What Is the Ruling on Spying and Suspicion?

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question

What is the position of the Shafi‘i School about spying (tajassus)?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

Spying and unfounded suspicion are considered major sins (kaba’ir) in Islam (not School specific), and Allah knows best.

Spying

In Ibn Hajar al-Haytami’s “al-Kaba’ir,” he includes “spying on the Muslims and Revealing their Weaknesses” as one of the major sins.

Ibn Hajar cites the hadith of Hatib Ibn Abi Balta’a, who sent a secret letter telling of the Muslims’ military plans to his relatives in Mecca in hopes that they would not get hurt. Sayyidina ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) wanted to kill Hatib for his actions. (Still, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) forbade ‘Umar to do so, as Hatib had fought at Badr and, by accepting Hatib’s excuse, left nothing for any Muslim to criticize.)

Ibn Hajar says, “If someone’s spying entails undermining Islam and its people, or the killing, captivity, enslavement, or plundering of the Muslims, or anything of the like, then he is one of those who strive for corruption in the land, destroying village and offspring, and he is subject to death and deserves the torment of hellfire, may Allah save us from it. Anyone who spies knows that if ordinary talebearing is an enormity, a spy’s carrying information is far more terrible and heinous.” [Ibn Hajar, al-Kaba’ir]

Allah (Most High) says, “O  believers! Avoid many suspicions, (for) indeed, some suspicions are sinful. And do not spy, nor backbite one another. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of their dead brother? You would despise that! And fear Allah. Surely Allah is (the) Accepter of Repentance, Most Merciful.” [Quran, 49:12]

I pray that this benefits.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.