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When Does Theft Actually Occur in Islam?

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by Mathabah.org
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Answered by Shaykh Yūsuf Badāt

Question:

We are investigating a possible theft at our institution. Can you kindly define what ‘theft’ is according to Islam?

Answer:

In the Name of Allāh, Most Compassionate, Most Kind

Jazāk Allāh Khayr/ Thank you for contacting Mathābah for your concern.

Theft according to Islamic jurisprudence occurs when the following takes place:

  1. One comes hiding oneself (concealing oneself so one cannot be seen by other humans) at the location.
  2. The place where the theft occurs is a protected place (not an open public area meant for everyone’s use).
  3. The person takes the commodity for oneself.
  4. The commodity is not owned by the one taking it

When the above four conditions are met, Islamicaly, theft has occurred. (See Lisān Al-ʿArab)

Muftī Shafī (may Allāh’s mercy be upon him) writes, “An act of theft occurs when someone takes the belonging of another from a protected place, hiding oneself, without the permission of the owner”.

Mufti Shafī (may Allāh’s mercy be upon him) also writes the following conditions must exist, in order for theft to occur:

  1. The commodity must be some individual or group’s ownership. The thief should not have any form of ownership/ partnership in the commodity. It should also not be a commodity of such nature, that everyone has a right to use.
  2. The commodity should be stored in a secure place.
  3. The commodity is taken without the permission of the owner/s.
  4. The commodity is taken in a state where the thief is trying to hide himself from others.

(See: Maʿārif Al-Qurʿān)

And Allāh Knows Best

This answer was collected from Mathabah.org. It’s an Islamic educational institute based in Canada. The questions are generally answered by Sheikh Yusuf Badat and Sheikh Omar Subedar.

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