Be careful what you ask for, or about. In response to a question about whether it was acceptable to use others’ WiFi without permission, the Modern Fatwa section of the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) issued a fatwa against the practice, according to International Business Times. Westerners often assume a fatwa means a death sentence, but that’s not the case.
Public spaces with free internet access are not covered by the fatwa, because in those cases internet usage by others is invited. If, however, you search for open internet access points, also called “wardriving,” anywhere in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and then connect to the system without permission, you’re stealing and in clear violation of the fatwa.
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A modern fatwa, unlike common assumptions, is not legally binding. However, because unauthorized use of a shared access point reduces the bandwidth available to its owners and approved users, it is considered stealing. According to the Islamic Supreme Council of America, “It is not allowed for people to use what belongs to others without payment or without their permission. Therefore, the Internet should be used only after subscribing for the service.” Or asking, as is the case.
The deciding point is all about permission. If your neighbor or even your roommate has WiFi and gives you permission to use it, that’s fine. If your usual site goes down but you can connect to another access point in the house or the apartment next door without permission you are not legally permitted to connect. This applies even if you know the people whose signal you have access to. You don’t have to ask every time though, as having an understanding of mutual access is fine.
The ISCA defines a fatwa as an “Islamic legal pronouncement issued by a ‘mufti’ (an expert in religious law) in order to resolve an issue where Islamic jurisprudence (‘fiqh’) isn’t clear. However, a modern fatwa is not binding and is optional for the individual to decide to respect.” Therefore, you can call your own shots on this one, but jumping on someone else’s WiFi is definitely considered stealing in Dubai.