The Transformation of Illegal Wealth to Legal

Sheikh Shalih Alu Sheikh, The Current Minister of Saudi Arabia Kingdom for Religious Affair, stated, “Amongst problems considered by the scholars, upon the explanation of the sixth saying in Arba’in An Nawawiyyah (that contains the command to stay away from a thing which legal status is not clear), is the problem of eating meals of someone whose income is mixed between the legal and illegal sources. For example: Our neighbor whose wealth partly comes from illegal source, such as bribery, or usury, or the like, but at the same time, he also have another legal source of income. What is the ruling for such wealth?

Regarding this matter, there are several opinions of the scholars, which are:

First: There are scholars who consider that the status of such wealth is similar as the content the 6th hadith of Arbain. Thus, to be careful (wara’), the righteous way is to avoid such person’s wealth (example: presents, offerings when visiting such house, etc). But this practice categorized as suggestion, not obligation, in order to keep ourselves from unexpected possibilities regarding those wealth.

Second: Other scholars believe that the parameter lies on which sum of wealth is more dominant than the rest. If the most comes from illegal source, then we should avoid such wealth. But if the most is the legal, then we are allowed to consume it, as long as we are devoid of knowledge, of which source the meal that he served for us.

Third: Other scholars, such as Ibn Mas’ud, claimed that it is permissible to eat such meal, while the illegal status of such wealth and it’s consequence belong to the owner himself, since the way we acquire it differ with the way he got it. That owner gained his riches through illegal profession, but he offers us as gifts, presents, banquet, etc.

The difference in the way to achieve such wealth is the basis for different rulings of it. As what revealed in the story of Barira. Barira once got an alms -some meat-, then she gave that meat to The Prophet Shallallaahu ‘alayh wa Sallam as a present, while it was known that the Prophet was not allowed to feed from alms. The Prophet Shallallaahu ‘alayh wa Sallam then said, ” The meat was an alms for Barira, but it is a present for us” (Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim, from ‘Aisha)

Transformation of Illegal Wealth to Legal

Even though the meat presented to His messenger was an alms to Barira, but the ruling was complete different due to different way to get it. Regarding this argumentation, some of The Companions and scholars believe that it is allowed to consume such wealth/meal, while the sin is the burden of the one possess it in illegal way. Because it is a present for us, so that there’ll be no problem to eat it.

Fourth: Several scholars consider that it is allowed for us to eat such wealth as long as we do not know that the meal he served us comes from illegal source. If we know that it comes from illegal possessions, then we are not allowed to eat that part, but the other part which comes from the legal ones is still permitted for us to eat.

The reason is that previously, The Jews presented Prophet Sallallaahu’alayh wa Sallam with meals, while they worked as usurer. Despite that, Prophet Shallallahu’alayh wa Sallam still accepted and ate those presents.

The point of this case is: Whether the example of problems included in The 6th hadith or not? As seen above, some scholars viewed that such example was indeed included in the scope of hadith, to be cautious, and it did not mean that if one eat the meal from such wealth, he is eating proscribed wealth. Nevertheless, other scholars supported Ibn Mas’ud opinion on this case.

If one view this case through the indications, then it could be seen that Ibn Mas’ud’ s opinion is the appropriate stance. Among scholars who strengthened such opinion is Ibn Abdil Bar Al Maliki, in his book ‘At Tamhid’

(Explanation/syarah for Arbain Nawawiyah, by Sheikh Shalih Alu Sheikh, pg.153-155, published by Dar Al ‘Ashimah, Riyadh, first edition, 1431 H)

عن ذر بن عبد الله عن ابن مسعود قال : جاء إليه رجل فقال : إن لي جارا يأكل الربا ، وإنه لا يزال يدعوني ، فقال : مهنأه لك ، وإثمه عليه

From Dzar Ibn Abdullah, he said, “One came to see Ibn Mas’ud, then he said, ‘Verily, I have a neighbor who Is used to practice usury, but he often offer me meals at his house’. Ibn Mas’ud replied, ‘For you the delicacies, and the sin is his.'” (Narrated by Abdurrazaq in Al Mushannaf, no. 14675).

عن سلمان الفارسي قال: إذا كان لك صديق عامل، أو جار عامل أو ذو قرابة عامل، فأهدى لك هدية، أو دعاك إلى طعام، فاقبله، فإن مهنأه لك، وإثمه عليه.

From Salman Al Farisi, he said, “If you have friends, neighbors, or relatives whose work is illegal, then he presented a gift to you, or offered you meals at his house, accep it! Verily, the delightful taste of the food is yours, while the sin is his responsibility.” (Narrated by Abdurrazzaq in Al Mushannaf, no. 14677)

In summary, illegal wealth comes in two forms:

First: The status is illegal due to the substance itself. For example: Porks and liquors. The ruling of consuming such substance is illegal, for the one who acquire it, or for the one presented with it.

Second: The status is illegal due to the manner in obtaining that wealth. Such as: Bribes, salary from banks, and wages of prostitutes. This wealth is illegal for ones obtained it illegally. But if the owner (who possess the illegal wealth) gave it as a prize or gift, or used it buy food, then he offered the food as meals to his guests, then the status of such wealth became legal for other person, due to differences in the manner of obtaining it. And this is the strongest opinion regarding this case, and also the stance of 2 devout companions of The Prophet Shallallaahu ‘alayh wa Sallam.

Article of
Author: Aris Munandar, M.A.

One thought on “The Transformation of Illegal Wealth to Legal

  1. Tell me whether the jews from whom the prophet(s.a.w) accepted gifts were taking riba or not?is it necessary that every jew is taking riba.give reference from the books of hadith.

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