Friday, June 14, 2024 AD / Dhul-Hijjah 7, 1445 AH
Mansoor Hashemi Khorasani
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Question & Answer

I want to know the opinion of His Excellency Allamah Mansoor Hashemi Khorasani about copyright laws.

According to the opinion of Allamah Mansoor Hashemi Khorasani, may God protect him, the basis of rights in Islam is ownership; meaning that everyone has the right to take possession of what he owns, provided that his possession does not contradict the rulings of Islam or prevent others from taking possession of what they own, and this is the meaning of a well-known rule that says: «النَّاسُ مُسَلَّطُونَ عَلَى أَمْوَالِهِمْ»; “People are in control of their belongings”. Based on this, whoever writes a book is considered its owner and can take possession of it, by reproducing it or selling it or donating it, and others cannot take possession of it without his permission, and if they do so, they are responsible for it. Yes, they can take possession of it after buying it, by reproducing it or selling it or donating it, even though the author is not satisfied with it; because its ownership has been transferred from the author to the buyer due to sale, and the buyer has the right to take possession of what he owns, just as the author had a similar right when he was the owner, and it is clear that there is no difference between the ownership arising from authorship and the ownership arising from buying, except in relation to moral rights which are not transferable and are reserved for the author; because the identity of the author is an external reality that does not change with the change of nominal matters, and therefore, concealing it is considered a deceit, and showing anything opposite to it is considered a lie, which are unlawful; as God Almighty has said: ﴿وَلَا تَلْبِسُوا الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُوا الْحَقَّ وَأَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ[1]; “And do not cover the truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know”. This is the rule for whoever produces something and then sells it, and it seems that there is no disagreement about it except in relation to the right of reproduction; because there is no known difference in the fact that whoever buys something can sell or donate it, but the known disagreement is about the permissibility of its reproduction, in the sense of copying and multiplying it, although the rule is general and includes it, and there is nothing in the Book or the Sunnah that specifies it. Based on this, the buyer has the right to sell, donate and reproduce what he has bought; because he owns it, and whoever owns something can sell it, donate it, and reproduce it, but he cannot conceal the identity of the one who has produced it, or do worse than that by attributing its production to himself or to a third party.

But can the producer stipulate inthe contract that what he sells must not be reproduced or sold or donated? The truth is that he cannot; because this stipulation contradicts the buyer’s possession of what he owns, and in this respect it contradicts the Book of God; while the Messenger of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family, has said: «مَا بَالُ أَقْوَامٍ يَشْتَرِطُونَ شُرُوطًا لَيْسَتْ فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ؟! مَنِ اشْتَرَطَ شَرْطًا لَيْسَ فِي كِتَابِ اللَّهِ فَلَيْسَ لَهُ -أَوْ قَالَ: فَهُوَ بَاطِلٌ- وَإِنِ اشْتَرَطَ مِائَةَ مَرَّةٍ»; “What is the matter with people who stipulate conditions that are not in book of God?! Whoever stipulates a condition that is not in the Book of God does not have any right -or he said: it is false- even though he has stipulated a hundred such conditions”, and this is a Hadith whose content is mutawatir. Moreover, the producer’s motive for the stipulation that what he sells must not be reproduced or sold or donated is nothing but profiteering, in the sense of greed for making more profit, while profiteering in this sense contradicts Islamic morality; as God Almighty has said: ﴿أَلْهَاكُمُ التَّكَاثُرُ[2]; “You are obsessed by the greed for more”, and said: ﴿ذَرْنِي وَمَنْ خَلَقْتُ وَحِيدًا ۝ وَجَعَلْتُ لَهُ مَالًا مَمْدُودًا ۝ وَبَنِينَ شُهُودًا ۝ وَمَهَّدْتُ لَهُ تَمْهِيدًا ۝ ثُمَّ يَطْمَعُ أَنْ أَزِيدَ ۝ كَلَّا[3]; “Leave me with the one I created alone; and I granted to him wealth extensive; and sons present; and I made life very easy for him; and yet, he greedily desires that I give him more; Never!”, and said: ﴿وَلَا تَمْنُنْ تَسْتَكْثِرُ[4]; “And do not confer favor to gain more”; rather, the stipulation that the product must not be reproduced or sold or donated due to greed for profiteering, is miserliness and enjoining miserliness, which are unlawful in Islam; as God Almighty has said: ﴿الَّذِينَ يَبْخَلُونَ وَيَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبُخْلِ وَيَكْتُمُونَ مَا آتَاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ ۗ وَأَعْتَدْنَا لِلْكَافِرِينَ عَذَابًا مُهِينًا[5]; “Those who are miserly and enjoin others to be miserly and conceal what God has given them of His grace, We have prepared a humiliating punishment for disbelievers”, and said: ﴿الَّذِينَ يَبْخَلُونَ وَيَأْمُرُونَ النَّاسَ بِالْبُخْلِ ۗ وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ[6]; “Those who are miserly and enjoin others to be miserly, and whoever turns away, then God is indeed the Rich, the Praiseworthy”, and said: ﴿وَلَا يَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ يَبْخَلُونَ بِمَا آتَاهُمُ اللَّهُ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ هُوَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ ۖ بَلْ هُوَ شَرٌّ لَهُمْ ۖ سَيُطَوَّقُونَ مَا بَخِلُوا بِهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ ۗ وَلِلَّهِ مِيرَاثُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ[7]; “And those who are miserly with what God has given them of His grace shall not suppose that it is good for them, but rather it is an evil for them, they will be collared by that with which they were miserly on the Day of Judgment, and to God belongs the inheritance of the heavens and the earth, and God is Aware of whatever you do”; especially in relation to scholarly and cultural products; because profiteering, miserliness, and enjoining miserliness in relation to them lead to depriving the poor of knowledge and culture and the rich’s monopoly of them; as one of our companions informed us, he said:

«سَمِعْتُ الْمَنْصُورَ الْهَاشِمِيَّ الْخُرَاسَانِيَّ يَقُولُ: إِنَّ مِنْ أَبْغَضِ عِبَادِ اللَّهِ إِلَيْهِ عَبْدًا آتَاهُ اللَّهُ عِلْمًا فَأَرَادَ بِهِ مَنْفَعَةَ الدُّنْيَا، فَمَنَعَهُ مِنَ الْفُقَرَاءِ وَعَرَضَهُ عَلَى الْأَغْنِيَاءِ، لِيَشْتَرِيَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا وَيَصُدَّ عَنْ سَبِيلِهِ، ﴿أُولَئِكَ مَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ إِلَّا النَّارَ وَلَا يُكَلِّمُهُمُ اللَّهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَلَا يُزَكِّيهِمْ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ[8]»; “I heard Mansoor Hashemi Khorasani say: Indeed, one of the most hateful servants of God with Him is the one whom God has given knowledge, but he has sought the benefit of the world by it; so he has kept it from the needy and offered it to the rich in order to sell the revelations of God for a small price and keep from His path! ‘They eat into their bellies nothing but fire, God will neither speak to them nor purify them on the Day of Judgment, and for them will be a painful punishment!’”.

Yes, if the lack of prohibition of reproducing, selling, and donating scholarly and cultural products causes a decrease in their production lower than the extent necessary, then it is obligatory for the Imam to provide financial support to their producers by giving them a wage or a reward from the treasury; as one of our companions informed us, he said:

«سَأَلْتُ الْمَنْصُورَ عَنِ الرَّجُلِ يَكُونُ لَهُ عِلْمٌ فَيَكْتُبُ كِتَابًا، أَلَهُ أَنْ يَبِيعَهُ مِنَ النَّاسِ فَيَرْبَحَ عَلَيْهِمْ؟ قَالَ: لَا يَنْبَغِي لَهُ ذَلِكَ، إِلَّا أَنْ يَكُونَ كِتَابًا يَنْفَعُهُمْ فِي دُنْيَاهُمْ، قُلْتُ: أَلَهُ أَنْ يَشْتَرِطَ عَلَيْهِمْ أَنْ يَكْتُمُوهُ، فَلَا يَبِيعُوهُ وَلَا يَهَبُوهُ، لِيَزْدَادَ بِذَلِكَ رِبْحًا، إِنْ كَانَ كِتَابًا يَنْفَعُهُمْ فِي دُنْيَاهُمْ؟ قَالَ: لَيْسَ لَهُ أَنْ يَشْتَرِطَ مَا يُخَالِفُ كِتَابَ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ، قُلْتُ: فَمَنْ يَرْغَبُ بَعْدَ هَذَا فِي الْكِتَابَةِ؟! قَالَ: إِنَّمَا يَرْغَبُ فِيهَا مَنْ يَبْتَغِي فَضْلًا مِنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانًا، وَهُوَ أَحَقُّ بِهَا وَأَهْلُهَا، وَمَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ وَأَبْقَى، فَمَكَثَ هُنَيْئَةً ثُمَّ قَالَ: عَلَى الْإِمَامِ أَنْ يُنْفِقَ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ بَيْتِ الْمَالِ، أَوْ يَجْعَلَ لَهُ جَائِزَةً، إِنْ كَانَ كِتَابُهُ مِمَّا يَنْفَعُ النَّاسَ، ﴿إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ[9]»; “I asked Mansoor about a man who has knowledge, so he writes a book, is it permissible for him to sell it to people in order to take a profit from them? He said: This is not appropriate for him unless it is a book that benefits them in their world. I said: If it is a book that benefits them in their world, then is it permissible for him to stipulate a condition that they must conceal it, then do not sell or donate it, in order to increase his profit in this way? He said: It is not permissible for him to stipulate a condition that contradicts the Book of God the Exalted, the Majestic. I said: Then who will be interested in writing after this?! He said: The only one who will be interested in it is the one who seeks the grace and satisfaction of God, and he deserves it more and is one of its people, and what is with God is better and more lasting! Then he paused for a while and then said: It is up to the Imam to pay him from the treasury or to give him a reward if his book is one of the things that benefit people; ‘because God does not waste the reward of good-doers’”.

This is the ruling of Islam on reproduction, which has been legislated to support the least wealthy people, so that knowledge is accessible to everyone and not monopolized by the rich, even though profiteers, capitalists, taxpayers, those who support them and are reciprocally supported by them hate it, ﴿وَاللَّهُ بَصِيرٌ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ[10]; “and God is the All-Seer of whatever they do”.

*For further explanations, refer to the arabic text.
↑[1] . Al-Baqarah/ 42
↑[2] . At-Takathur/ 1
↑[3] . Al-Muddaththir/ 11 to 16
↑[4] . Al-Muddaththir/ 6
↑[5] . An-Nisa/ 37
↑[6] . Al-Hadid/ 24
↑[7] . Al Imran/ 180
↑[8] . Al-Baqarah/ 174
↑[9] . At-Tawbah/ 120
↑[10] . Al-Baqarah/ 96
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