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Can You Trust the Shia Islamic clergies in Iran?

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Ahad Ghorbani Dehnari

Can You Trust the Shia Islamic clergies in Iran?

The leaders of Islamic Republic of Iran are Shia Islamic clergies. Without understanding the religious and theoretical bases of their faiths and educations, perception and prediction of their words and deeds are impossible. Although, one researcher has said ‘lying is an unavoidable part of human nature’, but to resonate and justify the laying belong to Iranian Shia Islamic clerics. To understand better the words and deeds of Iranian Shia clergymen, who are real leaders of Iran, not the formal government like President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, to familiarize with some of the most important tools and concepts that they use for justification of their laying, rhetoric and actions are very helpful:

  • Good intention lying [Douroqe Maslehet-aamiz, دروغ مصلحت‌آمیز]
  • Protective lying [Taqiyya, تقیه]
  • Ambiguous truth [Tovriyya, توریه]
  • Religious tricks [Kolah-e sharei, کلاه شرعی]
  • Following [Taqlid, تَقْليد]
  • Verdict [Fatwaa, فتوا‎]

Good intention lying

The good intention lying [Douroqe Maslehet-aamiz] and not to do seditious truth-telling is widespread in Iranian culture. The most referred justification of judicious lie is from classical famous Iranian poet Sheykh Mosleh ad-Din Sa’di (1209-1291):

Once upon a time, there was a king who one day in a rage ordered the execution of a foreign slave in his custody. The condemned man began cursing the king in his native tongue, for he was now convinced he would be killed, and so he let go his fears and told the monarch what he thought of him. The king did not understand the language in which the sentenced man spoke, so he turned to his courtiers and ask for a proper translation. There was a good-hearted secretary in attendance who said, quoting a passage from the Qur’an (3:134), “Your Majesty, he says: ´Those who spend in prosperity and in adversity, who repress rage, and who pardon men; indeed, God loves the good-doers.´” The king was pleased with this translation and, properly admonished by its wisdom, summoned his magnanimity and forgave the condemned man. There was another secretary in attendance who was a rival of the good-hearted secretary. He instantly turned to the king and said, “People of our rank and position should never lie to His Majesty. This man was not praising you or asking forgiveness; he was cursing His Majesty and abused His Most Royal name.” The king was saddened by this remark and said, “That lie was far more appeasing to me than this truth, for that lie was meant to solicit a good deed, while the origin of your truth was to do evil, and wise men have said, a judicious lie is better than a seditious truth.”

Shia clerics grossly over-simplify the issue and keep silent on facts that: The situations and consequences are hard to predict. The measuring good and bad is tough. How do they decide what is good and what is bad? For whom they consider it is good or bad? What system of measurement can they use for identification of judicious or seditious?

In Shia clerics world the “good intention lying” is not a white lie which is not intended to harm the person being lied to – indeed it’s often intended to hurt, harm, destroy, deceive, and mislead. An example illustrates the issue: Despite there are thousands political prisoners and performed many political executions, the Head of Iran’s Judiciary always repeats “there are absolutely no political executions in Iran.”

Protective Lying

In Shi’a Islam jurisprudence, protective lying [Taqiyya] is a form of dissimulation and dishonesty or a legal allowance and lawful and mental reservation whereby a believing individual can deny his faith and belief or commit otherwise illegal, irreligious, or blasphemous acts while they are at risk of significant threat, persecution, harassment, compulsion or loss of life or property. This practice was emphasized whereby believers may hide their religion and aims where no danger to religion would occur thereby.

In taqiyya lying, the lairs consult their own conscience – but we should remember that their conscience is usually rather biased in their favour. The historical judicious lies are the Khomeini’s lies about the specifications of Islamic Republic. Although, he has drafted long before the principles of the Islamic Republic and clearly has specified the limitation of freedom for women, dissidents, and political parties. Before 1979 Revolution, he always stated the Islamic Republic is like another Western republic and it is like France republic. He emphasised women are free in Islamic Republic. He stressed all political parties and organizations will be free. No promises were right, all of them were taqiyya and lies, and these were pardonable because they are in favour of Islam.


Ambiguous truth or equivocation [Tovriyya] is half-truth and misleads the receiver by presenting something believable and acceptable aspects of the statement and keep silence on other aspects. A person deceived by tovriyya considers the proposal to be proper and honest information and he or she acts accordingly.

The ambiguous truth, Tovriyya, is an unavoidable part of Islamic politics in modern societies. The reputation of the Islam can be irreparably damaged if they explain honestly the whole Islamic believes and laws in modern society and international relations. So, a complex style of language has evolved to minimise the chance to understand the final goals of Islamic government’s actions. Therefore, Iranian politics practice diligently the half-truth, tovriyya, both in domestic and international politics.

The half-truth, Tovriyya, is like mental reservations in medieval Western history; the legalistic device divides a statement into two parts: the public statement and the mental reservation. The two parts together are true. The first part is stated aloud and is misleading and the second part is a ‘mental reservation’ and will not be expressed. An example that can be practiced by Iranian representative in the negotiation: “Iran halts all 20 per cent enrichment activities.” (except at the Fordow facility). Since God is believed to know every thought, God would hear the mental reservation as well as the public statement and therefore would not have been lied to.

Religious Tricks

Religious tricks, loophole, or Judiciary cheats [Kolah-e sharei] are the methods that the Shia Islamic clergies apply to alter the forbidden actions and orders to religiously permissible actions and orders by means of deceits. They follow their political goals, lusts, and passion by deception the religion, ethics and conscience.

Some examples depict the issue. They call the religiously forbidden usury [riba] to rent or credit for revocation of rights to it and do it permissible. They call bribe to gift, lottery to intelligence test and prostitution to temporary marriage. They find religiously permissible formulating for marriage with underage girls, to alter a non-marriageable relative to marriageable partner and to rape political virgin girls before executing them.


Following or Taqlid means “to follow religious leader” or “to imitate clergy”. In Islam, it means to follow the decision of a religious leader without necessarily examining, reasoning of the decision, or demanding an explanation. This sharply is contrasted with the individual independent interpretation of legal, social or political phenomena. A Muslim must take the statement of religious leader without knowing or understanding the evidence or reasons.

In a Shiite theocracy, the opinion is not important. To think and to doubt are forbidden.  One clergy (a mujtahid or a source of taqlid) thinks and other Muslims are obliged to obedience blindly. You have not individuals who allowed thinking, to decide, to express themselves, you have a mass have to obey a religious leader.

It doesn’t matter what do you as a Muslim in Iran thinking about nuclear weapon, environment pollution, population increase, relation to other countries, underage marriage, etc. You are obligated to follow religious leader without demanding any explanation.

In Shia the people are follower [], they must follow the Shia Clerics. It means it doesn’t matter what is the opinion of people: What they want, what they vote, what they wish. In Iranian contemporary history, one day the Shiite clerics claimed the tobaccos are forbidden [haram], and after a while depending on their view to West, they claimed the tobaccos are allowed [halal], without any political, social, economic, or healthcare explanations.


Verdict or fatwa means the legal opinion, sentence, orders or interpretation that a religious leader gives on juridical, social, religious, political or economic issues.

Shi’a religious leaders keep an eye on their own interests; consequently, they frequently arrive at different answers to the same question or very controversial judgements. They present their verdict as obligatory orders and assume their follower apply them.

An Islamic scholar judges on a case, interprets religious law or expresses an idea and it must be regarded as a religious ruling. A fatwa is a judgement without court, a verdict without possibility to defence, and a sentence without court-friendly evidence. Some historic fatwa depicts its essence:

Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran on 14 February 1989 pronounced a death sentence on Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses.

Indian Muslim scholars issued a fatwa of death against Taslima Nasreen, an exiled Bangladeshi writer. They announced an “unlimited financial reward” to anybody who would kill her.

Osama bin Laden issued two fatwas—in 1996 and then again in 1998—that Muslims should kill civilians and military personnel from the United States and allied countries until they withdraw support for Israel and withdraw military forces from Islamic countries.

Khomeini’s order, fatwa, on executions of thousands political prisoners across Iran has been started on 19 July 1988 and enduring for approximately five months. The majority of those killed were supporters of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, although supporters of other leftist factions, including the Fedaian and the Tudeh Party of Iran, were executed as well. Amnesty International recorded the names of over 4482 disappeared prisoners during this time, but the number of prisoners executed was far higher.

Using language deceitfully and the justification of lying by IRI leader makes it impossible for the West to make a free and informed decision about the matter concerned. West should not scarify the democratic movements and human rights in Iran in greed to reach an agreement with IRI leaders. You cannot rely on IRI Shiite leader clergy and their words. You must support Iranian people in their struggle to build a democratic reliable alternative in Iran.


Ahad Ghorbani Dehnari


29 March 2023