Imagine you are walking along the street, suddenly you find a bag full of items. What would you do? Ignore it or pick it up?
If you chose the latter, what will you do the next? Being a practicing Muslim you would want to do what Islam guides you to – If you know what that is.
Islam, being the Complete way of life (a Deen), provides Solution to all situations one can encounter in life. And this applies to the subject of “Lost & Found” items too; though not many Muslims are aware of the ruling on it.
I have rarely heard a scholar explaining this subject, yet we find missing items routinely in daily life. It is the primary responsibility of the government to teach its citizens but our governments are neither Islamic nor interested in Islam. The scholars mostly talk about Fazail-e-Namaz (benefits of prayer) or life after death but not much about the current life matters. I wish we get back the true Islamic state and the scholars like Imam Hanifah & Shafai (RA) who guided the ummah in all spheres of life. Till then, below is my humble effort on the subject:
Lost Property Belongs to the Owner!
Our beloved Prophet (SAW) said:
“Lost property is not Lawful (Allowed). Whoever finds it should advertise it for a year. If its owner shows up and claims it, he (the finder) must return it to him (the owner); if he does not show up, he (finder) should give it in charity.” (Narrated by Abu Hurrairah RA)
Luqatah (Lost & Found):
‘Al-Luqatah’ refers to anything that is found and picked up from the ground. Technically, it is the property that the owner loses and a person finds and takes away (to save it in trust).
Types of Luqatah:
Broadly, Luqatah can be divided into three types:
1- Items of Little Values, such as a piece of rope, a fruit, a piece of bread, small value coin etc. These items are of low value and the owner is not likely to come back in search of these. The person who finds these may consume these without having to announce, because of the permission by Muhammad (SAW):
“The Messenger of Allah (SAW) made exceptions in the case of a stick or a whip or a rope that a man picks up.” (Abu Dawood).
2- Big Items such as a Wood, Iron, Large Pots, or animals like Camel. These items can be left alone. There is no danger of damage or loss to these. So it is not allowed to move these from where they are found. These should be left as it is so that their owner may find them later.
3- Items such as Money, Luggage, and animals that need to be protected from predators such as sheep, chickens and calves. If the one who finds them can trust himself not to harm or damage these things, then it is permissible for him to pick these up. Some scholars consider it to be obligatory to pick these items if there is a danger of harm or damage to them. These items are of three types:
a – Animals that are used as food, such as young camels, sheep, chickens, The one who finds these must do what is in the best interest of the owner, which may be one of three things;
i- Eat it and pay the price to the owner if he is identified later.
ii- Sell it and give the money to the owner if he claims.
iii- Or keep it and spend on it from his own wealth, but he does not own it, and he can claim back what he has spent on it if the owner returns and asks for the animal, because when the Prophet (SAW) was asked about the sheep, He (SAW)said:
“Take it, because either it is for you, or your brother, or the wolf.” (Agreed upon).
b- Items that will be spoiled or wasted, such as fruits. The finder in this case should do what is in the owner’s best interest, whether this is eating it and paying for its value, or selling it and keeping its price until the owner returns.
c- All other kinds of wealth, such as Money and Valuable Items. All of these must be kept as a trust and announcements should be made in the places where people gather (or whichever means & methods suitable now days such as newspaper or internet).
Rasul Allah (SAW) said “Know the details of the purse and the string (of the item found)..”
So, along the type & quantity of the item, the finder must also know the kind of purse, wallet or wrapping that item is kept in and the way it is fastened or tied up. So that if the owner claims it back, he must describe its properly. If the description matches, the item should be handed back to him.
It is clear from the above that when we find a lost property, it is not permissible for us, excpet very minor items. We must search for the right owner.
“A Muslim’s property is not Lawful (for another Muslim) without the owner’s own free will (permission).” Hadeeth
NOTE: The subject of Luqatah is quite vast, and it carries small difference of opinion on few points among scholars. The above article is written to provide basic understanding & appreciation; please study the subject further. It is Obligatory (Fard) on every Muslim to learn basic Fiqh (Laws) of Islam so he/she could lead his/her life according to Islam.