A Brief of Islamic Law

Usurpation (ghasb)

Usurpation means that a person unjustly seizes the property or right of another person. This is one of the major sins according to the wisdom, traditions and the holy Qur'an. It has been reported from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) that, whoever usurps one span of another's land, seven layers of that land will be put round his neck like a yoke on the Day of Judgement.

  1. If a person does not allow the people to benefir from a mosque, a school, a pidge and other places which have been constructed for the use of the public, he usurps their right. Similar is the case when a person reserves a place in the mosque for himself, but another person drives that person out from that place and does not allow him to use it, in which case the latter person commits a sin.

  2. If a person usurps a property, he should return it to its owner, and if it is lost while it has a price, he should compensate him for it, as will be explained later.

  3. If some benefit accrues from a thing which has been usurped, for example, if a lamb is born of a sheep which has been usurped, it belongs to the owner. Moreover, if, for example, a person has usurped a house, he should pay its rent even if he does not live in it.

  4. If a person usurps a piece of land and cultivates or plants trees on it, the crop and the trees and their fruits are his own property, and if the owner of the land is not agreeable to the crops and the trees remaining on his land, the person who has usurped the land, should pull them out immediately even if he may suffer loss for that. Aiso, he should pay rent to the owner of the land for the period the crop and the trees remained on his land, and should also make up for the damage done to the land, like, he should fill up the holes from which the trees are pulled out. And if the value of land decreases because of that, he should compensate. Moreover, he cannot compel the owner of the land to sell it or lease it out to him nor can the owner of the land comple him to sell the trees or crops to him.

  5. If a thing usurped by a person perishes and if it is like a cow or a sheep, which has not much peers similar to it in characteristics affecting the demands, the usurper should pay its price; and if its market value has undergone a change on the grounds of demand and supply, he should pay the cost which was at the time it perished.

  6. If the thing usurped by a person which has perished is like wheat and barley, which has much peers similar to it in characteristics affecting the demands, he (the usurper) should pay a thing which is similar to the one usurped by him. However, the quality of that replacement should be the same as of the thing which has been usurped and has perished. For example, if he has usurped rice of superior quality, he cannot replace it with a rice of inferior quality.

  7. If the thing usurped by a person is usurped from him by another person and it perishes, the owner of the thing can take its compensation from any one of them, or can demand a part of the compensation from each of them. And if he takes compensation for the thing from the first usurper, the first usurper can demand whatever he has given from the second usurper. But if he is compensated by the second usurper, that second usurper cannot demand what he has given, from the first usurper.

Rules of the Lost Property When Found

  1. Any lost property other than an animal, which does not bear any sign by means of which it may be possible to locate its owner, irrespective of whether its value is less than a Dirham (12.6 peas of coined silver) or not, can be kept for himself by one who finds it, but the recommended precaution is that he gives it away as Sadaqah on behalf of the owner, whoever he may be. The same rule applies for money which has not any sign. But if there is signs like quantity or characteristics of time and place for the money found, one should announce it as mentioned in the following rule.

  2. If a person finds something which bears a sign by means of which its owner can be located, and even if he comes to know that its owner is a non-Muslim whose property must be protected, and if the value of that thing reaches one Dirham, he should make an announcement about it at the place of gathering of the people for one year from the day on which he finds that thing, and if its value is less than one Dirham, the person who finds it should, as an obligatory precaution, give it away as Sadaqah on behalf of the owner, whoever he may be. And when the owner is found, the replacement should be given to him, if he does not approve the Sadaqah given on his behalf.

  3. If the person who finds such a things makes announcement for one year, but the owner of the property does not turn up, he should act as follows:

(i) If he has found that thing at a place other than the Masjid-ul-Halal (allowed), he can retain it on behalf of the owner, so that he may give it to him when he appears, or give it as Sadaqah to the poor on behalf of the owner. As an obligatory precaution, he should not keep it for himself.

(ii) If he has found that things in the Masjid-ul-Halal (allowed), the obligatory precaution is that he should give it away as Sadaqah.

  1. If the person makes announcement for one year and the owner of the property does not turn up, and he continues to care for it on behalf of its owner, and in the meantime it is lost, he will not be responsible for the loss if he has not been negligent nor overcautious about it. And if he gave it as Sadaqah on behalf of the owner, then the owner will have an option either to approve the Sadaqah or demand its replacement. And in the latter case the reward for the Sadaqah will go to him who gave the Sadaqah.

  2. If an insane person or a child who is not Bàligh finds something which bearns a sign and is worth one Dirham or more, his guardian can make an announcement. In fact, it is obligatory upon him to announce if he has taken its possession from the child or the insane person. And if the owner is not found even after having announced for a year, he should act as rule no 2577.

  3. If during the year in which a person has been making an announcement (about something having been found) he loses all hope of finding the owner, he should give it away as Sadaqah, as an obligatory precaution with the permission of the Mujtahid.

  4. If the property is lost during the year in which he has been making an announcement, and he has been negligent in caring for it, or has been overcautious, he will be responsible to the owner for replacement, and should also continue announcing. But if he has not been negligent nor overcautious, it is not obligatory for him to pay anything.

  5. If the property which bears a mark, and has value equal to one Dirham or more is found at a place where it is known that the owner of the property will not be found by means of announcement, the finder should give it to the poor persons as Sadaqah on behalf of the owner on the very first day, and he should not wait till the year ends. As an obligatory precaution this should be done with the permission of Mujtahid.