بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

Trust (amaanah) and Related Injunctions

Before understanding the injunctions related with amaanah or Trust, it is important to follow the following preliminaries:

The thing or commodity which is entrusted to someone is known as wadee’ah. Whoever keeps the wadee’ah is known as mouda’ or the entrusted person or simply the trustee. The person who initiates keeping of wadee’ah is known as moudi’ or the trusting party. For example, Zaid gives Abdullah one thousand coins to keep on his behalf, the sum of money is the trust (wadee’ah), Abdullah is trustee (mouda’) and Zaid is trusting individual (moudi’).

Islam has ordained everything that is conducive to the well-being of the society and has prohibited everything that tends to cause harm. One of the good actions that Islam has encouraged is taking care of the trust (amaanah) by a trustee. Whenever a person has the need to entrust something for safe keeping over a certain period of time. This gives rise to mutual societal benefit and sets a tradition of cooperation among the members of a community. This is in accordance withthe practice of the Prophet (PBUH).

The companions of the Prophet (PBUH) used to entrust their valuables to the Prophet for safe-keeping. Even the pagans of Arabia did that very frequently despite the fact that they did not choose to believe his message at yet. The Prophet (PBUH) always performed this responsibility diligently. This was the reason that the Prophet (PBUH) had been called al-Amin or the Trustworthy much before the prophethood was bestowed to him. When the Prophet (PBUH) intended to migrate from Makkah to Madinah, he had many of these entrusted possessions to return to their rightful owners and he gave that responsibility to Ali (RA) who slept in his bed as a guarantor of the trust while the Prophet (PBUH) rode away to Madinah in the company of Abu Bakr (RA). In the morning Ali (RA) handed these over to the respective owners on behalf of the Prophet (PBUH) and thus the prophetic tradition of safeguarding the trust remained intact.

There are several instances in the Qur’an and Sunnah where this important factor of faith has been reiterated. For example:

  • In Surah An Nisa Verse 58: Behold Allah bids you to deliver all that you have been entrusted with unto those who are entitled thereto.
  • In Surah Al Baqara Verse 283: If you trust one another, then let him who is trusted fulfil his trust and let him be conscious of Allah, his Sustainer.
  • In Surah Al Anfaal Verse 27: O you who have attained to faith, do not be false to Allah and his Messenger, and do not knowingly be false to the trust that has been reposed in you.
  • In Surah Al Ma’arij, through Verse 32 to 35: And those who are faithful to their trusts and their pledges. These it is who in the gardens of paradise shall be honoured.

Similarly the Prophet (PBUH) has enjoined that the entrusted entities must be returned (Tirmidhi, Abu Da’ud, Ibne Maja).

In the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah, the scholars agree that keeping someone’s wealth or goods as the custodian is a matter of divine rewards. Allah has enjoined in Surah Al Ma’ida Verse 2: “And help one another in promoting virtue and pious duty.” The Prophet (PBUH) has said that Allah keeps supporting His servant as long as he stands by his brother (Muslim).

Along with such Qur’anic evidences and the consensus of the scholars, it is a natural demand of human life that keeping and observing the trusted entities should be allowed. Thus if a fellow brother, friend or neighbour needs to give us the custody of his wealth or goods, and if we can actually take care of it in an appropriate manner, then following the example of the Prophet (PBUH) we should accept the responsibility and expect its reward from Allah.

Islamic Ruling over wadee’ah:

Ordinarily, keeping the custody of another person’s belongings is mustahabb or a recommended action but in certain situations, it becomes wajib or compulsory e.g. if a person’s belongings are exposed to danger and your custody can protect his best interest, then you should have a sense of responsibility and receive the articles of trust with open arms. At the same time if you find out that you cannot stand a guard against loss to the property of your friends, then it is better to beg your excuse.

If an entity or wealth is kept as a trust, the following legal rules would apply:

  1. The goods as well as the wealth would remain with the trustee as amanah or trust only.
  2. The ameen or the trustee would take utmost care in good maintenance of the wadee’ah or the trust.
  3. The trusting person may take back his trusted property any time.
  4. The trustee may also return the trusted entity back to the owner at any time.
  5. The trusting person will have to finance the expenses incurred by the trustee for example if the trusted entity is an animal, then its food and if it is a house then its relevant repair/construction and maintenance charges must be borne by the trusting individual.
  6. It is permissible for the trustee to fix a certain payment for the safe custody of the trust and when this payment is fixed, it is incumbent upon the owner/trusting individual to pay it. Even if direct payment for the trust has not been settled but the trustee has to devote a certain conspicuous part of his property for the cause of safekeeping of the trusted goods or wealth, then he can ask for a fixed rent as well. But it is important that all this conditionality is settled at the very outset of mutuality.
  7. If despite the payment of the fixed rent or imbursement, a certain part or all of the trusted property is damaged or lost and no dishonesty is reported on the part of the trustee, then the latter will not have to compensate for the loss.
  8. The trustee is not supposed to take any benefit from wadee’ah unless the owner himself allows him to do that.
  9. If the trustee has utilized a certain part of the trust without the permission of the owner and there occurs a loss thereupon, the trustee would be responsible for it.
  10. As stated above, if the trusted goods or wealth is lost despite all due care albeit beyond the control of the trustee, no redemption can be claimed. The honest trustee is under no obligation for any payment whatsoever for any damage or loss to the trusted goods or wealth. This is not only in accordance with the religious ruling supported by the traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) but also in line with general logic that if the trustee is held responsible for the loss beyond his control, people would become nonchalant about the entire institution of trust. This principle is supported by several traditions narrated in Ibne Majah, Baihaqi, Dar Qutni. Several significant names among the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) as well as the later scholars of repute have upheld this principle.
  11. If the trusting individual claims that the loss incurred is due to negligence or wilful action of the trustee, then the scholars suggest that the trustee should be asked to testify in the name of Allah. If he does so, he should be absolved of the charge, unless the evidences clearly go against his testimony.
  12. All the scholars agree that any increase that occurs to the original trust or any naturally caused benefit that comes to associate with it belongs to the trusting person. For example if an offspring is born to a trusted animal or the fruit orchard yields an unusual produce or a piece of land, rises in price, all these benefits belong to the person who has trusted his goods or wealth with the trustee.

Conditions applicable to both the trusting person and the trustee:

In both the trusting person and the trustee, following conditions must be found:

  • Both should be cognizant adults.
  • If the ameen or the trustee dies, his heirs are compelled by shari’ah (the Islam Law), to return the trust.
  • If the trustee goes out on a very long voyage, it is his duty to either return the trust to the rightful owner or another person of responsibility. It is to be observed in the example of the noble Prophet (PBUH) that when he migrated from Makkah to Madinah, he handed over all the trusts to Ali (RA) to hand these over to the respective owners. However, if despite the condition of long absence the trusting person wants the trust to remain under the guardianship of a certain trustee, there is nothing wrong with that.
  • The trusting person must be thankful to the trustee that he took care of his belongings in the consciousness of Allah. The Prophet (PBUH) has said that a person, who does not observe gratitude towards his fellow humans, would not be thankful to Allah. (Tirmidhi) If the trusting person presents to the trustee a gift in gratitude, then it is recommended. The Prophet (PBUH) said, “If someone treats you in a beautiful way, and you do not have the means to afford a present, and then pray for him in a good way.” (Abu Da’ud).
  • The trustee should not be pretentious of his good action of keeping a trust. He must realize that he did that noble action following the good example of the Prophet (PBUH) and therefore he should seek the acceptance of his good deed in the eyes of Allah and should pray for his reward in silence.

Just like a trust has to be unconditionally taken care of in good faith, we should remember that in this fleeting life, our own selves, wealth and our progeny are like amaana or trusts that Allah has bestowed upon us for a limited period of time. Allah has said in Surah Al Ahzaab Verse 72: “Lo! We offered the trust unto the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. Yet man assumed it.” Therefore the trust that Allah has allowed us to bear in all its forms must be taken care of with full devotion as we shall be asked about it on the Day of Judgment.

If we are doing a job, then the prescribed hours of duty are like a trust that we must keep. The promises done in our social life and in the course of businesses that we undertake have also got the status of trusts. Similarly, if someone has divulged a secret to someone, these are also to be observed with the same sanctity that is ordained with the institution of amaana, wadee’ah or the trust. The Prophet (PBUH) has warned us: “When dishonesty in the matters of trust becomes rampant, then just wait for the Day of Judgment” (Bukhari). Similarly, the Prophet (PBUH) said that a hypocrite has three marks of identity: Telling lies, breaking the promises and cheating in trust (Bukhari and Muslim).

An Important Note: If someone has borrowed a loan, and the amount of loan has to be returned even if it could not be brought into active use. Similarly, if an acquired thing that had to be returned to the owner is lost even before giving any benefit, then it has also got to be paid for. May Allah make us authentic and truthful observers of trust and may we be able to return the entrusted articles back to their true owners with grace and dignity, Amen!

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (www.najeebqasmi.com)