Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: I have a question regarding the fiqh of ‘lost and found property.
Many years ago I was sitting in an auditorium when a person walked up to me and asked whether the umbrella that was near me belonged to me. I replied in the negative and so he asked me if he could have it. Without thinking, I just said ‘yes’ and handed it to him.
Was I wrong in doing that?
Answer: Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.
Legally, you assume that the person only asked for the umbrella because they thought it was theirs. This is from having a good opinion of others’ motives. Allah Most High tells us to avoid ill-opinion of others: “O you who believe, leave most negative opinion…” [Qur'an, 49.12] The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Beware of negative opinions, for they are the falsest of statements.” [Bukhari & Muslim, from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him)]
In terms of caution, it would be praiseworthy to give the value of a mid-range umbrella in charity. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Leave what makes you doubt for that which doesn’t make you doubt.” [Ahmad, Tirmidhi, and others, from Hasan ibn Ali (Allah be pleased with them)]
And Allah alone gives success.