What is the ruling regarding taking back a gift that one has gifted? Is it permissible to take back a gift and replace it with something else the recipient will appreciate more?
Thank you for your question.
Regarding the technical ruling regarding taking back a gift one has gifted, it varies according to the nature of the recipient. If the recipient is either (1) a blood relative as well as a mahram or (2) is one’s spouse, then it is not permissible to take the gift back (Marghinani, Al-Hidaya). This is because a gift to either individual entails upholding family ties (sila al-rahm). If the recipient does not fall into either one of those categories, then it is technically permissible to take the gift back. However, doing so would be disliked (Quduri, Al-Mukhtasar).
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The one who takes back his gift is like the one who eats vomit.” (Muslim)
For all cases, an exception is made when there is mutual consent between the one giving the gift and the recipient for the gift to be returned (Marghinani, Al-Hidaya). With mutual consent, taking the gift back would not be prohibited nor disliked.
In the scenarios you described, you first seek mutual consent, and you also provide the recipients with a gift that is better in their opinions. There is nothing wrong with taking back and replacing the gifts in the scenarios you mentioned. It is clear that you are exercising your utmost care in these often delicate circumstances.
And Allah knows best.
[Ustadha] Maariyah Lateef
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Maariyah Lateef, a Florida native, memorized the Quran at home by the age of ten over the kitchen table. After homeschooling, she pursued her studies in the religious sciences, for which she dedicated two years in Yemen and Jordan, studying intensively under Dr. Salah Abu al-Hajj and Dr. Hamza al-Bakri.
Currently a Ph.D. candidate in History at Brown University, Maariyah graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude from Boston College with a Bachelors and Masters focusing on Middle Eastern social history and American religious history.
Her current dissertation research focuses on 19th century Ottoman legal history and the life and works of the late Hanafi jurisconsult Ibn Abidin.