On Borrowing and Misappropriation
IT is not unusual for us to have need to borrow something from others with the intention of returning it to them when the need was fulfilled. It is called ‘Aariyat which, also, is a form of service, and whoever lends anything of his to a needy person is, positively, worthy of Divine recompense. The holy Prophet, himself, has taken things on loan, temporarily, for his use, and, also, provided guidance, in this regard, as the Traditions given below will show.
 Lending or borrowing a thing which is itself to be returned. Aariyat differs from Qarz (loan) inasmuch as in the latter term it is not understood that the identical article borrowed is returned, but simply its equivalent.
(1) It is related by Anas that “(once), panic spread in Medina (as a result of a false report). (Perhaps, it was rumoured that the enemy was advancing towards the town and an attack was imminent). The Apostle of God, thereupon, borrowed a horse from Abu Talha Ansari which was known as ‘Mandoob’ (meaning heavy-footed; slow in speed). He seated himself on it, (and rode in the direction from which the attack was feared). When the holy Prophet returned, he said that he saw nothing. (There was no need for alarm). (With it), (the Prophet remarked about Abu Talha’s horse that) ‘I found him Bahr-i-Rawan. (Literally, a flowing ocean).’ ” (In Arabic, a fast, light-footed horse of a good breed was called Bahr).
– Bukhari and Muslim
It tells that the Apostle of God had borrowed the horse from Hazrat Abu Talha Ansari and rode on it at a time of need. We can, also, obtain from this incident, an idea of the high courage and sense of duty of the holy Prophet. He went out, alone, to enquire in the event of danger, and, on return, reassured the people that there was nothing to fear.
(2) It is related by Umaiyyah bin Sufwan, on the authority of his father, Sufwan bin Umaiyyah, that the Apostle of God asked him for his chain-armours, at the time of the Battle of Hunain, i.e., he wanted to borrow them from him. Sufwan, (who had not embraced Islam till then), thereupon, said: “Do you want to lay hold of my chain-armours? (As you have been victorious, and are, now, in power, do you want to take them by force)?” “No”, said the Prophet. “(I want to) borrow the mails with the promise to return them.”
– Abu Dawood
Sufwan bin Umaiyyah was a leader of the Quraish and an inveterate enemy of the holy Prophet. When Mecca was conquered in 8 A.H., and came under the sway of Islam, Sufwan fled from the town. Upon that, some Companions who were attached to him by blood or any other tie begged the Prophet to pardon him to which he agreed. The relatives or friends of Sufwan, then, went out in search of him and brought him back to Mecca, but he remained an infidel. Later, when after the Victory of Mecca, the Apostle of God marched towards Hunain, many of the Meccans, including Sufwan, who had not yet accepted Islam joined him with his permission. It was, on that occasion, that the holy Prophet wanted to borrow his mails, and Sufwan feared that the mails were going to be seized from him, and he would not get them back. The Prophet assured him that he was not confiscating the mails, but only borrowing them temporari1y. Sufwan, then, lent the mails.
During the journey of the Battle of Hunain, Sufwan had an opportunity to observe the holy Prophet from close quarters, and he was so profoundly impressed by his moral virtues, particularly, his magnanimity towards a sworn enemy like himself that he felt convinced that the Prophet was a true Messenger of God, and embraced Islam.
Sufwan, in any case, is a Companion, and, so, is his son, Umaiyyah.
(3) Abu Umama Baahli relates that he heard the Apostle of God say: “An article of ‘Aariyat, (which is borrowed temporarily), should be returned in any case; and an article of Minha, (given to a person to make use of it), should be returned to the owner, (according to custom), after it had served the purpose; and a Qarz (loan) should be repaid, (according to the terms of the agreement); and the person who stands surety for the borrower shall be responsible for the payment.”
– Tirmizi and Abu Dawood
In it, four commandments of the Shariat have been indicated:
(i) When an article is borrowed for a time it must be returned without unnecessary delay.
(ii) The giving back of Minha is a legal and religious obligation. In olden days, a custom in Arabia was that phi lanthropic and generous-hearted men freely allowed the use of a thing owned by them to a brother. As for instance, they gave him, free of cost, their camel to ride, or she-camel or goat to avail himself of its milk, or land or grove to profit by its produce. It is called Minha. About it, it was enjoined that the person who received such an article will not claim a proprietary right over it, but give it back to the owner, in conformity with the established usage, after it had served his need.
(iii) Whoever takes a loan should earnestly try to pay it back. We have, already, seen the stern admonitory pronouncements of the holy Prophet with regard to it.
(iv) Whoever becomes a surety for a person who borrow. anything from anyone shall be responsible for its payment. If the debtor does not repay the loan, the surety will be called upon to repay or reimburse it.
If an article is bought from someone on a price, it is called Ba’i and Shira (Buying and Selling), in the special usage of the Shariat; if it is made use of on payment of a hire or rent, it is called Ijra.. and if it is borrowed for a time, without consideration, and on the understanding that it will be returned after use, it is called’ Aariyat. Another way of acquiring anyone’s property is that occupation is taken of it by force or fraud. It is called Ghasab (Misappropriation; Usurpation; Embezzlement; Plunder) which is strictly forbidden.
(4) It is related by Abdullah bin Omar that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever wrongfully occupies land belonging to someone else will be sunk into the ground along with the land on the Last Day until he reaches the bottom of the earth.”
The above Tradition has been related with minor variations, by a number of other Companions as well. The substance of all of them, however, is that anyone who unlawfully occupies the smallest plot of land, even if it be only a Baalisht  of it,-as a report tells-, shall be sunk, in punishment of it, to the lowest part of the earth on the Day of Final Reckoning.
An awe,-inspiring incident has been quoted, in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, in connection with the usurpation of land, which has a bearing on the narrative under discussion. It is related that during the Caliphate of Amir Muawiya, a woman filed a complaint in the court of Marwaan, the Governor of Medina, against Sa’eed bin Zaid, who is included among the ten Companions of the holy Prophet about whom the tidings of Paradise were given, name by name, in their own lifetime, that he had wrongfully occupied her land. Hazrat Sa’eed feeling extremely hurt, exclaimed, “I will encroach upon the land of this woman and occupy it unjustly! Have ye not heard the dreadful admonition pronounced, in this regard, by the Apostle of God?” Hazrat Sa’eed spoke with such feeling that even Marwaan was moved by it, and he said to him, “Now, I do not call for any proof or argument from you.” Hazrat Sa’eed, then, made the following prayer from the depth of his heart: “Oh God: If Thou knowest that this woman has charged me with a false offence, deprive her of the vision of her eyes, and turn the land into her grave.” The narrator, Hazrat Orwah, goes on to say that “it happened exactly like that. I myself saw the woman; she became blind in old age and used to say that she had come to that state owing to the imprecation of Sa’eed bin Zaid, and, then, one day, she fell into a ditch as she was going over her land, and the ditch became her grave.”
 A span measured by the extended thumb and little finger.
(5) It is related by Imran bin Husain that the Apostle of God said: “Whoever acquires anyone’s property by force is not of us.”
(6) It is related by Sa’ib bin Valid, on the authority of his father, that the Apostle of God said: “None of you should take even the stick of his brother, in jest or with the intention of taking. Anyone who does so should, therefore, return it.”
– Tirmizi and Abu Dawood
It shows that even an ordinary thing like a stick should not be taken without the owner’s per mission, though by way of a joke. In case it is done, the article ought to be returned, and no one should imagine that the giving back of an article of little value, like a stick, was not necessary.
(7) Abu Hurairah relates, on the authority of his uncle, Raqqashi, that the Apostle of God said: “Beware! Do not be unjust to anyone. Beware! To acquire anything belonging to anyone else, without his consent is unlawful.”
– Baihaqi and Dar Qutni
(8) Jabir related to us, saying that “the Apostle of God, (once), happened to pass by (the house of) a woman, along with some Companions, whereupon she invited him to dinner. (The Apostle of God accepted the invitation). The woman, then, slaughtered a goat prepared the meal, and placed it before the holy Prophet and the Companions. The Prophet took a morsel of food, but he could not swallow it. (The food did not pass down his throat). Upon it he remarked: ‘(It appears that) the goat was slaughtered without owner’s permission.’ ‘We do not observe such formalities with M’uad’s family (who are our neighbours)’ the woman replied. ‘We make use of their things and they make use of our things.’ ”
As it appears from the woman’s reply, the goat belonged to the family of M’uad, and, on account of the good neighbourly relations prevailing between them, and the customary behaviour, it was not thought necessary to obtain the owner’s permission before slaughtering the animal. When the meal was ready and the Apostle of God sat down to eat, his system revolted against it, and the very first morsel got stuck in his throat, and it became apparent to him, instinctively, that the goat had been slaughtered without the permission of its owner.
Just as the Almighty Creator has endowed men with a peculiar power or means by which they respond to things through taste or smell and it becomes impossible for them to swallow anything which is abhorrent to the palate, so does He grant to the chosen bondmen whom He wishes to protect from unlawful food and drink special sensitiveness which keeps them from partaking of anything that is forbidden. The inability of the holy Prophet to swallow the morsel of food was a distinct Indication of that very favour of the Lord upon him.
Incidents of a like nature have, also, been reported about holy men, known, in common parlance, as Auliya Allah (Friends of God).
It is worth remembering, here, that the goat had neither been stolen nor taken by force, but only slaughtered without the permission of the owner owing to the close and friendly relations and order of things obtaining between the two families. From it, we can deduce how careful should one be in making use of things belonging to others without their permission or willingness.