The twenty-first of the Greater sins is 'Breaking of a promise.' There are authentic traditions to this effect from Abdul Azeem where he quotes that Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has proved it to be a Greater sin with the help of the following verse of Holy Quran:
"And those who break the covenant of Allah after its confirmation and cut asunder that which Allah has ordered to be joined and make mischief in the land; (as for) those, upon them shall be curse and they shall have the evil (issue) of the abode."
(Surah Ra'd 13:25)
The Holy Quran denounces the breaking of promise in the following ayat too:
"Yea, whoever fulfills his promise and guards (against evil) - then surely Allah loves those who guard (against evil).
(As for) those who take a slender price for the covenant of Allah and their own oaths - surely they shall have no portion in the hereafter, and Allah will not speak to them, nor will He look upon them on the Day of Resurrection nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful chastisement."
(Surah Ale-Imraan 3:76-77)
Similarly we find another verse of the same connotation:
"Surely the vilest of animals in Allah's sight are those who disbelieve, then they would not believe.
Those with whom you make an agreement, then they break their agreement every time and they do not guard (against punishment)."
(Surah Anfal 8:55-56)
This ayat is critical of the Jews of Bani Qurayza, who did not honour the pact, which they had formed with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) regarding cooperation with the infidels. They supplied arms to the disbelievers of Mecca for the Battle of Badr and thus invalidated the pact. Later they justified their action saying they had forgotten the pact.
They once more entered into a pact with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) only to violate it at the time of the Battle of Khandaq (trench). They went against the pact and sided with Abu Sufyan.
In various places in the Holy Quran we find that fulfilling a promise has been made obligatory and highly emphasised.
"and fulfill the promise, surely (every) promise shall be questioned about."
(Surah Bani Israel 17:34)
"O you who believe! Fulfill the obligations."
(Surah Maidah 5:1)
Similarly in Surah Baqarah the ayat says,
"...and the performers of their promise when they make a promise..."
(Surah Baqarah 2:177)
We also find the following verse:
"O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do?
It is most hateful to Allah that you should say that which you do not do."
(Surah Saff 61:2-3)
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has explained this ayat in the following manner:
"A believer's promise to his believing brother is a vow that has no expiation (It cannot be broken). But one who goes back on his word declares his opposition and enmity to Allah, and invokes the anger of Allah."
After this the Imam (a.s.) recited the above-mentioned ayat.
Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) advises Malik al-Ashtar regarding the honouring of promises:
"Breaking a promise causes the anger of Allah."
Ali (a.s.) also quotes the same verse after this.
Hazrat Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) said:
"There are four types of sinners who are punished very soon:
a) The person who violates the pact that he has made with you, even though you have respected it.
b) One who inflicts harm upon you even though you caused him no harm.
c) One who has promised you something and you are faithful upon your agreement but he is unfaithful.
d) One who wants to severe relations even though the relative wishes to continue the relationship."
Abu Malik inquired from Imam Zainul Abedin (a.s.), "Inform me about all the rules of religion." Imam (a.s.) told him,
"To speak the truth, to judge with justice and to fulfill the promise."
Although a vast number of traditions and ayats denounce the breaking of promises. We shall quote some selected ones.
Types of Promises
There are three types of promises:
1. Promise of Allah to His creatures.
2. Promise of the creatures to Allah.
3. Promises of the people among themselves.
The promise of Allah to His creatures is that of the Aalam-e-Zar (in the spiritual plane). We come to know of this promise through the Quranic ayats as well as the traditions. According to this, Allah first created the souls of all human beings and made the following covenant: That they remain upon the right path, do not associate anyone or anything with Allah, obey the commands of their Prophet, and do not follow Shaitan, Allah shall recompense them by helping them, by keeping them forever in His mercy, and give them a place in Paradise but if they do not respect their covenant, Allah will also disregard His side of the promise. It is for this very fact, that Allah says.
"...and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfill (My) covenant with you."
(Surah Baqarah 2:40)
Allah also says,
"Did I not charge you, O children of Adam, that you should not serve the Shaitan?"
(Surah Yaseen 36:60)
The covenant that Allah took from the people in the spiritual plane also includes the oath with regard to the Wilayat (Mastership) of Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) and the Imams (a.s.). Numerous traditions mention this fact. It is even recorded in the various heavenly scriptures, and all the Prophets have conveyed the message of the Wilayat of the Fourteen Masoomeen (a.s.).
However, some scholars have rejected this concept of the Aalam-e-Arwah or Aalam-e-Zar. They give a different explanation to the traditions and ayats that deal with this subject. According to them Aalam-e-Arwah (the spiritual plane) is essentially the innate human nature, which is so designed by Allah (a.j.) that it is desirous of obeying Allah's command and does not desire to follow Shaitan. Of course the reasoning capacity of man directs him to follow his nature and accordingly obey Allahs orders. Hence if a man goes against Allah's command he goes against his own nature. These thinkers consider the covenant, to be the same as the innate nature given to us by Allah (a.j.). This book is not concerned with the detail of these two theories.
Anyway whether a man breaks the promise given in Aalam-e-Zar, or goes against his innate nature, he commits a greater sin. This fact has been emphasised in most ayats and traditions, and it is confirmed that honoring the covenant is wajib and not respecting it is haraam. It is also confirmed that the breaking of this first covenant can bring severe chastisement. The people are also warned of dire consequences in case of default. The traditions also inform us that serious retribution incured just for violating the first covenant, which is the greatest of the sins. Hence it is incumbent upon the people to fulfill their covenant so that Allah may also fulfill His promise.
Allah has promised to answer every prayer
One of the promises of Allah to His creatures is that He will answer every prayer, but this is only on condition that the supplicant honors this covenant with Allah (a.j.).
Jamil narrates from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) who said,
"When a man prays to Allah with a pure intention and a sincere heart, Allah answers (his prayer) after man has fulfilled his promise to Allah (a.j.). But if man prays to Allah without a pure intention and sincerity, Allah does not answer it. Has not Allah said, '...and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfill (My) covenant with you,' so the promise is kept only with one who keeps his own word.'
Verbal expression of a promise
The second type of promise is one that the man himself gives to Allah, like a vow or an oath. For an oath to be binding, it is necessary that it be expressed verbally. For example, if someone wants to vow to Allah and state it in Arabic language he should say 'Aahadto Allah' (I have vowed to Allah) or 'Alayya Ahadollah' (The vow for Allah is upon me). The statement of promise, oath or the vow can be in any language but expressed verbally. A vow for example may consist of saying, "if I return safe and sound from the journey, I shall give such and such amount as charity in the way of Allah."
If an oath is intended mentally and not expressed verbally, it is not binding.
Vow or oath for a useless thing
It must be remembered that a vow, oath or a promise should not be taken for a useless object. That is, the object must not be undesirable from the Islamic point of view. An oath taken to carry out some makrooh or haraam action, a vow to abstain from a wajib or a mustahab act is invalid. An oath taken for an action which is wajib and its avoidence haraam in a prevailing set of conditions, automatically becomes invalid if the conditions change. For example, a man vows to give a thousand rupees in charity if he gets well, but after he is well be becomes so poor that it is hardly possible for him to maintain his family. In these circumstances the vow is considered invalid and it is not wajib on him to fulfill it.
Vow should be for a useful aim
In conclusion it can be said that an oath should be taken if it is acceptable from the Shariat point of view. In any case an oath should be taken when common sense dictates that the oath serves some useful purpose, either by carrying out an action or by abstaining from it. For example to walk and exercise etc. which are beneficient and Mubah (permitted) actions, and to abstain from smoking which is harmful to health although Mubah.
Conditional and absolute covenant
Just as in the case of oath and vow, a covenant is also either conditional or absolute. An example of an absolute covenant is when a man says, "I make covenant with Allah that I shall perform such and such good action." Then this shall become binding upon him. If he does not do so he would have committed a Greater sin. In addition he also has to pay the penalty. The conditional covenant is the one when the person attaches some conditions. For example, he may say, "If Allah gives me a son, I will perform such and such good deed." Then that good deed becomes wajib upon him only when he gets a son. Once the condition is fulfilled it will also be haraam for him to leave the deed undone and he will have to pay the additional penalty also.
Three types of covenant with Allah
Actually a vow and an oath is also a covenant with Almighty Allah. Therefore a covenant is of three types. One is the covenant itself and of the other two one is a vow and the other an oath. It is only due to Divine Mercy that man is given a choice of three kinds of covenants in case he wishes to avoid the risk of being liable for keeping sixty fasts etc. Hence, he can make a vow or take an Islamic oath.
Expiation of a vow or a covenant
Breaking of a covenant, whether absolute or conditional, is haraam. The expiation becomes wajib in case of default. It is the same penalty as that of breaking or omitting, without any reason, a fast of the month of Ramazan, i.e. feeding sixty poor people, keeping sixty fasts or freeing a slave.
If a vow is broken its kaffarah (expiation) is same as that of breaking an oath. That is, feeding, or clothing ten poor people or freeing a slave; but if he cannot do any of these then it is wajib for him to keep three fasts.
Breaking of promise and hypocrisy
Breaking of a promise is a very serious sin. It is a sin that sows the seed of hypocrisy in the heart of the person who commits it. The person dies in a state of disbelief and is raised with the hypocrites on the Day of Judgment. The Holy Quran says:
"And there are those of them who made a covenant with Allah: If He gives us out of His grace we will certainly give alms and we will certainly be of the good. But when He gave them out of His grace, they become niggardly of it and they turned back and they withdrew. So He made hypocrisy to follow as a consequence into their hearts till the day when they shall meet Him because they failed to perform towards Allah what they had promised Him and because they told lies."
(Surah Tauba 9:75-77)
The Shaan-e-Nuzool (circumstances of Revelation) of this ayat, according to Tafseer Minhaj us-sadeqeen is as follows: "Thulbe Ibne Khatib was a very staunch and a prominent Christian. One day he came to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). He began to complain of his poverty, and requested the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) to pray for him. The Holy prophet (s.a.w.s.) advised him, "Do not emphasise upon this prayer of yours but be patient in your circumstances. Too much of wealth is dangerous for you. If you are grateful for this favour it is better than too much of wealth that makes you unthankful. By Allah if I pray that mountains become gold and silver and move with me, Allah shall cause it to be so but I know that an honourable hereafter is better, and those who are well provided in this world have a difficult hereafter. So, follow the Prophet of Allah (a.j.) and accept his advice."
But Thulbe the Christian did not follow the advice of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and again he came back to him with his entreaty and said: "O Prophet of Allah! I make a covenant to Allah that if He gives me abundant wealth I shall spend it upon the deserving ones and do good through it."
When he persisted in his request, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) prayed for the removal of his property.
Allah gave abundant increase in his livestock; and he became a Muslim. His animals multiplied and he became so busy in supervising them that he stopped praying behind the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in the congregational prayers. He prayed only the morning and the evening prayers. Then his herd became so bulky that the surrounding area of Madinah was not sufficient any more. He took his animals to the outskirts of the town and settled there. Now he was deprived of praying the daily prayers behind the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Still he continued to come to Madinah for the Friday prayers. Then his business expanded beyond the valleys surrounding Madinah. Finally he could not even attend the Friday prayers.
One day the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) asked his companions, "Why is Thulbe not attending the congregation?" The people replied, "He has so many goats and sheep that a single valley is unable to accommodate them. Now he has moved to such and such valley and settled there. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) upon hearing this said,
"Woe be upon Thulbe, Woe be upon Thulbe, Woe be upon Thulbe!"
Later when it was wajib to pay zakat due to the revelation of the verse of Zakat, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) summoned one of his followers and gave him this verse in writing and sent with him a tribesman of Bani Salim. The Prophet ordered, "After you have collected Zakat from Thulbe go to such and such good man and collect it from him too." Both of them went to Thulbe. They showed him the Quranic verse and also gave him the letter of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) containing the rules of Zakat. Thulbe had become so much attached to his wealth that he said, "Muhammad is collecting Jiziya from us! Go somewhere else! Meanwhile I shall think upon it."
The two men went to this righteous person (of the tribe of Bani Salim). When he saw the ayat and the letter of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), he said, "I hear and I obey the command of Allah and the Prophet (s.a.w.s.)."
He went among his camels and selected the best ones for Zakat and said, "Please take these for the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.)." The agents told him that it was not wajib to give the best of the camels. He said, "How can I not offer the best for Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.s.)?"
Then these two men came back to Thulbe. The wretched fellow repeated his previous objection and refused to pay Zakat.
When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) heard of this incident he said just once, "Woe be upon Thulbe!" Then the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) prayed for the well being of the one who had paid the Zakat willingly.
The companions used to wonder why Thulbe had not accepted the advice of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and saved himself from apostasy! (Zakat is one of the Dhururiyaat-e-Deen and one who says that Zakat is not wajib has apositisised and is no more a Muslim!) The ayats quoted before this discussion were revealed for Thulbe.
Mutual covenants and agreements
The third type of promise is when people form actual covenants and agreements. The ayats and the traditions state that it is wajib to fulfill this type of promise and it is haraam to go against them.
For example in Surah Bani Israel:
"...and fulfill the promise; Surely (every) promise shall be questioned about."
(Surah Bani Israel 17:34)
Similarly the Quran describes truthful and the pious people thus,
"...and those who fulfill their promise when they make a promise.."
(Surah Baqarah 2:177)
Also when describing those who shall be saved from Hell and earn Paradise, Allah says,
"And those who are keepers of their trusts and their covenant."
(Surah Momin 23:8)
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
"To keep your word to your believing brother is wajib like a vow, even though there is no expiation for going against it."
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said:
"One who has belief in Allah and in last day (Qiyamat) must keep his word when he promises."
Thus keeping a promise is a fulfillment for the belief in Allah and the Day of Qiyamat. Similarly, the beginning verses of Surah Saff have also denounced the breaking of promise and clearly prove that non-fulfillment of a promise (of every type) is haraam.
Hypocrites do not keep their words
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is reported to have said:
"Three traits make man a hypocrite even if he prays and fasts:
Betrayal of trust, lying and non-fulfillment of promise."
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
"Those who are just in their dealing, those who do not lie and those who fulfill their promises are from those who have perfect morals. And it is haraam to criticise them behind their back. Their being just (Aadil) is obvious. To maintain brotherly relations with them is wajib."
It follows from this tradition, that a person who is unjust, a liar and one who does not keep his word, does not possess morals. He is not a just person (Aadil) but a transgressor (Fasiq) and it is not wajib to fulfill the rights of brotherhood towards him.
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has also remarked:
"There are three obligations in fulfillment of which Allah does not give concession to any: To behave well with the parents, whether they are righteous or sinners; to fulfill ones promise; whether to a righteous person or a sinner; and to deliver a trust (to its owner) whether he is righteous or a sinner."
(Shaykh Sadooq: Khisaal)
Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) says:
"One must also fulfill that promise that he has made to his wife. For a Muslim is always wary of his promise except when it is for making a prohibited thing legal or prohibiting that which is permitted."
Treaties with the polytheists
It is an established fact that there are numerous Quranic verses and traditions which prohibit the breaking of a promise, and makes obligatory the fulfillment of promise. The following verses are sufficient to prove this point:
"Surely the vilest of animals in Allah's sight are those who disbelieve, then they would not believe. Those with whom you make an agreement, then they break their agreement every time and they do not guard (against punishment)."
(Surah Anfal 8:55-56)
Thus those who do not fulfill their promises are the worst of creatures! They are worse than animals. It is also important to know that Allah has ordered us to honour and fulfill even the treaties and promises made with the disbelievers and polytheists. These promises cannot be disregarded.
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) respected the treaty with the Polytheists of Mecca
When the power and glory of Islam was at its zenith a verse of Surah Baraat was revealed; ordering Jehad (holy war) against the polytheists. The Almighty Allah commanded the Prophet to purify the Holy Mecca from the filth of polytheism and idol worship but it was also ordered not to break the treaty with the polytheists if they did not break it. The ayat is as follows:
"Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up anyone against you, so fulfill their agreement to the end of their term; surely Allah loves those who are careful (of their duty)."
(Surah Tauba 9:4)
Abu Rafe says: "The Quraish sent me to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). When I met him, my heart became illuminated with his countenance. I said to him, "O Prophet of Allah! I do not wish to go back to the Quraish." He said, I would not act against the terms of treaty, and retain their messenger. Abu Rafe, go back to your people now and after this if you wish, you may accept Islam and join us."
Honoring the terms of the treaty with the Quraish
Huzaifa Yamani says that there was one thing that discouraged me from participating in the Battle of Badr. Abu Husael and I were going out when we came face to face with some men from the Quraish. They asked, "Do you love Muhammad?"
"We love Madinah," we replied.
They made us promise that after reaching Madinah we shall not accompany the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in the battle. When we met the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and told him of this promise he said,
"Do not think of joining in the battle due to this oath of yours. We shall seek the Divine assistance!"
The above two traditions are recorded in the book, "Islam and World Peace" by Syed Qutb, Pg.264.
The Kafir father took away his son
During the treaty of Hudiabiya, Sohail Ibne Umer was representing the disbelievers in negotiating with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). When it was time for drawing up the treaty and the signatures were yet to be affixed, Jundal the son of Sohail left the pack of disbelievers and went to the Muslims. Seeing that he was attracted to the Muslims, the Quraish chained his legs but he escaped with the chains intact. He went away with the Muslims and began to behave like one. When his father saw this, he came to his son and gave him a resounding slap. Then he told the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), "O Muhammad! This (treaty) is the first step of reconciliation between you and us and as per its terms you have to surrender my son to me."
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) agreed to it and surrendered Jundal to his Kafir father, but upon the condition that he would be protected and not harmed. Sohail Ibne Umar agreed to this condition. When it was time to hand over Jundal to the disbelievers, Jundal protested, "O Muslims! I have become a Muslim! How will I return amongst the polytheists?"
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) told him,
"Go! But have patience. Allah will provide ease to you in this way only. We cannot go against the terms of the treaty."
Sohail caught his son's hand and led him away. He did not remain true to his promise and tortured his son very much.
This incident proves the importance of the fulfillment of a promise. The same incident is mentioned in the exegesis of Surah Fath in Tafseer Minhajus Sadeqeen.
I will stay here all my life
The following narration is recorded in Behaarul Anwaar:
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) promised a man that he would wait for him at an appointed place near a stone. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) waited there but the man did not turn up. Morning turned into afternoon while the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) stood in the blazing sun. Some of his followers saw him and said, "Please stand in some other place."
He (s.a.w.s.) replied,
"I cannot move away from here till that man returns."
The man arrived at last. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
"If that man had not come, I would have continued to stand till death!"
Janab-e-Ismail and the fulfillment of the vow
The Holy Quran refers to Prophet Ismail as the "Truthful in Promise," in the following verse:
"And mention Ismail in the Book, surely he was truthful in (his) promise, and he was an apostle, a prophet."
(Surah Marium 19:54)
Hazrat Ismail (a.s.) had promised to wait for a person, who did not turn up. Three nights passed but he still kept waiting. However, according to most of the scholars and well-known tradition the period of his wait was a whole year. During this time he also had to bear untold difficulties and sometimes survived on leaves.
Violation of a promise is caused by disbelief
Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) has mentioned that it is disbelief that causes one to go back on his word and break a vow. He says:
"By Allah, Muawiya is not more cunning than I am but he deceives and commits evil deeds. Had I not been hateful of deceit I would have been the most cunning of all men. But (the fact is that) every deceit is a sin and every sin is disobedience (of Allah), and every crafty person will have a banner by which he will be recognised on the Day of Judgment."
(Nahjul Balagha Sermon 200)
Allamah Majlisi says that the one who commits greater sins is also referred to as a disbeliever in traditions. Hence every type of a crafty person has been called a Kafir in this sermon. It is that disbelief which has its root in the heart and which takes the form of disobedience to Allah's commands.
A Muslim is never deceitful
Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) has said:
"Surely fulfillment of pledge is the twin of truth. I do not know a better shield (against the assaults of sin) than it. One who realises the reality of return (to the next world) never betrays. We are in a period when most of the people regard betrayal as wisdom. In these days the ignorant call it excellence of cunning. What is the matter with them? Allah may destroy them. One who has been through thick and thin of life finds the excuses preventing him from orders and prohibitions of Allah, but he ignores them despite capability (to succumb to them and follows the command of Allah), while one who has no restraints of religion seizes the opportunity (and accepts the excuses for not following the commands of Allah)."
(Nahjul Balagha Sermon 42)
Violation of promise and falsehood
Some of the Mujtahids consider violation of a promise to be a kind of falsehood. Especially when at the time of promising, one has no intention of fulfilling it. Thus all the verses and tradition denouncing and prohibiting falsehood also apply here.
If there are some conditions
According to the Fatawa (religious decrees) of the leading Mujtahids, it is wajib to honour the terms and conditions of a transaction and it is obligatory to fulfill them. For example the buyer can put a condition that if the goods are defective he can return them within two months. Or the seller may put a condition that the buyer must not spoil the goods if he wishes to return them. In such situations it is wajib to honour the terms of agreement. Similarly if the landlord has restricted the use of his premises to any one except the tenant, the tenant has to observe the terms faithfully. Both the parties to a transaction have a right to lay down their terms and conditions.
Other Mujtahids state that not only is it wajib to honour the terms and conditions of a transaction but the one who has put them may enforce his rights and insist on the condition being fulfilled. For example if an employee has laid a condition that he shall be paid his salary on the first day of every month, then not only is it necessary to pay him as agreed but the employee has a right to demand it on that day, and he can even take it without the knowledge of his employer.
At times it may happen that the conditions agreed upon are quite irrelevant to the actual transaction and not directly related to it. Even in these cases it is necessary to fulfill the obligations.
In cases where the terms and conditions are such that the parties consider it better to observe them, these conditions do not contribute a right and it is not wajib to follow them to the letter.
Fulfillment of promise is a must
In all respects, fulfillment of a promise is so much emphasised in the Quranic Verses and the traditions, that one should be extremely cautious in honouring every type of agreement and pledge. If a person has to give a promise under compulsion and he does not wish to become a sinner, he can use words like, 'May be', 'If', or 'Insha-Allah' etc. For example he can say, "Insha-Allah (If Allah wills) I will do this."
To vow or pledge after saying Insha-Allah
It is the opinion of Allamah Hilli, and other Mujtahids agree, that every vow or pledge after uttering Insha-Allah (or its translation in any other language) makes the pledge conditional to the Divine will. Hence it is not strictly wajib to fulfill it. But if it is with regard to some promise or condition (of an agreement), that concerns a wajib act or it is for the avoidance of a haraam act, it has to be observed faithfully, even after uttering Insha-Allah.
It must however be understood that the promise which is made conditional by saying 'Insha-Allah' is not binding, only when the person intends the actual meaning of the term Insha-Allah. That is, he must really mean to subject the matter to Allah's will. If he utters Insha-Allah only for the sake of seeking divine blessings then it is binding upon him to remain firm upon his vows.
It should also be clear that it is not only permitted, to disregard a promise of abstaining from a wajib act or to perform a haraam act but it is infact haraam to fulfill it. For example if one vows to punish his wife or son if they did such and such thing, it is better to disregard such vows and forgive them instead.
The Quran says:
"And let not those of you who possess grace and abundance swear against giving to the near of kin and the poor and those who have fled in Allah's way, and they should pardon and turn away. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you?'
(Surah Nur 24:22)
It means that Allah forgives the sins of those who forgive the wrongdoings of others.
Prophet Ayyub (a.s.) and his oath of beating his wife a hundred strokes
In a situation where, one has taken an oath in utmost seriousness to inflict punishment, and one does not wish to go against it, it is better to carry out the oath in a manner that a token punishment is given and the oath is also not violated. For example, Prophet Ayyub (a.s.) saw his wife doing something against his will. He took a vow to hit her a hundred strokes after he recovered from the illness. When he recovered, Allah ordered him,
"And take in your hand a green branch (with a hundred twigs) and beat her (your wife) with it (once) and do not break your oath."
(Surah Saad 38:44
The Twenty-Second Greater Sin
The twenty-second greater sin, is defalcation or misappropriation of property. Misappropriation of property as a greater sin is stated in the Quran and the authentic tradition related by Abdul Azeem from Imam Muhammad Taqi (a.s.) and also from the traditions of Imam Sadiq (a.s.), Imam Kazim (a.s.) and Imam Reza (a.s.).
Khayanat is itself an Arabic word. In the tradition of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) as related by Amash the word 'Khayanat' is used in the list of the greater sins. Another Arabic word used for misappropriation is 'ghulul.' 'Ghulul' is used in the narration of Fazl Ibne Shazaan where he quotes Imam Reza (a.s.). According to some lexicographers 'ghul' denotes misappropriation of a property obtained as spoils of war against the disbelievers which is not yet been distributed among the Muslims. However other scholars maintain that 'ghulul' applies to every kind of embezzlement.
The punishment of misappropriation according to the Holy Quran
The Almighty Allah says "...and he who eats unfaithfully shall bring that in respect of which he has acted unfaithfully on the Day of Resurrection; then every soul be paid fully what it has earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly. Is then he who follows the pleasure of Allah like him who has made himself deserving of displeasure from Allah, and his abode is hell; and it is an evil destination."
(Surah Aale Imraan 3:161-162)
In Surah Tahrim we find the verse:
"Allah sets forth an example to those who disbelieve, the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut: they were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them so they availed them naught against Allah, and it was said: Enter both the fire with those who enter."
(Surah Tahrim 66:10)
Also Allah (a.j.) says:
"… Surely Allah does not love the treacherous."
(Surah Anfal 8:58)
"O you who believe! Be not unfaithful to Allah and the Apostle, nor be unfaithful to your trusts while you know."
(Surah Anfal 8:27)
Similarly the Quran says,
"…but if one of you trusts another, then he who is trusted should deliver his trusts, and let him be careful (of his duty to) Allah, his Lord..."
(Surah Baqarah 2:283)
At another place the Divine Book states,
"Surely Allah commands you to make over trusts to their owners..."
(Surah Nisa 4:58)
Breach of trust denounced in the traditions
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says:
"One who embezzles a property in his charge and does not deliver it to its owner and dies in such a condition, then he does not die in my community (he does not die a Muslim). When such a person meets Allah, He shall be infuriated with him. And one who purchases an embezzled property knowing that it is embezzled is just like the (actual) embezzler."
Another tradition states,
"And it will be ordered to throw him in the fire; he will remain in the deep pit of Hell forever."
The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is also reported to have remarked,
"If one is Muslim, he must not practice deceit and defalcation. For I have heard from Jibraeel that deceit and cheating belong to hell."
Then he (s.a.w.s.) continued,
"One who cheats a Muslim is not from us, and one who embezzles the believers is (also) not from us."
The following tradition is recorded in the book Al Kafi:
"There are three qualities that are the sign of a hypocrite even if he prays and fasts and calls himself a Muslim: lying, violating promises and defalcation."
This tradition had already been mentioned in the previous discussion.
Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) says;
"There are four things and even if one of them enters a house it causes economic catastrophe and it never remains blessed: defalcation, thievery, wine and adultery.
Thus if one or more members of a household indulge in one of these sins, such a household is deprived from divine blessings. It brings about an economic ruin. It must also be clarified, however, that the house of the thief is deprived of 'barakat' (divine blessings) and not the site where robbery occurs.
Misappropriation causes misfortune
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) remarks,
"Trustworthiness causes one to be self sufficient (financially) and misappropriation causes poverty."
The narrator says that I said to Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.),
"There is a lady in Madinah, with whom people leave their daughters for training (and education). We have observed that she could maintain herself with so less, but we have never known her to have any financial problem."
Imam Sadiq (a.s.) remarked,
"It is because she is truthful and trustworthy. These two qualities increase sustenance."
Another tradition from the same Imam (a.s.) is as follows:
"Do not be deceived by the prolonged sajda and rukoo of a man, they may be a part of his habits (that he could not avoid). See his truth and trustworthiness."
Thus it is these qualities that prove righteousness and piety.
Anyone could be the owner of the entrusted property
We have numerous traditions dealing with this subject. They emphatically state that it is wajib to guard the trust and haraam to misappropriate it, whether the one who entrusts it, is a Muslim or a Kafir. It is even wajib to protect the goods entrusted by a Nasibi (those are openly inimical to Ahlul Bayt a.s.) in spite of the fact that the Nasibi are the worst kind of people.
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:
"Fear Allah! And return the entrusted thing to the owner. Even if the murderer of Ali (a.s.) entrusts me with something, I shall deliver it to him (when he desires)."
Imam (a.s.) also says,
"Then fear Allah! And guard the trusts (placed by) the white as well as the black (people). Even if the one who entrusts is from the Khwarij or a Syrian (those who hate Ali [a.s.])." That is, even if he is a confirmed enemy of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.).
A man inquired from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.),
"Is it allowed to misappropriate the property of a Nasibi?"
Imam (a.s.) replied,
"Honour the trust of every person who entrusts you with it, or seeks your advice. Even if it is the killer of Imam Husain (a.s.)."
Another similar narration is as follows:
Husain Shabani says that he asked Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.), "One of your followers considers the property and blood of Bani Umayya permissible for himself. He is also in possession of some property entrusted to him by the Bani Umayya?"
Imam (a.s.) replied,
"Restore the entrusted property to its owner even if they are Majoos (fireworshippers)."
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) is also reported to have said,
"Allah has not sent any messenger but with (the order to propagate) truth and restoring of trust, whether of a righteous man or a sinner."
Muhammad Bin Qasim says that he mentioned to Abul Hasan, Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.) regarding the person who had entrusted someone with something valuable. "The trustee is an Arab and he is competent enough not to return the trust. Whereas the one who entrusts is a wretched Khariji (enemy of Ahlul Bayt)?"
Imam (a.s.) said,
"Tell him to return the trust; because it is a divine trust that he is entrusted with." (Meaning that it is a trust, which is to be restored according to divine command).
Hazrat Imam Zainul Abedin (a.s.) advises his Shias:
"You must return the trusts when required. By the One who has sent Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) as a messenger with trust, even if the killer of my father Husain (a.s.) had entrusted me with the sword with which he had slain him, I would have delivered it back to him."
The Satan instigates
The greater the importance of a duty in Islamic law, the greater is the effect put in by Shaitan to deviate a person from fulfilling it.
Hazrat Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,
"If a person makes good the trust in his possession, he unties a thousand knots that had tied him to Hell. So, do not be sluggish in delivering trusts. When one becomes a trustee, Iblees orders a hundred of his assistants to follow him so that they may deviate him and suggest him to defalcate. They continue to pursue him till he is doomed. Except the one who is saved by Allah (a.j.)."
Ameen (Trustworthy) - A Title of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.)
Every historian has recorded that even prior to the declaration of his prophethood, the disbelievers of Quraish addressed the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) by the title of 'Ameen'. The disbelievers trusted him to the extent that even though they did not heed his call and did not profess Islam, they deposited their valuables with him. The trust in the Prophet's trustworthiness was not restricted to the Quraish tribe, but was shared by the people of other tribes and areas as well. When these people came to Mecca during the Hajj season they used to put their belongings in the safe custody of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). This continued after the declaration of prophethood. When the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) migrated to Madinah he gave all the things that were in his custody to Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and said:
"Proclaim loudly, every morning and evening in Mecca that whoever had kept anything with Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) may collect it."
Types of misappropriations
Defalcation the opposite of safekeeping is of three types: Breach of trust with Allah, with the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and with people.
1. The trust of Allah
"Surely We offered the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to be unfaithful to it and feared from it, and man has turned unfaithful to it; surely he is unjust, ignorant."
(Surah Ahzaab 33:72)
What is meant by Divine trust? The scholars have a variety of opinions in this regard. Some opine that it denotes the grace of intellect given by Allah (a.j.). The safeguarding of this trust (intellect) means that man should employ it to recognise and obey his Creator. According to other scholars this trust consists of the laws of Islam that Allah has sent through His Prophet (s.a.w.s.). These laws are a Divine trust. To guard these laws means to obey them faithfully. It is obvious that the heaven, the earth and the mountains did not possess the ability to protect these trusts and hence they refrained from accepting them. Man was competent to obey the command of his creator and therefore he accepted the trust. But he allows his emotions to subvert his intellect and permits his desires to override reason. He therefore ignores the laws he had agreed to obey oblivious of divine retribution. This is breach of trust with Allah (a.j.).
The blessings of intellect and trustworthiness
Intellect or the faculty of reasoning is one of the greatest trusts that Allah has bestowed upon man and this trust demands that man continually honours it. We must not say or do anything that is against reason. If we allow our desire to conquer reason we would have committed a breach of trust with Allah (a.j.).
As regards the safekeeping of trust with reference to the rules of Shariat,
Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) says:
"Misappropriating the trust of Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is their disobedience. As far as the breach of trust is concerned, every person is the trustee of the laws revealed by Allah."
It is clear from this tradition that the Divine laws promulgated for men are Allah's trust. The safekeeping of these trusts means the acceptance of these laws and implicit obedience to them. Every individual is expected to study these rules of Shariat and not to remain ignorant of these. Every individual has to make a point to learn and understand the obligations and be fully conversant with all the laws governing every aspect of his or her life. After learning these laws the individual is further obliged to accept them and follow them in all sincerity.
It is said that when it was the time for prayers, Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) became fearful and restless and his face became pale. People were dazed to see him thus, and asked him the reason for it. He replied,
"It is the time for prayers! It is the time of delivering the trust that Allah had offered to the heavens, the earth and the mountains, which they had refused. This is what I fear!"
However, this is not restricted to prayers. All the laws of Shariat are the trust of Allah and prayers occupy a lofty position among them.
Propagating the laws of religion
It is pathetic that most of the people of our time are committing breach of Divine trust. People are so engrossed in the materialistic world that they have no time to learn the basic laws of religion, or to act upon them. Day by day religion is given less and less importance although more than before, the need of the day is that people should learn about religion and propagate it to others. We must ourselves act upon the laws of Shariat faithfully and also exhort others to do the same.
2. Trust of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.)
Both Shias as well as Sunnis agree that before his passing away the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) had said,
"I leave among you two weighty things, the Book of Allah and my Progeny."
The Prophet's words after this, according to history are,
"On the Day of Qiyamat I will question you concerning them (as to how you have safeguarded them)"
According to Tafseer Majmaul Bayan: The Quran and the Progeny have been referred to as "two weighty things" because to follow them is a very difficult task indeed. A true Muslim is one who is able to carry the weight of this responsibility. A Muslim must obey the Quranic orders and follow the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.). Alas! The followers of Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) did not safeguard the important trusts.
"And the Apostle cried out: O my Lord! Surely my people have treated this Quran as a forsaken thing."
(Surah Furqan 25:30)
May Allah not include us in that majority of people about whom the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) shall complain to Allah.
Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) are the Trust of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.)
Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) are themselves a trust that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) has left with us. To honour this trust is to love them (Ahlul Bayt), and believe in their truth with sincerity. We must obey their commands because their orders are the commands of Allah (a.j.) and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). They are the Hujjat (proof) of Allah. By sending them to us Allah has completed His proof, so we cannot say that there was no one to lead us after the death of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). The Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) are the link between Allah and us. We must also respect the Sadaat (the sayyeds) as they are from the Progeny of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), and fulfill their needs, for in this way we would be safeguarding the trust of their ancestors. On one hand the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) are the trustees of Divine laws from the time of the Prophet's death till the Day of Judgement, on the other hand they themselves (a.s.) are a valuable trust of the Prophet with us, like the Holy Quran. One of their rights upon us is that we consider their grief and sorrow as our own, rejoice in their happiness and joy and honour them by going for Ziarat to their holy shrines.
3. Trust of the people
Trust of the people is divided into two categories:
(1) Trust of Property and
(2) Trust of the Shariat.
The first one denotes any goods or property that a person keeps with someone for safe custody. This can be in various forms. Sometimes one keeps a valuable with another person solely for its safekeeping. Sometimes a thing is given for use but it must be returned after the use is over. This is also known as Ariya or Musta'ar. Another form of trust is when a particular thing is given on hire and its rent is collected, for example a house.
A loan is also a trust. Sometimes a valuable is pledged as the surety for some loan. If the loan taken against this surety is not repaid this item is sold to recover the dues. In the same way in transactions of Mudarabba (partnership) the property given out for trading is also a trust.
Trusts of Shariat
By trust of Shariat we mean property which is in possession of a person who is not its actual owner. This property may not have been handed over to him by the owner, but he may come to acquire it through circumstances. For example, a strong wind blows a cloth from a house to the neighbours, or someone's lost domestic animal may stray into somebody's house, or one may buy something and find later that the seller has given an extra item by mistake, or the client may pay the seller more than the prescribed rate, or one may find some money on the way, or one may come to acquire some stolen goods or those belonging to someone else. All these things are considered as trusts according to Shariat. It is wajib to restore them to the rightful owners, those who have them in their possession should not use such items. Another example of such a trust is a letter addressed to another person. It is wajib upon the person to send it to its rightful addressee. It is haraam to open or read a letter addressed to someone else.
Misappropriating other's property
If one is in possession of a person's property through circumstances, it is haraam to embezzle it. As we have already stated, misappropriation is a greater sin.
Misappropriation is a compound of three sins:
(2) Disregard of an obligatory act and
(3) Illegally using someone's property
Illegally using someone's property
It is a sort of injustice to use the property or a thing belonging to someone else without his permission. It is haraam even to borrow something without the permission of the owner. It is haraam to use the thing even for a moment. In fact, even displacing a thing without permission is haraam when there is no valid excuse.
A person using an article without the owner's permission has to give it back immediately or ask permission for its use. If any damage has occurred to the property the user has to make good the loss.
If one expects that the owner will permit the use of his property, then its use without permission is allowed. But the user will have to compensate in case there is any damage to the property.
A user is not accountable if a property is damaged despite his best toil to safeguard it, but he will be responsible if the damage is the result of his carelessness.
The 91st verse of Surah Tauba says,
"…there is no way (to blame) against the doers of good..."
According to this ayat the trustee who has done a good deed by guarding a property will not be liable for any loss or damage. The one who entrusts has no lawful recourse against the trustee.
Carelessness in guarding the trust
A trustee shall be made to pay for any loss or damage that occurs to the good entrusted to him, if he has not taken reasonable take of the goods or has kept them in an unsafe place. It is also not allowed to hand over the property in ones trust to someone else for safekeeping without the owner's permission. If the trust is transferred to another person and a loss occurs, then the first trustee shall be held responsible. It will amount to a sort of carelessness on his part. Even if he considers someone else to be a better trustee he cannot move the goods to him without the permission of the owner. In the same way the trustee cannot carry the trust with him when he goes on a journey. The owner's permission has to be sought in this case also. If the trustee intends to travel, he can keep the property in a safe place, or he can hand it over to another person only with the permission of the owner. However if there is a risk of loss or damage in his absence he must return the trust to its owner or his representatives. If the owner or his representatives are not available, he can surrender the trust property to the Mujtahid or the religious judge or he may avoid travel altogether. But if the journey is more important than the safe-keeping of this trust, and the owner nor representative nor a Mujtahid is available then he can, to ensure its security keep it with someone reliable. He may even carry it with himself on the journey in such circumstances.
If one is sure that he will not be able to take care of the trust, it is wajib for him to refuse to accept it. If such a person has already taken it, it is wajib for him to return it but if in spite of his inability to safeguard the trust property, the owner insists on handing it to him he is allowed to accept it. In this case the trustee cannot be held responsible, and the owner would bear the loss in the event of the goods being lost or damaged. Even if one is compelled to be a trustee against one wishes, it is better to take care of the goods entrusted, as a moral obligation.
It is apparent that this transaction (of one who entrusts and the trustee) is a legal transaction. Either party may terminate the agreement whenever he or she desires. That is, the owner may ask for his property whenever he likes. In the same way the trustee can return the goods in his trust to the owner whenever he wishes. However, it is wajib for the trustee to return the trust when the owner demands it and the one who entrusts cannot insist upon the trustee to continue to safeguard his goods when he (the trustee) wishes to relieve himself of the responsibility.
Delay in returning the trust
Under special circumstances it is permitted to appropriate the property of a Kafir, not living under the protection of Islamic government. But if such a person gives his property as a trust, it is not permitted to misappropriate this property. If the property to be entrusted is stolen or acquired by illegal means, it is wajib to accept it and restore it to its rightful owner.
As we have already mentioned, anything that is maintained as trust must be restored to the owner or his representative; like some responsible member of his family, if they are not available, the trust could be given in charge of a Mujtahid or his representative. If even these are not available the trust must be handed over to a reliable person. Especially when one perceives the approach of death one should immediately arrange to return the trusts. If none of the above persons are available then it is wajib upon the dying person to make a will and provide the address of the owner so that the property may be restored to him.
In the same way if the owner learns that the trustee is dead, it is wajib for him to go and collect the things that he had deposited as trust. If the heirs of the deceased do not recognise him he can describe the distinguishing features of the trust property and obtain it from them. Similarly if the owner dies, the trustee is under obligation to return the trust to the heirs of the deceased.
Transactions of hire, ariya (free loan), mortgage and partnership
As we have already mentioned, all the goods that are the basis of the above transactions constitute a trust. Whenever the owner demands the property, it has to be restored immediately. However, if a period has been agreed upon, the owner cannot demand his property before the end of the stipulated period. For example, the landlord cannot expel his tenant before the expiry of the agreement of tenancy. Similarly the pledged article cannot be taken back without the repayment of loan. The same is the case with a loaned article.
At the end of the stipulated period the trustees are obliged to return the property that had been in their possession even if the owner has not demanded it back, but if the owner extends the period the trustees can continue to retain the property.
However, 'Ariya' is a transaction where the owner is at liberty to demand back his property whenever he likes. For example, someone has borrowed a book for a week but the owner demands it the same day. The borrower, in this case, is obliged to return the book immediately. 'Ariya' is just like the keeping of some trust. The owner can ask for it whenever he wants. Even though he may have given it for sometime, he can demand it whenever he likes.
Search for the owner - Sadaqah on his behalf
The above discussion was regarding the property trusts. If someone is in possession of a Sharaii trust and the owner is not known, the finder of a property has to search for him for one whole year. He must publicise it from masjids etc. If the owner is still unlocated he must give all of the found property in charity on behalf of the owner.
The one who entrusts and the trustee should be adults
A transaction of trust is valid only when both the parties are sane and adult. So a child or an insane person cannot entrust their property nor can they act as trustees. However, if the guardian of a child or an insane person permits, the property can be held in trust. Whether the guardian permits or not, if the property of a minor or an insane person held in trust suffer some loss or damage, the trustee has to make good the loss. He has to return it to the guardian and not directly to the minor or insane person. If one finds a minor child or an insane person in possession of something and there is a risk of it being lost or damaged, he can take it from him and deliver it to his guardian.
These are thus some laws regarding trusts. For detailed laws one can refer to the books of jurisprudence. The important thing is to understand the significance of trusts and to avoid the pitfalls of a sin like misappropriation. We shall present one more ayat and a few traditions before closing this chapter.
Trustworthy people praised in the Quran
It is mentioned in Surah Aale Imraan:
"And among the followers of the Book there are some such that if you entrust one (of them) with a heap of wealth, he shall pay it back to you; and among them there are some such that if you entrust one (of them) with a dinaar he shall not pay it back to you except so long as you remain firm in demanding it; this is because they say: There is not upon us in the matter of the unlearned people any way (reproach); and they tell a lie against Allah while they know."
(Surah Aale Imraan 3:75)
This verse praises those Christians who do not embezzle when non-Christians entrust something to them and it denounces the Jews who consider it permissible to misappropriate the property of anyone who is not a Jew. They falsely claim that they have been given a licence by Allah to do so.
When the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) recited this ayat, he said:
"The enemies of Allah lie! I have corrected every custom and belief of the age of Jahilya (ignorance) but (the matter of) trust is as it was. Whether the trust belongs to a righteous person or an evil one, it has to be returned."
(Tafseer Majmaul Bayan).
According to the ayat the embezzlers are like those Jews who defalcated and if a Muslim considers embezzlement to be permissible, he is included among the enemies of Allah.
Recovery of damages from a property in trust
The Quran and Hadith clearly state that under no circumstances is it allowed to pilfer a property held in trust. Shaykh Tusi in his book, Nihaya and other Mujtahids have also mentioned this fact.
Narrators of traditions have mentioned the following from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.):
"One person sends another with money to purchase a cloth. When the latter goes to the market he sees that he already has the same type of cloth at home. So can he come back and without saying anything give him the cloth that he was already having and retain the money?"
Imam (a.s.) continued, "He should not even think of doing this and make himself contaminated with such a sin." Then Imam (a.s.) recited the 72nd ayat of Surah Ahzaab:
"Surely We offered the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused to be unfaithful to it and feared from it, and man has turned unfaithful to it; Surely he is unjust, ignorant."
Then the Imam (a.s.) further said:
"Even if this man has something better than what is available in the market, he must not give it to the buyer without informing him of the fact."
This is because the actual transaction consisted of taking the person's money to the market and purchasing a cloth. Anything contrary to this is 'Khayanat'.
Sulayman Bin Khalid says,
I inquired from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.): "A man had borrowed some money from me. Not only did he not repay the loan but he also took an oath that he did not owe me anything. Later he kept some of his money with me as a trust. Can I recover my debt from this money?"
Imam (a.s.) replied, "Certainly that person has betrayed you but you should not betray trust. You must not commit the same sin."
(Nihaya of Shaykh Tusi)
As we have already mentioned, Shaykh Tusi and the other great Mujtahids have given a clear verdict in the light of the Quranic verses and clear ahadith, that Khayanat is totally prohibited.
But in the book Milhiqat Urwatul Wuthqa, the late Kazim Tabatabai says, "It is commonly believed by the Mujtahids that to recover one's legal dues from a property held in trust is permitted."
The fatwa of Late Kazim Tabatabai was also to this effect, but precaution dictates that one must refrain from such a course of action.
If a person is given money on the undertaking that he should give it to a poor Sadaat, he cannot keep this money, even if he himself happens to be a poor Sadaat, without informing the owner. But if it is certain that the owner will agree to his keeping it for himself then doing so is not breach of trust.
The burden of Khayanat and the Day of Judgement
The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) has said,
"Beware! One should not commit Khayanat of even one camel! Otherwise, he will be summoned on the Day of Qiyamat riding the same camel and bleating like a camel.
Beware! One should not commit Khayanat of even one horse! Otherwise he will be summoned on the Day of Qiyamat riding the same horse and neighing like a horse.
He will be calling me for help, 'O Muhammad! O Muhammad!' I will tell him that I had already warned him. Now I have no responsibility concerning him against Allah."
Allamah Majlisi has recorded a tradition from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.):
"You must return even a needle and thread. For Khayanat will cause untold degradation and exposure of defects on the Day of Qiyamat."
A man came to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) with a needle that he had taken without permission. He said, "I had taken this needle to sew a pack saddle for my camel."
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) told him,
"If this needle belongs to me I have forgiven you. However, if it belongs to the other Muslims you must pay for it so that it could be included in the public treasury for equal distribution."
"I was not aware that it was such a serious matter," the Arab remarked, "If it is so, I will not keep the needle with me." He handed over the needle to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and went away.
The guilty shall be recognised by their marks
According to Allamah Majlisi, on the Day of Qiyamat the sinner shall carry the pilfered property on his shoulders. Every type of sinner will have specific distinguishing marks, by which everyone will know what sin the sinner had committed. One who commits a greater sin and dies without repenting for it, the Almighty Allah will deal with him with justice on the Day of Qiyamat. So much so that the mark of the sin that he committed most will be attached to him. For example, the drunkard will be holding a wine bottle, the terrible stench of which will cause discomfort to the people. Similarly, the musician will have the instrument stuck to his hands. The gamblers will be having the instrument of gambling with them. The same thing is alluded to in the verse:
"The guilty shall be recognised by their marks."
(Surah Rahman 55:41)
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and his trustworthiness
One day a poor man came to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and told him of his poverty. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
"Sit down! Allah is most Powerful."
Another beggar came and the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) told him to sit down too. Then a third destitute arrived and the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) told him also to sit down. After some time a person came and presented four saa (approximately 12 kilos) of wheat as Zakat to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) distributed one saa (3kilos) of wheat to each of the poor men. One saa of it remained. After the Maghrib and Isha prayers the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) announced that a saa of wheat is remaining with him. Any needy person can come and collect it from him; but no one came forward. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was compelled to take this trust home. Ayesha says that, that night the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was very restless. When she inquired the reason of his restlessness he replied,
"I am fearful of the consequences in case I die today and this trust is not delivered to a deserving person."
It is also mentioned that when the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was on his deathbed, he had an amount of six or seven dinars for the poor and the needy, remaining with him. He sent for the money and after counting it, said,
"It is possible that Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) may reach the presence of his Lord while these dinars are still in his custody!"
Then he (s.a.w.s.) summoned Amirul Momineen Hazrat Ali (a.s.), and gave him the dinars for the poor and the destitutes and then said,
"Now I can rest in peace."
(Naaseekhut Tawarikh Vol.3, Pg544)
Secrets are also trusts
Sometimes a person is told a secret and asked not to divulge it to others. This secret is also a kind of trust. It may also be that one learns of a secret regarding another person and is sure that that person would prefer that it is not made known to others. This secret is a trust according to Shariat. To divulge a secret that one has come to know is Khayanat. The following saying of Ali (a.s.) is present in Ghurarul Hikam:
"To divulge a secret that you are supposed to guard is Khayanat and betrayal."
It is absolutely haraam to betray a secret which is a trust, whether of a friend or an enemy, of a righteous person or an evil one.
Private discussion is also a trust
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) mentions that:
"People who sit together must be careful of safe-guarding the trust. It is not permitted for a believer to disclose a secret of his believing brother."
(Behaarul Anwaar Vol.16)
Abu Zar has related from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) that he said:
"O Abu Zar, one who sits in company must be cautious of safeguarding trust. For if you expose a secret of your believing brother, you would have committed Khayanat. So, keep away from such things."
Whatever is discussed in a meeting is also a trust with the participants. Anything that is to be kept confidential must not be divulged. It is recorded in the traditions:
"One who sits in company must be wary of maintaining the trust but it is not haraam to expose the secret of three kinds of meetings: One, where an unlawful murder is planned; two, where fornication is planned; three, where it is planned to loot someone's property. The facts of such meetings could be presented in the court for proving someone's right. In some cases it assumes such importance that it becomes necessary to disclose a secret."
In Surah Tahrim the Almighty Allah flays some of the Prophet's wives (Ayesha and Hafasa) for betraying a secret of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Allah has advised them to repent.
"If you both turn to Allah, then indeed your hearts are already inclined (to this)."
(Surah Tahrim 66:4)
The same chapter also mentions the wives of Hazrat Lut (a.s.) and Hazrat Nuh (a.s.) in the following words:
"Allah sets forth an example to those who disbelieve the wife of Nuh and the wife of Lut; they were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them so they availed them naught against Allah, and it was said: Enter both the Fire with those who enter."
(Surah Tahrim 66:10)
Divulging secrets is Khayanat
Abdullah Ibne Sinan says that he inquired from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.), "Is it haraam for a believer to expose some things of another believer that deserve to be kept secret?"
"Yes," the Imam (a.s.) replied.
The narrator further asked, "Do you mean by this the 'private parts'?"
Imam (a.s.) explained, "It is not what you think, (Though it is also haraam to view the private parts), what I meant were the confidential matters."
Imam (a.s.) has also said:
"One who washes a dead body of a believer and observes caution with regard to the trust is absolved of all his sins."
Someone asked, "How can one maintain secrecy with regard to the washing of a believer's corpse?"
The Imam (a.s.) answered,
"He must not tell anyone of the deformities that he might see in the dead body."
From this discussion we can be certain that exposing a secret amounts to committing Khayanat. Under all circumstances a secret is a trust, whether the person concerned himself takes you in confidence or you come to know of the secrets by yourself, it is haraam to betray it. If the one whom the secret concerns does not wish his secret to be divulged, then it is haraam and a kind of Khayanat to expose it. Such types of trusts that involve secrets have various grades and are of different types. Certain types of Khayanat are termed as tale telling and others are called backbiting. Each of these shall be elaborated ahead.
Informing disbelievers about the military secrets of the Muslims
Khayanat can be with Allah (a.j.), the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and Muslims. One can also commit Khayanat with ones own self. When a person reveals the political secrets or the military stategies of the Muslims to the disbelieving opponents, he commits Khayanat which includes all the above. He is the cause of strengthening the enemy and responsible for the defeat of the Muslims. Perhaps it is this type of Khayanat that is alluded too in the following ayat:
"O you who believe! Be not unfaithful to Allah and the Apostle, nor be unfaithful to your trusts while you know."
(Surah Anfal 8:27)
In the Shaane Nuzool (circumstances of revelation) of this verse Jabir Ibne Abdullah Ansari says: One day Jibraeel (a.s.) informed the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) of the fact that Abu Sufyan was camping at a particular place with an army of polytheists. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) made preparation to fight with him and kept this secret so that the enemies would be taken by surprise. However, one of the hypocrites wrote to Abu Sufyan and informed him of the Muslim plan. The explanation of the verse (8:27) mentions the Khayanat of Abu Lababa and his subsequent repenting.
Divine mercy upon those who maintain trusts
Maintaining a secret is however, a formidable task. Only those with a high sense of honour are unflinching, and succeed in strictly maintaining secrets. It is a morality with which very few good actions can compare and is deserving of high rewards and Divine blessings. The person is protected from fear on the Day of Qiyamat. On the day when all the people will be gathered for accounting, the trustworthy people shall be placed at the safest and the best place under the shade of Divine mercy.
Imam Musa al-Kazim (a.s.) says,
"Three types of people will be under the shade of Divine mercy when there will be no other shade:
(One), the person who arranges the marriage of his believing brother. (Two), the person who procures a servant for his believing brother. (Three), the person who has maintained a secret of his believing brother."
Restrain from divulging your own secrets
According to the traditions we must not inform anyone of our own secrets. Even if those people are our closest relatives or friends. It is possible that their friendship may not last forever. They might become our enemies in the future. It is very scarce for an enemy not to expose the secrets of his opponent.
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has advised one of his followers:
"Do not tell your secrets even to your friend. But only tell him those things that will not cause any harm even if your enemy comes to know of it. Because even a friend could become your enemy one day."
A reliable and pious person has related that when he intended to divorce his wife, he was asked about her defect; that had made him take such a decision. He replied, "An intelligent person never exposes his wife and never reveals her secrets."
Subsequently the divorce was completed and even the Iddah came to an end. Again some people asked him, "Now she is no more your wife. What was the actual defect in her, that you had to divorce?" He said, "I am not concerned with other women." It means that it is the right of a wife upon her husband that he maintains her secrets even after separation and divorce.
Revealing a secret is a kind of Khayanat and all types of people consider it to be evil. It is mentioned in the book Uqudul Farid that even a filthy man like Ziyad (May Allah's curse be upon him) had criticised Umar Ibne Saad (May Allah's curse be upon him too) for revealing the last wishes and the secret of Hazrat Muslim Ibne Aqeel. Ibne Ziyad (l.a.) had written to Umar Ibne Saad. "O Umar Ibne Saad! Because you yourself have revealed the secret of Husain's coming towards Kufa, you would have to go and fight against him."
The detail of this incident are from the book Nafasul Mahmoom and other books of Islamic history, and are as follows.
When Ibne Ziyad had Muslim Ibne Aqeel arrested, Muslim asked, "Would you murder me?"
"Yes," replied Ibne Ziyad.
"Give me some time so that I can express my last wishes to a relative of mine."
The accursed Ibne Ziyad permitted him to do so. Muslim searched among the people present in the court and saw Umar Ibne Saad. He told Umar Ibne Saad, "O Umar! We are related to each other. I wish something from you. It is obligatory for you to fulfill it and it is a secret that I cannot reveal to everyone."
Umar Ibne Saad tried to shirk the responsibility but Ibne Ziyad told him, "Do not try to avoid this. Listen to what your cousin wishes." So Umar Ibne Saad and Muslim Ibne Aqeel went into a corner.
Muslim said, "There is debt upon my neck. When I had reached Kufa, I had borrowed seven hundred Dirhams. Please sell my armour and repay the loan. When I am killed take my last remains from Ibne Ziyad and perform a proper funeral and bury me. You must also send someone to Imam Husain (a.s.) so that he can stop him from coming to Kufa. I had myself invited him to Kufa and written that the people of Kufa are on his side. So he must have started his journey towards Kufa. Inform him of my arrest and execution so that he may turn back."
Umar Ibne Saad immediately told Ibne Ziyad all the three things (the debt of Muslim, the burying of his corpse and the warning for Imam Husain (a.s.). Ibne Ziyad (l.a.) said to Muslim Ibne Aqeel, "A trustworthy person can never betray you but the thing is that you have considered a betrayer to be your confidant."
An exemplary confidant
It is appropriate to mention an exemplary trustworthiness at this point. When Hazrat Imam Husain (a.s.) reached a spot called, 'Haajiz' he wrote a letter to Muslim Ibne Aqeel and the Shias of Kufa. He wrote:
"From Husain Ibne Ali (a.s.) to his Muslim and momin brothers. Peace be upon you all. Praise be to Allah besides Him there is no deity. I have received Muslim's letter. He has informed me of the glad news that you all are united to support me and prepared to fight for my right. I pray to Allah for your favourable consequences. May He reward you for this stand of yours. I have left Mecca on Tuesday the eighth of Zilhajj and started moving towards you. When my messenger reaches you, you must become serious and concerned in your mission. I shall come to you within a few days, InshaAllah. Peace be upon you and the Divine Mercy."
Imam Husain (a.s.) gave this letter to Qays Ibne Musher Saidawi who set out immediately and soon reached the outskirts of Kufa. An officer of Ibne Ziyad, by the name of Haseen Ibne Tamim tried to arrest him there. He at once tore up the letter of Imam Husain (a.s.). He was then taken to Ibne Ziyad. When Ibne Ziyad told him to surrender the letter he said, "I have torn it into pieces."
"Why?" asked Ibne Ziyad.
"So that you may not come to know what was written in it."
"To whom was it addressed?"
"To some people I am not familiar with."
Ibne Ziyad ordered, "If you do not reveal the name, you shall have to mount the pulpit and invoke curse upon the liars." [Ibne Ziyad was actually referring to Imam Husain (a.s.).]
Qays Ibne Musher went to the pulpit and announced, "O people! Husain Ibne Ali is the best creature of Allah, and the son of Fatemah (s.a.) the daughter of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.). I am his messenger. I have left him at a place called 'Haajiz'. I have come to you so that you may respond to his call and support him wholeheartedly."
Then Qays invoked curse upon Ibne Ziyad and his father. He then showered praises upon Amirul Momineen Hazrat Ali (a.s.).
Ibne Ziyad ordered that Qays be taken to the wall of the palace and then thrown down. When Qays was thrown from such a height, his bones shattered but he was alive when Abdul Malik Ibne Amir beheaded him.
When Imam Husain (a.s.) learnt of Qays' murder, his eyes were filled with tears. He recited the following ayat of the Quran:
"Of the believers are men who are true to the covenant which they made with Allah: so of them is he who accomplished his vow, and of them is he who yet waits, and they have not changed in the least."
(Surah Ahzaab 33:23)
An interesting incident of trustworthiness is also recorded in the book, Riyazul Hikayaat:
A man had one thousand Tumans in a bag. He was going to the public bath, early in the morning. On the way he met a friend who was also heading towards the public bath. When they came to a junction this person separated without informing his companion. Perchance a robber was pursuing them with the intention of stealing the moneybag. When this man reached the bath the robber followed suit. The man deposited the moneybag with the bath keeper and went inside to take a bath. The bath-keeper himself thought of taking a bath. He thought that the robber who had followed the man was the latter's friend. So he handed him the money bag and said,
"Keep this in your custody till I return after taking a bath."
The thief remained sitting till the bath-keeper returned. Then he gave back the moneybag to him. When the bath-keeper learnt that he was not a friend of the first person he asked, "Then who are you?"
He replied, "I am a thief."
"Then why did you not steal the money bag?"
The thief answered, "I may be a thief, but betraying trust is against manliness. While safeguarding this trust I have also remained aloof from robbery."
This nobility impressed the owner of the moneybag, and he opened the bag and gave some money to the robber as a reward.
However, stealing is also haraam and it shall be discussed in the forthcoming chapter. An object may be expensive or worthless, but stealing it is absolutely haraam.
The Twenty-Third Greater Sin
The twenty-third sin which is certainly a Greater one is stealing or thievery. Imam Reza (a.s.) has included stealing among the Greater sins according to the tradition reported by Fazl Ibne Shazaan. Amash says that Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) has related from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) that he said,
"A believer cannot commit fornication and a believer cannot steal."
Thus one who fornicates or steals is not a believer. Such a person is devoid of faith. Such a person lacks belief in Allah and the Day of Judgement. If such a person dies without repenting for his sins, he does not die a believer. Some of the ayats and traditions that are critical of Khayanat also include stealing. Stealing is absolutely haraam even if it is for a worthless object. To steal even a needle is haraam. However, the hands of a thief are cut only, if in addition to all the necessary conditions the value of the stolen goods exceeds a quarter misqal of gold.
Muhammad Ibne Muslim says that he inquired from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.):
"What is the minimum amount, stealing of which can make one liable to have his hands amputed?"
Imam (a.s.) replied, "A quarter of a dinar."
"And on stealing two dirhams?"
"Even if it is a dirham more than a quarter of a Dinar. In all cases the hands are severed."
Muhammad Ibne Muslim further asked, "Then if one steals less than a quarter of a dinar, is he called a thief?"
Imam (a.s.) told him,
"Every such person is a thief in the eyes of Allah who steals the property of the Muslims and keeps it for himself." (That is, Allah will punish him with the punishment that is reserved for all those who steal.)
"But (in this world) his hands are not cut off. However if he steals a quarter dinar or more his hands are severed. If the hands of those who steal less than a quarter dinar were also to be cut then we would find most of the people with their hands severed."
Punishment for theft
The Almighty Allah says in Surah Maidah:
"And (as for) the man who steals and the woman who steals, cut off their hands as a punishment for what they have earned, an exemplary punishment from Allah, and Allah is Mighty. Wise.
But whoever repents after his inequity and reforms (himself), then surely Allah will turn to him (mercifully), surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful."
(Surah Maidah 5:38-39)
The book Burhanul Quran mentions on page 170:
"The opponents of Islam have raised objection against the penal code of Islam. They label such penalties to be primitive and inhuman and not acceptable in the twentieth century. The criticism is especially severe with regard to the punishment of theft and fornication. They trump up their arguments saying that such crimes are a result of psychological disorders and moral and psychological counselling can reform criminals. We admit that moral advice is one of the ways of reforming individuals. Certainly, moral lessons have a profound effect in guiding a society in the right direction. We also do not reject the fact that most of the crimes are due to psychological and moral ills.
Islam has not overlooked moral training as a factor in the development of character but Islam also believes that inspite of such training if the individual is inclined towards crime he should be punished adequately. A breakdown in discipline and order begins if you ignore crime, eventually leading to a corrupt society.
In non-Muslim countries also the criminals are not let off with a sermon on moral values. Criminals are imprisoned and accorded various punishments. We do not deny the fact that poverty causes many a crime to be commited. We agree that destitution sometimes makes a man lose his sense of moral values and he is more inclined to Khayanat and stealing when he is in difficult economic conditions. But we cannot accept that poverty and destitution are the sole causes of crime. We see quite a few people who inspite of their straitened circumstances are not at all inclined towards injustice and crime and prove their integrity by fulfilling their obligations with sincerity. On the other hand crimes and perversity are prevalent in affluent countries and also in communist countries which claim to have eradicated inequality.
Those who are critical of Islam to be primitive and inhuman are unable to assess their own selves. Those who proclaim independence and human rights overlook their own crimes. Forty thousand people were butchered in North Africa just because they were protesting for their basic rights. Is this nor barbaric?
The newspaper Kahyan of 14th April 1960 reports: The valiant people of Algeria have struggled for six years against the tyrannical rule of France over their country. To date, around one million people from the total population of ten million have laid down their lives in this struggle.
Coming back to our discussion we would like to point out that Islam has taken in to consideration all aspects of crimes and punishment. Islam does lays down heavy penalties for crimes committed but Islamic law takes into account, the circumstances under which the crime is committed. A person who steals due to hunger and poverty is not liable to have his hands cut off, nor is a person who has been coerced into stealing, punished. Also Islamic laws are not applicable in non-Muslim countries. So the objections raised are baseless.
As far as barbarism (of which Islam is accused) is concerned, the progressive countries in the Second World War alone killed and maimed a million people. The dropping of the atom bomb caused untold miseries of devastation, death and diseases plagued millions of people and the horrible effect of these continue to this day. It has come to light in recent times that the dropping of the atom bomb was entirely unneccessary. It was for an experiment. An experiment conducted at the cost of human life and human masses. Compared to this shocking perversity and savageness the fact that corporeal punishment in Islam is given in only limited cases.
Besides Islam prescribes rules and regulations which if followed faithfully not only improve morals, but eliminate poverty and enhance economic development of the society as a whole, thus eliminates the very cause of these crimes.
It is the duty of the Islamic government to provide every citizen with suitable employment. If some people still remain unemployed they are to be paid a stipend from the public treasury till they can secure a job. Under these conditions there is no need for anyone to steal. Inspite of this if someone steals, then surely he deserves to be punished.
It is a fallacy to think that these prescribed punishments are only meant for old times when people were savage and incapable of being controlled by any other means and that in the modern age people are receptive and suggestive and can be reformed without punishment. It is a foolish argument. If this argument had any substance we would not be witnessing such an awsome crime rate in the "cultured" atmosphere of the developed countries.
It is obvious that the Quranic ayat quoted earlier does not give any details regarding the robbery or the punishment. These details have been elaborated in numerous traditions that have come down to us from our Ahlul Bayt (a.s.)
Conditions when corporeal punishment is accorded
It should be mentioned here that as far as Shia faith is concerned amputing of hand implies cutting four fingers of the right hand. The palm and the thumb are left untouched.
Before amputing the hands of the thief the following conditions must be fulfilled. Even if one of them is absent, the punishment is not carried out:
1. The thief must be an adult. The signs of adulthood according to Shariat are the completion of fifteen lunar years for a boy and nine lunar years for a girl. Another sign of maturity is the growth of pubic hair. The third sign is the ejaculation of semen in boys and the beginning of the menstrual cycle in the girl. Even if one of these signs are present the concerned person is an adult. So if the thief is not an adult his hands cannot be amputed. At the most the judge releases him after issuing a stern warning so that he may not dare to repeat this act.
Abdullah Ibne Sinan relates the following tradition from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.):
"When a minor child steals for the first and the second time he is forgiven. If he does it for the third time he is issued a strict warning and beating. If he persists in his crime, the tips of his fingers are slightly cut and if he repeats the act, some more of his fingers are cut away."
2. The thief must be sane. So if an insane person robs, his hand is not amputed. He may be suitably warned and scolded.
3. The thief must not have resorted to stealing under duress, if he had been compelled to do so, the penal code is not applied.
4. The stolen thing must be something that is worth owning. Hence, if ones freedom is restricted it cannot be called a theft.
5. The value of the stolen object must not be less than one-fourth misqal of pure gold. One misqal is equal to eighteen grams. One-fourth misqal is four-and-a-half gram.
6. The son or the slave of the thief must not own the thing that is stolen. So if a father steals from his son, he is not punished. On the contrary if a son or a daughter steals from the father or mother their hands are amputed. The same rule applies to the master and the slave. If the master robs his slave he is not punished. On the other hand, there exists a difference of opinion on the matter of whether the slave who steals from his master is to be accorded the punishment of theft or not. Some Mujtahids are of the opinion that if a servant steals from his office or employer, he should not be given the full penalty. Other Mujtahids have issued a decree that there is no difference between a servant, a workman and other people. They shall be deserving of the penalty. There is also a difference of opinion with regard to the theft committed by a guest from his host. The most prevalent verdict is that the guest must be punished.
7. Eatables stolen during the times of famine do not make the thief liable for having his hands cut. It is narrated from Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said:
"In the time of famine and draught the hands of a thief are not cut off for stealing edible items like bread and meat etc."
8. If a soldier participates in a raid and steals from the plundered goods obtained in war before they are distributed, he is exempted from the punishment.
9. If one of the parties to a transaction steals a property and claims that it rightfully belongs to him, he is not liable to be punished.
10. If a person is accused of theft, but before his theft is proved to the judge, he pays the owner the value of the goods, he is not penalised. Similarly, if a son steals from his father but before the verdict is issued the father dies, the son is not punished, as stolen goods now comprise his inheritance.
11. If the use of the stolen things is haraam (e.g. wine or pork), there is no penal action against the robber.
12. If the thief claims that he had not taken a particular thing with the intention of stealing it, and the judge considers otherwise, there shall be no punishment for it.
13. The object should have been stolen from a place where the owner's permission is required to enter. If a theft takes place in a public mosque or public bath, the thief does not have his hand amputed.
14. The thing should have been stolen from a secure place. If something is not kept in a safe place and left open, the theft of it does not incur punishment. Hence valuables should be kept under lock and key. The fruits should not have been stolen from the trees. They should have been already picked and stored in the orchard. The four-footed animals have to be stolen from the stables. Wares have to be stolen from inside the shop. The pocket that is picked must be an inside one and not the one that hangs outward. Money should be stolen from a safe etc. The shroud should have been stolen from the grave.
15. The thief must himself take away the stolen goods from their proper place. If one takes out the thing from its safe place and another one takes it away, neither of the two can be punished for theft. Because, the one who has taken out the thing from its safe place has not stolen it and the one who has stolen it has not done so from its place of safety. We have already mentioned that one who steals something from other than its proper place is not given the punishment of theft. Only that thief is punished who removes the thing from its proper place and also takes it away. If more than one person are involved in stealing something from its proper place and taking it away, then the value of the stolen property is divided by the number of people involved. If the share of each person is more than one-fourth misqal all their hands are amputed but if their individual shares are less than this then none of them are punished in this manner.
If a thief removes the stolen object and loads it on his animal, or gives it to an insane man or a minor child for taking it away, he is penalised. This is because the animal, the insane person and the child are mere carriers of the goods.
16. Severing of the hand is a punishment for theft. Theft implies that someone takes away something without the knowledge of others who later realise that the thing is missing. Hence if a person forcibly loots some goods from its owner, he is not punished for theft. He is beaten up and issued a warning, so that he may not repeat the act. However if the goods are looted using a weapon, the punishment is equal to that of being at war against the Muslims. (This punishment is described in the thirty-third ayat of Surah Maidah. Either the criminal is killed or crucified, the left and the right foot is amputed, or he is to be exiled; the judge can award one of these punishments.)
17. If before a theft can be proved, the thief goes to the judge and repents and promises not to steal in future he is saved from the punishment. Once the theft has been proved, repentance is of no consequence and punishment will be implemented.
18. For a theft to be proved, two just witnesses should have seen the thief stealing. It may also be that there is just one witness but the owner also testifies that robbery has taken place. The thief may himself confess twice of his theft and deserve to be penalised. If he confesses only once, the stolen goods are taken away from him and restored to the owner. He is not punished for theft.
19. If the owner takes back his goods or allows the thief to keep them before the matter is reported to the Qazi and does not press for a penalty, the thief is not punished. However if the crime is proved before the judge even the owner cannot save the thief from punishment.
Some Mujtahids believe that if two just people have not witnessed the theft and it is only proved by two confessions of the thief, the judge has the prerogative to condone him. It is mentioned in the book Tahzeeb that a person came to Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) and confessed of having stolen something. Hazrat Ali (a.s.) asked him,
"Can you recite some portions of the Quran?"
He said, "Yes, Surah Baqarah."
Ali (a.s.) said,
"I have respited your hand in exchange of Surah Baqarah."
Ashath said, "O Ali (a.s.)! Have you overlooked the Divine penalty?"
Ali (a.s.) replied,
"What do you know? Awarding the penalty is only necessary when two just witnesses have testified. But if the crime is confessed by the thief himself, the Imam can condone him."
If the crime satisfies the above conditions, the amputing of the hands could only be carried out by the just ruler or judge. No other person is qualified to award the penalty or carry out the punishment. The Qazi is responsible for recovering the stolen goods and restoring them to the owner. If the goods are used up or lost, the thief has to make good the loss. The order for the returning of stolen goods is the same, whether the theft is proved according to Shariat or not. If a thing belonging to someone else is taken, it has to be returned.
In some cases the theft is not proved but the Qazi issues a warning for taking the property belonging to someone else. The Qazi may scold or beat the person so that he may not repeat the act. The extent of scolding and beating is also left to the discretion of the judge. In cases where the goods are stolen from an unsafe place, or a bandit has looted the goods, or a forgerer has forged a signature and wrongfully acquired someone's money, the property is restored to the owner and the accused is scolded and beaten. In the same way if someone digs up the grave containing a corpse, but does not steal the shroud, he is also scolded and beaten up. Even if he steals the shroud but its value is less than one-fourth misqal of gold he is similarly beaten up and scolded.
Protection of property and honour
If the thief is seen stealing, he becomes a bandit. The owner can, with the intention of protecting his property fight with him. If the thief dies, his killing is condoned and no blood money is payable. Similarly the attacker can be killed in defence of ones life and honour. But the real aim has to be for defence, and if defence is possible without killing, then killing is haraam. Only the least aggressive measures necessary for defence are permitted.
The Islamic laws with regard to theft are numerous and there is a difference of opinion among the Mujtahids upon many of the points. Keeping in mind the scope of this book, we feel the discussion we have had should suffice.
How is the punishment awarded?
After the crime is proved the judge cuts off the four fingers of the right hand. He leaves the thumb and the palm untouched. The penalty is the same if the thief is convicted of multiple thefts and has not been punished before. If a thief has already had his four fingers cut and he steals again and the theft is proved, his left foot is cut from the front. The heel is left so that he can walk. If he steals for a third time and again the theft is proved the robber is captive for life. If he steals in the prison too, he is put to death.
The hand which is supposed to be lifted up for prayers, the hand which expresses the submission to Allah, the hand which must be used to solve the difficulties of people, to help the oppressed and the orphans, to attack the enemies of faith, if the same hand is used to steal the property of the Muslim brothers and it is proved with all its necessary conditions, then there is no way except to dismember it. Society is rendered safe due to this measure.
If someone's hand is amputed without any fault of his, the one who cuts the hand is made to pay five hundred misqal of gold to the victim. Whereas if someone robs one fourth of a misqal of gold his hand is amputed. It appears that one who steals a fourth of a misqal of gold is worse than the one who cuts off the hand of an innocent person. Such is the value of trust in Islam.
The Twenty-Fourth Greater Sin
SHORT-WEIGHING AND CHEATING (In Business)
The twenty-fourth Greater Sin is short weighing or cheating in business. This is recorded in the Holy Quran and the tradition of Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) as related by Amash and the tradition of Imam Reza (a.s.) as reported by Fazl Ibne Shazaan. Imam (a.s.) says: "Decreasing (fraudulently) in measure and weight." (is also a Greater Sin). It is haraam for a seller to give less than the specified quantity or for the debtor to repay less than what is specified.
A terrible punishment awaits the doer of this grievous sin, according to the book of Allah. A complete chapter of the Holy Quran deals with this topic. It says:
"Woe to the defrauders. Who, when they take the measure (of their dues) from men, take it fully, but when they measure out to others or weigh out for them, they are deficient. Do not think that they shall be raised again, for a mighty day, The day on which men shall stand before the Lord of the worlds?"
(Surah Mutaffefeen 83:1-6)
Deed in Sijjin
"Nay! Most surely the record of the wicked is in the sijjin. And what will make you know what the sijjin is? It is a written book."
(Surah Mutaffefeen 83:7-9)
Sijjin is either the name of that register which contains the account of deeds of disbelievers and transgressors. Or it is a special corner of Hell where the disbelievers and sinners will be consigned. Hence the translation of the ayats will be as follows:
"They should be fearful for it is written down that the transgressors will go to sijjin. And what can explain to you what sijjin is? It has already been written about it (And a decision has been taken which cannot be changed)."
Hazrat Shoeb (a.s.) was preaching to his people:
"O my people! Serve Allah, you have no god other than He, and do not give short measure and weight. Surely I see you in prosperity and surely I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing day. And O my people! Give full measure and weight fairly, and defraud not men their things, and do not act corruptly in the land, making mischief."
(Surah Hud 11: 84-85)
A person who short-weighs is not a Momin
According to the Quranic ayats, one who resorts to short weighing and defrauding does not believe in the Day of Judgement and the Hereafter. If the person had any belief in the Hereafter, he would know that, even if he succeedes in fooling people, he would never be able to hide his fraud from the Lord of the worlds; he would realise that on the Day of Judgement he would have to account for whatever he has earned by defrauding and make good the loss.
A butcher who was an idol-worshipper used to give more than the prescribed weight. When people asked him the reason for this he pointed up towards the top of the wall and said, "I give more because of him." When people looked up they saw an idol installed there. Another idol-worshipping shopkeeper was prominent for his habit of casting a glance at the idol before he proceeded to weigh some goods.
When Hazrat Yusuf (a.s.) and Zulekha were alone in the room, Zulekha covered the idol with a cloth. Hazrat Yusuf (a.s.) asked her,
"Why have you covered the idol?"
She said, "I feel ashamed before it!" Hazrat Yusuf (a.s.) said,
"You feel ashamed before a lifeless idol created by men, when it has no power of understanding. How can I not feel ashamed before the Almighty Lord Who is ever present and all-seeing?"
Saying this he fled from that place and saved himself from fornication.
It is a great pity that idol worshippers are ashamed to commit sins in view of their idols, which are lifeless objects, whereas Muslims have no qualms in commiting sins before Allah (a.j.) for Whom nothing is hidden in the heaven and the earth.
Five sins and their punishments
The following tradition has been recorded from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) in the book Tafseer Minhajus Saadeqeen According to this tradition there are five types of sins which bring about five types of calamities.
"When the people of a vicinity break promises and oaths, Allah makes their enemies to reign upon them.
When people order against the revealed Divine commands, poverty (certainly) is widespread.
When immorality is practised openly deadly diseases certainly increase.
When people short-weigh and short-measure then there is a decrease in agricultural output. (Decrease in livelihood) and there is less rainfall."
Advice of Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) for the businessmen
Whatever Ali (a.s.) found himself free from the administrative work, he used to go to the market place and announce,
"O people! Fear Allah! Weigh and measure with justice. Do not cheat people (by giving less) and do not spread corruption in the earth."
One day Ali (a.s.) saw a saffron seller short-weighing. He had applied oil to his hand and very cunningly he applied it to the pan of the balance which held the saffron. Ali (a.s.) picked up the saffron from the balance and said,
"First rectify your balance, then if you like you can give more than that."
Between mountains of fire
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) says:
"One who does Khayanat in weighing and measuring is thrown into the lowest section of Hell. There he shall be placed between two mountains of fire. He will be told to weigh those mountains. He will be busy in this forever."
The following incident is recorded in the book Tafseer Minhajus Saadeqaen:
A person by the name of Malik went to visit a friend who was sick. Malik says, "I saw him in a deplorable condition. He was screaming, 'Two Mountains of fire are going to crash upon me.' I told him, 'It is only an illusion!' He said, 'No, it is true! Because I have two different balances. With one of them I used to short-weigh while selling and with the other I weighed more while buying. I am punished for this so soon!'"
Short changing is also haraam
As it is haraam to short-weigh it is also haraam to short-measure like measurement of cloth or land which are sold by measure, must not be short measured. It is absolutely haraam. In the same way those items which are sold by number, like eggs or fruits; if someone sells them to a person and gives less than the specified quantity, he is counted among those who short-weigh and short-measure. Shaykh Ansari has mentioned it in his book Makasibul Muharrama.
The Seller who cheats is a debtor of the buyer
The amount of goods given less by the seller is owed to the buyer. It is obligatory to give the balance amount to the buyer. If the buyer is dead he must give it to his heirs. If he does not know the buyer he must with the permission of the Jurist pay a similar amount as sadqa on behalf of the buyer.
If the seller does not know how much less he has given, he must give him some amount that will satisfy the buyer. If the buyer is dead he must satisfy his heir. If the buyer is unknown the Mujtahid must be satisfied.
Defrauding is like selling short
It is short weighing and short measuring when the seller gives less without the knowledge of the client. The buyer does not realise that he is being given less than the stipulated quantity but it is defrauding when the seller sells some goods of an inferior quality and makes it out to be of a good quality. In this case too the buyer is unaware of being cheated.
The seller may also adulterate the goods. In this case there is no short weighing but it is haraam all the same, because it is a kind of fraud. For example a grainseller adulterates 95 kg of wheat with 5 Kg of mud and sells it as a hundred Kg of wheat; or a milkman adulterates milk by adding water. Similarly a shopkeeper sells a kilo of ghee but surreptitiously puts a quarter kilo of stone beneath the layer of ghee. A butcher commits a fraud if he adds more than a reasonable amount of bones while selling meat. Vegetable sellers increase the weight of vegetables more by pouring water over them than required. All these types of frauds are included among the sin of underweighing, even if the seller is weighing the adulterated goods accurately.
Adulteration is haraam
To mix an inferior quality of wheat with one of a good quality or to adulterate pure ghee is also haraam. Shaykh Ansari says in his book Makasibul Muharrama, "The tradition prohibiting adulteration is Mutawatir."
Shaykh Sadooq has recorded the prophetic tradition:
"One who sells adulterated goods to Muslims is not from us. He will be raised with the Jews on the Day of Qiyamat, because an adulterater is not a Muslim."
The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said,
"One who gives us adulterated goods is not from us."
He repeated this sentence thrice then said,
"And Allah will remove barakat from the livelihood of the Muslim brothers. (Allah) will destroy his economy and leave him upon his own condition."
An edifying incident is mentioned on page 309 of the book Daarus Salaam by Aqae Iraqui: The respected Aqae Abdul Husain Khawansari has related to me the following incident: "An honest perfume seller of Karbala had fallen sick. He tried the treatment of every doctor in the town but it was of no use. He spent all his property for his treatment but he was not cured. One day I went to pay him a visit. I saw him perturbed. He was instructing his son to sell off the household items. He was saying, 'Sell off everything! I do not want anything. Either I will die or be cured!' I asked him, 'What do you mean?' He sighed and answered, 'At the beginning of my career I was not so rich. During that time an epidemic fever broke out in Karbala. The doctors prescribed lime juice as its cure. Since the disease was widespread there was a great demand for limejuice. I began to adulterate limejuice by mixing yoghurt in it. I sold it at a very high rate. Gradually the stocks of limejuice with the other shopkeeper were finished. They began to direct their customers to me. Soon the stock of limejuice in my shop was also sold out. Now I began to sell only yoghurt by adding colour and a sour material to it. I sold this concoction as limejuice. My coffers became full and I continued to amass wealth. Today I find that all this property is of no use to me. My disease is incurable. So I wish to get rid of all the things that I obtained in this haraam manner, in the hope that after doing this, I may be cured.' Not much time had elapsed after this incident when the perfume seller departed from this world. He was definitely indebted to those whom he had sold the adulterated limejuice."
Hazrat Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) says:
"One day the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was passing through the bazaar of Madinah. He (s.a.w.s.) told a wheat seller, 'Your wheat is of a good quality.' Then he put his hands inside the pile and found inferior quality of wheat below He said, 'I see that you have gathered the provisions of Khayanat and adulteration.'"
Allamah Hilli says that a man asked Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.), "If a person has two types of goods one is of a superior and expensive quality and the other is of inferior and cheap quality, can he mix these two and sell at a special rate?"
Imam (a.s.) replied,
"It is not correct for him to sell the adulterated goods to Muslims. However (there is no harm) if he informs them (of the adulteration)."
Dawood Ibne Sujaan asked Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.): "I had two varieties of musk. One was wet, the other dry. I sold the wet and fresh musk but no one was prepared to buy the dry one at the same rate. Is it permitted for me to make it wet so that it is sold out?" Imam (a.s.) told him,
"It is not allowed. However if you inform the buyer that you have made it wet, it is another matter."
Giving less in the rights of Allah and Prophet (s.a.w.s.)
People have been ordered not only to refrain from defrauding each other, but they must also not cheat and defraud while fulfilling their obligations towards Allah, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), the Holy Imams (a.s.) and all the creatures.
Allah is not deficient while fulfilling the rights of people. He has taken upon himself to give sustenance to one and all. He bestows man with unlimited favours. He listens to his entreaties and fulfills his wishes in keeping with his well being. So it is incumbent upon man to be faithful in fulfilling his duties towards Allah. Man can do this by being thankful to Allah for His blessings, by obeying His commands by carrying out all his obligations. Thus one who succumbs to Satan and his own selfish desires, has disobeyed Allah and he has not fulfilled Allah's right. His prayers are not answered immediately, he becomes impatient and does not realise that he himself is deficient in fulfilling Allah's rights. Allah (a.j.) says in the Holy Quran.
"...and be faithful to (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfill (My) covenant with you."
(Surah Baqarah 2:40)
It is nothing but His Beneficence that inspite of our failings Allah listens to our prayer.
Hazrat Imam Zainul Aabedeen (a.s.) says in Dua Abu Hamza Thumali:
"All praise be to Allah Who responds to my call. Whereas when He calls me, I am lazy in my response. All praise be to Allah Who gives me whatever I ask Him. Though when He asks me for a loan I am stingy. (All the good deeds are a loan to Allah. He shall repay men on the Day of Qiyamat).
And all praise for that Allah who sees my infamies but acts magnanimously (He does not send immediate punishment). He is so forgiving as if I have not committed a single sin."
What you desire for yourself
Saadi Shirazi says in a couplet,
"You usurp the property of Muslims but when someone usurps yours you protest and claim that no one is a Muslim anymore."
If one desires not to be cheated by others one must be honest in ones dealings with others. Justice demands this. The traditions also state that one must wish for others what one desires for oneself.
Justice and equity is best
Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:
"Three actions are the best. People should receive complete justice from you so much so that you desire for them what you desire for yourself. You must co-operate monetarily with your brothers in faith. You must remember Allah in every condition. That remembrance is not merely Subhanallah (Glory be to Allah) or Alhamdo Lillah (Praise be to Allah), (it is remembering Allah, always). When some duty comes upon you which Allah has ordered, you must fulfill it, and when some prohibited act comes before you; leave it."
The scales of justice
Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) advises his son Imam Hasan Mujtaba (a.s.) in his will:
"O my child, make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should desire for others what you desire for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do not oppress, as you do not like to be oppressed. Do well to others, as you would like good to be done to you. Regard bad for yourself whatever you regard bad for others. Accept that (treatment) from others which you would like others to accept from you."
Everything has a measure
In Surah Hadid, Allah, the Almighty says:
"Certainly We sent Our apostles with clear arguments, and sent down with them the Book and the balance that men may conduct themselves with equity."
(Surah Hadid 57:25)
By the word 'balance', Allah means justice and Allah has appointed a 'balance' for everything. The belief of men and the truth and falsehood is also tested on this basis. The good and bad morals and qualities are also evaluated on the scales of justice. If men conform to justice in their speech and actions and belief and deeds they will be able to establish true justice in the world.
Ali (a.s.) is the scale of deeds
In one of the Ziarat of Amirul Momineen Ali (a.s.) we read:
"Peace be upon the balance and the scales."
Hazrat Ali (a.s.) is the measure for distinguishing truth and falsehood. He is the touchstone for differentiating between good and evil. He is the scale for evaluating morals and deeds. After the demise of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.), the Holy Quran and Ahlul Bayt (a.s.), especially Ali (a.s.), is the channel for and the criterion of faith. By comparing the deeds and faith with the speech and actions of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) we distinguish good from evil. If our belief and actions conform to the standards of Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) they are correct and if not then they are of no use.
Justice demands that we must not go to the extremes. We should neither exceed the limits nor remain deficient. The scales of justice are very accurate and can detect even the weight of a single strand of hair. After recognising the path of justice it is a formidable task to remain firm upon it. One who is successful in recognising the true path and wishes to follow it, is bestowed Divine help. It is this person who is proved correct by the scales of justice on the Day of Judgement. He crosses the difficult bridge of Sirat with ease and swiftness. One who is not just in this world is proved wrong in the Hereafter. He will stumble from the bridge of sirat and drop into hell. The noble Quran says:
"And there is not one of you but shall come to it, this is an unavoidable decree of your Lord. And We will deliver those who guarded (against evil) and We will leave the unjust therein on their knees."
(Surah Marium 19:71-72)
May Allah guide us upon the way of justice and equity. May Allah include us among the pious and enable us to be saved from falling into Hell.
source : GREATER SINS Shaheede Mehraab Ayatullah-ul-Uzma Al-Haaj Sayed Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi (r.a.)