LOST PERSONS AND PROPERTY
The rulings in this chapter deal with three matters: lost persons, lost animals, and other lost property.
In particular this refers to a lost child – known as a laqeet – whose family is not known.
Ruling 740: It is obligatory to pick up a laqeet if it is feared that the laqeet will be harmed if one does not take him up. It is obligatory to care for and take custody of the laqeet if one is an adult, and he will become the laqeet’s guardian. However, it is obligatory for him to search for his actual guardian and family, unless it is known the child was abandoned by them.
Ruling 741: The property found with the laqeet is regarded as being his property except if the circumstances indicate otherwise.
Ruling 742: The finder may provide for the laqeet from the latter’s own wealth, or from the property which has been left with him for this purpose, or from monies designated for the poor, like religious dues and charity donations. But if none of these sources are available, then he is obligated to provide for the laqeet from his own wealth. If he had not intended to provide him from his own wealth, he may request reimbursement from the laqeet when he becomes an adult on two conditions:
(1) The laqeet has sufficient wealth.
(2) The finder-guardian has not taken on the laqeet’s guardianship of the liability of the diyah in mistaken killing, which will be explained in the chapters on Inheritance and Compensation.
In any case, he is not permitted to adopt the child.
This refers to an animal that is owned by somebody and has become stray.
Ruling 743: The finder may take it if he finds it in other than the land of Muslims without having to make a notification about it, except if this contravenes the laws of the land and will cause harm for the Muslims.
Ruling 744: It is not permissible to take an animal that one finds in places empty of human habitation, unless it is exposed to death, or one fears that it will be attached by predatory animals. If it is exposed to death, fearing its hunger, thirst or beasts, it is permissible to take it, and it is obligatory to make it known that it is in his possession in the locality in which he found it, if there are nearby villages and nomads. If he finds its owner, he should return the animal to him. If he does not find him, he can take its ownership, and if the owner subsequently appears he should return it to him or he may give him money of its value.
Ruling 745: It is not permissible to take an animal that one finds in a built-up area, if it is probable that it has not been lost. If he still takes it, the previously-mentioned rulings will apply. If he knows that it is lost, he can take ownership of it, and it will be regarded as other lost and found property, the rules of which will be explained below, including announcing possession of it for a year. During the period of announcement, he may revert to the owner of the animal when he finds him in order to be reimbursed for what provisions he spent on the animal, if there is no donor for this.
If one requires provisions for the animal and does not have the means himself, nor is there a donor for this, he may revert to the owner when he finds him in order to be reimbursed for what he spent on the animal.
Particularly in the case of a lost goat, the announcement should be for a period of three days. If the owner is not found, it should be sold and the price received will be given as religious charity (sadaqah). If the owner then appears and is not agreeable to the charity, the finder will be liable for the price of the animal.
Ruling 746: If an animal enters somebody’s house, it will not be regarded as being taken by him, and it is permissible to send it out; rather, it is obligatory to do so if it is probable that it is not lost from its owner. However, if he knows that it is lost, then it is permissible for him to take it, and the rules mentioned above will apply.
Other Lost Property
This refers to lost and found movable items, other than animals.
Ruling 747: It is disliked for one who has found lost property to take it.
Ruling 748: If its value is less than one dirham, i.e. approximately the value of 2.975 grams of silver, he may take ownership of it after asking those people who are possible owners as an obligatory precaution, e.g. asking those around him, or those who were at the place recently.
Ruling 749: If the item’s value is of more than a dirham, it is obligatory to make an announcement for a period of one year. After the year has ended, the finder will have a choice of either keeping it safe with the hope of discovering its owner, or to give it as religious charity (sadaqah). He also has the choice to take ownership of it unless he found it in the sanctified vicinity of Makkah, in which case he cannot take ownership of it as an obligatory precaution.
If he finds the owner, he will give the lost property to him if it is still present, or he will be liable to pay its value to him if he squandered it through negligence. If the finder has lost it without negligence then the two parties should conciliate on the issue. If it was given away as religious charity, and the owner is not agreeable to this, the finder will have to pay him in lieu of it, and the divine reward of the charity will be for the finder.
Ruling 750: It is necessary for the finder to be satisfied with the truthfulness of the claimant of the lost property in order to hand it over to him. If one knows that the claimant had usurped it, he cannot give it to him, and it is obligatory to find the rightful owner. If he knows who the owner is but cannot reach him, he may spend from it in a manner in which he knows the owner to be agreeable with. Otherwise, he should keep it safe for him, however long it may take. If one becomes despondent of ever reaching the owner, he should refer to the hakim shar’i for how it should be spent on behalf of the owner.
Ruling 751: The above ruling applies to the lost item if it is not perishable, like vegetables; if it is perishable, then he will take possession of it and he will consider its market price as the lost item on which the previous rulings apply.
Ruling 752: If one’s item is switched for that of another – such as shoes, which happens often in public places like mosques – if one knows that the other took his intentionally, one may take what the other left behind by way of compensation. If it is probable that one’s item was taken unintentionally, it is necessary to be certain that the owner of the left item is agreeable to one’s usage of it if he knew of the situation, and it will be necessary to search for the owner.
Ruling 753: It is not permissible to take ownership of an item which is of unknown ownership. He should try to find the owner, and when there is no hope of finding him, it should be donated as religious charity on his behalf.