Sunday, August 31, 2014

Of Social Media, Apps and Data Theft



As the reach of Social Media Sites and Online and mobile Applications (Apps) expands, your own data is at a high risk. You put a lot of personal information at stake when you download apps on your desktop as well as mobile. Most of the social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google + and many recent chat apps feed on the basic quality of human nature - hunger for attention. All of them feed on human ego. And more the fire one has to show off and advertise things to the world, the better it is for the popularity of the site / app. 

How Safe is your Online Content?

Once you post your photos, data, your story including contents of your chat, you are indirectly exposing your personal life to them. That's because most of these sites and apps automatically get the right to use, sell, reproduce your pictures and data as they deem fit, without your consent or any compensation to you. 

Who has Given them the Right?

But who has given them the right to do all this? Of course, you yourself. How many of us actually read the Terms and Conditions one has to tick before signing up for an application?! We are always in a hurry to make accounts, often ignoring the fine-prints! So tomorrow if any of these social media sites want to write a book on your life from your posts, pictures and chat content (depending on the rights they have on your contents), nobody can stop them. Scary, right? But the agreement to use your content ends with deletion of your account. Yet what you had posted earlier might remain in their database without your knowledge! And might still be used. All the terms and conditions are subject to change, but this is how it is at the moment. That is why deletion of an account is much difficult than creating one. Take Facebook, for example. It's 'delete' option is hidden from visibility. People just 'deactivate' accounts, keeping it still alive through comments and data posted on other people's accounts. Then often they are tempted to log in again, making the account active once again.

What the Law Says :

Instead of putting the legal aspects of the rights held with these sites, I would rather quote the experts and would prefer you to check the authenticity of my words from the proper sources.
Check this link from the Law Offices of Craig Delsack, LLC which explains  what rights the social media sites have over your private pictures and content : 
http://www.nyccounsel.com/business-blogs-websites/who-owns-photos-and-videos-posted-on-facebook-or-twitter/

Rights Held by Telephone Apps

Now let's come to telephone apps. So many of us download so many games and applications and give so much consent to the companies ourselves, without blinking an eye-lid! Without wondering whether such kind of app actually need such access. Some ask access to your location, to your files, pictures! I generally do not download apps unless I check out the kind of access they are seeking. The other day I was about to download one popular caller identification app and was shocked to see them seek access to my picture folder apart from Contact list (which was understandable). Then I remembered my colleague telling me that since downloading the app, he not only gets name of the person calling, but many times pictures of unknown people calling for first time too!

So I restrained myself from downloading the app and requested my close friends and family to delink any snap they might have associated to my number. Sometimes you accept terms and conditions of a company and indirectly put your own family and friends to risk or exposure. Imagine a husband associating a sensuous photo of his wife with her number. Then he downloads the app, giving photo files access which it asks for. And the next thing that will happen is that the photo will get associated with the particular number and when she calls a colleague, friend or even an unknown person, her associated photo will get flashed, provided no other photo is linked to her number. What an embarrassment! The app works on the principle that as soon as people keep adding to it, it reads all the data and picks the maximum names and now snap/s associated to that number and then stores that name and snap (if any) to that number. Suppose a casual photo is published on a social networking site and one has an unwanted stalker and he/she downloads that snap and saves it with number with a sleazy name attached to it, it is likely that name and snap will be associated to that number. Likewise, if you have a nickname. And imagine calling a prospective employer with your embarrassing petname / nickname flashing on his/her mobile. Your impression is already made!

My brother suggests that in such cases, you cannot educate everyone so better to create an account yourself and add your name and snap as you want it to appear (you can even have alphabets spelling your name out) in that account. That is always the first preference of the app. Alternatively, if you do not want to give too much access to the app, yet want to find details of callers, you can subsequently delete the app from your mobile and yet log into your account from a laptop / desktop or mobile net and search up the names of callers.

For all other apps, be careful which access it is seeking. Download only the popular ones offered by good companies. Rest is upto you, how much access you want to give to an application.

Online Data Selling and Identity Theft

Ever wondered why as you sign up for online retailer accounts, shopping cards at big stores, you start getting more and more emails of Ads and more shopping sites in your email-box and mobile phone! As you shop through these channels, you are a potential buyer for other sites / stores as well. So either openly or discretely, this data is passed on to other retailers. If you are registered for DNC / DND, you might not get Ad sms, unless officially registered with some retailer. So your email ID is again vulnerable. And your email IDs get filled with promotions and advertisements.

Advertisements are still fine. But when your email box is filled with sleazy spam and phishing emails, its horrible! Most email providers scan such type of emails and direct it to your spam folder. But still, others keep flowing in. 

How do they get their data? The resumes / CVs that you upload on job portals, your social media accounts; these are the sources of your data theft. And if that wasn't enough, nowadays I've seen individuals selling their contact lists online! Email, phone... Everyone for money. Imagine your own friend doing that?!

Then there are these representatives at malls approaching you with 'contest forms' asking you to fill all details. Once you do that, then of course, you will be getting emails and calls of various schemes and requests. You can still report calls for promotions / advertisement received on DND registered mobile numbers.

As long as data is used for promotional activity also, you are still safe. But when it is used to steal your money or identity, it is a fraud.

Identity Theft Frauds

Identity theft can be done by stealing your email, phone number, credit and debit card details, your ATM PIN, your account details. 

How is this possible? Sometimes we pass on credit / debit card details over phone, sms and social media sites, emails. Or write details somewhere and leave it. Or keep your cards carelessly. Someone could overhear a conversation, hack into your social media account, copy details of your credit/ debit cards and if they know your personal details also, they can easily access your netbanking account or make online payments! I've noticed how some shopkeepers refuse to handover their swipe POS to user and blatantly ask the the shopper for their PIN. And some shoppers actually do that. Never ever do that! Even if the shopkeeper makes you look bad or cranky. People might watch or hear the PINs being keyed in and rob your wallet as you walk out. And voila, they have access to your money! Before you discover the theft and deactivate your card, your account could have been wiped out.

Apart from credit / debit card information theft, you might be sent heart touching emails seeking donations for a cause and ask your bank details and passwords. These links direct you to fraudulent sites where data is received and stored. If not an emotional email, it might be a phishing email appearing to be sent from regulatory authority. Such emails scare people into replying to them. Another way is to send emails for job opportunities. Such emails will appear too good to be true. They will be willing to hire you without interview. By just filling a form. And the moment you reply to the email, you will be asked to part with money, for which you will be directed to a fraudulent link or asked for bank details or told to wire money to some account.

How does one identify if an email is authentic ? One sure-shot way of doing so is to check if the sender has sent email from his/ her organisation account. You cannot have officials from government bodies or big organisations sending you emails from their yahoo and gmail IDs! You can also look up HoaxSlayer site to check if such emails are authentic.

Exporter-Importer Data Fraud

One important kind of fraud involving huge amounts is by accessing Invoices and Purchase orders exchanged by Importers and Exporters. Unlike earlier, where purchase orders actually moved in hard form and acceptance of order was obtained from purchaser, now a lot of quotations and orders are exchanged on emails. Most purchase orders or Proforma Invoices have bank details of Exporter. Hackers identify such traders and hack into their email IDs and replace the original Order or Invoice with a fraudulent one having bank details of some other account. Either this or a top up email on original email is sent stating change in bank details. The importer unsuspectingly makes payment to the wrong account without making a call to or verifying facts with the seller, only to loose large amounts of funds!

This can be avoided by keeping strong passwords, by exchanging emails only between two main parties instead of all and sundry in the company and also by verifying any data with the seller before parting with the funds.

Other types of Identity Thefts

In India, PAN card details are used for tax frauds. Earlier Indian Railways used to display PAN card details of passengers after finalisation of final passenger list and display on their boards. This was done for identification purposes. But eventually it turned out to be a source of data which was being stolen for certain kinds of tax frauds. This has since been discontinued. Sometimes PAN card copies are taken by various bankers and other organisations and sometimes excess copies could be taken as one isn't clear enough. Ensure to have all such extra copies destroyed. Else another customer walking into the organisation might misuse it.

Also while taking your valuable documents for photocopying, keep an eye on your documents and ensure no extra copies are being made without your consent.

Apart from data being used to rob you of your money, in today's time, it can be used to rob your identity and commit frauds and illegal activities. How ?

Suppose, an anti social element wants to commit some illegal activity. Earlier for creating accounts, one had to key in one's own User Name and check availability. That would be your account. Additionally some data was asked for, which was never verified. And you could have internet calling accounts, without being traced back. You could open various online accounts with self made user IDs and operate on fake data on anonymous basis. But now, as security check, companies are seeking email IDs for creating user accounts. Some even seek mobile number. Email IDs and mobile numbers can be traced back to user. But one intending fraud might not want to use a correct email ID or phone number. So they steal other email IDs to do so.

Last whole month, I had my gmail ID being used for creating social media accounts, mobile freecharging company account, online shopping account and even an account with an online dating site! Most of these companies had added my email ID without sending me email ID confirmation link. A few who did, did not wait for the confirmation. Suddenly my email inbox was filled with activities and transactions which I was not even part of! I had to take action. I started writing to / logging complaints to each one of these sites/ companies. Twitter was most professional in delinking my email account without any further questions. But I had to take up with the dating site very strongly before they could delete my account. The mobile charging company asked me to send email from correct ID! 

Here I would like to highlight one interesting thing. All the accounts were made from my gmail ID. My gmail ID has a dot separator between my surname and first name. But interestingly these accounts were created using email ID having no separator! At first I was fooled into thinking that this was some other account and erroneously I was receiving the emails. Then thanks to my brother, I learnt one interesting fact.

For a layman, both these email ids (one with a dot and one without) may be different but the reality is that gmail considers any email ID as same. For example, I could even send a mail to p.e.t.e.r@gmail.com or pet.er@gmail.com, but both would reach the correct email ID, that is, peter@gmail.com. So probably gmail does not allow users to create user IDs with dots if the same email without dots is already created.
Please refer to the link below for confirmation:

So when I was asked to give deletion request from correct email ID, I had to inform company of the above fact, to have account deleted. This was amusing as the account creator was part of the IT industry and should have been aware of it.

Finally, after a lot of email communications and awareness messages to friends, I have all my accounts deleted. I was especially concerned about the dating site account. I was getting so many notifications. The account was made as an 18 year old and imagine if someone had posted objectionable content and pics using my identity! As I write this, another shopping account has been made in my name and some shipment has been ordered. I have informed the concerned company to look into the matter and delink my email ID from the account.

This incident has made me aware of so many frauds and security breaches. I knew some things, I learnt so much more. And my sole purpose of writing this article is to make others aware that all this is possible. So next time, you see unwanted / usual activity in your email ID, especially, creation of accounts which were not created by you, be alert. Write back to all of them and have the accounts deleted. Who knows what might be the intention!


Check below interesting links I came across which might help the reader to increase their awareness of data and identity theft :
http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html
http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft
http://www.allianceonemumbai.com/identify-signs-employee-fraud-business/

Better safe than sorry!


Picture courtesy : www.allianceonemumbai.com (Corporate Fraud Detectives in Mumbai)

Friday, March 21, 2014

The flop tale of reduction of plastic usage in Mumbai

 
After successful implementation of plastic ban in many states/ areas, a similar plan was introduced in Mumbai too with slight changes. Mumbai being a big commercial capital with a combination of people from all backgrounds and a huge population, its not easy to implement big social awareness plans easily. So a different policy was adopted. Everything in Mumbai, from vegetables to fish to meat to roadside eatables were handed out in fine plastic bags. It is said that these plastic bags were also one of the major causes of the floods of 2005 in Mumbai due to clogging of drainages.
 
So the first policy adopted was - plastic bags thinner than 50 microns were banned in the city some years ago. This is being implemented and successful to an extent. But still in small lanes and areas, this is flouted sometimes (or many times?). There is no control in busy commercial areas of Mumbai which are congested by traders, people and traffic! Offenders are caught at times, plastic is seized and fine is levied, but in Mumbai everything is comparative. For a small time trader/ hawker, if getting a good plastic (more than 50 microns) costs Rs 1000/- for example and gets him business worth Rs 5000/- to Rs. 10,000/- per day, this might mean profit of Rs 2000/- to Rs.5000/- per day less Rs. 1000/- expenses (of good plastic purchased). Whereas a finer quality cheaper plastic may cost him Rs 100 to Rs 200/ and increase profit margin. And the possibility of being caught is once in few months and at that time a fine of Rs.5000 or more could be levied. But this again would be less cost to trader as he has managed to earn much more profit due to this difference already. And these acts are not seriously implemented by officials. It is all arranged. What can be monitored daily is usually ignored and acted on once in a while, so both benefit. But there are many honest shopkeepers who have implemented usage of plastic more than 50 microns concept since implementation. And it has made a difference. Also there are 'aware citizens' who report offending small shops / vendors.
 
After this 'partly' successful phase, it was felt that a bigger plan was required to phase out use of plastics. All malls and stores were handing out your purchases, big and small, in complimentary plastic bags. And as is the case with Indians, after having made good purchases in a shop, especially garments, many ask for an extra bag for keeps or other usage. And 'other usages' for neat plastic bags of stores and shops meant carrying your lunch tiffins to work in it, students put their books in it for going for tuitions, carrying snacks for picnics or using for further shopping. Sometimes there is no use for them. They just pile in your house.
 
Then to control the 'happy with plastic' feel, another plan was implemented by the Government on 1st July 2011. The retailers were to charge between Rs.1- 7 per plastic bag being handed out against the purchases made. The customer is asked if he/ she needs a plastic bag. This was supposed to be a pilot project in Mumbai before being implemented in entire India. The idea of implementing this was to make people feel the pinch and think twice before opting for a plastic bag. It would make them responsible and carry a cloth, jute carry- bag alongwith them. This made a difference initially. And to some sections. People have started using carry bags, fancy jute bags and jholas along for shopping. A lot of free and extra bags culture has stopped and even students prefer backpacks to plastic bags even if the number of books is less.
 
But all said and done, most Mumbaikars are mostly on the go and travelling long distances to work and their lives are fast and mostly traffic or train-time driven. Late work hours and sometimes long travel hours leave you to manage time as and when available. If we manage to leave a bit early, we might just go and shop for essentials or luxuries. We are also impulsive buyers. The working crowd is earning well. A trip for a movie might result in some shopping. Nothing is planned. Everything is time driven or impulsive. So its highly unlikely that one is carrying shopping bags or extra bags/ jholas for shopping. When you are asked at the counter whether you need a bag, only that time you realize that you should have carried one. And in highly inflation driven expensive city, a Rs 5/- hardly matters. You end up saying 'Yes' to a plastic bag. And instead of causing awareness and sense of responsibility amongst Mumbaikars, this move has only resulted in additional profits for retailers!
 
If this money collected out of plastic bag sale is put for a good 'Go Green' cause and the same is highlighted alongwith Green environment messages on pinboards and posters within shops and malls, this might create more awareness. People would relate purchase of plastic shopping bags with their purchases as a unhealthy and socially irresponsible practice. And Retailers should also be made to realize that all this implementation is for a good cause and not just to earn extra bucks. And made socially responsible to use these funds effectively. The change should come from within to make this drive successful.
 
With the correct awareness and a little push, we will go a long way. I've bought a few carry bags, but only sometimes carry them even when I go shopping on weekends. Only on reaching a cash counter, I say to myself, 'Oh shit!' I too need a little push...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A new personal anthem



I just loved this video.
Its a song of hope. And gives you strength.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Yahoomail goes Valentine!~

Hey friends,

I happened to see the pumping heart near compose on yahoo mail today. Clicked it and was amused.

On clicking on the heart, you are led to Autocompose, wherein you are helped with composing a love message. There are 3 categories below : Crazy in Love, Friendly Love, Outta Love (for the broken hearts)

When you select a category and click on autocompose, a cute message pops up. You can keep selecting. Every time you click on a category and autocompose, a new message is drafted. You can select the one which is apt for you and send to your sweetheart (if you have one), friends, family just for the sake of some fun. Kinda cute.

Some examples of the love emails composed by Autoemail.


CRAZY IN LOVE


Dear cutie-patootie,

Your love is like a warm breeze. From the moment I set eyes on your angelic face, I knew I would love you forever. You're seriously everything. I would give up chocolate forever in exchange for five more minutes with you. 

Hubba hubba,
SS
_____________________

To my snookums,

You deserve every compliment that has ever been spoken. I feel sorry for those who do not know the life-changing love we share. You are more fragrant than a field of wildflowers. Wild horses couldn't drag me away. 

With all my heart and mind and soul and dreams,

______________________

Dear sugar cookie,

Your love is like a warm breeze. Your beauty stops me in my tracks. You are a work of art to behold. When we are apart, I am lost without hope. Your love is my north star, guiding me to true happiness. 

With all my heart and mind and soul and dreams,

_______________________

To my snookums,

Your hair glistens like fresh morning dew. I can scarcely believe my fortune to have found someone so divinely unique. I could not possibly love another with even a fraction of the affection I feel for you. Your inner light could illuminate the darkest night. 

Vroom vroom,

_______________________

Dear sugar cookie,

You make me feel as though I could fly. Without your love, I would shrivel up and blow away. You are simply luminous; a goddess among women. Your inner light could illuminate the darkest night. 

Lovesick and dizzy with anticipation,



FRIENDLY LOVE

To my talented friend,

Remember that one time we did that fun thing? That was my favorite day. You know, I've never seen you litter! Not once! I hope that the world sends you all the love that you deserve today. Basically, everyone should strive to be more like you. 

With love and friendship

_______________________


To someone fairly special,

Remember that one time we did that fun thing? That was my favorite day. You're the smartest, most original person I know. You're really good at doing math in your head, and I admire that. You have the heart of an adorable puppy. 

With admiration,


OUTTA LOVE

To someone who's over it,

Why does it always rain on me? Have you ever noticed that cupid rhymes with stupid? Someone should tell those kissing couples that it's flu season. You look like I need a hug. 

Love?! Pshhhht.

________________________


Dear Sir,

Enough is enough. I'm on the side of love's highway, as the world speeds by. There is no shame in a romantic dinner for one. Ugh, what was this email about? I got so bored I forgot. 

I want a refund,

_______________________________

To my like-minded friend,

Enough is enough. The tires of my lovemobile are flat. I'm mostly just bummed that nobody will be giving me an adorable puppy wearing a red bow (hint, hint). Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken? 

Blah, blah, blah,


Sunday, January 26, 2014

IMPLEMENTATION OF PUNISHMENTS, JUSTICE, CONFESSIONS, SINS IN ISLAM

Inspite of the Laws laid down by Quran and Hadith, there is a possibility that the laws of punishment are injustly applied in many cases. But incorrect implementation of laws of injustice given to victims is not error in Islam. It is error in implementation of Justice by its followers. Do not take muslims as an examples of Islam. Because many of the Muslims are doing what suits them. Look at Islam and its laws to understand it.

Many times it is seen that while meting out justice in society, even religious leaders tend to be biased towards men. Also in some countries the overall justice implementation is different for the common man and for the the royals! And in that too, Islamic laws are tweaked to suit own biases against a section of society / group.

When Injustice is given out in judgement, then the Qazi / lawyer is doing further crimes himself.
  1. Abetting the crime / criminal.
  2. Denying the prescribed punishment to the criminal, hence denial to Allah’s command.
  3. Denying justice to the victim.
And if the victim herself / himself is further forced punishment under another unrelated law, then you are becoming an oppressor or wrong doer of the oppressed, which is another sin.
Please find some verses from Surah Al Maidah, which talk about implementation of Justice

5:8 O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people's enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just. That is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is Aware of what you do. 

5:42 They are eager listeners to falsehood, devourers of things forbidden. If, then, they come to thee for judgment, judge between them or turn aside from them. And if thou turn aside from them, they cannot harm thee at all. And if thou judge, judge between them with justice. Surely Allah loves those who are just.

5:50 Do they then seek the judgment of the days of Ignorance. And who is better than Allah as a judge for a people who have firm faith? 

I also want to discuss another important thing here. We have seen / learnt that in certain matters, Islamic law is strict and capital punishment is prescribed for them. Here, I am talking about the punishments for fornication and adultery. What is important to know here is also that though Allah has prescribed strict punishments in sins involving immorality / character, at the same time we have been guided towards keeping some personal sins a secret. If a sin involves honour and character, then the best way is to keep it a secret and seek sincere forgiveness from Allah and abstain from doing it again.

CONCEAL YOUR SIN

If you study further on this issue, it is brought forth in 2-3 ways.

Confession of Sin

 In the hadiths, where Prophet Mohammed SAS was brought forth cases wherein individuals have themselves come forth and accepted their adultery or illicit sexual relations, (unless witnessed by others or there existed a proof, through resultant pregnancy or any other form), then in each case you will see that our beloved prophet has asked them to go back and reconsider their confession. In some cases, the question was asked 3-4 times and when the confessor kept admitting it, only then was the punishment implemented.

Let us take the example when Maiz Ibn Malik came to the Prophet Muhammed SAS and asked him to purify him, the Prophet (SAS) said to him, “Allah have mercy on you!  Go away and ask Allah’s forgiveness! Maiz then left but soon returned and asked again to be purified, and the Prophet (SAS) repeated what he had said.  The same thing then happened a third time, and it was only after the fourth time that the Prophet (SAS) asked Maiz some further Questions and ordered him to be punished (related by Muslim + others).  When the hadd punishment was enforced on him, Maiz tried to run away but those stoning him chased him down and forcibly enforced the punishment on him.  When the Prophet (SAS) heard about this, he disapproved and said, ‘Why didn’t you let him go? Perhaps he would have made repentance and Allah would have accepted his repentance.’ (Abu Dawud) 

 Ibn Hajar notes in his Tuhfa that all of the offers made by the Messenger of Allah and his subsequent disapproval of his companions actions indicate that it is superior for one not to confess to committing zina, and that even if one did, it is recommended to withdraw one’s confession.  Otherwise, the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) offers would be meaningless (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 9.113).

Allah says in Soorah an-Nisa (4): 148, "Allah does not like that evil should be uttered in public except by him who has been wronged."

Through this verse of Surah An Nisa, it is further clarified that if a sin like rape or other kind of abuse is committed on a person, then he/ she has full right to talk about it, in order to get justice.

Boasting about Sin

The Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: "My entire nation is safe, except al-Mujahirin(those who boast of their sins). Among the Mujaharah is that a man commits an (evil) act, and wakes up in the morning while Allah has kept his (sin) a secret, he says: "O Fulan! Last night I did this and that." He goes to sleep while Allah has kept his (sin) a secret but he wakes up in the morning and uncovers what Allah has kept a secret!" [Saheeh al-Bukharee]

Through this Hadith, it is clear that committing a sin is disliked by Allah, but worst is committing a sin and then boasting about it. This is like committing an error and then propagating it and making it sound lucrative to others.

Hide in Allah’s cover and seek forgiveness.

Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Hence HE has suggested ways to atone for your sins apart from prescribing harsh punishments for committing it. It is very easy to brand Islam as barbaric. But the softness of Islam and the parts about forgiveness and mercy of Allah are not often highlighted. Even within Islam, I have seen that many muslims selectively quote somes hadiths out of context which save and protect their wrong or unjust behavior. And very conveniently ignore the related hadiths/ verses of Quran which were also to be referred to.

 "O People! It is time for you to refrain from transgressing Allah's limits. He who commits some of these filthy acts(such as fornication), let him hide under Allah's cover, for whoever admits what he has committed, we will establish Allah's Book as regards him(by applying the warranted punishment for this sin)." [Musnad Ahmad]

Abdullah Ibn Masoud (RA) related, 'A man came to the Prophet and said: 'O Messenger of Allah! I have mingled with a woman in the far side of al-Medina, and I fulfilled my desire short of actually having sexual intercourse with her. So, here am I, judge me according to what you decide.' Umar Ibn al-Khattab (RA) then said: 'Allah had kept your secret, why did not you keep your secret?' [Sharh Muslim]


Covering sin of another.

Similarly, if one becomes aware of somebody else's sin, he should keep it a secret.

Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) said: "He, who relieves a hardship of this Duniya (world) for a believer, Allah will relieve (from him) a hardship of the Day of Resurrection; he who makes easy an indebted person, Allah will make it easy for him in the Duniya and the Hereafter; he who covers a Muslim (meaning his mistakes and shortcomings), Allah will cover him in the Duniya and the Hereafter…" [Muslim]

Points to Remember   

Let us understand that here we are discussing the sins of honour and character. We are not discussing greater crimes of terror like murder, blood-shedding, rape and the like.
  •  The purpose of concealing your sin / another’s should be seeking forgiveness from Allah and then proceeding on the Right Path.
  •  It should not culminate in a heap of sins with no signs of reform and only eagerness to conceal them by all means.
  •  If you know that a certain person is harmful to society and your witness against him, will save others lives, then it is not advisable to conceal his/her sins.
The previous post about punishments might have made many shudder or shift in their seats. This related post, proves only one thing : Allah is Kind, Understanding, Forgiving and Merciful. Subhan Allah.



Saturday, January 25, 2014

SOME MAJOR PUNISHMENTS FOR MAJOR SINS PRESCRIBED IN ISLAM


The penal laws of Islam are called ‘Hudud’ in the Hadith and Fiqh. This word is the plural of Hadd, which means prevention, hindrance, restraint, prohibition, and hence a restrictive ordinance or statute of God, respecting things lawful and unlawful.
Punishments are divided into two classes, one of which is called 1)Hadd and the other 2) Ta'zir.
The Hadd is a measure of punishment defined by the Qur'an and the Sunnah. In Ta'zir, the court, is allowed to use its discretion in regard to the form and measure in which such punishment is to be inflicted.

Punishments by way of Hadd are of the following forms: death by stoning, amputation of a limb or limbs, flogging by one hundred or eighty strokes. They are prescribed respectively for the following offences: adultery committed by married persons, theft, highway robbery, drunkenness and slander imputing unchastity to women.

The punishments described above are the maximum punishments for the above mentioned crimes. These can be reduced keeping in view the circumstances in which the crimes were committed, the nature of the evidence, and the motive of the criminal with which he committed the crime.

Let's see what the Hadiths say about sins and their punishments in general:

Narrated by Abu Huraira
Allah's Apostle said, "When an adulterer commits illegal sexual intercourse, then he is not a believer at the time he is doing it; and when somebody drinks an alcoholic drink, then he is not believer at the time of drinking, and when a thief steals, he is not a believer at the time when he is stealing; and when a robber robs and the people look at him, then he is not a believer at the time of doing it."

Reference : Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 81, Number 763

Let us discuss the various punishments prescribed in Quran for various crimes / sins

PUNISHMENT FOR THEFT

The punishment for theft for a man and woman is – Cutting off of hands!

{[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they earned [i.e. committed] as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.}[Quran 5:38].

Sahih Muslim

'A'isha reported that she heard Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: The hand of the thief may not be cut off but for a quarter of a dinar and upwards.
Jaibir reported that a woman from the tribe of Makhzum committed theft. She was brought to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and she sought refuge (intercession) from Umm Salama, the wife of Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him). Thereupon Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: By Allah, even if she were Fatima, I would have her hand cut off. And thus her hand was cut off.

PUNISHMENT FOR ADULTERY/ FORNICATION :

The [Unmarried] woman or [unmarried] man found guilty of sexual intercourse — lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the religion [i.e. law] of Allaah, if you should believe in Allaah and the Last Day. And let a group of the believers witness their punishment.}[Quran 24:2].

When an unmarried man and unmarried woman commit fornication/ adultery / zina and it is proved by witnesses / self confession or pregnancy, then both are to be lashed 100 times and banished/ exhiled for a year.

If a married male commits adultery with a female married to another man and the same is proved by witnesses or self confession, then both of them are entitled to 100 lashes and and have to be stoned to death

'Ubada b. as-Samit reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Receive (teaching) from me, receive (teaching) from me. Allah has ordained a way for those (women). When an unmarried male commits adultery with an unmarried female (they should receive) one hundred lashes and banishment for one year. And in case of married male committing adultery with a married female, they shall receive one hundred lashes and be stoned to death.

Many confuse this with Rape and end up unduly/ unjustly punishing a woman alongwith man for an act of violence against her.

PUNISHMENT FOR RAPE

Some people seem to confuse Islamic law by equating rape to sex outside of marriage (adultery or fornication). However, throughout Islamic history there have been scholars who classified rape as a form of terrorism (hiraba). There have also been specific examples in Islamic history which can shed light on how early Muslims handled this crime and its punishment.
Examples from Early Islamic History
During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, a rapist was punished based on only the testimony of the victim. Wa'il ibn Hujr reported that a womam publicly identified a man who had raped her. The people caught the man and brought him to the Prophet Muhammad. He told the woman to go, that she was not to be blamed, and ordered that the man be put to death.

In another case, a woman brought her infant to the mosque and publicly spoke about the rape that had resulted in her pregnancy. When confronted, the accused admitted the crime to the  who ordered his punishment. The woman was not punished.
Rape : Adultery or Terrorism?
It is incorrect to say that rape is merely a subcategory of adultery or fornication. In the well-known Islamic legal book, "Fiqh-us-Sunnah," rape is included in a definition of hiraba (terrorism or crimes of violence): "A single person or group of people causing public disruption, killing, forcibly taking property or money, attacking or raping women, killing cattle, or disrupting agriculture." This distinction is important when discussing the evidence required to prove the crime.

Other Points of Views and Fatwas on Rape Punishment
 Ibn `Abdul-Barr (may Allah bless his soul) said :
The scholars are unanimously agreed that the rapist is to be subjected to the hadd punishment if there is clear evidence against him that he deserves the hadd punishment, or if he admits to that. Otherwise, he is to be punished (that is, if there is no proof that the hadd punishment for zina may be carried out against him because he does not confess and there are not four witnesses, then the judge may punish him and stipulate a punishment that will deter him and others like him). There is no punishment for the woman if it is true that he forced her and overpowered her. (Al-Istidhkaar, 7/146). 
In addition, the rapist is subject to the hadd punishment for zina, even if the rape was not carried out at knifepoint or gunpoint. If the use of a weapon was threatened, then he is a muharib, and is to be subjected to the hadd punishment described in the verse in which Allah says  (The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter) (Al-Ma’idah 5:33). 
So the judge has the choice of the four punishments mentioned in this verse and may choose whichever he thinks is most suitable to attain the objective, which is to spread peace and security in society, and ward off evildoers and aggressors.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
A raped woman is a victim that must be treated with honor and kindness. She is not required to produce four witnesses to prove the crime done against her, nor is she punished for the crime done against her. 


A woman who has been raped cannot be asked to produce witnesses; her claim shall be accepted unless there are tangible grounds to prove otherwise. To insist that she provide witnesses is akin to inflicting further pain on her. If anyone refutes her claim of innocence, the onus is on him to provide evidence, and she may simply deny the claim by making a solemn oath, thus clearing herself in public. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The onus to provide evidence falls on the one who makes a claim, and the one who denies (the same) can absolve himself or herself by making a solemn oath to the contrary.” 



SLANDERING A CHASTE WOMAN :

This law is there to avoid people from falsely accusing others of zina / fornication/ adultery.

{And those who accuse chaste women and then do not produce four witnesses — lash them with eighty lashes and do not accept from   them testimony ever after.}[Quran 24:4]
.
Many a times, a woman apart from becoming a victim of rape or sexual assault, often has people accusing her only for bringing on the crime on herself. Some doubt her own chastity and behavior. Some comment on her clothing and some on her actions. But rape can happen to anyone. Even a well clad female. Also some men try to put the blame on her to avoid themselves from being punished.
To dissuade such people, it is ordained that if anyone is proved of having slandering a woman’s chastity without witnesses or proof, then such a person is himself / herself entitled to 2 punishments :
     1)  80 lashes
      2)  The person’s testimony should never ever be accepted.

UNJUST KILLING / BLOODSHED

"...If anyone kills a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people" (Qur'an 5:32).

"...Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom" (Quran 6:151).

Punishment and retribution

{And whoever is killed unjustly — We have given his heir authority, but let him not exceed limits in [the matter of] taking life.}[Quran 17:33].

Islam is against killing of the innocents.

The Prophet Mohammed SAS said, "The first cases to be decided among the people (on the Day of Resurrection) will be those of blood-shed."

Hadith Sahih Bukhari (law ordained by quoting the Quran) :

The law of Qisas (i.e. equality in punishment) was prescribed for the children of Israel, but the Diya (i.e.blood money was not ordained for them). So Allah said to this Nation (i.e. Muslims): "O you who believe! The law of Al-Qisas (i.e. equality in punishment) is prescribed for you in cases of murder: The free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if the relatives (or one of them) of the killed (person) forgive their brother (i.e. the killers something of Qisas (i.e. not to kill the killer by accepting blood money in the case of intentional murder)...then the relatives (of the killed person) should demand blood-money in a reasonable manner and the killer must pay with handsome gratitude. This is an allevitation and a Mercy from your Lord, (in comparison to what was prescribed for the nations before you). So after this, whoever transgresses the limits (i.e. to kill the killer after taking the blood-money) shall have a painful torment." (Quran 2 :178)

The Qur'an legislates the death penalty for murder, although forgiveness and compassion are strongly encouraged.

Islam has prescribed two ways in which murder / killings can be handled

1) Capital Punishment
2) Foregiveness in lieu of Blood Money (compensation to the victim’s family)

The murder victim's family is given a choice to either insist on the death penalty, or to pardon the perpetrator and accept monetary compensation for their loss

Here again, the point to be noted is that when Punishment is given, the criminal is cleansed of his sins (Allah knows best), but when a pardon is sought through blood money, the balancing of the sin committed is done through another ways.
a) In forgiveness, the victim’s family’s status is raised in front of the Almighty.
b) The sins of the forgiver are burdened on the murderer.

This is best explained through the following narration from Sahih Muslim Book 16 Hadith Number 4164.

These are some of the major Punishments prescribed in Quran and Hadiths for some of the bigger sins.

Some of us, and many non- Muslims will find the punishments too harsh. But all laws and punishments are made with the intention to avoid the Crime from taking place (if all punishments are implemented justly)


When doubts are raised in our minds about the kind of punishments ordained by the Almighty, reflect on these verses of Surah Al Maidah :

5:98 Know that Allah is Severe in punishment and that Allah is also Most Forgiving and ever Merciful. 

5:101 O ye who believe! ask not about things which, if revealed to you, would cause you trouble, though if you ask about them while the Qur'├ín is being sent down they will be revealed to you. Allah has left them out on purpose. And Allah is Most Forgiving and Forbearing. 

We will discuss the smaller punishments for other behaviours / sins in another topic, Insha Allah.

Sources :
Sahih Muslim
Sahih Bukhari