#151: Found Money on the Pavement

Question:

Is it permissible for me to take the money I found on the pavement? If it is impermissible, should I just leave it or what should I do? Hope for an answer.

Answer:

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those who follow his footsteps until the Last Day.

Any valuable found in an unowned area and not taken care of or maintained, where the person who finds it doesn’t know the owner of it is known as al-Luqatah in Arabic. Dr Wahbah Zuhaili explained the meaning of al-Luqatah according to syarak in his book: From Ibnu Qudamah al-Hanbali, al-Luqatah means “Any valuables that is lost by its owner and found by someone else.” [1]

Furthermore, Syeikh Mustafa Bugha in his book said: “al-Luqatah according to syarak means any item or property that valuable (according to syarak), found in an unowned place and doesn’t know its owner.” [2]

Syeikh Mustafa Bugha classified al-Luqatah into two parts:

  • Al-Luqatah – Animal property (animal) means one finds valuable farm animals according to syarak. Scholars further divided it into several parts which are animals that can take care of themselves such as camels and animals that cannot take care of themselves such as a calf.
  • Al-Luqatah – Property or valuable (other than animals) Syeikh Mustafa Bugha ruled it permissible to take the item and keep it safe. It is subject to the shariah whether it is obligatory or not. Regarding al-Luqatah other than animals, it is stated in a hadith narrated by Zaid bin Khalid al-Juhaniy, a companion of the Prophet PBUH, said that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was asked about the picking up of stray gold or silver, whereupon he said:

اعْرِفْ وِكَاءَهَا وَعِفَاصَهَا ثُمَّ عَرِّفْهَا سَنَةً فَإِنْ لَمْ تَعْرِفْ فَاسْتَنْفِقْهَا وَلْتَكُنْ وَدِيعَةً عِنْدَكَ فَإِنْ جَاءَ طَالِبُهَا يَوْمًا مِنَ الدَّهْرِ فَأَدِّهَا إِلَيْهِ

“Recognise well the strap and the bag (containing) that and then make an announcement regarding that for one year, but if none recognises it, then spend that and it would be a trust with you; and if someone comes one day to make demand of that, then pay that to him.” [3]

Regarding the ruling of taking al-Luqatah, jurists have differing opinions on the matter. Madhhab Syafie and madhhab Hanafi ruled it permissible, for it is obligatory for a person to take care of the property of his brother. While madhhab Maliki and Hanbali restricts this. [4]

Regarding this matter, Syeikh Mustafa Bugha split it into several parts:

  • It is sunnah to take it if the person who found it is a trustworthy person and is able to keep it safe if there is a possibility that the found item will be lost.
  • It is permissible to be taken by a trustworthy person if he can take care of it if he didn’t think that it will get lost.
  • It is obligatory for a trustworthy person to take it and keep it safe if he’s certain that if he didn’t take it the property will be lost because taking care of the property of a fellow Muslim is obligatory.
  • It is makruh (discouraged) to be taken if one feels that he isn’t able to take care of the responsibility in the future.
  • It is prohibited to be taken by an untrustworthy person who is not capable to take care of it.

Announcement and declaration for the al-Luqatah are obligatory according to the jumhur of jurists if it is of great value. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet PBUH from Zaid bin Khalid of the phrase “make an announcement regarding that for one year.

Syeikh Wahbah Zuhaili wrote in his book about the methods of which the announcement could be made is by the declaration of it (al-Luqatah property) or advertise it at the place it is found and in gathering spots or crowds of people will be such as the markets, mosque’s entrances and food stalls. [6]

If the property remains unclaimed, then it is best to hand it over to the authorities to ensure its safety and decided by the qodi or judge for its usage to be for the general public’s benefit or entrust it to Baitulmal.

As for items that are not the focus of many people, depreciate or perishable such as rope, wood or food, it is not necessary to announce it as stated in a hadith narrated from Jabir bin Abdullah R.Anhuma, he said:

رَخَّصَ لَنَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي الْعَصَا وَالسَّوْطِ وَالْحَبْلِ وَأَشْبَاهِهِ يَلْتَقِطُهُ الرَّجُلُ يَنْتَفِعُ بِهِ

“God’s Messenger gave licence that a man might use for himself a stick, a whip, a rope and things of that type which he picked up.” [7]

Likewise, for items of low value that are found such as some small change or notes but are the focus of many people. Then, he should announce it for as long as he thinks the owner will still be looking for it as stated by Imam al-Syaukani in his book where Saidina Ali went to ask Rasullullah PBUH about a dinar that he found. The Prophet PBUH instructed him to announce it thrice and if no one comes to claim it, then he can use it all. [8]

According to the question presented, we can conclude that the money can be taken, but one must follow the following guides:

  • One must set a resolution to take care of it and return it if the found money is claimed.
  • Make announcements in a place where there are a lot of people gathering and continue to do so for as long as he thinks the owner is still searching for it. Maybe for 3 days or less according to the value of the item.
  • If during this period, no one claims it, then it is permissible to use it and one must be willing to pay it back if it is claimed.
  • It is best if the money found is announced through social media such as Facebook and Whatsapp and others. Afterwards, if the owner still cannot be found during this period, the money can be donated to mosques or orphanages. However, if the value is high and it is very valuable, it is obligatory to be announced and advertise for a whole year or handed over to the authorities for it to be managed.

Wallahu a’lam.

 

[1] See al-Fiqh al-Islam wa Adillatuhu, 6/4856

[2] See al-Fiqh Al-Manhaji Ala Mazhab Imam Syafie7/69

[3] Narrated by Muslim (1722)

[4] See al-Fiqh al-Islam wa Adillatuhu, 6/4857

[5] See Fiqh Manhaji Ala Mazhab Imam Syafie, 7/71

[6] See Al-Fiqh Al-Islam wa Adillatuhu, 6/4863.

[7] Narrated by Abu Dawud (1212)

[8] See Nayl al-Autar, 5/404

 

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