Wa`alykum As-Salaamu Warahmatullahi Wabarakaatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear questioner, we commend your pursuit of knowledge and earnestly implore Allah to bless your efforts in this honorable way.
Responding to the question, the Permanent Fatwa Committee, headed by late Sheikh `Abd Al-`Azeez Ibn Baz (may Allah bless his soul), pointed out that it is forbidden to make copies of programs if their owners do not permit doing so without their prior permission. The following Hadiths verify this view:
“Muslims should abide by their stipulations.”
“A Muslim’s property is not permitted (to be taken by others) without his consent.”
“Whoever precedes others in gaining a Halal (lawful) thing, will be more entitled to own it (than others).”
This is applicable whether the owner of these programs is a Muslim or a non-Muslim (who is not at war with Muslims, for the property of the non-fighting unbelievers are to be protected in the same way as that of Muslims).
Moreover, his eminence Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Salih Al-`Uthaymeen (may Allah bless his soul) said that “this question should be judged according to the custom of the people. However, if a person wants to make a copy for his personal use and the owner of these programs does not express objection for doing so, then there is nothing wrong. In contrast, if the owner of these programs expresses his objection to copying for personal and public use, then making copies of them is unlawful.”
Shedding more light on the issue, Dr. Mahmoud `Akam, professor at the Faculty of law and Education in Halab, declares that “copyright is like money, which no one is permitted to take except through Shari`ah-based contracts. This is the case whether the owner of these programs is a Muslim or non-Muslim individual, or a Muslim or non-Muslim state. However, if a non-Muslim state is engaged in fighting Muslims, it is permissible to take their property as spoils of war.
This stance is based on the following Qur’anic verses:
“Wring not mankind in their goods.” (Ash-Shu`ra’: 183)
“O ye who believe! Betray not Allah and His messenger, nor knowingly betray your trusts.” (Al-Anfal: 27)
Likewise, the following Hadiths support this stance:
“(Keep and) pay back the trusts of those who entrust you.”
“The true believer is the one from whom Muslims are safe regarding their blood and property.”
As for copying computer programs for educational purposes, it is permissible in case of necessity, i.e., if it is difficult to obtain an original copy of this program or its price is too expensive. This is in accordance with the following Qur’anic verses:
“Unless ye are compelled thereto.” (Al-An`am: 119)
“But he who is driven by necessity, neither craving nor transgressing, it is no sin for him. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Al-Baqarah: 173)
Finally, the above-mentioned legal rulings extend, by virtue of analogical deduction qiyas, to making copies of CDs and all similar items.”
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to write back!
May Allah guide you to the straight path, and guide you to that which pleases Him, Amen.
Allah Almighty knows best.