By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
There are three types of bribes:
(1) Bribe paid to a judge for a favourable judgement.
(2) Bribe for ‘Harām’ work.
(3) Bribe for permitted things.
The first kind of bribe comprises of money etc. paid to a judge so that he may give a favourable judgement. The judge may also be bribed for pointing out the loopholes whereby one could weaken the position of the opposite party. It is absolutely Harām even if the one who is paying the bribe is right and the judge delivers the correct judgement. The paying and receiving of this type of bribe or whatever may comprise this bribe is also Harām and a Greater sin. A person who pays or accepts such a bribe deserves the curse of Allah (S.w.T.).
The Holy Prophet (S) says: “May Allah curse one who gives a bribe, one who accepts it and one who acts as an agent between them.” (Safinat’ul-Bihār)
Elsewhere, the Holy Prophet (S) says: “Beware of bribe! It is nothing but disbelief. The one who is involved in bribe will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise.” (Safinat’ul-Bihār)
Bribe is not only a sin for the guilty but it constitutes assisting in sin, the one who accepts. However if one is compelled to bribe and without it he cannot obtain his rights, it is another matter, but it is still Harām for one who accepts it. Similarly it is also Harām to reach someone by bribing. The one who acts as an arbitrator or agent and takes an active part in negotiating bribe is also a sinner.
This type of bribe is absolutely Harām whether paid in cash or kind. Bribe may also comprise of offering some services to the judge like stitching his clothes free of cost or constructing his house etc. Bribe can even be paid in words. One may praise a judge unduly to please him and thus influence him to give a favourable ruling.
Bribe in the name of khums and gift
Even if a bribe is paid in the name of khums and gift, it is Harām. For example to give someone a gift or a present with the intention of bribing him i.e. with the intention that by giving a gift the beneficiary will act to benefit the giver in some way. Similarly khums and zakat given with the intention of bribing is also Harām. It will not be considered as Khums or Zakat and it will be obligatory for one who has paid Khums or Zakat with such intentions, to pay it once more. Khums and Zakat are to be given with the purest of intentions, that of achieving nearness to Allah (S.w.T.) . There can be no other motive. One of the signs of Qiyāma is mentioned in traditions in the following words: “Bribes will be accepted as gifts.”
The second kind of bribe is the bribe paid to someone, a tyrant or an oppressor for inflicting harm on a third person. The Holy Qur’an says: “And do not swallow up your property among yourselves by false means, neither seek to gain access thereby to the judges, so that you may swallow up a part of the property of men wrongfully while you know.” (Surah al-Baqarah 2:188)
In this ayat believers are warned not to use anything obtained illegally and not to use their wealth to bribe those in power in order to obtain anything unlawfully.
Paying a bribe for obtaining ones rights
The third type of bribe is one that is paid for something lawful. Like paying someone in order that he may help in obtaining ones rightful property or to escape from a tyrant. Bribing for lawful things is allowed.
In a tradition Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) was asked about the person who bribes the occupant of a house to vacate it so that the owner may himself use it as his residence. Imam (a.s.) said that there was no harm in it. However the house mentioned in this hadith does not belong to the person who pays the bribe. It is a trust property or a public place like, the mosque, madrasa, lane, by-lane, and bazār etc. Thus if someone is occupying a place in the mosque or a student is living in a room in the public hostel, he can be bribed to vacate it.
Hafsul Amr enquired from Imam ‘Ali an-Naqi (a.s.): “The ruler has appointed agents to purchase our agricultural produce. Is it allowed for us to bribe those agents so that we may remain safe from the ruler’s tyranny?”
Imam (a.s.) replied, “There is no harm in it. You may pay whatever you think fit.”
Then Imam (a.s.) asked: “Do you have to supply lesser quantity of grain to the ruler after you have paid the bribe to these agents?”
“Yes,” said the questioner.
“You have invalidated your bribe (i.e. you have made the bribe Harām),” Imam told him. (Wasa’il ul–Shia)
Thus it is clear that bribing to cause someone to be oppressed is Harām but it is permitted in order to save oneself from oppression.
Accepting a bribe for doing something lawful
It must however be made clear that though it is permitted to gift something for lawful acts or to save oneself from oppression, it is detestable to accept such gifts. Because these gifts bear a close resemblance to bribe. Also, the habit of bribing for lawful things may make a man habitual and he may be inclined to pay bribes for unlawful purposes too. One is prone to error. If a pious person refrains for Makrūh (detestable) bribe he will never be prone to the Harām bribe. The following tradition supports this fact.
“Those are they for whom Allah does not desire that He should purify their hearts; they shall have disgrace in this world, and they shall have a grievous chastisement in the hereafter. (They are) listeners of a lie, devourers of what is forbidden.” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:41-42)
Explaining this ayat, Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) says: “It is that person who fulfills the wish of his believing brother and accepts a gift in return.”
Shaykh Ansari says in the book, Makasibul Āmāl: “There are many explanations of this tradition. One of it is that we must absolutely refrain from accepting gifts in return for favours done that we may never fall into the trap of accepting bribe.”
By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi