Bribery viz.-a-viz. coercion

Q76 :In my country, corruption has become so widespread among government officials that it is almost impossible to obtain one's rights without having to pay some official or another. In some cases, people have to pay government officials just to be allowed to carry on with their business which is legitimate and allowed by the government. If the official is not paid, he creates untold problems. Scholars in our locality say that paying such bribes is permissible. Please comment.


A76 : There is no doubt that bribery is forbidden. The Prophet curses the one who pays bribery and the one who receives it. We have, however, to be clear about what constitutes bribery. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it as: "Money, etc. offered to procure (often illegal or dishonest) action or decision in favor of the giver." This is indeed the sense of the Arabic word "Rashwah" which the Prophet has used in the Hadith which invokes Allah's curse on both the briber and the bribed. The reason is that through bribe the giver gains an unfair advantage. The practice is, therefore, an unjust one since it causes another person to be deprived of his rights. Moreover, the recipient of a bribe uses his position in order to give unfair advantage to the giver. [ Be it just the fact that the giver gets his perfectly legitimate work done - out of his proper turn. Thus, another person's turn is delayed and an unfair advantage is obtained by the giver. This is equally unacceptable.) This is corruption if any action deserves the description of being corrupt. What you are speaking about, however, is something different. A government official makes use of his position in order to procure for himself something which he cannot otherwise get. Moreover, what he is receiving is paid to him by people against their will. Had the matter been left to them, they would not have paid him a single halalah (one hundredth of a riyal). Therefore, we cannot describe it as paying bribery. One is actually paying a penalty or a fine, for nothing wrong one has done, but simply to be allowed to carry on with one's legitimate business. Keeping that in view, I would say that if you are absolutely certain that what you are doing is absolutely legitimate and you are not seeking to have unfair advantage and you are paying that official simply to avoid whatever trouble he can cause you, then it is not forbidden to pay him. If you can do without payment, it is all the better, but if you cannot get your right without giving a "sweetener", as the expression goes, then you have no option. Some scholars take a stricter view and say that when we pay such officials, we are actually encouraging them to use their position unfairly. If many of us stand up to them and refuse to pay them, then they will not be able to demand payment. This is certainly true, but we are often in a position where we cannot do anything about our immediate situation. (We submit to coercion.) We should try hard to stop such a practice, but until we are able to do so, we may have occasionally to play the game as it is.


Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )