Espionage and Spying

Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ir-Raheem (In the Name of Allah the Most Merciful the Most Benificent)

Common misunderstandings exist of what Islam prohibits concerning espionage and spying among Muslims which lends us to turning a blind eye to acts being planned or carried out by radical extremists within our communities. Such acts are those that have two destructive effects on the Muslim community at large. First, it causes Islam and Muslims in a non-Muslim land to come under suspicion. Second, it brings acute oppression against Muslims living in a non-Muslim land and even oftentimes in their own Muslim countries.

In Islam it is commonly thought of that spying is forbidden. However, most of the scholarly works and rulings strictly forbid only two main kinds of ‘spying’. One kind of spying strictly prohibited in Islam is that which is used for personal gain and commonly associated with gossip and backbiting. Qur’an 49:12, “O you who believe! avoid most of suspicion, for surely suspicion in some cases is a sin, and do not spy nor let some of you backbite others.“ According to the Prophet (pbuh) to expose the secrets of others in order to defame them is a sin considered even worse than adultery and the one who remains quiet saves himself (from hellfire).

This sort of ‘spying’ is not done by authority figures (or their sources) to enforce laws, such as in drug enforcement, gangs or terrorism. Nor is it the sort of ‘spying’ that is done between nation states, i.e. espionage.

Another sort of ‘spying’ or espionage that is forbidden is done by a Muslim (or non-Muslim living in the Islamic State) do destroy or work against the Islamic State.

Spying to destroy the Islamic State or Muslims by denying or abandoning faith and defaming them is strictly forbidden and punishable under Shariah in this life and by Allah in the Hereafter. However, if Muslims are plotting to break the law of the land (in a Muslim or non-Muslim land) or about to commit an act that is forbidden in Islam (that is also forbidden by law) then other Muslims around him or her have the duty, as Muslims, to inform the appropriate police authorities whether or not the authorities are Muslim and whether or not the perpetrators are Muslims. The Qur’an says, “”Collaborate in virtue and righteousness and do not collaborate in sin and transgression” (Qur’an 5:2) Islam strictly forbids vigilante justice and turning a blind eye to law breaking and wickedness and allows for Muslims to seek out justice through appropriate channels. Furthermore, Islam forbids us from breaking the laws of the land in non-Muslim countries provided they allow for our freedom to practice our religion and worship Allah.

Qur’an 4:135, “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.”

Islam Online Fatwah by Muzammil Siddiqi (The Fiqh Council of North America) confirms my assertions, “We Muslims should play an important role in bringing justice to the world. We have to live by the guidance of Allah, establish justice and fairness among ourselves and be a good example to others. We should not only work for ourselves but for the whole world. We must remember that injustice cannot be removed by another injustice. We must love for others what we love for ourselves. We need to work and cooperate with others.”

Islam Online Fatwah

Dr. Siddiqi also states in another Fatwah, “It is haram (forbidden) to support any person or group that is involved in acts of terrorism.”

Islam Online Fatwah

If one is living in an Islamic State then Muslims must work with the authorities of the Islamic State. If one lives in a non-Muslim state then one must work with the non-Muslim authorities since there is no Islamic authority to enforce law or justice. Spying is one of the many investigative tools used by law enforcement in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries to provide peace and security (to prevent harm) to the population and its interests by enforcing the laws and is permissible in Islam whether carried out on Muslims or not.

The President of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston as interviewed by the Houston Chronicle on November 30, 2006. The article stated, “Rodwan Saleh, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, said … he would urge Muslims to report any suspicious activity they come across, but also said they should not deny their faith.

Houston Chronicle article reported by and

Espionage has always been a valued tool of the Islamic State ever since it was founded by the Prophet (pbuh). From the earliest battles it was a vital method of gaining access to information on enemy positions, plans and the vulnerabilities of their cities. A good example of this is in the conquest of Constantinople. In order for the Islamic Sate and its leadership to rally the vast resources needed to assault and conquer the city Muslims had to rely on past experiences and most recent information from sources.

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi confirms the permissibility of this and has this to say about espionage, “Tackling this seemingly difficult question, the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, issues the following Fatwa:

“Muslim jurists, who are committed to their religion, cannot give blessing to the illicit acts, such as drinking wine, Zina (adultery or fornication) committed by a Muslim who acts as a spy in favor of his country.

On the other hand, the spy who is true to his cause may be allowed to look as if he is drinking wine but not drinking it. He may also be permitted to perform the prayers beyond their appointed times, but he is not allowed to leave the prayer at all under the pretext that his job dictates doing so.”

Islam Online Fatwah

Another type of espionage that is forbidden that I have not seen many scholarly works on is that of Corporate Espionage. However, there is plenty of Shariah Laws on the methods of commerce in Islam and to be carried out by Muslims to justify the forbidding of Corporate espionage.

-Article by BrJimC © 2007