What Should One Do If He or She Forgets to Return Borrowed Items?

Hanafi Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch


What should one do if one borrows something insignificant from someone and forgets to return it for a long time? Can one give it to charity on their behalf?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

If one borrows an item from another, the item becomes a trust in their possession. [al-Mawsu’a al-Fiqhiyya al-Kuwaitiyya]

This means they are responsible for taking care of the thing and must return it whenever the agreed time period arises, or the original owner seeks its return. [Ibid.]


If the owner does not seek its return and no specific time period was mentioned, one may keep possession of the item and use it in a customarily known manner. If the owner forgets about the item, it is from the general well-wishing of the Believer to remind them. [Ibid.]

This is praiseworthy as one acts in the best interest of their fellow Muslim. The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The religion is a sincere desire for the well-being (of other Muslims).” [Abu Dawud]

If, after reminding the owner, they request the item back, it is necessary to return it to them.

Unable to Return the Borrowed Item

If, however, one is unable to return the item to the original owner, one will give the item to the inheritors or family of the original owner.

If this is not possible, one can give the item to charity on behalf of the owner; however, if the original owner later seeks the return of the item, one is responsible for paying the owner the value of the item (i.e., the value of the item on the day it was given away).

Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.