What is the sin of listening behind the door? What are the verses related to this issue?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is not permissible to peep in order to find out about the sin of a person who commits a sin secretly in his house and keeps his door closed; it is not permissible to swoop on such a person or to tell others about his sin.

Allah states the following:

"O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it...But fear Allah: For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful." (al-Hujurat, 49/12)

When Hz. Umar was the caliph, he heard sounds coming from a house. He climbed the wall, looked inside and saw the host doing something bad. When he wanted to prevent the host from that bad deed, the man said,  

"O leader of the believers! I have committed one sin, but you have committed three sins." Hz. Umar asked, “What are they?” The man answered as follows:  

"Allah said, ‘Spy not on each other behind their backs.’ (al-Hujurat, 49/12) However, you have spied. Allah said, ‘It is no virtue if ye enter your houses from the back’ (al-Baqara, 2/189) but you entered by climbing the wall. God Almighty said, ‘O ye who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until ye have asked permission and saluted those in them: that is best for you, in order that ye may heed (what is seemly).’ (an-Nur, 24/27) "

In the face of this defense, Hz. Umar did not apply a penalty but laid it as a condition for the man to repent to be forgiven. Therefore, Hz. Umar asked the Companions for consultation while delivering a sermon on the pulpit if the caliph or a judge could apply a penalty if he himself sees a crime without looking for witnesses, Hz. Ali said two just witnesses were necessary even in such a case. (Imam Ghazali, Ihyau Ulumid-Din, Translated by Ali Arslan, Istanbul 1972, V, 390, 391)

Verses between twenty-seven and thirty-three of the chapter of an-Nur states the manners and rules of house visits by believers and the principles of dressing for women. The religion of Islam protects the wealth, life, home and workplace of everybody from violation. Therefore, it prohibits entering a house without greeting, getting permission and having an acquaintance with the owner of the house. On the other hand, it regards peeping a house through the door and windows a sin. However, it is stated that desolate houses can be entered without permission if it is necessary:

"O ye who believe! Enter not houses other than your own, until ye have asked permission and saluted those in them: that is best for you, in order that ye may heed (what is seemly). If ye find no one in the house, enter not until permission is given to you: if ye are asked to go back, go back: that makes for greater purity for yourselves: and Allah knows well all that ye do. It is no fault on your part to enter houses not used for living in, which serve some (other) use for you: And Allah has knowledge of what ye reveal and what ye conceal." (Nur, 24/27-29).

 

TAJASSUS (SPYING)

It means searching the inside, hidden parts of an affair and mistakes of a person; curiosity to search.

The word tajassus is an Arabic word derived from the verb jassa. The word jasus (spy/agent) is derived from the same verb.

Tajassus is generally used for searching bad deeds and mistakes. The word tahassus is generally used for good deeds. As a matter of fact, Allah states that Hz. Yaqub addressed his sons as follows using the word tahassus: “O my sons! Go ye and enquire about Joseph and his brother, and never give up hope of Allah´s Soothing Mercy...” (Yusuf, 12/87). However, both words can be used in the sense of searching bad deeds and mistakes. Awzai states that tajassus means searching anything and that tahassus means eavesdropping or listening behind the door. (Ibn Kathir, Tafsirul-Qur'anil-Azim, Istanbul 1985. VII, 358)

The word tajassus is mentioned only once in the Quran:

"O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it...But fear Allah: For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful." (al-Hujurat, 49/12)

Allah addresses believers in the verse above and wants them to keep away from three harmful things. Those three harmful things are suspicion (having bad thoughts about others), spying and backbiting.

As it is seen, tajassus is one of the things forbidden, prohibited by the Quran. The verse also describes the attributes of a believer. Accordingly, believers keep away from suspicion (having bad thoughts about others), spying and backbiting. They differ from others with those nice qualities.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) prohibited tajassus and advised people to keep away from it. Thus, he informed us that tajassus was something harmful and bad. The hadiths narrated regarding the issue are as follows:

"Keep away from having bad thoughts about others because it is the worst lie. Do not spy on one another and do not search the secret affairs of one another; do not eavesdrop; do not compete one another; do not be jealous of one another; do not hate one another; do not turn your backs to one another. O slaves of Allah! Be brothers." (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir VII, 357)

"If you search people’s mistakes, you will cause mischief." (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, VII, 358)

"O community of people, who believed by their tongue and whose hearts belief did not enter! Do not backbite Muslims. Do not search for their faults. If anyone searches for their faults, Allah will search for his fault. If Allah searches for the fault of anyone, He disgraces him in his house." (Abu Dawud, Adab, 40; see also Tirmidhi, Birr, 84)

"If a person does not help a Muslim in a place where he will be disgraced and leaves him alone, Allah will leave him alone in a place where he will ask for help. If a person helps a Muslim in a place where he will be disgraced, Allah will help him in a place where he will ask for help" (Abu Dawud, Adab, 41)

A man went to Ibn Mas'ud and said, "raki (alcoholic drink) drips from the beard of such and such a man." Ibn Mas'ud answered him as follows: "We were prohibited from spying. However, we can catch him when he drinks openly." Mujahid made the following explanation regarding the issue: What is meant by the verse “spy not on each other” is "take what is revealed and leave what is kept secret". (Sayyid Qutub, Fi Zilalil-Quran, Beirut 1971)

As it is understood from the hadiths above, man has inviolable and untouchable things: honor, dignity, rights and freedom. One of them is searching secret affairs. Thus, Islam orders showing respect to the rights of individuals perfectly. In Islam, man is ordered to act in a way that fits human honor and he is not allowed to be harassed. 

Nureddin TURGAY

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