Recently, ashleymadison.com (an infidelity website that allows married people to find sexual partners and have an affair), was hacked. The hackers then dumped the entire database of about 33 million accounts, comprising of details about the sexual proclivities of its subscribers, online.
The hackers did this only after a fair warning to the owners of the website. They demanded that the site be downed, (owing to a myriad of reasons, which also included authentically moralistic ones,) declaring the site as unethical, in addition to being spurious. Failure to comply was met with the disclosure of all intimate details of the account holders.
But that was just the half of it, and the expected half of it. The other half that was not expected was the reaction of the masses. Not only did people pounce on it with a drooling appetite for all that’s scatological and private, hackers are almost being glorified, as if for being the bringers of poetic justice to the wicked evildoers, cheating on their spouses.
There are a few but notable critics taking the path of decency as well. They are the harbingers, reminding people of the snake up the sleeve of this apparently innocuous escapade of schadenfreude; telling people that apart from being the reincarnation of the ghost of Christmas past evocative of a ruthless puritanical era, the incident spells doom to the rapidly corroding shared asset that we call ‘privacy’.
While it is a grave incident telling of an ineffable moral depravity of our fellow humans, it is of little immediate significance to me or others around me. Geographical distance alone, if not for anything else, is perhaps enough to ensure our status of bystanders – looking in from the outside. However, I figured it out quite early in my life that the West is ‘us’ after time travel into the future. Whatever they are facing today, we in the 3rd world countries would be confronting in the not too distant future. Thus nothing, no incident good or bad, should go unnoticed or unstudied by a pragmatic person; for if a stitch in time saves nine…perhaps a stitch before time may save a hundred.
Hence, my interest in writing this article is purely academic. The incident is interesting to me from the POV of an Islamic principle: from the angle of a moral judgment that should be made about the action of the hackers in the light of Islam. How does their demeanor in this incident fair on the ethical spectrum? Are they saints or are they sinners? Did they do a public service or was it a vice worthy of nothing but contempt? Does God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all) have anything to say about it?
Well, as an avid student of Islam I can say this without a moment’s hesitation that these hackers are deemed sinners in the sight of God. The Quran is implicit about it, while the sayings of our Prophet (pbuh), unequivocally explicit.
As per our Lord, if anyone lays the blame of fornication or adultery on any person, the accuser has to produce 4 x witnesses. If he fails to do so, i.e. he has less than 4 witnesses, or if the testimony collapses on cross examination of any one of them, not only is the accuser up for punishment, his testimony is declared no longer acceptable in a court of law for perjury. These 4 x witnesses are God’s way of a ‘Gag Order’; that shrewdly implies that one shouldn’t be poking nose in others’ matters, and even if the nose was poked elsewhere a moral failing was unearthed: one must keep shut, and let it remain behind the shrouds of obscurity…for the fear of punishment – if not for any righteous reason.
Our Prophet, while implementing this principle used to remark at the accusers, even after the accused confessed, that ‘Had you (i.e. the accuser) concealed it, it would have been much better for you’; elaborating thus, that private indecencies are between the individual and his Lord. It maybe that the individual decides to turn one day and God forgives him, and saves him from punishment, like He saved him from ridicule and contempt all along. After all, our Lord was privy to all of his wrongdoings but allowed them to remain concealed!
So there you have it. The answer to the question of the possibility of endorsing or condoning the actions of these hackers is a resounding no. These hackers, in revealing the private indecencies of other people, have committed a grave sin. Their act was neither heroic, nor virtuous. If they’ll not repent, God might one day reveal all their offences too, in this world or the next.