A cyber war is currently raging on the Internet between Arab hackers (most of them Saudi) and Israeli hackers. In the first half of January, a team of Saudi hackers led by an individual calling himself OxOmar published personal details of over 400,000 Israelis, including tens of thousands of credit card numbers.
A few days later, Arab hackers attacked Israeli websites, including those of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, the national carrier El Al, several banks and hospitals, Israel’s fire and rescue services, and the Haaretz daily. In response, Israeli and pro-Israeli hackers attacked the websites of the Saudi and Abu Dhabi stock exchanges, and published the details of Saudi credit cards and of thousands of Facebook accounts belonging to Arabs.
Responding to these events, a number of Muslim clerics issued fatwas sanctioning the cyber attacks on Israel and defining them as “electronic jihad.” There were also some clerics who expressed reservations about the hackers’ activity on the grounds that it was dangerous and morally questionable.
Kuwaiti Preacher: Electronic Jihad against the Zionist Enemy Is “Important and Effective”
The first Muslim scholar to refer to this matter was Kuwaiti preacher and lecturer Dr. Tareq Al-Sweidan, director of the Islamic TV channel Al-Risala, owned by Prince Al-Walid bin Tallal. He wrote on his Twitter account: “I think that the hackers must pool their efforts in the electronic jihad campaign against Israel… [This campaign is] an important and effective [form of] jihad, and its rewards will be great, Allah willing.”
Other scholars followed his example. A researcher at the Saudi ministry of religious endowments, ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Tarifi, ruled that “it is permissible to use the stolen Israeli credit card [numbers], because they were issued by banks that are not Islamic… [located] in countries that have no contracts with the Islamic states. These countries are not peaceful, [so] the money [in their banks] is forfeited, and anyone who makes use of the stolen credit cards is not to be reproached.” Al-Tarifi explained that this does not apply to “banks that are protected, [namely] Islamic banks or banks in countries that are at peace with the Islamic states. Nobody may take money from the accounts [in these banks] unless he has a [legal] right to do so.”
Saudi Lecturer: Fighting the Enemy Websites, Which Sow Corruption, Is a Kind of Jihad
Fahd Bin Sa’d Al-Jahni, a Saudi lecturer in Islamic jurisprudence, wrote that the texts of the Koran and the Sunna on jihad are applicable to cyber warfare: “Among the various types of jihad are jihad of self[-sacrifice], jihad by money, and jihad of the word. The last category includes intellectual jihad, as well as jihad by writing and by da’wa…
“Any act that aggravates the enemy and helps the [Muslim] religion, and is carried out by legitimate means, is sanctioned by the shari’a. Therefore, there are numerous and diverse ways to support the religion [through activity] on websites. Some call this ‘electronic jihad’… Any [act carried out] by the Muslims using legitimate tools… [and aimed at fighting] deviant thinking, websites [that spread] corruption, and websites belonging to those who attack the Muslims… such as the aggressive Zionists… counts as jihad, as long as it does not contravene the laws of warfare set out by Allah.”
Al-Azhar Scholar: Islam Sanctions Anything that Harms the Enemies of Allah
Al-Azhar lecturer Dr. Mustafa Murad wrote in a similar vein: “Electronic jihad is a kind of jihad, for Allah the Almighty said in the Koran: ‘And those who strive in Our [cause], We will certainly guide them to Our paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right [Koran 29:69]’… Jihad is not [confined to] jihad by the sword, by weapons and by other means of inflicting pain. It is permissible [to use] any tools that can realize the goal of attacking the enemies of Allah and punishing them for usurping [the Muslims’] rights and holy places.”
The spokesman of Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya in Egypt, ‘Assem ‘Abd Al-Maged, said: “Anything [that can be used to] fight evil and the plans of the enemies is a good thing. However, this requires clever planning, so that we do not open gates of harm that will be impossible to close again.”
Egyptian Salafi MP: Fighting the Websites of Israel and the Enemies of Islam Is a Religious Duty
Egyptian MP Mamdouh Isma’il, deputy chairman of the Egyptian Salafi party Al-Asala, said: “Electronic jihad is one of the ways to fight Israel, though there is no substitute for armed resistance, for Israel is occupying sacred land… There is no choice but to wage campaigns of inflaming and inciting [the people], [write] books, studies and articles, and [use] every effective means to fight the enemy…
The hackers’ activity against the Israeli websites, and the websites of the Mossad and of anyone else who harms Islam and the Muslims, constitutes a religious duty that is incumbent upon anyone who has the ability to perform it…”
Opponents of Cyber War:
This Activity Will Harm the Muslims
A different opinion was expressed by ‘Abdallah Al-‘Alwit, a Saudi researcher of Islamic jurisprudence. He wrote that, at the present circumstances, cyber attacks are nothing but acts of sabotage that are both ineffective and immoral: “Like any type of jihad, [electronic jihad] should be employed [only] according to specific considerations, and could be harmful if used in the wrong time and circumstances. The present [circumstances] of the [Muslim] nation do not permit it to wage jihad against any of its enemies, since they have the upper hand in all domains, and if an electronic war is waged, its outcomes are likely to be to [the Muslims’] detriment. Israel has numerous supporters in the various countries, who are likely to join this struggle, and this will increase the amount of damage [inflicted upon us]. They are more numerous [than us] and their technological and scientific expertise is greater. The original [meaning of] jihad is military jihad, and all other [kinds of warfare] are means of pressure more than jihad. Jihad is only a metaphor in this context.
“[Moreover], the way it is [currently] waged, electronic jihad is nothing to be proud of from a moral point of view. It is reminiscent of theft, espionage and fraud. That is no way to wage war… This type [of electronic jihad] is permissible only in times of war, when fighters want to disrupt the [enemy’s] communications. [Today] there is no war, so this [kind of warfare] is [just] a kind of sabotage. It’s like torching one of the [enemy’s] banks…”
Egyptian sheikh Gamal Qutub, a former chairman of the Al-Azhar fatwa committee, also expressed a degree of reservation, saying: “We must use every means to prevent the Israeli hackers from breaking into the bank accounts [of citizens] in Muslim countries and of Muslim institutions, and to repel such attacks… [However], we must not behave like them and do damage without being attacked by them [first]. Our faith and our moral values forbid us to adopt the moral standards of others. We must adhere to our [own] moral values.”
Attacking Pornographic Sites Might Expose the Hacker to Forbidden Materials
Dr. ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz bin Ibrahim Al-Shibel, a Saudi lecturer in Islamic jurisprudence at the Imam Muhammad bin Sa’ud University in Riyadh, issued a fatwa in which he distinguished between sites that may be attacked and sites that must not be.
The former category includes “respectable sites,” which fulfill two conditions: 1. They offer educational, commercial, medical, governmental or entertainment services that are sanctioned by the shari’a; 2. They belong to individuals whose life and property are inviolable according to the shari’a, which includes Muslims, ahl al-dhimma (namely Jews and Christians living under Muslim rule), and people living in countries that have agreements and contracts with the Muslim countries.
Al-Shibel states that most sites belong to this category and may not be attacked. Conversely, there are “unrespectable sites,” which fail to fulfill one or both of the above conditions. This category includes sites that contain pornography, occult materials, games of chance, etc., and sites whose owners are from the countries of dar al-harb (namely non-Muslim countries that do not have agreements or contracts with the Muslim states). Al-Shibel states that these sites may be attacked according to the shari’a. However, he stresses that hacking such sites may have harmful consequences. For example, the hacker may be exposed to immoral materials. In addition, these corrupting websites are numerous, so attacking them may constitute a waste of valuable time that would be better spent in carrying out da’wa and spreading Islam on the internet. Also, the hacker may be punished, while the site owner is likely to receive a permit to reopen his site or even establish more sites of the same sort. Al-Shibel emphasizes that the sites should be hacked only if the benefit of an attack outweighs the harmful results.