Is Cheating in School Permissible?

11 May, 2017
Q Salam, thank you for this service. I have a question about studies. I see that many of my classmates are cheating on their projects and exams. They say that it is OK because it is something everyone does and it is for a better purpose (to make money and support family after graduation). But I don't know about this. What is the Islamic approach to this kind of dilemma? Is cheating OK if it is for a good purpose?


Salam (Peace),

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

The very purpose of Religion, if it be Islam or any other religion worth the name, is to help people lead a life of obedience to God by controlling their desires and passions. If one’s religion does not help a person to do this, religion for that person is meaningless.

Human beings are both body and soul. The body is of the earth, from the earth. But the soul comes from a higher plane; it originates from ‘the breath of God’ as it were.

Allah Almighty says in the Noble Quran about the creation of the first human, Adam (PBUH):

{[…] and when I have formed him fully and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down before him in prostration!} (Quran 15:29) 

Here Allah Almighty commands the angels to prostrate before Adam as he is endowed with knowledge (and freewill). For our purpose, we may note in this verse the idea that Allah at the time of creation breathed into Adam (and generically into all the children of Adam) from His spirit: nafakhtu fihi min ruhi.

That is how the soul comes into the being of every human. And it is the soul that makes them the best of Allah’s creation as His khalifah or vicegerent on earth. It is the soul again that helps the humans to rise above the mud, which always tends to pull them down.

Religion helps humans to purify their life, by addressing the soul, which is of celestial origin.

All our worldly ambitions, such as making money or acquiring power or positions in society are of this world. These are not ruled out by Islam; rather they have their place in the life of this world, as we are born with a body and are obliged to live here as a community.

But Islam reminds us again and again that our real destination is not this world, but the next one – the world of the hereafter:

{[…] the life of this world is nothing but a passing delight and a play – whereas, behold, the life in the hereafter is indeed the only [true] life: if they but knew this!} (Quran 29:64)

The above verse, among others, states the Islamic position that this worldly life, compared to the life of the hereafter, is nothing much; and it is the hereafter that humans need to take seriously. From this angle, making money or providing material comforts to one’s family is not as important as leading a spiritually virtuous life.

“The end justifies the means” is a dictum of Machiavellian utilitarianism. In simple language it means that if your objective is noble, you may use any ignoble means to attain that objective. From the Islamic point of view, making money for a good cause is good, on the condition that the means employed for that purpose is also good.

Imagine a person making money by breaking into houses or through embezzlement for supporting his family: Certainly Islam prohibits entering another person’s house without permission and certainly Islam prohibits theft and robbery.

“Everyone does this” is not a justification for breaking the rules or the social norms or for infringing another person’s rights.

Cheating in school is like theft and it is clearly prohibited, no matter if the objective is to pass the exam in order to get a job for supporting the family. So, from the Islamic point of view cheating is evil; and it cannot be adopted as a means to attain an objective, however noble the objective may be.

In short, it is not enough that the end is good; the means also should be good, period.

And Allah knows best.

I hope this helps answer your question. Please keep in touch. 


Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

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About Professor Shahul Hameed
Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.