If one is trying to return the rights of others which they had earlier taken, what would be the ruling in a case where, for example, that which one took/pirated was a haram/unlawful item in the first place? Would it be permissible to return the money to the individual/organization in question responsible for producing or selling that item?
As a second, related query, if one had a very large number of such rights to return, as a legacy of their life before accepting Islam (and some of them actually dating back to the period before maturity) to what extent is one allowed to ‘pace themselves’ in returning all these various rights? Would it be permissible to take on other financial commitments at the same time, and to take a ‘slow and steady’ approach, or rather should it be the absolute priority beyond one’s basic needs?
Wa’alaykum as Salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,
Yes, you will have to pay back the company from where you got the item, even though it was not permissible.
You should prioritize paying back as much as possible. In Sahih al-Bukhari it is mentioned,
قال الإمام البخاري حدثنا عبد الله بن يوسف أخبرنا مالك عن أبي الزناد عن الأعرج عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال مطل الغني ظلم (أخرجه البخاري في صحيحه – 3/ 94)
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “Procrastination (delay) in paying debts by a wealthy man is injustice. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, 3/ 94)
If you are young and healthy, it will be permissible to live a little beyond your basic needs and pay back over a slightly longer period. You should ask your creditors to allow you some time to pay back and if they agree, you may take the ‘slow and steady’ approach. However, you should still make a note of it in your will.
If you are sickly or old, you should just use enough of your income for your basic needs, and use the remaining to pay back.
And Allaah Ta’aala knows best
Ismail Moosa (Mufti)
وفي فتح القدير والأجداد والجدات كالأبوين عند فقدهما ويكره الخروج للغزو والحج لمديون وإن لم يكن له مال يقضي به إلا أن يأذن الغريم فإن كان بالدين كفيل بإذنه لا يخرج إلا بإذنهما وإن بغير أذنه فبإذن الطالب وحده ا هـ (البحر الرائق- 2/ 332)