Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ramadan 2016, Day 20 – Hadiths continued . . .

Man, there’s hadiths for almost everything. The Prophet Mohammed lived a long life, he died in his early 60s, and had started to receive the Revelations around 20 years prior, so there was plenty of time for followers to ask him questions and to take note of the things he said and did. Sometimes I feel that maybe people took note of a few too many things (do you want to know how many stones he used to wipe with after going to the bathroom? There’s hadiths discussing that) but thanks to the diligence of his followers there are tens of thousands of hadiths, providing detailed insight into how a Muslim should live his life. There are issues regarding authenticity of hadiths, even during the time of the Prophet people were starting to falsely attribute things to him, and many fake hadiths started to spread. Scholars have spent centuries studying hadiths to verify their authenticity and hadith collections, such as the Sunan Abu Dawud, contain ones that have been reasonably verified as authentic.

I've now come across a small book in the Sunan Abu Dawud, the Book of Lost Items, with hadiths covering what to do when you find things that belong to someone else. Let’s see…

If you find something that belongs to someone else but you don't know who the owner is you should announce it for at least a year that you have the item and the owner can come claim it. Scholarship disagrees a bit with the timeframe, one hadith notes that the Prophet told someone to announce it for a year but that when he returned after the time the Prophet told him to announce it for another year (and a third time after that). All agree that one year is the minimum though. If no one claims it then you can benefit from whatever it was you found, but even then if the owner shows up you still have to give it back.

There are hadiths that indicate you do not need to do this for small amounts. There was a case where someone found a dinar at the souq and they were able to use it immediately after they went to the Prophet to ask what to do. The owner did show up later though so the person gave him a dinar back.

With livestock the general rule is you should leave it alone if it is capable of surviving on its own (for example, camels) but if it is not then you should take it with you and make announcements for a year for its owner to claim it, “ . . . it is either for you, or your brother, or the wolf.”, meaning that for smaller animals such as sheep or goats if you don't take it with you it will likely die on its own and be eaten by wolves.

What about fruits/dates on trees? A hadith states that it is okay, if you are in need, to eat from the tree, but you cannot “gather any in your garments”. So it is not theft if you eat from the tree but it is theft if you gather some up to take with you.

Finally, if you think the item belongs to a Hajj pilgrim then it is better if you leave it where you found it. Hajj pilgrims do not stay for a year so they would have a better chance of finding their lost property it was left where it was.

This segues nicely into the next Book in the hadith collection, the Book of Hajj and Umrah. It’s long though so it’ll take a while to read. I’ll post about it in a few days.

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