On Seizing Or Taking Another Person's Property Wrongfully
Islamic Rulings -
Living Shariah Verdicts
Islamic Questions & Answers
What is the ruling on taking another person's
property wrongfully (ghasb)?
Praise be to Allaah.
Ghasb in Arabic means to seize something wrongfully.
In Fiqh terminology, it means taking the property of
others wrongfully, by force.
Ghasb is haraam according to the consensus of the
Muslims, because Allaah says (interpretation of the
"And eat up not one another's property unjustly (in
any illegal way, e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving"
Ghasb is one of the worst kinds of eating up another
person's property unjustly, because the Prophet (peace
and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Your
blood, your property and your honour are sacred to
you." And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) said: "The property of a Muslim is not
permissible unless he gives his consent."
The property that is seized by force may be real
estate or it may be moveable goods, because the
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
said: "Whoever seizes a handspan of land unlawfully,
will surround him to the depth of seven earths."
The one who has seized anything unlawfully must repent
to Allaah and return the seized property to its owner
and ask him for forgiveness. The Prophet (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Whoever has
done any wrong to his brother, let him seek his
forgiveness today, before there will be no dinar and
no dirham [i.e., the Day of Resurrection], when if he
has any hasanaat (good deeds), some of his hasanaat
will be taken and given to the one who was wronged,
and if he does not have any hasanaat, some of the
sayi'aat (bad deeds) of the one who was wronged will
be taken and thrown onto him, and he will be thrown
into Hell," or as he (peace and blessings of Allaah be
upon him) said it. If the seized property is still
there, it should be returned as it is, and if it is
not there, then he must replace it.
Imaam al-Muwaffaq said: "The scholars agreed that it
is obligatory to return the seized property if it is
still in its original condition and has not changed."
Similarly, he is obliged to return the seized property
along with any increase, whether it is connected to it
or separate, because that is the growth of the seized
property, so it also belongs to the original owner.
If the one who seized the property has built anything
or planted crops on the seized land, he has to remove
the buildings or crops if the owner asks him to,
because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be
upon him) said, "The sweat of the evildoer counts for
nothing." (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi and others; classed
as hasan). If that has caused any damage to the land,
he is to be penalized for that damage. He also has to
erase any traces of building or planting that remain,
so that the land may be given back to its owner in
He also has to pay rent covering the period from the
time when he seized the land to the time when he gave
it back, - i.e., the rent for a similar piece of land
because he unlawfully prevented its owner from
benefiting from it during this time.
If he seized something and kept it until the price
dropped, he has to make it up to the proper price,
according to the correct opinion.
If he mixed the seized property with something else
that can be told apart from it like mixing wheat
with barley the one who seized it has separate it
and return it . If he mixed it with something that
cannot be told apart from it such as mixing wheat
with wheat then he has to give back the equivalent,
by volume or weight, without mixing it. If he mixed it
with something the same or better, or he mixed it with
something different that cannot be told apart from it,
then the mixture should be sold and each of them
should take his share of the price, in proportion. If
the value of the seized goods is reduced in this
fashion, and it sells for less than what it would be
sold for if sold on its own, then the one who seized
it has to make up the loss.
The scholars also mentioned regarding this topic that
"all hands involved in seizing property by force are
responsible and must guarantee its return." This means
that all hands which received the seized property from
the one who seized it must all guarantee to replace
the property if it is damaged or destroyed. These
hands number ten: the hand of the one who buys it
etc.; the hand of the one who rents it; the hand of
the one who takes it in order to possess it without
paying anything in return, such as one who receives it
as a gift; the hand of the one who obtains it to serve
the interests of one who is paying him, such as an
agent; the hand of the one who borrows it; the hand of
the one who seizes it by force unlawfully; the hand of
the one who has it under his control such as one who
seeks to use it for trade; the hand of the one who
marries a woman who was seized by force ; the hand of
the one who takes it in return for something without
any financial transaction being involved; and the hand
of the one who destroys the seized property on behalf
of the one who seized it.
In each of these cases, if the second person knows the
truth of the matter, and that the one who is giving it
to him is the one who seized it unlawfully, then he is
also responsible for replacing it, because he
transgressed when he knew that there was no permission
from the owner of the property. If he did not know the
truth of the matter, then only one who seized it in
the first place is responsible for replacing it.
If the seized property is of a type that is usually
rented out, then the one who seized it has to pay rent
for property of that type for the period during which
he kept it, because the benefit is something that is
to be measured in monetary terms, so he has to repay
that as well as returning the property itself.
All of the ways in which the one who seized the
property has disposed of it are null and void, because
he did not have the permission of the owner.
If something is seized and the owner is not known, and
it cannot be returned to him, then he should hand it
over to the governor who can restore it to its
rightful place, or he can give it in charity on behalf
of its owner; if he gives it in charity then the
reward for that will go to the owner. In this manner
the one who seized it wrongfully may be absolved.
Wrongful seizure of property is not restricted only to
taking it by force; it may also include taking it by
way of false dispute or false oaths. Allaah says
(interpretation of the meaning):
"And eat up not one another's property unjustly (in
any illegal way, e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving),
nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before
presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a
part of the property of others sinfully"
The matter is serious and the reckoning will be
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) said: "Whoever seizes a handspan of land
unlawfully, will surround him to the depth of seven
And he (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)
"If I decide in a person's favour mistakenly
concerning that which is his brother's right, let him
not take it, for I am giving him a piece of fire."
From al-Mulakhkhas al-Fiqhi by Shaykh Saalih ibn
Fawzaan ibn Abd-Allaah Aal Fawzaan p:130