Source Attribution in Islam -- and in Western Culture

Apr 17, 2021


Source Attribution in Islam -- and in Western Culture

Dr.  Pasha

Islam is about Character, and Character is about Amaanat.

Hard word to translate this core concept from Islamic Culture, History and TraditionAmaanah or Amaanat

Like so many other words and expressions from Qur'an, Hadith and Islamic History and Culture and Tradition.

But the word Trustworthiness comes to mind, and, maybe, upto a point, it fits the bill. I suppose basically it means, when you leave something in the care, custody and possession of someone, that someone will respect and honor that Trust, and guard that something for you in your absence, and not violate that Trust in any way, in Spirit or in Form.

And Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was Al-Ameen, before he was anything else. He was declared by one and all the Most Trustworthy Man.

However, Amaanat may be easy to observe when it comes to physical objects. You leave 10 books with someone and that person guards those books for you, and takes care of them, and returns them to you when you ask him for them.

But Amaanat may become hard to uphold when it comes to Intangibles, like words and ideas. 

But Islam does not make a distinction between Tangible and IntangiblePhysical and Intellectual. What belongs to someone else, and what might have in some form originated from someone else, does not become yours.

So, you cannot mix other people's words and ideas with your own words and ideas, and pass them along as your own, without proper Attribution as it were. That is, without naming the source, without pointing out where or from whom you first got those ideas.

In Islam, we have the magnificent Tradition of Qaala, Qaala, meaning Sahaabi Said Rasulullah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, said. 

And that is a 1400-hundred-old practice.

In Western Culture, which is now home to many Accidental, or Born, or Traditional or Legacy Muslims, also this has become a very important item in more recent years and decades. And its violation is referred to as Plagiarism.

And the West has taken appropriate measures protecting other people's ideas and words by enacting appropriate laws referred to as Copyright Laws

Those laws were then broadened to include Intellectual Property Laws.

Since the world of Islam -- Muslims' Natural Habitat of the Past Millennium and a Half -- is in many ways only beginning to stir from its sleep of the past few centuries, for many of its sons and daughters the Concept and Culture of Amaanah as a matter of Character has not really taken hold. 

It has not really taken hold of their psyche and become part of their cultural core.

As a result, many of them seem to treat the question of other people's ideas and words and creative work as fair game. Many seem to have a cavalier attitude about it.

We need to be vigilant, not the least those of us who are in any way associated with this business of what some call Working for Allah.


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