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4 Things to Understand About Privacy in Islam

“Mom, why don’t you ever knock on my door before entering?”

This is a common complaint of teenagers – that their privacy is not respected by elders, especially their parents and siblings. The opposite is also true; children sometimes don’t really understand that their parents need privacy too, and don’t think twice while walking into our parents’ rooms without permission.

These and other habits that seem alright to us – we need to stop and think about their legitimacy. How much of it is okay in the sight of Allah, and how much of it is transgressing the limits set by Him?

Let’s have a look at some of the things Islam has to say about privacy.

1- Children entering their elder’s room need to ask permission at three times of the day:

O you who have believed, let those whom your right hands possess and those who have not [yet] reached puberty among you ask permission of you [before entering] at three times: before the dawn prayer and when you put aside your clothing [for rest] at noon and after the night prayer. [These are] three times of privacy for you. There is no blame upon you nor upon them beyond these [periods], for they continually circulate among you – some of you, among others. Thus does Allah make clear to you the verses; and Allah is Knowing and Wise. (Quran, 24:58)

2- We shouldn’t enter anyone’s house without permission, no matter how long we have to wait.

O you who have believed, do not enter houses other than your own houses until you ascertain welcome and greet their inhabitants. That is best for you; perhaps you will be reminded. (Quran, 24:27)

3- If we knock someone’s door or ask permission from the person three times and the person doesn’t answer, we should go back.

It was narrated from Abu Saeed Khudri that Abu Musa asked permission to enter upon ‘Umar three times, and he did not give him permission, so he went away.’Umar sent word to him saying:

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“Why did you go back?”

He said:

“I asked permission to enter three times, as the Messenger of Allah enjoined upon us, then if we are given permission we should enter, otherwise we should go back.”

He said:

“You should bring me proof of that, or else!”

Then he came to a gathering of his people and asked them to swear by Allah concerning that, and they did so, so he let him go.” (Ibn Majah)

4- We shouldn’t assume the worst about our husbands, children, siblings or anyone else, nor spy on them to find out what’s going on.

O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful. (Quran, 49:12)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

Avoid suspicion, for suspicion is the gravest lie in talk and do not be inquisitive about one another and do not spy upon one another and do not feel envy with the other, and nurse no malice, and nurse no aversion and hostility against one another. And be fellow-brothers and servants of Allah. (Sahih Muslim)

Note: When our privacy is breached, we sometimes become very indignant and may feel like giving a sharp reprimand. So when teaching these verses and hadiths to others, we need to keep in mind the etiquette of correcting others and conveying the teachings of Islam, which is to be understanding, lenient and to give others time and space to take it in.