People think plagiarism in Islam does not even exist because there are no copyrights in Islam. Of course there are no copyrights in Qurán and hadith as we don’t own Islamic texts (verses, ahadith, quotes of the Sahabas and so on) but you know why WE don’t own them? It’s because Some One Else does!
Allah owns His verses – Allah owns us all! Whatever we possess belongs to Allah – NOT the people! And Allah has given us the CHOICE of giving away what belongs to us! No one else can claim each other’s possession as everything of one is sacred upon the other.
So in this world, what you write and sketch, belongs to you. Just like what you wear belongs to you. What you eat belongs to you. What you earn belongs to you. UNLESS you choose to give it away within your free will – for the sake of Allah who gave you all of those above.
When one gives away with his/her own will, it’s called charity. When one gives away with his/her own will and puts a price on it, it’s called trade. When his/her will is not involved and the other person takes it regardless, it’s called stealing! Or plagiarism in other words – As simple as that!
Someone who’s been a direct victim to mass plagiarism after several episodes of the above illustration going viral (for all the wrong reasons), this topic hits close to home. We’ve had our other artworks shared around without credit a gazillion times as well – most of the times people even change the graphics of #AlhamdulillahForSeries and put their own logo on it, but we simply ignore it. Sometimes people even sell our gratitude journals forward without permission or simply distribute it without us knowing, and we ignore that too!
BUT when the content is misused in a way that Islam gets the bad name, well that’s unbearable for us and this is what prompted us to write this piece!
First our niqab illustration from the article was simply shared, then the link was removed, then the logo was removed, then other names started appearing on the image – taking credit for the artwork, then it started being misused which was followed up by unnecessary arguments and negativity around Islam – and something that was meant to cross the bridges, just burnt it all down!
THIS prompted us to write why there is NO place for plagiarism in Islam.
1) Because Background Context is Important
Something that was meant to be an experience of niqabis by niqabis turned into a hate speech full of negative vibes when men starting posting it as a form of blatant instruction (men who clearly have no experience of wearing a niqab). And of course that happens when people leave out all the context that the actual person used it for. When original artist’s work is used for misrepresentation of the original artist’s intent, it sabotages intellectual diversity.
Just imagine how impure our religion would have been if people attributed ahadith to themselves or anyone undeserving of attribution. Citations and references are the web that held together the science of hadith all those years. It helped us receive pure knowledge that we have today. Without it, our deen would have been just like all other religions. Mixed with falsehood. Mixed with people’s interpretations and quotes. Mixed with misuse of words, translations and contexts.
References is where the beauty of Islam lies – the authenticity and purity in its text because no one claimed each other’s words or actions. Meaning no one copied without giving the due credit! And if someone did, the whole chain of hadith went weak!
Scholars studied 1000s and 1000s of lives by traveling 1000s and 1000s of miles JUST to bring the authentic ahadith to us! Ahadith with the strongest chains. When the hadith is not branded Sahih, we doubt its credibility. Because someone in that chain was not trust-able enough – either in terms of memory or honesty.
If you want to do real research in any field, you have to follow the links and people behind those links. By not linking the words we appropriate back to the source, we erase their context and thus destroy a lot of valuable information that is required to build trust.
As Sheikh Khâlid b. Sa`ûd al-Rashûd, presiding judge at the Saudi Grievance Board states on “Islam Today”
“This is one of this is one of the reasons why the Islamic science of hadîth narration – isnâd (attribution) – was developed. Indeed, Islamic civilization was the very first in the world to develop and codify rigorous science for citing one’s sources.
In the classical discourse of this science what is now called plagiarism was known as tadlîs (deceptive attribution)…This is where a narrator deliberately leaves out a source to make his chain of transmission look stronger than it actually is.
It often entailed the narrator taking credit for hearing a hadîth from a prestigious source he did not actually hear the hadîth from. He would do this by omitting a less prestigious intermediate narrator and failing to credit that intermediate narrator as his direct source.
Al-Ghazalî relates to us that Ahmad b. Hanbal was once asked about a case where a person finds a manuscript containing hadîth narrations. The question was whether it was alright to copy hadîth from the manuscript before returning it to its owner. Ahmad answered the question saying: “No. He must first get permission. The he can write.”…
`Abd Allah b.Mubârak: “I would rather be cast down from the sky than be guilty of deceptive narration.”…”
2) Because Stolen Property is Not Halal or Accepted as Charity
When you steal an artist’s work (whether his/her writing or art etc.) and pass it on as your own while convincing yourself of earning sadaqah jaariyah or halaal earning, you deceive yourself before you deceive others.
Stolen property is not accepted as charity. It may become sadaqah jaariyah for the original owner, but for the thief, it’s simply an illusion.
Indeed, quoting one’s sources is rendering a trust. This is a religious duty commanded by Allah in the Qur’ân:
“Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due…” [Qur’ân – 04:58]
As stated by the Permanent Fatwa Committee, headed by late Sheikh `Abd Al-`Azeez Ibn Baz (may Allah bless his soul)…:
…“A Muslim’s property is not permitted (to be taken by others) without his consent.”…
This is applicable whether the owner…is a Muslim or a non-Muslim…“
3) Because Sharing is Caring But Dishonesty is a Sin
All of the above doesn’t mean we can’t share anything. The problem is dishonesty – not simply sharing. Share all you want as long as you give the due credit to the original owner so the true meaning and experience remains.
Dishonesty is misattribution to oneself of the work of others – which is also known as plagiarism. It is by law – a crime.
Even when it comes to hadith and Qur’anic verses, we are supposed to give the reference. We’re supposed to share the original source because all rights belong to Allah and His messenger (saws).
If we share a hadith without telling people that it’s by Muhammad (saws), some people may think it’s our quote. Such deception may not only cause us harm but others as well.
We all need a convenient shortcut to quickly determine what to believe and what not to — and one such shortcut is to find where a certain bit of information comes from, and judge its credibility based on what we may know of its source. When an author etc. fails to cite his/her sources, he/she degrades our ability to judge the information we’re getting. We may not believe it or trust it if we’re uncertain of the source it’s coming from.
“O you who have believed, do not betray Allah and the Messenger or betray your trusts while you know [the consequence].” [Qur’an – 08:27]
As Little Wings Gallery states:
“I think it’s time to address a growing problem in the Muslim creative community…. As a professional designer and member of @creativemuslimwomen I’d like to discuss an issue, that I’ve been a victim of, and that sadly I see occurring more and more.
You see as an artist, designer or creative in general, you spend hours up on hours refining your skills, brainstorming ideas, overcoming hurdles, revising, testing, questioning, resolving, just to create that one thing you feel compelled to make. Often with the result of going back and having to do it all over again to get it just how you envisioned. So when someone else comes along and takes what you’ve created so they can use it for their own purpose or profit, it’s like a stab to the heart….
By all means be INSPIRED by what others do or by what you find on the internet, but use that inspiration to CREATE YOUR OWN piece of work….
If creating something is beyond your ability then maybe support the artist by being a stockist. Don’t steal work by somebody else. It’s disrespectful to the person who created it and at the end of the day there is no barakah to be gained in doing so, “Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim.”-The Last Sermon by Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). #inspiredtocreatenotcopy”
4) Because Plagiarizer Loses Credibility and Barakah
Alhamdulillah that Islam has retained rights of each and every one. Which is why, everyone’s blood, wealth and property is sacred on another.
It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “The whole of the Muslim is sacred to his fellow Muslim, his blood, his wealth and his honor.” [Ibn Majah]
Ever wondered why an honor is a trust as well? It’s not even something tangible yet sacred! Because their whole credibility and reputation depends on it.
Once it is found that a writer/blogger/artist has plagiarized, then every word they have written or each piece of art they will produce in the future will become a suspect.
There will be no credibility in anything they present in their views, actions and thoughts. Such harm is not only to the plagiarizer but sometimes also the plagiarized – when people aren’t sure of the original owner of the work, both parties may become a suspect of plagiarism. In other words, it is not only a self-inflicted wound but it may bruise others as well – which may make it hard for people to believe whatever they produce when the authenticity is gone.
And anything that involves dishonesty and plagiarism may not have the barakah in it and without barakah, all the efforts may render fruitless.
5) Because Helping Others Means Assisting in Good Deeds Only
As Kendra in KSA states: “I recently had a student openly tell me that she was planning on cheating. I told her that cheating is Haraam. She proceeded to tell me that I didn’t know Islam well enough because if I did, I would know that we should want for our neighbor what we want for ourselves, so when people cheat they’re just helping each other out and that should be fine.”
Plagiarism has so many forms. As students of Islamic Online University ourselves, we know how we are instructed on the matters of plagiarism before each assignment and test. And if we are caught cheating, our whole degree could be at stake.
The marks we get from cheating are not our own and the job we get from those marks is certainly not what we deserve. The dishonest money that you earn from that job will eventually fall into the Haraam category (before you are fired from the company for not having the skill set acquired from knowledge earned through hard-work). If you’re helping someone to earn dishonest marks instead of teaching them to work hard, you’re not really doing any “good” for your neighbor.
Narrated Anas: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” [Bukhari]
So preventing someone from wrong is how you actually help them! NOT by assisting them so they can live their lies in blindness!
6) Because Our Value in front of Allah is More Important than Our Social Media Numbers
Many people take images and articles from around the internet and post them as their own – sometimes not to earn, but simply to gain popularity on social media etc.
It’s ok to repost, share and send it forward as long as it’s through proper means. Not through misattribution or a deliberate lie.
As Asmaa Hussein (Owner of Ruqayya’s Bookshelf) puts it perfectly:
“Don’t steal others’ intellectual property…
I understand that people need to be cautious about what they post on the internet, most definitely. But you also have a responsibility to not steal other people’s property. And yes, it’s theft. You wouldn’t go to someone’s house and steal his bike just because he left it outside in plain sight. You’d still be considered a thief. So yeah, just because someone posts something on social media, “in plain sight” – that doesn’t give you the right to screenshot it or copy it and use it for your own purposes.
I recently called someone out for using some of my intellectual property to promote their own account, and the response was appalling. It went something like this:
-But YOU put it on the internet, so it’s fair game for me to use it.
-At the end of the day, nothing belongs to us, and everything belongs to Allah!
-But I’m using it for a good reason.
-Oh, you just want me to mention you so that you can get more followers!
When we’re trying to do something for the sake of Allah, we should do it properly, not through the theft and re-purposing of another person’s work. I can tell you that it feels like a punch to the gut when someone takes your work and uses it without so much as mentioning your name.
I actually love it when my work is shared freely and openly! I write so that people can benefit, may Allah accept. But simply do it properly, not through plagiarizing. It’s not a matter of wanting to gain popularity on social media – it’s a matter of feeling that people have integrity and respect for other people’s work and efforts…
Plagiarism cuts me like a knife.
When someone uses the words from my book or my social media pages, then makes minor edits to pass it off as his/her own work…a part of my desire to share shrivels up and retreats to a corner of my heart.
It hurts because these words aren’t just “words” – they are my love story. They’re remnants of my marriage. They’re the bricks that I’ve used to rebuild my broken heart. They’re me.
It’s like someone is taking a piece of my heart right out of my body and displaying it as though it belongs to her.
Please, please don’t do this. It’s so hurtful to me. I know I can’t control what happens on the internet, but integrity will always be an important trait of a believer. That’s in your hands.
May Allah swt bless us with integrity in every part of our lives.”