Income from Unlawful Source due to Cluelessness
Author: Ustadz Ammi Nur Baits
In the name of Allah, peace and prayer of Allah be upon His messenger. Amma ba’du,
Firstly, there are two kinds of ignorance:
Tolerable ignorance. This is when a person is totally ignorant (clueless) about shari’a laws.
Intolerable ignorance. This is ignorance because the person belittles and refuses to know about shari’a laws. Or he deliberately shut his chance to know, because he afraid that what he learns contradicts his act. This kind of person, even though he doesn’t know, his status is as people who know. Because basically, he refuses to know, and not that he is clueless.
Secondly, a person who commits any mistakes in Islam because of his cluelessness, is not considered as a sinner. Because his cluelessness is an excuse for his doing. In one of the general principles it is said,
جَهْلَ المكلَّف بالحُكم مُوجِبٌ للعُذْرِ
Ignorance of a mukallaf (people who are burdened to carry out shari’a laws, -ed) of law, supposing an excuse.
In Risalah Lathifah it is said,
والناسي والجاهل غير مؤاخذين من جهة الإثم، لا من جهة الضمان في المتلفات
A person who forgets and an ignorant are not punished from the perspective of sin, but they still ought to be responsible for other’s loss because they have damaged other’s right.” (See: Risalah Lathifah, as-Sa’di).
Thirdly, there are two kinds of unlawful wealth that a person may obtained:
Unlawful wealth obtained from transaction with willingness from either sides, such as usurious transaction, prostitute’s wage, trading of unlawful goods, etc.
Unlawful wealth obtained from oppressive act, or because of coercion or fraud, such as the income from corruption, stealing, burglary, etc.
As for the first one, it is not need to return the wealth to its previous owner, since it is obtained through willful transaction. Although it is still an unlawful wealth that shouldn’t be owned. Whereas for the second one, it should be returned to its previous owner since it is devoured wrongly.
Sheikh al Islam said,
وتبين بما ذكرناه أن من آجر نفسه أو دوابه أو عقاره أو ما يتعلقه وأخذ الثمن والأجرة لم يحرم عليه. سواء علم ذلك الثمن والأجرة حلالا للمالك أو لم يعلم حاله بأن كان مستورا وإن علم أنه غصب تلك الدراهم أو سرقها أو قبضها بوجه لا يبيح أخذها به لم يجز أخذها عن ثمنه وأجرته
“”From what we’ve explained before, it is concluded that a person who works lawfully, or rents his vehicle, property, or anything else, and he obtains a wage, then the wage is lawful, and not illegitimate. It is equal for him whether he knows or doesn’t know that his renter obtain his income through lawful way. But if he knows that his buyer obtain it by taking it by force, or stealing, or through methods that are unlawful for him, in this condition, he is not permitted to accept it as wage or the price of his commodity.” (See: Majmu’ Fatawa; Ibn Taimiyya; 29/330).
Fourthly, unlawful wealth that a person used due to his cluelessness
A person who works in unlawful field and use the unlawful wealth because of his cluelessness, is not obliged to replace it.
At the time of the ignorants, there were some companions who worked as creditor in usury (bank). Among them was al-Abbas bin Abdul Muthalib. When Islam dawned, and the verse that prohibits usury was revealed, he was not ordered to spend and return the wealth he obtained from usury practice in the past to the bait al mal. Allah only ordered them to leave usury practice since that moment, whereas their wealth that was obtained in the past was still belong to them.
وَأَحَلَّ اللَّهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبَا فَمَن جَاءَهُ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ فَانتَهَىَ فَلَهُ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُ إِلَى اللهِ
Allah has made buying and selling lawful, and interest unlawful. Hence, he who receives this admonition from his Lord, and then gives up (dealing in interest), may keep his previous gains, and it will be for Allah to judge him. ” (chapter. Al-Baqarah/The Cow: 275)
Dr. Muhammad Ali Ferkous, a scholar from Algeria, said,
ويُباحُ له الانتفاع بالمال المحرَّم المقبوض جهلاً بعقدٍ أو عملٍ محرَّمٍ؛ لأنَّ أخذَه وقع في ظَرْفٍ يعتقد المكلَّف حِلِّـيَّةَ اكتسابِهِ من غيرِ أن يتعمَّد إيقاعَه على الوجه المحرَّمِ، لتَنَاوُلِ الآيةِ الكريمةِ له في قوله تعالى: ﴿فَمَن جَاءَهُ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ فَانتَهَىَ فَلَهُ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُ إِلَى اللهِ﴾ [البقرة: 275]، إِذْ هي تشمل بعمومها ما اكْتَسَبَ مِنْ مالٍ حرامٍ قبلَ الإسلام وبعدَ نزولِ التحريمِ،
It is permitted to use unlawful wealth that he got due to his cluelessness, whether it came from transaction or unlawful job. Because he took it whereas he believed in the legal state of his work, without any deliberateness to commit unlawful thing. Based on the general scope of the verse, “Hence, he who receives this admonition from his Lord, and then gives up (dealing in interest), may keep his previous gains, and it will be for Allah to judge him.” (chapter. Al-Baqarah/The Cow: 275). And this verse includes all kinds of unlawful wealth obtained from unlawful job, either before the dawn of Islam, or before the revelation of the above verse.” (Source: http://ferkous.com/site/rep/Bi130.php)
In another occasion, he also explained that,
فإن هذا النوع من الجهل يعذر صاحبه، ويعفى عن المال الذي اكتسبه من مصدر محرم قبل معرفته للحكم الصحيح لقوله تعالى: ﴿فَمَن جَاءهُ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ فَانتَهَىَ فَلَهُ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُ إِلَى اللّهِ﴾ [البقرة : 275] فالآية -وإن نزلت في شأن من يتبايع بالربا من المسلمين- فالعبرة فيها بعموم اللفظ لا بخصوص السبب، وإذا كان الله تعالى قد عفا للمسلم عن المال المكتسب بالربا قبل نزول التحريم فيلحق به سائر المكاسب المحرمة قبل العلم بها، وعليه فهي له حلال ولأبنائه فلا يحكم عليها بالرد والتخلص والبطلان
This kind of ignorance (cluelessness) is an excuse for him, thus he is excused to consume wealth that he obtained from unlawful source before he know the correct ruling for his doing, based on the verse, “Hence, he who receives this admonition from his Lord, and then gives up (dealing in interest), may keep his previous gains, and it will be for Allah to judge him.” (chapter. Al-Baqarah/The Cow: 275). Even though it was revealed regarding condition of the muslims who committed usurious transaction, but the stressing point is the general scope of its meaning, and not the specificity of its cause.
When Allah excused the muslims over the wealth they obtained from usury practices before revelation of the verse that prohibited it, then, all kinds of unlawful job that is done because the doer is clueless about its ruling is included in the meaning of this verse.
Therefore, the wealth is lawful for him and his children. He is not obliged to return and spend all of his wealth, and it is not ruled out as an unlawful wealth.
The End, and Allah knows best.