Muslim tradition views the home as a sanctified and sacrosanct space. The Arabic words for ‘house’ are also used in a symbolic sense for Mosques and the Holy Mosque in Mecca (Marcus). The house’s position as a sacrosanct place demands that it should be free from the prying eyes of unwanted people (Celik).
Traditional Muslim homes and neighborhoods are designed to ensure visual privacy especially for the women’s quarters (Abu-Lughod).The insides of homes are constructed in such a way that often men’s areas are visible from women’s areas but the women’s areas are not visible from the men’s areas (Abu-Lughod).
In traditional Islamic cities the use of cul-de-sacs cut-off from the main roads to create semi-private areas and sharp turns at the entrances of houses further impede visual access to the inside of homes. In addition official building regulations often required that the doors of houses on opposite sides of the streets should not face each other (Abu-Lughod).
These regulations find there source in the scriptures of Islam where glancing inside another person’s private space without permission is forbidden.
In al-Bukhari’s Adab al-Mufrad there are several narrations where the believers have been enjoined to refrain from casting glances and peeking through the open doors and windows of other people’s houses. Some of these narrations declare that there is no sin upon a person that if the person being spied upon, throws something at the one who is spying and it hits an eye of that person, blinding them (Azami).
The Prohibition Against Eavesdropping on the Private Conversations of People
Islamic laws forbid a Muslim from trying to hear the private conversation of two people. According to Islamic belief, a person who tries to listen in on other people’s conversation which they do not wish to share with them, shall be punished in the afterlife with having molten lead poured in his ears (al-‘Alwani & DeLorenzo).
The right to privacy extends to written communications as well. Islamic rules forbid people from reading the letters of others. The act of one who takes a peek inside the personal letter of his fellow Muslim is likened to taking a peek into hellfire (ibn Masud).
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