Unlawful earnings: What to do with it?

Q656 :A few years back I came to offer the Umrah and I feel that Allah has answered my prayer to help me have only legitimate earnings. Since then, all my income comes from legitimate sources, praise be to Allah. I am, however, confused about my past earnings which included some portions from illegitimate sources. A part of such income has been used in the building of our family home, which is the only shelter for our extended family. I will be grateful for your guidance.

A656 : I have previously explained that Allah forgives such offenses and sins which are within the relationship between Himself and His servant. He does not forgive an act of aggression committed against another human being unless that person forgoes his rights first. If Allah, however, wishes to spare any servant of His the difficulty of coming face to face with people who have rights to claim against him, He undertakes to satisfy them so that they forgo their right. It is of paramount importance, therefore, to try to give every person his right in this life, so that we do not come face to face with opponents who press their claims against us in front of Allah. If they have a rightful claim, then Allah will make sure that it is given them by crediting them with some of our good deeds. No one has a surplus of good deeds to be able to afford repayment in the life to come. Whatever we can repay in this life should be repaid. Your illegitimate earnings represent rights which other people are entitled to press against you. Therefore, you are required to repay them to their rightful owners. Whatever method you can determine to ensure that any particular person from whom you got some money in an illegitimate way is repaid his right in full is acceptable. You do not need to make it known to him how you got away with what should have been his. You should try to give it back to him and make sure that he knows that it is his right to have it. There are various reasons which may make it impossible. The most obvious one is that a person may not know the rightful owner of something that he has got unlawfully. In this case, you should give the amount which you have earned unlawfully to charity. It is even better to pay more in sadaqah and charity than what you think you have earned unlawfully. The more you give, the better is your chance that Allah will grant you forgiveness in the hereafter. If you act on this advice and pay back to anyone you know what you got from him unlawfully or you pay in sadaqah what you can to offset your illegitimate earnings, you may keep your house and other belongings. You remain hopeful that Allah will forgive you, Insha'Allah. You should always try to be charitable to others. There is nothing better to help prevent evil and promote good than sadaqah. The more you give, the better person you are.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )