How does a person get rid of stolen items that he currently possesses but doesn't know who their rightful owners are? Does he just burn them or can he give them away to someone in need?
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.
The correct way of getting rid of stolen objects is to return them to their owners or the inheritors of these owners, if the person knows their origin. But if the person who has stolen the properties does not know their origin or if these belongings are originally from forbidden earnings (bank interest), then he should either give these stolen things as alms to poor or needy Muslims or spend them in Islamic public interests. It is forbidden to burn it or spoil it.
The public interest is anything which does not benefit a given person and which profits to the Muslims on the whole such as: building bridges, paving roads, building schools or houses for orphans, etc. Some scholars believe that this kind of earns should not be invested in building mosques.
If he happens to know the person or his in-heritors after having given the stolen thing as alms, he should then give a similar thing to them or give its value if it can be valued, and in this case the reward of what he has given as alms is for him not for the other person. The person should hasten to return the stolen properties. He should not hesitate to get rid of these Haram (unlawful) properties. Haram earnings interpose between the person and Allah's answer to his Du'as; this is enough to make one get rid of them as soon as possible. Muslim reported from Abu Huraira that the Prophet said: "Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: O people, Allah is Good and He, therefore, accepts only that which is good. And Allah commanded the believers as He commanded the Messengers by saying: "O Messengers, eat of the good things, and do good deeds; verily I am aware of what you do". And He said: 'O those who believe, eat of the good things that We gave you" . He then made a mention of a person who travels widely, his hair dishevelled and covered with dust. He lifts his hand towards the sky (and thus makes the supplication): "O Lord, O Lord," whereas his diet is unlawful, his drink is unlawful, and his clothes are unlawful and his nourishment is unlawful. How can then his supplication be accepted?". Allah knows best.
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