Dubai’s Islamic authority issues fatwa on stealing Wi-Fi

'There is nothing wrong in using the line if your neighbours allow you to do so, but if they don’t allow you, you may not use it,' the fatwa said.

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ABU DHABI // Using other people’s Wi-Fi without their knowledge is frowned on in Islam – and in some cases prohibited, a religious scholar says.

“Such thefts even exist on an international level,” said a scholar for the Fatwa hotline of the Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, or Awqaf.

“Some people steal it from other countries, and that is considered a direct damage to public money and therefore 100 per cent forbidden.”

And while using neighbours’ Wi-Fi without telling them is technically not illegal, it is not right, the scholar said.

“Morally and ethically, one should not use the Wi-Fi of their neighbours without informing them because it could weaken their network and it is under their property rights,” he said.

“If we were to determine if it was religiously forbidden or not, we have to look at the privacy and usage laws, and if the extra usage would result in additional expenses for the neighbour.”

But hacking into a secured Wi-Fi account “is not permissible at all. It is like crossing the property rights of others”.

If a user was at a mall and their device connected to the Wi-Fi, “there is no issue, because the mall is big and has special devices”.

The UAE cybercrime law makes only hacking into a ­secured Wi-Fi account illegal, said Yazan Al Rawashdeh, a ­legal adviser.

“If the account was not secured with a password there is no legal accountability against the person who used it,” Mr Al Rawashdeh said. “Only if he hacks into the account is the act prosecuted by the cybercrime law.

“If it were proven, the offender is usually sentenced to a Dh1,000 fine or so.”

Suhaila bin Eissa, 45, a housewife from Tunisia, said she once caught the cleaners in her building using her apartment’s Wi-Fi account.

“My apartment is next to the fire exit staircase, and I always saw the cleaners standing there cleaning over and over again,” Ms bin Eissa said.

“Our corridor was always cleaner than the others.”

Then one day, she caught them using Skype from her family’s network.

“My husband spoke to them and told them that this is considered stealing and that they should have asked for permission,” Ms bin Eissa said.

Shahd Mardini had a hacking attack on her Wi-Fi.

“Websites wouldn’t open and it became very difficult to upload pictures,” said Ms Mardini, 24, a Syrian housewife. “When we called Etisalat they kept asking us to restart and refresh.”

An Etisalat representative checked the problem and concluded that their account must have been hacked.

“So we changed the router and he gave us a new password. Then it became normal again,” Ms Mardini said.

The Dubai Islamic Affairs ­Department posted a fatwa on its website in response to a reader’s inquiry, condemning the act of stealing neighbours’ Wi-Fi as contradictory to Islamic conduct.

“There is nothing wrong in ­using the line if your neighbours allow you to do so, but if they don’t allow you, you may not use it,” the fatwa said.