Fatwas on State Property
Q1938: For a year now, I have in my possession some public property. I want to release myself from it. What should I do?
A: Should the public property in your possession belong to a particular government department, you should return it to that department if it is feasible. Alternatively, you should return it to the Treasury.
Q1939: I made personal use of the public assets of Muslims. What should I do to be released? And what is the threshold of the employee’s personal use of public funds? If it was done with the permission of the officials concerned, how should it be treated?
A: There is no objection to employees making use of public properties during official hours. Yet, it is confined to the extent that it is conventional, necessary, needed and job circumstances indicate that the employees are allowed to use it. The same goes for the permission of the person in a place of legitimate authority. Should the way you have gone about making use of the public property fit any of these two ways, you need not worry. However, should the personal use be outside the remit of what is traditionally acceptable or has been enjoyed without authoritative permission, you have to return the very item to the state coffers if it is available or the value thereof if it is not. You should also pay to the state coffers the normal hiring charge for the item, if applicable.
Q1940: After the medical board examination, the state granted me a disability allowance. I doubt whether or not I am entitled to receive that level of allowance because the decision specifying the degree of my disability might have been affected by the fact that I am familiar with the members of the medical board, in that I might have received special treatment. Taking into consideration that I was injured badly so that I may deserve even more, what should I do?
A: There is no harm in your receiving the level of allowance that is commensurate with your level of disability as has been decided by the examining medical board unless you are sure that you are not eligible to receive the money.
Q1941: I work for a government department. On one occasion, I received, by mistake, three times the salary that is normally due to me. At the time, I informed the accountant of the department. However, I have not returned the extra money I received by mistake, in spite of the fact that four years have already passed since I received the money which was a part of yearly budget. How should I go about returning the money?
A: The accountant’s mistake cannot be deemed a shar‘ī reason to take the extra amount you received without being entitled to it. You are, therefore, required to return the erroneously received money to the department concerned, albeit it belongs to the budget of previous years.
Q1942: According to the regulations in force, members of the holy defense forces who have been maimed in action are given special concessions when borrowing money provided that the level of their disability is 25% or more. Is it permissible for me to make use of this concession, although my disability falls short of that percentage? Assuming that this has actually been the case, is it permissible for me to spend the borrowed money?
A: Whoever is not entitled, according to the laid down conditions and concessions, to borrow from the state coffers, they should have no right to do so. Nor should they have the right to make use of the loan procured in this way.
Q1943: What is the ruling in the matter of the property of an Islamic or non-Islamic state? In other words, does the property belong to the state or is it considered property of an anonymous owner?
A: The property of the state, albeit non-Islamic, is lawfully deemed in the ownership of the state. It should be treated as that whose owner is known. Nobody can use it unless with the permission of the authority who has the right to use it.
Q1944: In non-Islamic countries, is it obligatory to respect the ownership rights, whether those of the state or individuals? Is it permissible to make use of the facilities available at the learning centers in avenues other than those they are legally provided for?
A: The rules that respect for the property of others is obligatory and that it is ḥarām to use it unless with the consent of the owner are general. There should be no distinction between public property and personal one. Nor should there be any distinction between Muslim land and non-Muslim land. By the same token, whether the owner is Muslim or non-Muslim is immaterial. Generally speaking, forbidden use of, and involvement in, the property of others amounts to usurpation and commission of a ḥarām act. The user is liable for payment of compensation.
Q1945: Is it permissible for a university student to use an expired luncheon voucher, and what is the view on the food acquired in this way?
A: It is not permissible to use an invalid luncheon voucher to procure food. The food thus procured amounts to an act of usurpation and is, therefore, ḥarām. Its cost should be indemnified.
Q1946: The students of universities and other institutions of higher education are given material aid such as food, stationery, etc. Is it permissible for the employees working in these universities and institutions to receive the same?
A: It is not permissible to include the university employees in the granting of allowances that are exclusively given to university students working for their degrees.
Q1947: Some directors of state departments have a number of vehicles at their disposal for official use. Is it permissible for them to make use of them in their personal capacity?
A: It is not permissible for directors, officials, and all other employees to use for their private affairs anything of the public property unless they legally obtained the permission of the related state department.
Q1948: What is the view on misappropriation of funds earmarked for hospitality expenses, i.e. when it is used in other avenues?
A: Spending public funds in avenues other than those they have been allocated for amounts to usurpation and should, therefore, be refunded unless it has been done with legal permission from the senior official.
Q1949: A government employee claims that the department he is working for owes him unpaid wages and allowances. Nevertheless, he is either unable to prove his case by way of documents or may not be in a position to claim the restoration of such rights. Can such an employee allow himself to take the equivalent from the funds at his disposal?
A: Such a person should not have the right to settle his claim from the public funds entrusted to him. If he has any claim, he should have no alternative but to approach the competent authority and prove his case.
Q1950: The Water Organization introduced some fish in a dam lake. The lake already has its own fish stock, i.e. from the river flowing into it. The Organization markets the fish and distributes the profit among its employees. Ordinary people are banned from fishing in the lake. Is it permissible for other people to fish there?
A: The fish that are in the dam lake are the property of the Water Organization, although the lake water may contain fish brought into it by the water flowing from the river. Thus, fishing in the lake waters is dependent on the permission of the Organization.
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