Answered by Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
I was wondering say someone took something while they were a kid or before pubescent do they have to return what they took?
Secondly does one return something that is equal to the value of that which was taken or the actual item itself… for example if I took a computer 5 years ago, price of lets say 5000 and today I wish to return it for Tauba but its actual market price today is like 200 dollars would returning the computer be sufficient to relieve one from the debt or would some sort of compensation be paid. Same situation with toys etc…
Thirdly, how hard must one search for the person to return the item to? Say for example I have taken many things could I just send them to goodwill per se?
Fourthly, does the actual exact item have to be returned as it may cause fitna so perhaps its equivalent in cost but then again this equivalence in cost overlaps with the second question… like how can one assess the value… like is this value based on the time it was bought or its value today?
The principle is that whatever is stolen, If the actual item that was stolen is present, then it must be given back and not its price or value. However, if the item is destroyed, then its current market value must be paid.
In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate. May His abundant blessing and most perfect of peace be on His Beloved Prophet, the best of creation, and his family, companions and followers.
The great Hanafi Jurist, Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) states:
“The stolen item itself must be given back if it still exists” (Durr al-Mukhtar).
” if the item is destroyed or lost, then the value of it must be given back to the owner”. (See: Radd al-Muhtar & al-Ikhtiyar).
It should be, however, remembered that one does not have to necessarily declare that he/she is giving back the stolen item; rather merely returning it back without declaring anything or even saying that it is a gift will suffice.
Therefore, in conclusion, you must return the stolen item back to the owner and not its price. However, if the owner agrees for the price to be paid back, then there is nothing wrong in doing that and then using the item. You do not have to give it in charity. But if this agreement is not made, then you must return the item back.
Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari