Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
A family has a neighbor with a huge mango tree. Branches of the mango tree hang over the fence and sometimes mangoes fall into our friends’ yard. Now, they really love mangoes but never eat the ones that fall from that tree because they do not know if it is permissible for them to do so; according to state law, that part of the mango tree over our friends’ property belongs to them. So — according to the Shari’ah — can they or should they not eat the mangoes? It’s mango season right now, so for mango-lovers, it is very tempting…
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate
May His blessings and peace be on His Beloved Prophet, the best of creation, and his family, companions, and followers
This returns to knowing the customary practice of that area in such matters:
a) If a particular amount of fallen fruit is customarily allowed to take, then one may eat it, within the limits of that which is customarily allowed;
b) If unsure or uncertain, then one must exercise caution and ask before taking (which is the way of caution even with customary practice entails permissibility), because it is another’s property and it is not permitted to take their property without explicit or clear implicit permission.
[al-Bahr al-Ra’iq, 8.209 from Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi’s `Uyun al-Masai’l; al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, 2.290 from al-Muhit; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, 4.285 (`Ilmiyya ed.) from Sharh al-Wahbaniyya and al-Khaniyya]
The basis of this issue are the words of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace),
“A Muslim’s property is not permitted to take without their permission.” [Related by Ahmad, and others]
And he also said (peace and blessings be upon him),
“A Muslim may not take another’s property without their permission.” [Related by Bayhaqi; Nawawi stated that its chain of transmission is rigorously authenticated (sahih), in his Majmu`]
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also reminded us that,
“Worldly things are sweet and seemingly. Whoever takes them with permission shall find them blessed, while whoever takes them with avidness shall not find any blessings in them and will be like those who eat and yet are not satiated. And the upper hand is better than the lower hand.” [Bukhari and Muslim, from Hakim ibn Hizam]
Permission’ refers to both the permission of the owner, and the permission of Allah (by making one’s dealings correspond to the guidance of the Shariah of the Beloved Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace)).
The upper hand’ is either the hand that gives or the hand that is free of need for what others have. [`Ayni, Umdat al-Qari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari; Ibn `Allan, Dalil al-Falihin Sharh Riyad al-Salihin]
And Allah gives success to those who seek to follow the way of His Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). May Allah make us of them.