Date: 29 Shaaban 1444   Tuesday 21 March 2023

  • Last Update: Monday 20 March 2023، 08:29:50.

Digital extortion in the perspective of Sharia

11:54 06 February 2023 Author :   Dr. Masoud Sabry


People today live amid the online world and its huge waves, a world that contains chaff and wheat, the harmful and the beneficial. Despite the facilitation provided by technology, and many of the services that considerably developed people’s lives, it had at the same time corruptive backdoors dragging people into evil and immorality. Rather, gangs have appeared that take advantage of some people’s weakness and ignorance to exploit and blackmail them financially or sexually. Digital extortion has become a negative phenomenon that has begun to spread on a large scale.

Actually, there are numerous reasons for digital extortion. However, there are several means of protection. Among the most important of these means of protection are religious scruples and technical awareness, which should be known by those who frequently communicate, and can be reviewed by specialists.

As for Islamic sharia, digital extortion is forbidden.  Rather, it is one of the great contemporary sins, and its sin is greater than the sin of practicing the actions that the perpetrator hunts down and becomes a reason for electronic extortion.

To show how serious digital extortion is; We must refer to the scholars’ definitions of the “deadly sin". The definitions are various, but these definitions combine a number of elements.   The most important of these elements is that there is a warning from the Sharia regarding them, with a threat of fire or curse. It requires hadd punishments prescribed by Allah. Every sin that Sharia punishes severely, or greatly harms people and society. Sharia mentions that its doer will receive a harsh punishment. Acts of obscenity and immorality. Any act that angers Allah. If its damage is severe and transgressive because it relates to the assault on religion, life, honor, or money.

Based on this, digital extortion is one of the great prohibitions and grave sins, and it is harming Muslims, and harming Muslims is forbidden according to Sharia by agreement, as Allah Almighty said: {And those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, bear on themselves the crime of slander and plain sin.} (Al-Ahzab: 58)

 There are many evidences for the prohibition of electronic extortion from the Book, the Sunnah, and the sayings of the scholars, including the words of Allah Almighty: {Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you do not know.} (An-Nur: 19) Allah Almighty has forbidden the love of the spread of indecency, so how about those who spread it? Allah Almighty has threatened those who spread indecency with painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter, and not just the Hereafter. This means that those who carry out electronic extortion in general and sexual blackmail in particular will have a punishment from Allah that they see in this world before they will see in the Hereafter.

The Prophet, (), stressed the threat against those who spread the immorality of others, in the hadith: “If any man spreads a word against a Muslim with which he is innocent to dishonor him in this world; It will be incumbent on Allah to melt him on the Day of Resurrection in the Fire until he comes to implement what he said."

Rather, the Prophet, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, made the punishment of electronic extortion in this world before the Hereafter.  The Prophet () said, "He who so acts to show off, Allah will disgrace him on the Day of Resurrection, and he who does good deeds so that people (may hold him in high esteem), Allah will expose his hidden evil intentions before the people on the Day of Resurrection."

In Sahih Muslim, On the authority of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) The Messenger of Allah () said: "All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother in Faith: his blood, his wealth and his honor." Digital extortion includes all of these types, especially money and honor, and may cause a person's death or suicide. Rather, the Prophet, (), stressed on the sanctity of a person’s money, his honor, and his life.

Likewise, in order to stress the prohibition of spreading immorality - which is the most important form of digital extortion - the sin of the one who begins the immorality and that of the one who spreads it are equal, as it is mentioned in Al-Bukhari’s Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, Ali bin Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “The one who speaks of indecency and the one who spreads are equal in sin.” Rather, Islamic jurists have stressed the prohibition of spreading immorality, even if the one who spreads it is truthful and not a liar. On the authority of Ata’, may Allah have mercy on him, he said: “Whoever spreads immorality must be severely punished, even if he is truthful.”

Also, Allah Almighty has made publishing private relations between spouses forbidden among people, even if the relationship between the spouses is originally lawful, but it is forbidden to publish them. Abu Sa'id Al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: the Messenger of Allah () said, "The most evil of the people to Allah on the Day of Resurrection will be the man who consorts with his wife and then publicizes her secret." What if we announced forbidden sex?!

Extortion is also a sort of unjustly eating other people's money, as Allah Almighty stated: “And eat not up your property among yourselves in vanity” (Al-Baqara: 188). And the warning about getting people’s money through digital extortion and others came in the Sunnah, as it was reported on the authority of Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, that the Messenger of Allah, (), said in his sermon on the Day of Sacrifice in Mina during the Farewell Pilgrimage: "Your blood and your property and your honor are forbidden for you to violate, like the sacredness of this day of yours, in this month of yours, in this city of yours." [Agreed upon].

How should the legal system tackle this issue?

The duty, according to Islamic law, is to confront digital extortion. The victim must not submit to the perpetrator, whether by paying money or responding sexually to him. Responding to this extortion is forbidden by Sharia. Because if it is in the field of sex, then it is a forbidden practice, and aid to the perpetrator in the forbidden act. If it is a response to financial extortion, then it is unjustly paying money. Also, not responding is a way to reduce this digital extortion. Therefore, the authorities must be informed about such people to prevent the continuation of extortion. Messenger of Allah, (), said, “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.”

With enough Quranic verses and Hadith, it is everyone's duty under Sharia law not to expose themselves to digital extortion in order to protect their religion, wealth and honor.

 It is the duty of the state and of the judiciary - as is the case in many countries - to punish those who can be proven to have committed the act of digital blackmail so as to be deterred. This work is subject to disciplinary sanctions as determined by the judge, in a way that protects the honor of people and their money, as well as the safety of society.

The vast arena of the internet is now one of the societies we live in, not "virtual reality" as they say, but one aspect of reality that people live in. It is a reality that represents multiple societies, not a fictional reality. Enacting laws to deter people from digitally extorting people, fulfilling the purpose of the law, and enforcing Allah's laws to protect people's religion and life.

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