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Spying and Islamic Society

 

 

Spying and Islamic Society

 

Was published in Arabic in October 24, 2015

Translated by Ahmed Fathy

 

 

He said to me: Spying on others is forbidden in Islam, right?

I said to him: It can be forbidden and illicit, but in some cases, it is a duty.

He said: How come? All spying of any kind is forbidden. God says in the Quran: "…And do not spy on one another…" (49:12).

I said: Spying is forbidden when individuals deal with one another in Islamic societies.

He said: Is there such an 'Islamic' society where people declare that there is no God but Allah? Is this the motto of any Arab country?

I said: This has nothing to do with mottos; I mean countries that apply the quintessence of Islam: the seen, known, and declared peaceful demeanor. We have nothing to do with one' faith, acts of worship, and beliefs, chosen with complete liberty. The Islamic society and state does not undertake the mission to 'guide' people religiously. This is an individual responsibility in this life and in the Day of Judgment. The Islamic society/state has the sole mission to apply justice among citizens, especially to establish religious freedom that allows all of us to bear responsibility of one's faith in the Afterlife, with no excuses whatsoever. What is more important for any state is to provide peace and liberty. Any peaceful human being is a Muslim by behavior.

He said: Was that the case in the state established by Prophet Muhammad in Yathreb?

I said: The very first civil society in Arabia was in Yathreb at the time. Among such society, there were the hypocrites who oppose Islam and the Prophet, plotting against both, and some were traitors helping enemies of Islam, as we know from historical accounts. God in the Quran exposes them and warns them against Hell in the Afterlife in case they do not repent. The command in the Quran for the Prophet is to avoid them, not banish or persecute them. God forbids Muhammad in the Quran from entering the mosque of the hypocrites, where they have been plotting and conspiring. As long as those hypocrites did not hold arms against Muslims, they were treated peacefully as long as they remained peaceful, even if they have rejected Islam. Punishment for this rejection by hypocrites in Yathreb is in the Afterlife only.

He said: Citizens of such a city-state of the Prophet were just believers and hypocrites, right?

I said: It was not as simple as that.

He said: How?

I said: Hypocrites varied at the time; some were exposed by their deeds and some hid carefully their hatred, plotting, and hypocrisy. Believers were classified by God in the Quran in accordance to their faith and belief. Such classification is not for humans to interfere with: some were faithful completely in terms of faith and good deeds, and some mixed good deeds and bad ones. Another type is those who wait for God's judgment in the Afterlife: they might be either punished in Hell or be forgiven to enter Paradise. As for behavior, some of the non-believers at the time used to venerate and worship idols of stone, rejecting the Quranic orders: "…So stay away from the abomination of idols, and stay away from perjury." (22:30). As such idol-worship went on until the final days of the Prophet, the order is repeated in the Quran elsewhere: "O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling, idolatry, and divination are abominations of Satan's doing. Avoid them, so that you may prosper. Satan wants to provoke strife and hatred among you through intoxicants and gambling, and to prevent you from the remembrance of God, and from prayer. Will you not desist?" (5:90-91). Many of them did not stop idol worship. The order to avoid such abominations does not entail destroying idols; we just to avoid coming near them and of course never to worship them, as they are mere stones: the problem occurs when one  venerate, deify, and worship such stones in heart and mind.

He said: So, citizens in an Islamic society are ''Muslims'' as long as they keep to peace in demeanor and people feel safe with them.

I said: Of course.

He said: Why God orders us in the Quran not to spy on one another, then?

I said: This occurs in the context of morals to be spread among Muslim individuals in a given Muslim society so as to spread safety, peace, and love among them. The Quran aims to establish fraternity among individuals in all societies. That is why we see Quranic orders such as the following: "The believers are brothers, so reconcile between your brothers, and remain conscious of God, so that you may receive mercy. O you who believe! No people shall ridicule other people, for they may be better than they. Nor shall any women ridicule other women, for they may be better than they. Nor shall you slander one another, nor shall you insult one another with names. Evil is the return to wickedness after having attained faith. Whoever does not repent-these are the wrongdoers. O you who believe! Avoid most suspicion-some suspicion is sinful. And do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would detest it. So remain mindful of God. God is Most Relenting, Most Merciful." (49:10-12). These orders are addressed to all humanity to be brethren; all of us are the progeny of Adam and Eve, despite differences in races, colors, and tongues. "O people! We created you from a male and a female, and made you races and tribes, that you may know one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is All-Knowing, Well-Experienced." (49:13).

He said: So, Quranic orders aim at establishing love and peace in a given society, however different its individuals in faiths, creeds, or religions.

I said: Of course.

He said: But human beings are not faultless angels; evildoers and criminals do exist. What can be done concerning them?

I said: In the Yathreb society under the rule of Prophet Muhammad, there were evildoers among the hypocrites and non-believers. In this case, spying is a duty.

He said: This is not to be found in the Quranic text, right?

I said: Yes. But I have inferred this meaning from the Quran.

He said: How is that?

I said: The Prophet's conditions in Yathreb were critical; it was a city similar to an island of faith surrounded by a sea of enemies. Inside this island, there were some hypocrites and traitors. The doors of such island were open to those who wish to immigrate to it, claiming being faithful. Most probably, some joined Yathreb to spy on the believers, while pretending to be new believers. Their intentions were to conspire against the new creed in collaboration with hypocrites. That is why we find in the Quran: "And prepare against them all the power you can muster, and all the cavalry you can mobilize, to terrify thereby God's enemies and your enemies, and others besides them whom you do not know, but God knows them. Whatever you spend in God's way will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged." (8:60). This means to be ready with biggest possible power to deter enemies, both known and hidden. Among forces and powers is a strong espionage system to defend interests of any state/country. This is to deter and defend, not to do damage to others.

He said: How come that you have inferred that among ways to defend Yathreb at the time was to build a body similar to CIA and that this took place actually?!

I said: Firstly, this fact I believe in in accordance to the notion that Prophet Muhammad used to apply all Quranic verses that included God's commands. Secondly, we have historical results to rely on; Prophet Muhammad won many battles, and people converted to Islam willingly in a city-state surrounded by strong enemies.

He said: I need you to cite Quranic evidence.

I said: The Quran says to people of Yathreb to fight enemies outside Yathreb; such enemies came to destroy them. This proves that battles were in self-defense, not for the sake of aggression and violence against anyone. We deduct that prophet Muhammad knew from spies or reconnoitering troops that enemies came in an army to attack Yathreb, and then Muhammad came out at its borders to face such aggressors.

He said: What if spies lie?

I said: We find in the Quran: "If you fear treachery on the part of a people, break off with them in a like manner. God does not like the treacherous." (8:58). This is among the first verses concerning self-defense battles and their rules in Yathreb. This means that if Muhammad feared and treason or treachery, he should warn traitors openly, and then, if they do not respond in peace, he would lead an army to face aggressors before they attack Yathreb suddenly. We deduct then that the Prophet has his own spies to know all about the enemies to be able to defend the city in time. We find in the Quran: "O you who believe! Take your precautions, and mobilize in groups, or mobilize altogether." (4:71). That is to say that they were to leave some troops inside the city to defend it, and that reconnoitering troops were to do the following: "It is not advisable for the believers to march out altogether. Of every division that marches out, let a group remain behind, to gain understanding of the route, and to notify their people when they have returned to them, that they may beware." (9:122). This troop was like spies that were to bring news to Yathreb about its enemies.  

He said: But the well-known meaning of 9:122 in Sunnite books is that people are to seek to travel to gain knowledge in every route, right?

I said: This is sheer ignorance. The context is during military actions of self-defense. Route/way/road in the Quran means both meanings: 1) way of life and creed, as in the figurative meaning in (109:6) and 2) the literal meaning: the tangible, material way/route you tread and walk upon. The word ''route'' as to mean fiqh/theology, is misunderstood in the Quran intentionally in the Abbasid Era, so that theological notions would justify Abbasid atrocities committed by rulers. It is silly to say that in 9:122, the meaning is to gain knowledge in religion; would they leave the Prophet during battle to study faith tenets?! How come while the Prophet was in battle?!

He said: I see. This is concerning outsider aggression, but what about internal security?

I said: All peaceful citizens in a given state ought to have the right to live in peace, safety, and security. Governors are to provide such security to all people in accordance to justice: the higher value of Islam in the Quran. It is the priority of an Islamic state to provide protection for all citizens inside societies and against outsider enemies. Hypocrites' conspiracies were never ending in the Yathreb society at the time of Prophet Muhammad, especially in times of battles. Some hypocrites specialized in spreading rumors. God warns in the Quran against such traitors: "If the hypocrites, and those with sickness in their hearts, and the rumormongers in the City, do not desist, We will incite you against them; then they will not be your neighbors there except for a short while." (33:60). Experts among the faithful in Yathreb used to analyze things for the sake of security: "When some news of security or alarm comes their way, they broadcast it. But had they referred it to the Messenger, and to those in authority among them, those who can draw conclusions from it would have comprehended it. Were it not for God's blessing and mercy upon you, you would have followed the Devil, except for a few." (4:83). This means that spying on enemies is permissible, as the case in this historical account we find in the Quran.

He said: This proves that an Islamic society/state in Yathreb had modern systems with higher values of peace, justice, and liberty.

I said: Yes, of course, but all this was lost because of the so-called companions who, after the Prophet's death, conquered and occupied countries to steal their wealth. May God curse such traitors who have tarnished the image of Islam. 


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