Islamic Laws

Fulfilment of the Rights of People

By: Shaheed Ayatullah Abdul Husain Dastghaib Shirazi
When a person has something in his possession it can be one of two cases. The first case is the person knows that whatever he has is not fully his own, but a part of it belongs to someone else. The second case is that a person owes another person, but this person has no share in the actual goods or property in possession of the former. For example the thing he had borrowed is already used up but he is in debt to the one who had lent it. In the same way there are various types of sureties and compulsory maintenance that a person is responsible, for these should be disbursed with great care.
The first case includes the following four categories.
a) To know the quantity and the owner.
When it is known that a particular quantity of a thing rightfully belongs to such and such person, it is obligatory to return that same amount to whom it belongs and in case he is dead, to his successors.
b) When the quantity is known but not the owner.
If the exact quantity owed is known but there is a doubt regarding to whom it is owed to the extent that one feels the concerned quantity rightfully belongs to one of Three or five people. Then on the basis of precaution it is necessary to satisfy all of these people. If it is not possible to satisfy all of them, then there are Three rulings: 1. Lots should be drawn between them and one of them to be given that thing. 2. The goods should be equally distributed among all the possible owners. 3. If the doubt is with reference to a hundred and more people or if the owner is completely unknown then as a precautionary measure, by the permission of Marja al-Taqlīd the holder of these goods should give it away as charity. (Everyone has to follow his own Marja al-Taqlīd in this matter).
c) When the quantity is not known but the owner is.
Under the circumstances that a person knows that he owes some of the goods in his possession to a particular person, but does not know the exact quantity owed, it is incumbent upon him to give at least a third of the goods to the owner. As a precautionary measure he should give something more and satisfy the owner.
d) When both the owner and the exact quantity are unknown.
A person knows that he owes some of the goods he has to someone. It is Harām for him to use these goods, but he does not know the exact quantity of the goods prohibited for him nor its rightful owner. He may consider a few persons as probable owners but he is unaware as to how much of it belongs to whom. In these circumstances it is incumbent on him to give Khums (1/5) on the total goods. After this the rest of the goods or property becomes totally permissible. (For details refer to the section on Khums in the books of Practical Laws).
In the second condition something is owed by a person but it is not in the form of a tangible good or property. There are four circumstances of this type:
1) If the exact quantity and the rightful owner, are known, then without any doubt that quantity has to be returned to the owner.
2) If the exact quantity is known but not a particular owner, and there is doubt between some selected people that it could belong to anyone of them. In this case it is incumbent to satisfy each of them in the way described in the rules regarding tangible goods. But if the doubt is between a large number of people the value of the goods must be given to the Qazi or given as charity by his permission on behalf of the rightful owner.
3) If the value is not known but the person to whom it is owed is known; the duty of the one who owes it is to restore the minimum quantity supposed and also to persuade the owner to forgo the rest of it.
4) When neither the exact quantity nor the owner is known the law states that an estimate has to be made and the average of the minimum and the maximum amount paid as charity after the permission of the Qazi.

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