Amânah or Trusts


Bahishti Zewar, Fiqh, Part 5-Principles of Business / Thursday, October 14th, 2010

1. A person came and gave you something to keep as an amânah and you accepted it. It is now wajib on you to safeguard it. If you display any shortcoming in safeguarding the item and it gets lost, you will have to compensate for it. However, if you did not display any shortcoming in safeguarding the item and it still gets lost either by being stolen or getting burnt when your house caught on fire, etc. then that person cannot demand any compensation from you. In fact, even if at the time of accepting the amânah you said to the person that you are responsible for it and that he can take the money for it if it gets lost, he does not have the right to demand any compensation. Compensating him out of your own free will is another matter.

2. A person comes and says: “I am going for some work. Please keep this item for me.” You reply: “Okay leave it here.” Alternatively, you do not say anything but merely remain silent. That person leaves it with you and goes away. This becomes an amânah. However, if you clearly state that you are not going to keep it and that he should keep it with someone else or you do not accept it and yet the person keeps it with you and goes away, then that item will not be an amânah. However, if you pick up that item and keep it away after the departure of the person, it will become an amânah.

3. Several women were sitting together. A lady comes, keeps an item with them and goes away. It is wajib on all of them to safeguard that item. If they leave that item behind and go away and it disappears thereafter, they will have to pay compensation. If all of them did not leave at once but left one after the other, it will be the responsibility of the last person to safeguard the item. If she leaves that place and the item disappears, compensation will be taken from her.

4. The person who has an amânah with her has the right to keep the item with her and safeguard it or to give it to her mother, sister, husband or any such relative who lives in the same house as hers and by whom she also keeps her possessions at the time of need. However, if any of the relatives are not trustworthy, it will not be permissible to keep it with them. If she intentionally gives it to such an unreliable person, she will have to pay compensation in the event of that item disappearing.

It is not permissible to keep an amânah by anyone else (besides the above-mentioned) without the permission of the owner. This is irrespective of whether the person is a total stranger or a distant relative. If an amânah is kept with such a person, she will have to pay compensation in the event of that item disappearing. However, if this person is such that she herself entrusts her with her own possessions, then it will be permissible to keep an amânah with that person.

5. A person came and gave you an item to be kept as an amânah. You forgetfully left it behind and went away. If it disappears, you will have to pay compensation. Alternatively, you left the lock of the closet or safe open and went away. And there are several persons sitting over there. Furthermore, the item is such that it generally cannot be safeguarded without being locked. In the event of it disappearing, you will have to pay compensation.

6. Your house caught on fire. At such a time, it is permissible to keep the amânah with strangers as well. However, once this excuse (house being on fire) is no more, you should immediately go and take that amânah from that person. If you do not go and take it, you will have to pay compensation in the event of it disappearing. Similarly, if at the time of your death, none of your house folk are present, it will be permissible to give it to your neighbour.

7. If a person gives you gold or silver coins to be kept as an amânah, it will be wâjib on you to safeguard those very gold or silver coins. You cannot mix them with your gold or silver coins nor can you spend them. You should not think that all gold or silver coins are the same and therefore you will use them and when he asks you for them you will give him your own. This is not permissible. If the person permits you to use them, it will be permissible. However, the rule with regard to this is that if you keep those very coins aside, it will be regarded as an amânah. If they disappear, you will not have to pay any compensation. But if you seek his permission and use them, it will now be regarded as a debt and not an amânah. You will therefore have to pay him irrespective of whether they disappear or not. After using his coins, you kept aside the same amount in his name (with the intention that it is his). It will still not be regarded as an amânah. They will be regarded as your coins. If they are stolen, your coins will be considered to be stolen and you will still have to pay him. In short, once you use his coins, it will be regarded as your responsibility as long as you do not repay him.

8. A person kept R100 as an amânah with you. You sought his permission to use R50 and spent it. R50 will be regarded as a debt on your shoulders and R50 will be regarded as an amânah. Later when you obtain R50, do not mix it with his R50 which you kept as an amânah. If you mix it, the entire amount (R100) will not be regarded as an amânah and you will be responsible for the entire R100. If this amount disappears, you will have to repay the entire R100. This is because by mixing the money of amânah with your own, the entire amount becomes a debt and you will have to repay the entire amount irrespective of whether it disappears or not.

9. You sought the person’s permission and mixed his R100 with your R100. The entire amount will be regarded as a partnership. If it is stolen, both the amounts will be considered to be stolen and there is no need for any compensation. If part of the money is stolen and part is left behind, then from the money which has been stolen, half will be considered to be yours and half his. If one person had given R100 and the other R200, then the amount that is stolen will be calculated accordingly, e.g. if R12 is stolen, R4 of the person who gave R100 will be considered to be stolen and R8 of the person who gave R200. This rule will only apply if it was mixed with his permission.
If you mix it without his permission, the rule that has been mentioned previously will apply. That is, by mixing the money of amânah with your money without the owner’s permission, that amânah becomes a debt. That money no longer remains an amânah. Whatever money from there disappears will be regarded as yours and you will have to repay him.

10. A person kept a goat or cow as an amânah with you. It is not permissible for you to drink its milk or benefit from it in any other way. However, it will be permissible for you to do so if you obtain his permission. Whatever milk you drink without permission will have to be paid for.

11. A person kept clothing, jewellery, a bed, etc. as an amânah. You cannot use these items without permission. If you use these items without permission and while using them, the clothing gets torn or stolen, or the jewellery or bed breaks or gets stolen, then in all these cases you will have to pay compensation. However, if you repent from this action and keep these items away safely and thereafter they disappear, you will not have to pay any compensation.

12. You removed the clothing which was given to you as an amânah from the cupboard with the intention that you will wear it in the evening for a particular occasion. However, before you could wear it, it got stolen. You will still have to pay compensation.

13. The cow or goat which was given to you as an amânah fell ill. You gave it medication. Because of this medication it died. You will have to pay compensation. If it dies without your giving it any medication, you will not have to pay any compensation.

14. A person gave you some money. You kept it in your wallet or cash pocket. However, this money did not go into your wallet or cash pocket. Instead, it fell down but you were under the assumption that it is in your wallet or cash pocket. You will not have to pay any compensation.

15. When a person asks for his amânah, it is wâjib to hand it over to him immediately. It is not permissible to delay without any valid excuse. A person asks you for his amânah. You reply that you are busy now and that he must take it from you tomorrow. The person agrees – there is no harm in this. If the person is not happy about taking it tomorrow and goes away angrily, that item will no longer be regarded as an amânah. If it disappears, you will have to pay compensation.

16. A person sent someone to collect his amânah. You have the right of refusing to hand it over to this person with the message that the person must come himself and that you will not give it to anyone else. If you hand it over to this messenger thinking him to be honest and later the owner says that he did not send him, the owner can demand the item from you. You can take the item back from that person. If the item is no longer in his possession, you cannot demand the money for it from him but the owner can demand it from you.

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