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In the Quran it is said:

O ye who believe! Shun much suspicion; for lo! some suspicion is a crime. And spy not, neither backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother ? Ye abhor that (so abhor the other)! And keep your duty (to Allah). Lo! Allah is Relenting, Merciful.(The Quran 49:12)

This Quranic verse enjoins believers to assume innocence and good faith in other people and to avoid suspecting them of evil intention and wrongdoing. Abu Bakr al-Jassas said in his exegesis that this verse forbids the Muslims from being suspicious about a person’s hidden sins if they do no public acts of wrongdoing and enjoins them to hide the sins of people who are not obvious and insistent upon their sins (ibn Masud).

The word Tajassus in Quran, that has been translated as ‘spying’ carries connotations of curiosity, spying, nosing around or being a busybody. This word is vast in meaning and can encompass both social gossiping and rumor mongering and governmental intrusion upon the privacy of individuals (ibn Masud).

Prohibitions of Tajassus often occur within the context of ‘encouragement of virtue and prohibition of vice’, a moral duty for all Muslims. Scholarly treatises on the issue of such reformative or missionary work call for the exercise of extreme caution while conducting this activity, lest the right to privacy of individuals be violated (ibn Masud).

People appointed as religious police (Hisba) or private citizens intending to enjoin the good and forbid evil are warned they must only speak to someone about those of their faults which are apparent and obvious and not engage in spying. Al-Ghazali says in his Ihya that it is not allowed for the religious police to engage in spying in the matters of the person who hides his faults inside his home and closes his door (Karim).

Hisba officials are enjoined to break only those forbidden musical instruments that they find in display out in the open (Shiloah).

In Ibn al-Jawzi’s Talbis al-Iblis (The Devil’s Deception) one of the actions of the unwise preacher (who has been deceived by the devil into doing evil when he intends good) is listed as ‘breaking down the door behind which people gather to commit sinful acts’ (al-Bakri).

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