Buying looted or stolen items

Q. In the past 2 weeks, there were mass looting of goods and damaging of property caused by the rioters and looters in Durban, KwaZulu Natal. There were businesses that were completely destroyed or looted and their towns did not have access to basic necessities such as baby food, bread, milk etc. for a few days. It was not possible to even get basic necessities to them from outside of town due to the severity of the situation. The only option for them to get their basic necessities during those few days were to buy them from the looters who were selling them. Those that have done so, what must they do to compensate for it?

A. It is not permissible to sell or purchase stolen or looted items. If stolen or looted items were sold or purchased, the following rules will apply:

1) If the item is still in one’s possession and is in a good condition, then one must return the item to its original owner/company.

2) If the item is no longer in one’s possession, then the same or similar item must be purchased and returned to the original owner/company.

3) If one is unable to find the same or similar item in the market, then one must reimburse the original owner/company with the market value of the item.

4) If the original owner/company has closed its business or cannot be located, then one must give the item or market value of the item to the poor and needy as Sadaqah (charity). (Shaami 6/182/183 – Durarul Hukkaam 2/456)

Allah Ta’ala Knows Best

Mufti Ismaeel Bassa