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Plagiarism is Shameful



If we don't kill the instincts of plagiarism in us even in their avoidable circumstances, it would continue to haunt our academic system in a serious manner. Like I pointed out in previous notes on this issue, plagiarism or copying of works without proper reference in matters of the religion is more blameworthy. The reason why we should acknowledge whatever we take from other people's work is to protect knowledge and sanitize the academic system

Not up to a month, I saw some of my articles flying around Whatsapp without proper reference. In fact, a friend of my shared one of them with me. I later had to ask him where he got them from. The truth is that if I see my articles, even if it is more than ten years old, I know them. The same thing with my quotes. Every writer has a way of identifying his works, no matter how long it is. My friend also told me that as he was reading those articles, he perceived my pen in them. So, I tried to search the name I used to see under those articles. I saw the name on Facebook, and I noticed he had shared many of my articles on his wall using his pseudo name. I went through some of the comments in those posts, I noticed the person doesn't give answers to questions raised, but he often acknowledges the praises and prayers from readers. I had to send him some messages (through inbox) and I made him to realize his mistakes. AlhamduliLlaah, he knew he guilty, but he gave an excuse that he meant good. I never doubted his good intention, I believed his excuse and I gave him benefit of doubt. But the truth of the mattet is that the act of replacing original writer's name with an entirely different name (pseudo or otherwise) is wrong. We sincerely need to get ourselves educated more on this. May Allaah rectify our affairs.

One thing I noticed in the brother is that he is a constant visitor of my old blog. Recently, he has been sending me observations on my past articles. Those observations have been excellent. I have had reasons to change my opinions in some of my past articles. He would send me some fatwas so that I can reconsider my position in those articles. This is praiseworthy. This is one of the essence of refering works to their original owners. If he doesn't know me as the original writer, how could he have gotten his corrections and observations to me? So, it is wrong to remove, or remove and replace names of original authors even if one has good intention to spread knowledge. The act of tampering with substance of a work or the name of the author is shameful. 

Recently, the brother sent me an article I wrote back in 2010 on an interaction between 'Umar ibn Al Khattaab and Ali Ibn Abi Taalib رضي الله عنهم, and he sought for my daleel on the story. I later discovered that the story was a weak one, even though it was used in some books of tafseer and scholarly works. His question did not only give me the opportunity to delete the article from the blog, it prompted me to begin to read other articles for proper adjustment and amendment where necessary. These are part of the reasons why we should acknowledge original writers. What if there are other people who are willing to raise more observations and corrections? How would they be able to reach me if my name is deleted from my articles and quotes? This shows clearly that the act of not referring to original writers in their works is detrimental to the development of Knowledge. It would be more detrimental if this happens in the field of Islamic knowledge. So, we need to be very conscious of the rules of intellectual property always. I read a fatwa on Islamqa that one of the scholars, Sheikh Bakr ibn ‘Abd-Allaah Abu Zayd said: 

“These clauses which protect works from tampering or interference, and protect the value of the work and the efforts of its author, are things that are regarded as essential, based on the general principles of Islaam. This is indicated clearly in the texts and basic principles of sharee’ah, which you can find explained in detail in Adaab al-Mu’allifeen and Kutub al-Istilaah.  [Fiqh al-Nawaazil, 2/65] 

Yesterday, I read a quote on Facebook. Immediately, I saw the quote, I knew it was mine. I wrote it last year (2017) on the issue of hijab cases in Nigeria courts and the attitude of many Muslims towards hijab in many homes. But the person didn't attribute it to me. I wasn't really concerned about it until I noticed some comments under it which the person who posted it could not respond to. Of course, he couldn't have responded since he wasn't the original writer. I was forced to intervene and I put the matter in the proper perspective. This was easy for me because I wrote it and I knew what I had in mind when I was writing it. 

I strongly wish to advise that, even if we must share a quote or article on Facebook and any other social media, we should either share directly from the original writer's wall or at least copy the post with the name of the author. In that case, we can free ourselves from any form of intellectual fraud. Most of what we take for granted here in Nigeria are things that can lead to imprisonment in many other countries of the world. Many academics are stripped of their qualifications through this process. And this is how it starts. You might be thinking, is it not just a Facebook post or quote? If someone doesn't take plagiarism serious in trivial ocassions, he could graduate into academic plagiarism, and that could be highly devastating. 

May Allaah guide us aright.

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