Injustice and Wrongfully Taking Other People’s Property
Taking other people’s property wrongfully, no matter how small it may be, is one of the most heinous sins in Islam.
Injustice is one of the most heinous deeds against which Islam has vehemently warned. The prophet ﷺ said in this connection, “Beware of injustice, for indeed injustice will be darkness on the Day of Judegment.”(Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 2315; Saheeh Muslim: 2579)
Indeed, Islam considers the act of taking other people’s property wrongfully, no matter how small it this property may be, one of the most odious sins and warns those who commit it against severe punishment in the hereafter. As the prophet ﷺ said, “If anyone takes a span of land unjustly, its extent taken from seven earths will be tied round his neck on the Day of Resurrection.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 2321; Saheeh Muslim: 1610)
Examples of forms of injustice committed in business transactions
- Coercion: A transaction that is conducted under coercion in any form whatsoever invalidates the contract. Indeed, mutual consent between the parties to the contract is a necessary condition for the validity of a business transaction, as the prophet ﷺ once observed, “A sale is a sale only if it is made through mutual consent. (Sunan Ibn Maajah: 2185)
- Dishonesty: deceiving other people to take their property wrongfully is one of the major sins, as the prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever cheats us is not one of us.” (Saheeh Muslim: 101). Once, while the prophet ﷺ was walking in the market, he passed by a pile of food and put his hands inside it. Feeling water on his fingers, he turned to the seller of the food and said, “What is this?” “It was left out in the rain, Messenger of Allah,” he replied. “Why don’t you put the wet food on top of the pile so that people can see it?” the prophet ﷺ disapprovingly said, “Whoever deceives us is not one of us.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 1315)
Allah’s Messenger r has cursed those who give bribes and those who take them.
- Manipulating the Law: Some cunning people, when presenting their cases in court, speak in honeyed tones and in a convincing manner in order to take other people’s property wrongfully, not realising that even if the judge rules in their favour he cannot possibly turn falsehood into truth. Addressing some of his companions once, the prophet ﷺ said, “I am only a human being, and litigants come to me to settle their disputes. It may be that one of you may present his case more eloquently and in a more convincing way than his opponent, whereby I may consider him to be in the right and thus pass a judgement in his favour based on what I have heard. Therefore, if I ever give the right of a Muslim to another by mistake [while he knows that he is in the wrong], then the one in the wrong must not take, for I will actually be giving him only a piece of Fire.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 6748; Saheeh Muslim: 1713)
- Bribery: Bribery is a sum of money given or a service rendered in order to influence the judgement or conduct of a person in a position of trust and thus get something illegally. Islam considers bribery one of the most atrocious forms of injustice and the most heinous sins. The prophet ﷺ went as far as to curse those who give bribes and those who accept them.” (Sunan At-Tirmidhee: 1337)
When bribery becomes widespread, it destroys the very fabric of society and affects its development and prosperity.
What is the Islamic ruling regarding a person who has taken people’s property before embracing Islam?
If a person embraces Islam while he is still in possession of money which he has acquired as a result deceiving or assaulting others through theft or embezzlement, for instance, then he must return it to its legal owners as long as he knows them and can do so without incurring any harm whatsoever upon himself.
Even if he has committed such an injustice before embracing Islam, the money he has taken from other people wrongfully is still in his possession and he must thus return it to is legitimate owners, as the Qur’an states, “Allah commands you to deliver trusts back to their owners.” (Soorat An-Nisaa’, 4:58)
If, however, he does not know its rightful owners after exhausting all possible ways to find out who they are, he can get rid of it by giving it away to charity.