Will you give information about intelligence and espionage activities in terms of Islam?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Islam renders it haram for an administrator to torture and harass people. Umar b. al-Khattab narrates: I heard the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) say,

"On the Day of Judgment, Allah will definitely punish those who torture and punish people in the world.”(1)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) also said,

"There are two groups from the people of Hell that I have not seen yet. The first group is the one with whips like the tail of a cow with which they beat people...”(2)

Likewise, Islam renders it haram to attack the privacy, honor, wealth and chastity of people, and to violate the privacy of their homes. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following:

"Everything of a Muslim is haram for another Muslim: His blood, wealth and life are haram.”(3)

The Prophet (pbuh) stated the following while circumambulating the Kaaba:

"You are so nice and beautiful. Your scent is so nice and beautiful. You are so great. Your prestige is so great. However, I swear by Allah, in whose hand Muhammad's life is, that the prestige of a believer with his wealth and blood is greater than you. I think nothing but goodness can be thought about a believer.”(4)

The Prophet (pbuh) also stated the following:

"It is fisq (a sin) to curse a Muslim and it is unbelief to kill him.”(5)

He states the following about the privacy of homes:

"If somebody looks inside your house and your wives without your permission and you see him like that, if you throw a stone at him and blind him, there is no sin for you because of doing so.”(6)

From Sahl b. Sa'd as-Saidi:

"Somebody looked inside one of the rooms of the house of the Prophet (pbuh) secretly. The Prophet had a comb in his hand. Thereupon, he said,

"If I had known you were looking at me, I would have put your eyes out with this comb. The order to ask permission aims to prevent looking.”(7)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following in another hadith:

"If a person looks inside another person’s house without permission and sees what is inside, it is permissible for the residents of that house to put his eye out.”(8)

Islam renders it haram for a Muslim to spy, to observe and to pursue another Muslim, and to examine the news about him. Allah Almighty states the following 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..."(9)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following:

"Avoid having bad thoughts about others because it is the worst lie. Do not spy on others and do not search about others secretly. Do not be jealous of others; do not turn your backs on others; do not hate one another. O slaves of Allah! Be brothers.”(10)

The following is stated in another hadith:

"O community of those who have believed with their tongues but not with their hearts! Do not backbite Muslims. Do not try to uncover their faults. Most surely, one who seeks to uncover the faults of his brother, Allah will disclose his faults; and for whomsoever Allah discloses his faults, He will disgrace him even if it be within his own home.” (11)

The verses and hadiths render it haram to spy on Muslims; in addition, they threaten those who try to uncover the faults of Muslims stating that Allah will disclose their faults and disgrace them.

On the other hand, there are hadiths stating that it is haram to work for intelligence organizations in order to spy on Muslims. The following is stated in a hadith reported from the Prophet (pbuh) by Miswar:

"If somebody eats a morsel (by backbiting a Muslim and disgracing his honor), Allah will definitely make him eat a similar morsel in Hell. If a person is given a garment as a reward in return for a harm he did to a Muslim, Allah will definitely make him wear a similar garment in Hell.”(12)

Spying on Muslims is haram; similarly, spying on dhimmis is also haram. For, dhimmis have the right to benefit from the practices that are in favor of Muslims. The Messenger of Allah advised us to treat them well and prohibited us from harassing them. He said,

"If a person oppresses a person with whom an agreement was signed or orders such a person to do something beyond his power, I will be an evidence against him on the Day of Judgment.”(13)

The verses and hadiths express a general prohibition about spying but the unbelievers that are in a state of war are excluded from the general scope of the verses and hadiths about spying whether they are in a state of war actually or theoretically. For, there are other hadiths excluding the unbelievers that are in a state of war from the prohibition of spying. Spying is not haram related to the unbelievers that are in a state of war; on the contrary, it is wajib. It is the duty of the Islamic state. For, The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) sent Abdullah b. Jahsh and eight muhajirs with him to a place called "Nakhla" between Makkah and Taif in order to find out the news about Qurayshis and to confirm the existing news. Spying against the unbelieving enemies is something that the Islamic army and the Islamic state must not neglect.

It is a duty of the Islamic state to fulfill the duty of spying on the enemy; it is also necessary to have the proper elements for the counterespionage activities to stop the activities of the enemy. The following is reported from Salama b. Aqwa in Bukhari:

"When the Prophet (pbuh) was in an expedition, a spy arrived. This spy sat next to one of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and talked to him; he listened to the talks and then left. Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah said,

“Catch him and kill him.” They caught him and killed him.  They took the things on him as booty.”(14)

On the other hand, Imam Ahmad narrates from Furat b. Hayyan that the Prophet (pbuh) "ordered him to be killed".

A spy of Abu Sufyan passed by a group of Ansar sitting in the form of a circle and said, "I am a Muslim." Thereupon, the people sitting there said, "O Messenger of Allah! This man claims that he is a Muslim." The Messenger of Allah said, "There are some people among you in whose faith we trust. Furat b. Hayyan is one of them.”(15)

Bukhari reports the following from Hz. Ali:

"The Messenger of Allah sent me Zubayr and Miqdad b. Aswad to somewhere and said,

"Go until you reach the place called Ravdatu Hah. You will see a woman with a letter there. Take the letter from her."

We set off riding our horses very fast and reached Rawda. We met a woman there. We said, to her, "Give us the letter." She said, "I have no letter on me." We said,

"Either give us the letter or take off your clothes."

Thereupon, she took the letter out of her hair. We took the letter to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).”(16)

All this shows that the Islamic administration is not a police administration. It is not permissible for the Islamic administration to be a police administration. For, a police administration is very harmful for Muslims and it contradicts religious decrees. It is contrary to the following religious rule: "There is no harming and no reacting to harming by harming."

They all show that it is haram for the Islamic state to establish an intelligence and espionage organization against its citizens - whether they are Muslims or dhimmis -and to torture and harass them.

On the other hand, it is necessary for the Islamic state to establish an intelligence and espionage organization against the espionage activities of the enemy in order to find out about what they do and to struggle against them.  


(1) Muslim, 4734, 4735; Abu Dawud, 2648.
(2) Muslim, 3971, 5098; He reported it through Abu Hurayra.
(3) Muslim, 4650; Ibn Majah, 3923; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 7402; from Abu Hurayra.
(4) Ibn Majah, 3922; He reported it from Abdurrahman b. Amr.
(5) Bukhari, 46, 5584; Muslim, 97; Tirmidhi, 1906, 2559; Nasai, 4038-4043; Ibn Majah, 3929-3931; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 3465, 4115; from Abdullah b. Masud.
(6) Muslim, 4017; from Abu Hurayra.
(7) Bukhari, Muslim.
(8) Ahmad b. Hanbal, 7298; from Abu Hurayra.
(9) al-Hujurat, 49/12.
(10) Bukhari, 5604.
(11) Abu Dawud, 4236; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 18940; from Abu Barz al-Aslami.
(12) Abu Dawud, 4237.
(13) Yahya b. Adam reported it in his book Kharaj. Abu Dawud, 2654.
(14) Bukhari.
(15) Abu Dawud, 2280; Ahmad b. Hanbal, 18197.
(16) Bukhari.

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