Al-Luqatah (Lost Property)
Lost Property Must be Announced for a Whole Year
I found some lost gold and sold it and then gave its value in charity, and my intention when doing so far was – if I found its owner – and he did not accept this, that I give him its value, because I found it in the middle of big city. Am I guilty of any sin in doing this?
It is incumbent upon you and others who find any important lost property, to announce it for a whole year in the meeting places of the people two or three times a month. If its owner becomes known, it must be given to him. If he is not known, then it is yours after a year, because the prophet Muhammad (saw) ordered this. The exception to this is if it is was found in the Haraman, in which case, he is not entitled to keep it, but must announce it constantly, so that its owner may become known. Or, he is to submit it to the responsible authorities in the Haraman, so that they may take care of it for its owner, based upon the words of the Prophet (saw) in Makkah:
“It is not permissible (to take) the things which are dropped therein, except to announce”(them)
Al –Bukhari no. 2434 and Muslim no. 1355.
And his words:
“I have made Al – Madinah sacred, just as Ibrahim made Makkah sacred.”( Al – Bukhari no. 2129 and Muslim no. 1360.)
However, if the lost item is something insignificant and unimportant to its owner, such as a rope, a shoelace or a small amount of money, then, it is not obligatory to announce it, and the one who found it is entitled to utilize it or give it in charity on behalf of its owner. An exception from this ruling is the lost camel and other animals which are prohibited, such as small beast of prey, like the wolf etc., as it is not permissible to take them, based upon the words of the Prophet (saw)
“Leave them for they have their feet and their stomachs, so they can go down to the water and eat trees until their master finds them.”(Al- Bukhari no. 2428 and Muslim no. 1722)
And Allah is the Granter of success.
The ruling on Lost Property Which Has not Been Announced
I found a sum of Riyals and I took it and spent it; what should I do now?
It is incumbent upon you to announce it, then once you have announced it two or three times a month for a whole year, by saying: “To whom do these Dirhams belong which were lost in such-and-such a place?” – in public gathering places and around their doors or in the markets. Once a year has passed over your announcements, it is permissible for you to keep it. And if the owner comes and identifies it by its precise description, you must give it in charity in order to exonerate yourself, with the intention of giving it on behalf of its owner, because with the intention of giving it on behalf of its owner, because you did not do the thing necessary to make it lawful to you- which is to announce it- then he will receive the reward of it, by Allah’s permission- the Almighty, the All-Powerful- And Allah is the Granter of success.
What Should a Person do, Who Finds Lost Property?
A righteous man was travelling on the road and he found a sum of money but he did not find anyone to claim it, so he is asking what he should do with it?
He must announce it in the public gathering places of the two nearest towns to the road on which he found the money and in other places where he thinks that he might find its owner among the resident. If a year passes without him finding the owner, he may keep it, or he may hold it with him until he finds its owner, or he may give it in charity on behalf of its owner. If he found him after that, he should inform him of what he has done. If he approved of it being given in charity, in that case, there is no harm. If he objected to it, he must return it to him and the charity will be his, or if he spent it like the rest of his money, he must reimburse its owner once he becomes known to him.
The Permanent Committee
He Sold a Cow and it Returned to Him
A man said that he sold a cow to a man whom he did not know, then the cow bolted from the house of the buyer to his house, and since he did not know the buyer, he sold it again and consumed its price. He asks now what must he do in consequence?
The ruling on this cow – the questioner having disposed of it- is that it is lost property. And since he mentions that he sold it and consumed its price, he must announce it in the markets and public meetings places for a year. If the owner turns up, he must inform him of what happened and give him the value of the cow he sold. If he does not come, he may give its value in charity with the intention of the reward being for its owner, in case he should become known and requests it and does not accept its having been given in charity.
The Permanent Committee
Lost Property in the Sacred Places
A person found a watch in the Sacred City of Makkah and it has been with him now for over four year. What is the solution regarding it? Should he return it to the poor, having established its worth with the watch sellers? May Allah reward you with the greatest goodness.
It is permissible to take lost property in the Sacred Places, except for one who intends to announce it, according to the saying of the Prophet(saw)
“ It is not permissible(to take) the things which are dropped therein, except to announce(them).”(Al Bukhari no. 2434 and Muslim no. 1355)
So, it is incumbent upon this person to submit the lost property to the High Court of Makkah so that it may be forwarded to the Committee Responsible for Lost Property in the Sacred City. Having done that and turned in repentance to Allah, Most Glorified for his neglect- since he did not previously announce it – he will be free of blame. And through Allah is attained success.
It is Lawful to Give Charity on Their Behalf
A number of years ago, I took the sum of one hundred Saudi Riyals from a number of my colleagues, after which, I travelled to another area and forgot those colleagues and they also forgot me. Now I do not know where they are, so, what should I do with the sum of money which is my responsibility? Inform me and May Allah reward you with goodness.
If the matter is as you have mentioned in your question, which is that you forgot the owners of the hundred (Riyals), then it is lawful for you to give charity on their behalf. Then if you remembered any of them, you must give him his right, unless he approves of your having given it in charity on his behalf. In that case, you will be absolved from blame and you and them will be rewarded.
He Made Inquiries About Him, But He Did Not Find Him
I used to work in Jordan before the year 1950 C.E. and I went on vacation to the Kingdom and purchased a wool cloak from my colleague, whose name was ‘Ubaid Al-Mutairi for the sum of fifteen Jordanian Dinars, on the understanding that I would pay him this sum after I return from my vacation. So, I left, and when I returned from my vacation, I did not find my colleague from whom I had purchased the cloak. I asked about him and was told that he had gone on holiday to Kuwait, but he has not contacted me, nor requested his right since that time, and I do not know anything about him whatsoever, so what should I do when I am indebted to this man for the sum of fifteen Jordanian Dinars?
Answer: The answer is that you must ask those who know him and exert all your efforts until you find his address and then send him the sum of money which is in your possession, or travel to him in Kuwait in order to give him his right , based on the saying of the Prophet (saw):
“All of the Muslim is sacred to the Muslim; his blood, his property and his honor.” [Muslim no.2564].
It is not permissible for you to be negligent in this matter. If you fail and are unable to find him in Kuwait or anywhere else, then give charity on his behalf in trust for him. Then if you find him, give him the choice between receiving his right— in which case, the reward of the charity will be for you or his giving the money in charity— in which case, the reward will be for him, according to the Words of Allah, Most High:
“So keep your duty to Allah and fear Him as much as you can.” [At-Taghabun 64_16]
and the Words of Him, the Almighty, the All-Powerful:
“Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope” [Al-Baqarah 2_286]
He Returned, But He Did Not Find Him
I built a house for myself four years ago. I purchased marble for the walls and there remained the sum of one thousand five hundred Riyals outstanding to the owner of the marble’s account. But when I went after some time to pay the sum, I did not find the owner of the first establishment, but it had been transferred to the property of another person. How can I pay money to the previous owner of the establishment, bearing in mind that I purchased the marble from an employee in the establishment, not from the owner directly, so I do not know the owner of the establishment personally since my dealings were directly with the employee. I have asked about the previous owner of the establishment, but I did not receive any answer — and I have tried more than once? I request you to kindly inform me what is the legal way to pay this sum, so that I may absolve myself of responsibility in the matter. May Allah reward you with the best of rewards.
Answer: You must increase your inquiries and investigations regarding the owner of this establishment, if you know the name of the establishment and its location because most likely the neighboring establishments will know him and they will inform you of his name, his address, telephone number and so on. Therefore you must complete the inquiries regarding him and follow up the information regarding him and when he moved etc, so that you will be absolved of responsibility. But if you are unable to do that having tried your utmost without result, then give the sum in charity on behalf of the owner, as a trust, then if you find him after that, give him the choice between a reward in the Hereafter and returning his trust to him, in which case, the reward (of the charity) will be for you. And Allah knows best.
You Must Turn to Allah in Repentance and Seek His Forgiveness
A woman found a piece of gold in the Sacred City of Makkah, she took it and added it to her gold and sold it all. Later, she regretted this, so what is incumbent upon her, may Allah reward you with goodness?
Answer: She must give its value to the court along with a description of the gold, for it may be that its owner will come and ask the Committee Responsible for Lost Property about it. If the time passed is considerable, then she should give it in charity on behalf of its owner with the (right) intention. Haply, that will be enough —if Allah wills —along with her turning in repentance and seeking forgiveness. If it occurred recently, then she should give the sum to the Court and the Court will give it to the Committee.
Source: FATAWA ISLAMIYAH Volume 5 (Darussalam)