Position of gifts & bribes in Islam

Javed Ahmad


Accepting gifts from someone who is giving it out of goodwill without any expectation is allowed in Islam provided that the receiver too gives back something in return of equal or higher value. Our Prophet (s) too used to accept gifts as we find in some hadiths


Narrated 'Aisha: Allah's Apostles used to accept gifts and used to give something in return.  (Bukhari, Book #47, Hadith #758)


Narrated 'Azra bin Thabit Al-Ansari: When I went to Thumama bin 'Abdullah, he gave me some perfume and said that Anas would not reject the gifts of perfume. Anas said: The Prophet used not to reject the gifts of perfume.  (Bukahri, Book #47, Hadith #756)


But a Muslim is not permitted to accept a gift if it is attached with some expectations or return of some favors, nor can they demand any (like bokh’shish or cha-nash’tar taka). In that case, it would no longer be a ‘gift’ rather it would be a ‘bribe’ which is prohibited in Islam.


We find only two hadiths on prohibition of accepting or giving of bribes in Sunan Abu Dawood, which says –


Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As: The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) cursed the one who bribes and the one who takes bribe.  (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book #24, Hadith #3573)


Narrated AbuUmamah: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: If anyone intercedes for his brother and he presents a gift to him for it and he accepts it, he approaches a great door of the doors of usury.  (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book #23, Hadith #3534)


On the other hand, we also find some ahadith on prohibition of taking a gift back,


Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar ; Abdullah Ibn Abbas: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: It is not lawful for a man to make a donation or give a gift and then take it back, except a father regarding what he gives his child. One who gives a gift and then takes it back is like a dog which eats and vomits when it is full, then returns to its vomit.  (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book #23, Hadith #3532)


However, one is permitted to take a gift back provided,


Narrated Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: The similitude of the one who takes back what he gifted is like that of a dog which vomits and then it eats vomit. When a donor seeks to take back (his gift), it should be made known and he informed why he sought to take it back. Then whatever he donated should be returned to him.  (Sunan Abu Dawud,Book #23, Hadith #3533)


All of the ahadith quoted above are taken from Sunan Abu Dawud. Sunni Muslims view the six major Hadith collections as their most important. They are, in order of authenticity:


1. Sahih Bukhari, collected by Imam Bukhari (d. 870), includes 7275 ahadith

2. Sahih Muslim, collected by Muslim b. al-Hajjaj (d. 875), includes 9200 ahadith

3. Sunan al-Sughra, collected by al-Nasa'i (d. 915)

4. Sunan Abu Dawood, collected by Abu Dawood (d. 888)

5. Jami al-Tirmidhi, collected by al-Tirmidhi (d. 892)

6. Sunan ibn Majah, collected by Ibn Majah (d. 887)


The first two, commonly referred to as the “Two Sahihs” as an indication of their authenticity, contain approximately seven thousand ahadiths altogether if repetitions are not counted, according to Ibn Hajar (773 A.H.- 852 A.H.) who was also known as Shaykh al Islam.


Abu Dawood Sulayman ibn Ash`ath Azdi Sijistani (202H, 817-18CE - 275H, 889CE. A Persian, but born from the Arab tribe of Azd follower of Sunni madhab), commonly known as Abu Dawud, was a noted collector of prophetic hadith, and wrote the forth of the six canonical hadith collections recognized by Sunni Muslims, Sunan Abu Dawood. He collected 500,000 hadith, but included only 4,800 in this collection.


Sunan Abu Dawood, containing some 4,800 hadith, is his principal work. They are usually numbered after the edition of Muhammad Muhyi al- Din `Abd al-Hamid (Cairo: Matba`at Mustafa Muhammad, 1354/1935), where 5,274 are distinguished. Some of his hadith are not sahih, but he claimed that all hadith listed were sahih unless specifically indicated otherwise; this has been controversial among Islamic scholars, since some, such as Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani believe some of the unmarked ones to be weak or da'if as well.


The hadiths quoted above are considered authentic by many scholars and therefore could be taken into consideration. From lack of hadith evidence on bribes in other books, it can be assumed that bribing was probably absent during the time of the Prophet (s). It may have become a problem in the latter days of Islam after the demise of caliphate followed by the reign of kings and monarchs; because we find plenty of concerned writings by Muslim scholars in different parts of the world addressing the bribe related issues indicating random corruption is the civil or public services in the governments under a secularized system.


Today the ‘problem’ has reached an ‘epidemic’ stage where people no longer feel seeking gifts and bribes as a shameful act. Nor does the people mind responding to it to get their job done – legal or illegal.


Initially, these practices began with corrupt business people who wanted to get their illegal jobs done or to expedite their services sought at the bureaucratic level. Thus corruption entered at the civil services in the country motivated by greed. Continued inflation contributed to more and more people adopting these habits in order to live comfortably in an ever demanding godless secular society where worldly gains are seen as a measure of success. Therefore, corruption entered in every nook and corner of the public service organizations even in the judiciary and law and enforcement departments that are supposed to safeguard public from all sort of corruptions.


Not just the business people, corrupt politicians also abused the system through gifts, bribes and recommendations on political grounds to reach their goals and objectives paying no attention to national image and integrity. This matter is now like a chronic disease in our society making our lives miserable. Today even to get a genuine job done a bribe or a bokh’shish of some sort is required.


One needs to understand that illegal gifts and bribes are equivalent to a bank interest or riba which is prohibited in Islam simply because it creates pressure (julm) on the victim facing it. In a society where most of the people are hard pressed with money and lives hand to mouth, asking for gifts and bribes is definitely oppression. Is there really any difference between begging and seeking gifts / bokh’shish and bribes? Comparatively, begging is better as one have a choice to give or not to give; but bribe seeker leaves the victim with no choice!


Governments should take serious measures to curb such activities in the society where people are gaining illegal wealth through these illegal acts without any accountability. Hence we got the growing new problem called the ‘black money’.


It is good to see that the government is initiating an accounting of wealth assessment of public officials and politicians in order to validate their candidatures seeking offices. Government should confiscate all illegal wealth and properties of public officials who abuse their powers and the system that they are supposed to safeguard in order to make illegal wealth through gifts and bribes.


Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "The Israelis used to be ruled and guided by prophets: Whenever a prophet died, another would take over his place. There will be no prophet after me, but there will be Caliphs who will increase in number." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What do you order us (to do)?" He said, "Obey the one who will be given the pledge of allegiance first. Fulfil their (i.e. the Caliphs) rights, for Allah will ask them about (any shortcoming) in ruling those Allah has put under their guardianship."  (Bukahri, Book #56, Hadith #661)


People involved in such crimes should know that they are acting as oppressors plundering and usurping national resources by looting innocent people in order to get rich that will eventually become a barrier to their access to heaven on the Day of Judgment. The rights (haq) denied for gifts and bribes against the people will be called on this Day for accountability; and Allah will not forgive them until the person whose rights were denied and were oppressed forgives. Chances are, no one would forgive them on that Day as each and every one of the people will try to snatch away as much reward from each other to qualify to enter a heaven.


Narrated Al-Mughira bin Shu'ba: The Prophet said, "Allah has forbidden for you, (1) to be undutiful to your mothers, (2) to bury your daughters alive, (3) to not to pay the rights of the others (e.g. charity, etc.) and (4) to beg of men (begging). And Allah has hated for you (1) vain, useless talk, or that you talk too much about others, (2) to ask too many questions, (in disputed religious matters) and (3) to waste the wealth (by extravagance).  (Bukhari, Book #41, Hadith #591)


Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: The Prophet said, "Beware! Avoid sitting on he roads (ways)." The people said, "There is no way out of it as these are our sitting places where we have talks." The Prophet said, "If you must sit there, then observe the rights of the way." They asked, "What are the rights of the way?" He said, "They are the lowering of your gazes (on seeing what is illegal to look at), refraining from harming people, returning greetings, advocating good and forbidding evil."  (Bukhari, Book #43, Hadith #645)


One is expected to observe all obligations to fulfill ones rights. For instance, a civil servant who is on a monthly salary from the national treasury paid for by the tax paying citizens of the country is obligated to serve the public in fulfilling their rights and obligations safeguarding others from being harmed. But if they demand gifts and bribes for rendering the services from a citizen who have the right to demand a service from them jeopardizes the whole mechanism.


Allah encourages proper documentation by both sides in fulfilling their rights and obligations –


O ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing. Let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write: as Allah Has taught him, so let him write. Let him who incurs the liability dictate, but let him fear His Lord Allah, and not diminish aught of what he owes. If they party liable is mentally deficient, or weak, or unable Himself to dictate, Let his guardian dictate faithfully, and get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her. The witnesses should not refuse when they are called on (For evidence). Disdain not to reduce to writing (your contract) for a future period, whether it be small or big: it is juster in the sight of Allah, More suitable as evidence, and more convenient to prevent doubts among yourselves but if it be a transaction which ye carry out on the spot among yourselves, there is no blame on you if ye reduce it not to writing. But take witness whenever ye make a commercial contract; and let neither scribe nor witness suffer harm. If ye do (such harm), it would be wickedness in you. So fear Allah. For it is Good that teaches you. And Allah is well acquainted with all things.  (Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #282)


Therefore any oral dealings and transactions are discouraged in Islam. Because failing on any rights and obligations would have dire consequences –


The similitude of those who were charged with the (obligations of the) Mosaic Law, but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes (but understands them not). Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the Signs of Allah. and Allah guides not people who do wrong.  (Al-Jumua, Chapter #62, Verse #5)


There are no written agreements in dealing with gifts and bribes in a transaction; therefore, it is not permitted. One gets double reward if they fulfill ones rights and obligations –


Narrated Abu Burda's father: The Prophet said, "Three persons will get their reward twice. (One is) a person who has a slave girl and he educates her properly and teaches her good manners properly (without violence) and then manumits and marries her. Such a person will get a double reward. (Another is) a believer from the people of the scriptures who has been a true believer and then he believes in the Prophet (Muhammad). Such a person will get a double reward. (The third is) a slave who observes Allah's Rights and obligations and is sincere to his master."  (Bukahri, Book #52, Hadith #255)


Here the ‘slave’ is the civil servant who observes Allah’s commands sincerely under his ‘master’ which is the government of the people, by the people and for the people.


We need to realize the fact that despite having full control of a nation and its treasuries, our Prophet (s) chose to live a poor and a simple life in this world. When he received any gifts, he tried to give something back in return. All his services were for the sake of Allah without asking for any salaries and remuneration from the state treasury. He took payments for the services he rendered to live on often working hard. During his young hey days as a trader or business person, he never misused his wealth and have never been a spendthrift. Why then we being his followers try to reach the moon while being a dwarf?


If we follow him and his lifestyle, we would be able to live a simpler worry free life minding to please Allah in our prayer efforts. After all, that is the main purpose of our being on this temporal world called Earth (Duniya); afterlife (Akhe’raat) is our final and permanent residence that has been guaranteed to all believers by Allah Himself.


"Our Lord! Thou art He that will gather mankind Together against a day about which there is no doubt; for Allah never fails in His promise." … "Our Lord! Grant us what Thou didst promise unto us through Thine apostles, and save us from shame on the Day of Judgment: For Thou never breakest Thy promise." (Aal-e-Imran, Chapter #3, Verse #9 & Verse #194)




Prohibition of bribes in Islam: http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/72268


Abu Dawud: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Dawood


Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Hajar_al-Asqalani


ইসলামের দৃষ্টিত ঘুষ, উপহার সুপারিশ বাংলাদেশ প্রেক্ষিত মাওলান মোহাম্মদ নূর হোসাইন ইসলামিক ফাউন্ডেশন বাংলাদেশ আই, এস, বি, এন ৯৮৪-০৬-১১৯৩-


Gift & Bribe – A hadith explanation: http://dailyhadith.adaptivesolutionsinc.com/hadith/Gift-or-Bribe.htm