Following the #EndSars pretests that rocked Nigeria especially the Southern parts of the country within the last two weeks, the criminal elements in the protests have shifted their attention to Looting Government Properties in Government Stores across the country expecially Covid-19 Palliatives.
Some believe that it is right for them to claim their share of the Palliatives in such manner. As a Muslim, and in order to avoid the consumption of Harram, The burning question now is that Do we have the right to loot government properties if they are being hoarded unjustly? – A Sharī’ah perspective.
It is impermissible to do so whether it’s being hoarded unjustly or not. This is because the ownership of a public property is unspecified until each person gets their legitimate share. Looting public properties is expressly unlawful and unjustified under any guise, even if the leaders are unjust.
The Prophet – peace and blessing upon him- enjoined us to observe our duties to to unjust rulers and leave them to Allaah for our denied rights.
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بن مسعود، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ” إِنَّهَا سَتَكُونُ بَعْدِي أَثَرَةٌ وَأُمُورٌ تُنْكِرُونَهَا ” . قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ كَيْفَ تَأْمُرُ مَنْ أَدْرَكَ مِنَّا ذَلِكَ قَالَ ” تُؤَدُّونَ الْحَقَّ الَّذِي عَلَيْكُمْ وَتَسْأَلُونَ اللَّهَ الَّذِي لَكُمْ” (أخرجه مسلم)
On the authority of ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ ud who said: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: After me there will be favouritism and many things that you will not like. They (his Companions) said: Messenger of Allah, what do you order that one should do if anyone from us has to live through such a time? He said: You should discharge your own responsibility, and ask Allaah for your right”. (Reported by Muslim)
Also, in Islām, you don’t revenge the tyranny of a leader by betraying trust and acting unjustly.
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ - رضى الله عنه - قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ - صلى الله عليه وسلم - “أَدِّ اَلْأَمَانَةَ إِلَى مَنْ اِئْتَمَنَكَ، وَلَا تَخُنْ مَنْ خَانَكَ”.
(رَوَاهُ أَبُو دَاوُدَ, وَاَلتِّرْمِذِيُّ وَحَسَّنَهُ, وَصَحَّحَهُ اَلْحَاكِمُ)
Narrated Abu Hurairah – may Allaah be pleased with him-: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: “Give back what has been entrusted (to you) to him who has entrusted you, and do not betray the one who has betrayed you.”
[Reported by at-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud; at-Tirmidhi graded it Hasan (good) and al-Hakim graded it Sahih (authentic)].
Meanwhile, this issue of looting a public property hoarded by government is quite different from the issue of الظفر that was debated by the Islamic jurists. This latter issue centers on a situation whereby someone gets the chance to redeem his rights from the one who has usurped them unjustly. Example of this includes a wife who could take part of her husband’s money for her sustenance, if the husband has not been giving her what is enough.
Another example is a person who gets hold of his lost or stolen property (the property in question has been acquired by the individual whether by gift, inheritance, purchase, or its likes, thus confering him with the status of ownership) with another person. Here, some scholars opine that it is permissible to take one’s right from the person, provided that such will not cause greater harm for the person seeking to recover/take his rights.
The proof for this is the Hadīth of ‘Aisha (May Allāh be pleased with her) who narrated that: Hind, the wife of Abū Sufyan, said to the Prophet (ﷺ): Abū Sufyan is a stingy man and does not give me and my children adequate provisions for maintenance unless I take something from his possession without his knowledge. The Prophet (ﷺ) said to her, “Take from his possessions on a reasonable basis that much which may suffice for you and your children.”
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
The scholars who are of the opinion that the above injunction is a Fatwa, submitted that the ruling therein is applicable on all similar instances in relation to private properties. On the other hand, those who held that the ruling is a judicial verdict are of the opinion that such property could only be redeemed through the Court.
Sheikh Muhammad ‘Illeish, a Mālikī jurist stated as follows:
“ومن ظلمه إنسان في مال ثم أودع الظالم عنده مالاً قدر ماله أو أكثر فليس له – أي المودَع – (بفتح الدال) الأخذ منها، أي الوديعة حال كونها مملوكة لمن ظلمه”.
(منح الجليل للشيخ محمد عليش ٧/ ٢١)
“And if a person is oppressed regarding money, then the oppressor deposits with him an amount of money that is equal to or more than his money, then he – i.e: the one to whom the money was deposited- has no right to take from it, that is, from the deposit, so far it is owned by the one who oppressed him”. (Minah Al-Jalīl, vol 7 p 21).
Additionally, Islām frowns at all guises of lawlessness and impunity. Also, all actions that could lead to chaos will be disapproved by the Sharī‘ah, even if those actions were deemed permissible in themselves. The widespread looting of government warehouses have also led to the looting of private stores and shops on a very wide scale. Hence, no scholar of Sharī’ah will approve such actions of greediness and daylight theft.
Allaah knows best.
Shaykh AbdulQowiyy Olalekan Badmus