Zionists become sensitive. And it wasn’t only Mr. Fakhrizadeh. There are others at the managerial level of our organization who have the same characteristics.”…
Talks on reviving the JCPOA have resumed in the Austrian capital today. But these revelations, by the ex-head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, no less, underscore the need for much stricter supervision of states that do not feel bound by international conventions such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty. One such state is Iran, which not only has a track record of nuclear cover-ups but considers lying a religious duty if convenient.