In Arabic etymology, bribery is termed as “risywah”, which means ‘wages’ or a gift given to achieve certain benefit. Al Fayumi said that risywah means a gift from someone to judges or another person, so that the judge will decide something that benefits him, or a gift to make the one received it do what the the giver wants him to do.
Ibnul Atsir explained that risywah is a mean or tool, used to make connection with the desired, by fake attitude. The origin of “risywah” is “rasya”, which means a pail rope, functioned to deliver the pail to the water.
In terminology, risywah means a gift that being given to certain person, to make wrong the right, and vice versa. Thus, it’s meaning is more limited in terminology compared to in etymology. A gift will be considered as risywah if the aim is to make wrong the rights and make right the wrongs.
Bribery in Shariah
In shariah, The ruling of bribery and bribing an official or authority to get a job is forbidden, stated unanimously by the scholars. Even more, bribery is considered as a big sin.
Allah The Exalted declared in His Noble Book,
سَمَّاعُونَ لِلْكَذِبِ أَكَّالُونَ لِلسُّحْتِ
“(They are fond of) listening to falsehood, of devouring Anything forbidden.” (Al Maida: 42)
According to Hasan Al Bashri and Said Ibn Jubair, the meaning of “suht” in that verse is bribery (risywah).
وَلاَ تَأْكُلُواْ أَمْوَالَكُم بَيْنَكُم بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتُدْلُواْ بِهَا إِلَى الْحُكَّامِ لِتَأْكُلُواْ فَرِيقاً مِّنْ أَمْوَالِ النَّاسِ بِالإِثْمِ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
“And do not eat up your property among yourselves for vanities, nor use it as a bait for the judges, with intent that ye may eat up wrongfully and knowingly a little of (other) people’s property.” (Al Baqara: 188)
From Abdullah Ibn Amr,
لَعَنَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الرَّاشِىَ وَالْمُرْتَشِىَ
“Allah’s Messenger Shallallaahu ‘alayh wa Sallam condemned briber and the one who receive bribery.” (Recorded by Abu Daud, no. 3580, and the others; Validated by Al Albanee).
In another story, The Prophet Shallallaahu ‘alayh wa Sallam condemned ar-ra’isy, that is the connector of the briber and the bribed one.” (Recorded by Hakim, no. 7068).
Although the status of this saying is weak, but the meaning is true. Someone who connects the briber and the bribed one means that he also helps them to commit a sin, and this is forbidden,
Hence, asking for bribe, giving bribe, receiving bribe, and connecting the briber and the bribed one, all of those are forbidden.
Nevertheless, according to majority of the scholars, bribing to get his/her rights or to prevent dangers and tyranny, is allowable. In such condition, the one committing sin is the bribed one, not the briber.
Abu Laits As Samarqand al Hanafi said, “It is permitted, if someone (bribed to) defend himself and his wealth.”
There were scholars who explained this phenomenon by saying that shariah allows to make use of danger to prevent another heavier dangers.
For example, releasing the captivated. Basically, handing wealth to the infidels is forbidden, and categorized as spending money in vain, But in this case, handing over the wealth to them is allowed due to prevent the more threatening danger. Thus, it this more appropriate to use a forbidden thing which possess no danger, to prevent from more forbidden things.
But if the right to be defended is worthless, then the struggle to retain it without any arguments in shariah is considered forbidden. This is because the danger it possessed is greater than the benefits.
Majority of the scholars argued with a narration from Ibn Mas’ud. When he reached Ethiopia, he bribed someone with 2 dinars, so that he cold continue his journey.
إنّ الإثم على القابض دون الدّافع
“Verily, the sin was taken by the one received bribery, not the briber.”
Atha’ and Hasan Al Bashri said that, “One is allowed to pretend (by pretending to give a gift/bribery) to defend himself and his wealth if he worries that tyranny might be afflicted upon him.”
Types of Bribery
The scholars of Hanafi, divided type of bribery into 4 categories:
First, bribery done so that someone will bee appointed as a judge or officials (just as civil servant). The ruling of this category is forbidden for both sides.
Second, a judge who asks for bribery before deciding something. This type is also forbidden for both sides, even though the decision is right and fair, since deciding for fair decision is the obligation of judges.
Third, giving a certain amount of money to someone to prevent his tyranny or to gain benefits (by acquiring his rights). This type of bribery is forbidden to the bribed only.
Fourth, giving certain amount of money to someone who help the giver to get his rights. Giving and receiving such money/property is permitted, because the status of the money resembles wages.
Bribing The Judge
Bribing the judge is forbidden, according to the scholars, unanimously.
Al-Jashshash said, “There are no clashes of argumentation over the prohibition of bribing the judge, because that is a form of suht which was forbidden by Allah in Holy Qur’an, and all muslim also agree upon that forbidden status. This is forbidden to the briber and the bribed one.”
In the book titled Kasysyaf al Qana’, it was mentioned that, “A judge is forbidden to receive gifts. A judge who borrows goods from others, then it’s status is just as gifts, since the service obtained from that goods resembles the goods itself.”
Also, if a judge wanted to get his son circumcised, or other matters, then he got some presents, though masked as gifts for his son, the ruling of this practice is forbidden, because it becomes a means to bribery. If there were people who gave him an alms (since he is a poor man), the more appropriate opinion is that the status of such alms is as gifts, even though in the book titled Al Funun, it is written that a judge is allowed to receive alms.”
(Rearrange from Mausu’ah Fiqhiyyah Kuwaitiyyah, upon the entry of “risywah” by Abu ‘Ukkasha Aris Munandar)
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