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Privacy Matters: Islamic Approaches

Islam does not rush to impose sanctions on its citizens indiscriminately. Instead, Islamic precepts are very firm in relation to the protection of the privacy of individuals which is considered sacred. Islam does not put up surveillance systems, police, cameras to film people and spy on them and scrutinize them through.

Abu Dawud and Al-Hakim reported from Zayd Ibn Wahb: Once a man said to (Abdullah) Ibn Mas’ud (ra): 

“This man, Al-Walid Ibn ‘Uqbah, seems to be drunk for the traces of wine appears on his beard.” Ibn Mas’ud replied: ‘We have been prohibited from spying (on Muslims) and finding faults (with them). But if something become manifests to us (i.e. Had Al-Walid come to us in the situation you have described), then we punish for it.’”

It is reported that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “When the ruler starts searching for the causes of suspicions among the people he perverts them.” (Abu Dawud, Al-Hakim).

We also note that the explicit prophetic teachings greatly encourage the believer to cover himself (i.e. to keep his mistakes and sins to himself) and to cover others. 

(Abdullah) Ibn Umar reported that after sanctioning the transgression of Maa’iz bin Malik Al-Aslami, the Messenger of God (pbuh) said: “Refrain from this blemish (fornication/ adultery) that God has forbidden. If however one of you is involved in it, it is covered by God’s secret (that is to say, let him keep for himself the secret without disclosing it) and (he should) repent to God. Indeed, anyone who informs us of his crime (i.e. confesses it) should be punished according to the Book of God.”

Regarding this, let us judge according to the criteria used by the two famous Imams, Bukhari and Muslim.

The Noble Messenger (pbuh) had actually sanctioned Maa’iz for adultery, after he came to him four times to confess his crime, and after that the prophet (pbuh) attempted to exonerate him from that punishment by explaining to him that the necessary elements were not met to convict him of fornication (except for his confession). But Maa’iz insisted. The same happened for the Ghamidi woman (Al-ghâmidiyyah).

The Messenger (pbuh) said to Hazzal, the man who had encouraged Maa’iz to acknowledge his crime to him: “If you had veiled him with your mantle it would have been better for you.” According to Abu Huraira (ra): 

“The Messenger of God (pbuh) said: Allah will cover up on the Day of Resurrection the defects (faults) of the one who covers up the faults of the others in this world.

The Messenger of God (pbuh) said: “Whoever discovers a transgression of someone and covers him (that is to say, he did not disclose it) is like one who saves from death a female newborn buried alive.” (Abu Dawud, Al-Hakim).

We also note that Islamic teachings are clear to encourage him (the Muslim) to forgiveness and absolution, in relation to the penalties relating to the right of men towards each other, such as theft, for example. Once the case is brought to court, there is no question of forgiveness or intercession (i.e. the proper judgement should be given). It is in this sense that the Hadith of Abdullah Ibn Umar (ra) is understood: “Forgive each other for matters which can bring about penalties/ punishments, for what is brought to my attention should be sanctioned.” (Abu Dawud, An-Nasai, Al-Hakim).

Once a man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and admit that he had committed a transgression deserving punishment. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) did not ask him what the transgression was, or how he had committed it. He considered his confession, which could lead to the expected punishment, and acknowledged it as repentance for his sin and as regret for his crime. This admission was (in itself) an absolution (for the sin) and this is all the more justified for the man accomplished prayer with the Messenger of God (pbuh).

Abu Dawud in fact relates about one who admitted having committed a transgression without naming it. A man came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said: “O Messenger of God, I have committed a transgression and I want you to apply on me the expected punishment.” 

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) asked: “Did you do your ablutions before coming?” 

The man replied, “Yes.” 

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: “Have you completed the prayer with us?” 

The man replied “Yes”. 

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: “Go! God, Exalted be He, has forgiven you!” (Abu Dawud, An-Nasai, Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

So, O my brothers and sisters in Islam, remember that we are all temporary in this world. We need to pave our way to God Almighty by being sincere and by protecting our own dignity and honour as well as those of others. Keep always the veil (cover) that Allah has placed on you and on others of His servants. Do not be wicked and shun all wickedness and project the true Islam in your heart and in your actions toward humanity. Remember that the Muslim is a garment for another Muslim. Unfortunate is the one who hurt his brother or sister in Islam cruelly yet without repenting. May Allah protect you from these bad seeds that plague people’s hearts. Insha-Allah, Ameen.

 --- Friday Sermon of 14 October 2016 ~(12 Muharram 1438 Hijri) delivered by Khalifatullah Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius.  

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