Answered by Ustadh Sufyan Qufi
I accidentally scratched a car; I don’t know who owns it, and I left without leaving a note. I went back and asked if anyone in the area had complained about it, but no one had, so I have no idea who owns the car I scratched.
What should I do?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
I pray this finds you in the best of states.
You must pay for the damages that have affected someone else’s property. [Quduri, Mukhtasar]
A mistake is never an excuse when it comes to the rights of others. [Hasan al-Aqhisari, Samt al-Wusul]
It is true that the Messenger of Allah, Blessings and Peace upon him, has said: “Allah has excused for my community mistakes, forgetfulness, and what they have been coerced to do.” [Ibn Majah]
But Hanafi scholars explain that this hadith relates to the Hereafter. Indeed Allah, Most High, will not hold us accountable for our mistakes. This does not entail, however, that there is no accountability in this life regarding the rights of others.
It was thus sinful for you not to enable the victim to reach you for financial reparations.
Returning Money to Its Rightful Owners
From a previous answer by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, may Allah preserve him:
“The default would have been to actually return it to its rightful owners. When this is not possible to do, we are legally obliged to effectively return it to them by giving it away in charity, as the Hanafi scholars stipulate, so that even though their money does not go back to them its benefit does in the form of the charity given on their behalf.
It is only charity, however, with regards to the actual owners of the money. When you give this money away, you can only intend to get rid of unlawful filthy money from your holding, while repenting and seeking Allah’s forgiveness for disobeying Him in a matter He deems most hateful. To seek ‘good’ or reward when one gets rid of this money would be a serious sin in itself, the fuqaha tell us.
One may give this money to those deserving of zakat (=the poor and needy) or to charities. There is nothing wrong or dubious with accepting this money because the sin devolves back to the person who wrongfully engaged in the unlawful transaction and not the actual money itself. [Nahlawi, al-Hadhr wa’l Ibaha; al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar (with some details from questions asked of contemporary scholars)]”
Since this is your case, you should make an estimate of the damages and give this money in charity on behalf of the victim.
You should also repent properly from this action. Please see:
The Conditions Of Repentance
And Allah knows best.
[Ustadh] Sufyan Qufi
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Sufyan Qufi is an advanced seeker of knowledge, originally from Algeria, who grew up in France. He began searching far and wide for answers to the fundamental questions of life and was disappointed at the answers he found. Then he connected with various traditional teachers and gradually connected with SeekersGuidance. He embarked on his journey of learning through the various teachers at SeekersGuidance, including his mentor Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. He studied numerous texts in Islamic Law, Theology, Hadith, and other areas with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and other teachers, including Shaykh Abdurrahman al-Sha‘ar, Shaykh Ali Hani, and others. He is an active instructor at SeekersGuidance and answers questions through the SeekersGuidance Answers Service.