Rebuttal To Sam Shamoun's Article, "To Deceive Or Not To Deceive"


Bassam Zawadi


Sam Shamoun responded to an article that I originally wrote about Paul being a deceiver here. Inshallah in the future I will be responding directly to the issue regarding Paul, however there are some things, which cannot be delayed and wish to address now.  

Sam Shamoun said:

Now let us see who truly is a liar and deceiver:

But they (the Jews) were crafty, and God was crafty, for God is the best of crafty ones! When God said, 'O Jesus! I will make Thee die and take Thee up again to me and will clear thee of those who misbelieve, and will make those who follow thee above those who misbelieve, at the day of judgment, then to me is your return. I will decide between you concerning that wherein ye disagree. S. 3:54-55 Palmer


And when those who misbelieve were crafty with thee to detain thee a prisoner, or kill thee, or drive thee forth; they were crafty, but God was crafty too, for God is best of crafty ones! S. 8:30 Palmer

So they schemed a scheme: and We schemed a scheme, while they perceived not. S. 27:50

The word for crafty is makr. Dr. Mahmoud M. Ayoub in his book, The Quran and Its Interpreters, Vol. II, The House of Imran, brings up the question of "how the word makr (scheming or plotting), which implies deceitfulness or dishonesty, could be attributed to God." (Ibid. [1992 State University of New York Press, Albany], p. 165; bold emphasis ours)

After listing several Muslim sources, he quotes ar-Razi as saying that "scheming (makr) is actually an act of deception aiming at causing evil. It is not possible to attribute deception to God. Thus the word is one of the muttashabihat [multivalent words of the Quran]." (Ibid., p. 166; bold and italic emphasis ours)

According to Ayoub, there was one Muslim who actually boasted in Allah being the best conniver, deceiver, schemer etc.,

Qurtubi observes that some scholars have considered the words "best of schemers" to be one of God's beautiful names. Thus one would pray, "O Best of Schemers, scheme for me!" Qurtubi also reports that the Prophet used to pray, "O God, scheme for me, and do not scheme against me!" (Qurtubi, IV, pp. 98-99; cf. Zamakhshari, I, p. 366). (Ibid., p. 166)

Zawadi may try to argue that specific words such as makr do not have their normal meaning when used of Allah. The problem with this explanation is that the Quran provides examples showing that makr carries its normal meaning, implying that Allah is indeed a deceiver and a liar. For example, Allah deceived mankind into thinking that Jesus was crucified when in fact he wasn't (cf. Sura 4:157).

Zawadi may try to further claim that Allah only tricks unbelievers, which isn't evil since they deserve what they get. For instance, Allah was right in tricking the Jews who wanted to kill Jesus since this is what they deserved for trying to crucify him. There are several problems with this claim. First, irrespective of the circumstances, it is beneath an infinitely holy God to adopt the same deceptive tactics of evildoers. Second, it wasn't simply those who sought to crucify Jesus who had been tricked, but all his followers and friends as well. They all thought he was crucified. In addition, generations of Christian believers afterwards are punished into this unbelief for no fault of their own. It doesn't only affect the evildoers.

My Response:

What is wrong with God's deceiving evildoers? Deceiving those deceivers? Read the verse and see whom God deceived.

And when those who misbelieve were crafty with thee to detain thee a prisoner, or kill thee, or drive thee forth; they were crafty, but God was crafty too, for God is best of crafty ones! 

You cannot compare God to those evildoers. Because those evildoers are deceiving innocent people, while God is deceiving those evildoers to stop their evil plots.

It's like me saying that there are people who murder and kill people. These are bad people. However, can we also call God a bloodthirsty murderer for taking the souls of people by sending natural disasters or by allowing people to get brutally murdered? Of course not. You can't compare. You cannot question God, even Sam Shamoun said so in his debate with Shabir Ally when he was asked about the topic we are discussing now.

Sam Shamoun says in his debate with Shabir Ally, part 3, which can be downloaded here in the 16th minute, 35th second.

About deception that's a difficulty in Islamic scholarship and I cannot comment because I do believe that God is sovereign and can choose to use methods that to us seem to be unacceptable but it does not affect on his holiness so I have no problem with that Quranic statement

You were right, Sam, why'd you change your mind? 

As if the God of the Bible has not deceived:

Jeremiah 4:10

Then I said, "Ah, Sovereign LORD, how completely you have deceived (nasha) this people and Jerusalem by saying, 'You will have peace,' when the sword is at our throats."

The word for deceived here is nasha:

    1) to beguile, deceive

        a) (Niphal) to be beguiled

        b) (Hiphil) to beguile, deceive

        c) (Qal) utterly (infinitive)


The New Bible commentary says: 

Jeremiah is not indifferent to the message, which he is called to preach. In v 10 a note is struck to which he will return in relation to himself (15:18). In his distress he accuses the Lord of having deceived the people, presumably by having allowed false prophets to convince them with a message of peace (cf. 6:13-14). The only reply is the Lord's own confirmation that judgment is sure. (New Bible Commentary) 

Even though it was the false prophets who did the act of deception, the Bible is shifting the blame to God for actually allowing the false prophets to do the deception. This is what the "inspired" author Jeremiah said, and this is what we have to accept. God deceived innocent people. 

The difference is that Allah deceives for good and not evil. Deception is usually associated with negative aspects; however, Allah did not do so.

Shamoun goes on to falsely accuse Allah as if it is His fault that misguided disbelievers started preaching that Jesus was crucified. Well, apparently, even when you read the Bible, you know that everyone did not believe that Jesus was crucified. 

Paul preached a crucified Jesus:

1 Corinthians 1:23

but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 

Apparently, others were preaching a different Jesus:

2 Corinthians 11:4-5

4For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough5But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those "super-apostles."

So apparently, there were apostles who were preaching a 'different Jesus', which was obviously different from the one that Paul taught. The Jesus that Paul preached was a crucified Jesus, so that means there were others who were preaching a Jesus who was NOT crucified.

So Allah did not deceive the whole world; the devil and the disbelievers of the past are deceiving you.

Sam Shamoun said:

This leads me to my next point. Allah doesn't simply deceive unbelievers, but believers as well. The Quran provides an example of Allah deceiving the Muslims:

When Allah showed them to you in your dream as few; and if He had shown them to you as many you would certainly have become weak-hearted and you would have disputed about the matter, but Allah saved (you); surely He is the Knower of what is in the breasts. And when He showed them to you, when you met, as few in your eyes and He made you to appear little in their eyes, in order that Allah might bring about a matter which was to be done, and to Allah are all affairs returned. S. 8:43-44 Shakir

Allah is said to have shown the opposing fighting forces as few to Muhammad since, if he had shown him their actual numbers, the Muslims would have been afraid to fight. Hence, Allah had to use deception in order to encourage Muslims to fight in his cause. The late Abdullah Yusuf Ali notes: 

The Muslim army, though they knew their worldly disadvantage, did not realise the full odds against them. The Meccans came exulting in any case, and they despised the contemptible little force opposed to them. Even though they thought the Muslim force was twice as great as it was (iii. 13), still this number was contemptible, when taken with its poor equipment. Both these psychological mistakes subserved the main Plan, which was to bring the matter to a decisive issue, whether the Pagans of Mecca were to continue their arrogant oppression, of the religion of God was to be established in freedom and honour. (Ali, The Holy Qur'an, Translation and Commentary, p. 426, fn. 1214; underlined emphasis ours) 

My Response:

Again, we have to look at the purpose of why God did what he did. Deception is always used negatively. So psychologically, when we say the word 'deception', it comes to mind that it is negative. For example, if I say that someone lied, we obviously say this is a bad thing. Lying is wrong. However, if someone lied in order to save his life, for example, then it would be justifiable for that purpose and context. Especially if he is lying to an enemy in war or someone who is trying to kill him. So, certain acts that could seem to be sinful could be justifiable during certain times.  

Jesus went ahead and called the hypocrites fools:

Matthew 23:17

17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 

Obviously, to a Christian, this would seem justifiable in its context and to whom Jesus is addressing.  

Other verses showing Jesus' method of preaching:

Matthew 12:39

39He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Matthew 23:33

33"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

Luke 11:40

40You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?

Matthew 16:23 

23Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." 

Let's say I go around the marketplace with a whip in my hand and start driving people away and ruining their business. Wouldn't that be sinful? Well, didn't Jesus do it?:

John 2:14-15

14In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 

But Sam will reply and say that I should look at the reason why Jesus did that. The context of the situation and to whom Jesus is doing that.  


I don't believe that this was Jesus' approach. The Quran says about Jesus:

Surah 43:63

When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said: "Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear God and obey me. 

I believe Jesus preached with wisdom, and there is nothing wise about calling people fools and scaring people away with a whip.  

This is the same thing I am asking. Look at the purpose of Allah's actions and for whom He is doing them. The verse makes it clear that Allah did what He did to motivate the Muslims to go to battle because if He had not, they would have been discouraged.  

When Allah showed them to you in your dream as few; and if He had shown them to you as many you would certainly have become weak-hearted and you would have disputed about the matter, but Allah saved (you); surely He is the Knower of what is in the breasts. And when He showed them to you, when you met,as few in your eyes and He made you to appear little in their eyesin order that Allah might bring about a matter which was to be doneand to Allah are all affairs returned. S. 8:43-44 Shakir

 But Allah motivated them and granted them victory.  

Sam Shamoun said:

Muhammad did not hesitate to use deception, especially when it helped him to murder his opponents:

Narrated Jabir bin 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." Then Muhammad bin Maslama went to Kab and said, "That man (i.e. Muhammad) demands Sadaqa (i.e. Zakat) from us, and he has troubled us, and I have come to borrow something from you." On that, Kab said, "By Allah, you will get tired of him!" Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Now as we have followed him, we do not want to leave him unless and until we see how his end is going to be. Now we want you to lend us a camel load or two of food." (Some difference between narrators about a camel load or two.) Kab said, "Yes, (I will lend you), but you should mortgage something to me." Muhammad bin Maslama and his companion said, "What do you want?" Ka'b replied, "Mortgage your women to me." They said, "How can we mortgage our women to you and you are the most handsome of the 'Arabs?" Ka'b said, "Then mortgage your sons to me." They said, "How can we mortgage our sons to you? Later they would be abused by the people's saying that so-and-so has been mortgaged for a camel load of food. That would cause us great disgrace, but we will mortgage our arms to you." Muhammad bin Maslama and his companion promised Kab that Muhammad would return to him. He came to Kab at night along with Kab's foster brother, Abu Na'ila. Kab invited them to come into his fort, and then he went down to them. His wife asked him, "Where are you going at this time?" Kab replied, "None but Muhammad bin Maslama and my (foster) brother Abu Na'ila have come." His wife said, "I hear a voice as if dripping blood is from him." Ka'b said, "They are none but my brother Muhammad bin Maslama and my foster brother Abu Naila. A generous man should respond to a call at night even if invited to be killed." Muhammad bin Maslama went with two men. (Some narrators mention the men as 'Abu bin Jabr, Al Harith bin Aus and Abbad bin Bishr). So Muhammad bin Maslama went in together with two men, and said to them, "When Ka'b comes, I will touch his hair and smell it, and when you see that I have got hold of his head, strip him. I will let you smell his head." Kab bin Al-Ashraf came down to them wrapped in his clothes, and diffusing perfume. Muhammad bin Maslama said, "I have never smelt a better scent than this." Ka'b replied, "I have got the best Arab women who know how to use the high class of perfume." Muhammad bin Maslama requested Ka'b, "Will you allow me to smell your head?" Ka'b said, "Yes." Muhammad smelt it and made his companions smell it as well. Then he requested Ka'b again, "Will you let me (smell your head)?" Ka'b said, "Yes." When Muhammad got a strong hold of him, he said (to his companions), "Get at him!" So they killed him and went to the Prophet and informed him. (Abu Rafi) was killed after Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, 
Number 369)

 It is little wonder that Muhammad is reported to have said:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle called: "War is deceit". (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, 
Number 268)

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
The Prophet said, "War is deceit." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, 
Number 269)

My Response:

Again, we have to look at the purpose. We have to know and understand the great crime that Kab has committed and that this was the only way for the Muslims to get him out of the fortress to get rid of him. Read: 

As for deceit being allowed in war. Well, again, the situation's context has to be considered. Are you going to tell your enemy the truth and let him find you and kill you? Come on, be realistic. 

However, it does have limits in Islam. I will let Sheikh Al Munnajid from elaborate a bit more on the issue... 

Taken from  

Does Islam permit deception in war? Is this considered to be betrayal and treachery?

Answer :
Praise be to Allaah.  


Allaah has forbidden treachery and has condemned those who do it. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): 

"They are those with whom you made a covenant, but they break their covenant every time and they do not fear Allaah"

[al-Anfaal  8:56] 

And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Every betrayer will have a banner on the Day of Resurrection, by which he will be known." (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6966; Muslim, 1736)

 Al-Bukhaari narrated that Ibn 'Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: 'The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 'There are four characteristics, whoever has them all is a pure hypocrite: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise he breaks it; when he is entrusted with something he betrays that trust; and when he argues, he speaks in an obscene manner. Whoever has one of these traits has a trait of hypocrisy until he gives it up." (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3878; Muslim, 58)

 And it was narrated that Maalik said: "I heard that 'Abd-Allaah ibn 'Abbaas said: 'There is no people who betrays their covenant but Allaah gives their enemies power over them." (al-Muwatta'Baab ma jaa'a fi'l-wafa' bi'l-'ahd)

 Yet despite this condemnation of betrayal, Islam allows deception in war in order to attain victory. Al-Nawawi said: "The scholars are agreed that it is permissible to deceive the kuffaar in war in any way possible, except if that would mean breaking the terms of a treaty or trust, in which case it is not permitted.

 The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "War is deceit." (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3029; Muslim, 58).  One of the most dangerous elements of deceit is taking the enemy by surprise and catching them unawares before they can get ready to fight. When the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) wanted to head for Makkah in order to conquer it, he ordered the Muslims to get ready without telling anyone of his intention until after they had set out for Makkah, and after taking all precautions to prevent news of that reaching the mushrikeen.

 And the Prophet(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to send out many raiding parties, and he would tell them to travel by night and conceal themselves by day so that they could catch the enemy unawares.

 Although it is permissible to use deception in war, we say that Islam has attained a high standard of ethics with regard to the use of these tricks in war. Among the most prominent examples of that are the following: 

'Umar ibn al-Khattaab wrote to the commander of an army that he had sent out: "I have heard that some men among you look for kaafirs, then when they run to hide in difficult mountainous terrain they say, 'Do not be afraid,' then when they catch up with them they kill them. By the one in whose hand is my soul, if I hear that anyone has done that I will chop off his head."

 It was narrated that Abu Muslimah said: " 'Umar ibn al-Khattaab said: 'By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if any one of you were to point to the sky [i.e., a gesture to imply that he will not harm him] to make a mushrik come down to him and then kill him, I would kill him for that.'"

 Islam has forbidden treachery, and treachery is not one of the kinds of tricks and deception that are permitted in war.

 This Islamic sharee'ah makes a distinction between the kinds of deceit that are permitted and that which involves treachery and breaks treaties.

 See al-'Allaaqaat al-Khaarijiyyah fi Dawlat al-Khilaafah, 197.

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