Assalaamu alaykum. I want to open a small shop on a road in my area. The road is normally not anyone's private property, and it is common for people to set up small shops, which is tolerated by the government. The problem is that local police officers and powerful leaders regularly ask the shop owners for an amount of money. If it is not paid, then they will usually harrass that person and in some cases destroy the shop or make it impossible to do business. Is it halal for me to give them an amount if they approach me? Or is that considered a bribe?
All perfect praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.
If there is no impediment to opening a small shop because the government tolerates it but some officials harass people unless they pay bribes, as you mentioned, then there is no harm on you to pay them the bribe, and they bear the sin for it and not you.
Tuhfat Al-Ahwathi bi-Sharh At-Tirmithi reads, "What is paid to obtain a right or to ward off injustice does not fall under the category of the prohibited bribe. It was reported that Ibn Mas‘ood was captured in Abyssinia for something, and he freed himself by paying two dinars. It was also narrated on the authority of a group of Taabi‘oon (generation following that of the Companions) that there is no harm if the man pays in order to preserve his life and wealth if he fears injustice..."
Al-Mirqaah Sharh Al-Mishkaah reads, "It is said that the bribe is what is given to deprive someone of his right or to give him what is not his right. However, if it is given to obtain one's right or to ward off injustice, then there is no harm in that..."
For more benefit about the prohibited bribe, please refer to fatwa 12346.
Allah knows best.
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