Muslim and Spy!

30 11 2007

The current political climate in the West has placed Muslims in awkward situations. Muslims are becoming victim of stop and search on daily basis, missing their flights at airports or having spooky people turn up at their doorstep for a cup of tea is just tip of the iceberg. Many Muslims are now being recruited by the intelligence services to keep taps on who does what. To some it may sound like an exciting job being an informant. You don’t have to do much except keep your ears up and report any suspicious behavior to the spymasters. Some are blackmailed or offered rewards which cannot be rejected by those in desperate needs, such as citizenship to immigrants. And some are interested in the general good that may come out of it or as a great career opportunity like the Man from Britz.

A news article from The Times  today reads, “Informant who risked his life to fight extremists ‘betrayed by MI5’. “An undercover agent who risked his life to infiltrate the extremist networks at Abu Hamza’s Finsbury Park mosque claims he has been betrayed by MI5 and Scotland Yard.” Source. Nothing new there. There are spies and informants all around us, in places we would least imagine, in Universities and even mosques. However, regardless of it being such a hot topic its rarely discussed amongst Muslims, in sermons, talks, lectures or Q&A’s.

In my opinion, one of the most relevant discussions Muslims in the West should be having is regarding their roles and responsibilities towards the people and society they live in. But this discussion must take place with the Islamic viewpoint in mind. I have come across discussions about joining the police force or even the Army, but almost all of these discussions turn into the age old argument of ‘identity’ and ‘loyalty’. Often I find Muslims confuse themselves over terms like ‘identity’ and ‘loyalty’, which have become centre of debate between the so called ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’. Amidst all of this, very little effort is made by those qualified to view such scenarios from a purely Islamic legal perspective to determine roles and responsibilities of Muslims living in the West.

With this in mind, we shall look at what Islam says about Spying (At-Tajassus):

Oh you who believe! Avoid many suspicions, indeed some suspicions are sins.And spy not, nor backbite one another. [Surah Al-Hujurât verse 12:]

Abdullahi ibn Fuduye’, said in his Diya `t-Ta’weel Fee Ma`ana at-Tanzeel: “This verse means to be with regard to suspicion in the same state of avoidance that one avoids any evil. That is, he should be far from suspicion, stay away from it and object to it strongly, so as not to commit any form of suspicion except the type of suspicion that induces researched insight and independent judgment…” This statement is important because, suspicion, is a blameworthy quality that opens the door to spying. The Intelligence- gathering agency builds its investigation upon suspicion. Most times, there is no suspicion of a crime, but `cause is cooked up’ in order to justify harassment, arrest and detainment of Muslims.

Ibn Kathir, said in his Tafsir commenting upon this Ayah: “Allâh said ‘and spy not’ on each other. Tajassus, usually harbors ill intentions, and the spy is called a Jasus….In the Sahih it is recorded that the Messenger of Allâh said: “Neither commit Tajassus nor Tahassus nor hate each other nor commit Tadabur. And be brothers Oh servants of Allâh.”  Al-Awza’i said: ‘Tajassus means, to search for something, while Tahassus means listening to people when they are talking without their permission, or eavesdropping at their doors. Tadabur refers to shunning each other.’ Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this statement.
[Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr, Vol. 9, pp. 201 / 202]

Allah prohibited spying in the ayah. This prohibition is general covering all types of spying, whether it is spying for himself or anyone, whether it is for the State or individuals or groups, and whether the one performing it i.e. the spying is the ruler or the ruled. The speech is unambiguous in its condemnation of any Muslim who searches into the secret affairs, or open affairs of the Muslims, for themselves or for others from among the Muslims.

Abu Huraira reported Allâh’s Messenger (SAW) as saying: Avoid suspicion, for suspicion is the gravest lie in talk and do not be inquisitive about one another and do not spy upon one another and do not feel envy with the other, and nurse no malice, and nurse no aversion and hostility against one another. And be felow-brothers and servants of Alâh.
[Sahih Muslim, Book 32, No. 6214]

This tradition is a profound prophetic tradition and is evidence of the comprehensive speech (jamaam` `l-kalim) of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. This statement combines in its meaning everything Sayduna Issa, upon him be peace, said on the Sermon on the mount, where he outlined the true nature of those who follow him and the traits needed to be redeemed in the Hereafter. The above prophetic tradition not only deals with character, virtue and ethics, but it also delineates the foundation of politics (siyaasa) and uncovers the nature of the hypocrite, that individual whose existence undermines the very nature of Islam and the Muslim society.

Imam al-Khataabi said that meaning of the Prophet’s statement: “Beware of suspicion… “, this does not mean to avoid acting on the derived opinions upon which the majority of the legal judgments are dependent. Rather, it means you should avoid corroborating any suspicion that may bring harm to the person that is suspect. It also includes avoiding those suspicions that occur to the heart without sound proof. This is because the start of false suspicion begins with thoughts and notions which occur to the mind which are not possible to ward off.” It is for this reason relying upon these suspicions is not permissible.

Imam al-Khataabi, said about the meaning of the Prophet’s statement: “Do not spy on one another”; it means do not investigate or examine the faults of people, nor pursue them.” This word spying (yahisuu) takes its etymological root from the Arabic word the senses (al-haasa), like the senses of sight, hearing, tasting, and touching. Allah ta`ala uses this word on the tongue of Prophet Ya`qub, when He said:

“Go and investigate regarding Joseph and his brother.” That is, go and use your eyes and ears, and ask to inquire about their situation or condition. This type of investigation can only be done by means of inquiry with the eyes and ears, thus it is a scrutiny conducted with one or two of the senses. This was the opinion of Imam al-Qurtubi. Imam Ibn al-Anbari said: “This type of investigation means to listen to the words of the common people.” This was also the opinion of al-Awza`I taken from Yahya ibn Abi Kathir. Imam at-Tha`labi said: “It means to search into someone else’s affairs for oneself.” In modern terminology, these are called informants, while on the streets, they are called `rats’, while in our beloved Infallible shari`a, they are called munaafiquun.

Imam Tha`labi, said that the meaning of the Prophet’s saying, upon him be blessings and peace: “Do not inform on one another”; means do not search into someone else’s affairs on behalf of someone else; in other words, do not search into their affairs to inform someone else about them.. Imam al-Khataabi said: “This means to select something with the hand, which is one of the senses, which makes it more specific than spying (yahisuu).” Although Imam Ibrahim al-Harbi maintained that both spying (yahisuu) and informing (yajasuu) were the same. Some of the scholars say that informing means to investigate into the hidden aspect of affairs, but mainly to search into what is hidden of evil actions. In Islamic State it is permissible to investigate into the corruption of those who manifest their evils in society.

Shaykh Abu Muhammad ibn Abd’s-Salaam, said in his al-Qawa`id: “Among the major sins is guiding the disbelievers to the imperfections and faults of the Muslims, knowing that by means of their assistance the disbelievers will be able to accomplish their goals over those Muslims.”

What we have here is a brief study of an Ayah and Hadith and some opinions of classical scholars on at-Tajjassus (spying). What this should demonstate to us is the guidelines Islam has laid down for our conduct in any society we live in. Furthermore, the need to raise discussions amongst Muslims and pressuring the Ulema/scholars to address real issues facing the Muslims.