What to Do with Money Taken Illicitly from a Government Agency?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch


If one acquires wealth from a government agency in an illicit fashion, are they obliged to return it to that specific agency?

What if that is not feasible?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

With regard to illegitimately acquired wealth, the following injunctions apply:

If one has acquired wealth illegitimately from anyone, be it an agency/corporation or an individual, they are required to return exactly what was taken. [Haskafi, al-Durr al-Mukhtar – Kitab al-Ghasb]

If the illicitly acquired wealth no longer exists or is no longer in one’s possession, then the monetary value of what was taken is to be returned. [Ibid.]

Suppose one cannot return the wealth to the specific person or entity. In that case, one gives the wealth or the monetary value thereof in charity, not intending a good deed but rather intending to relinquish the impure wealth from one’s possession. [Ibid.]

Note that when returning the wealth or the monetary value thereof, one is not obliged to disclose the reason for giving the wealth. They are permitted to call it charity or a gift, and this suffices their obligation. The point is to return the wealth to the possession of its rightful owner. [Ibid.]

Intentional vs. Unintentional

If the wealth was illegitimately acquired intentionally, then, besides the above, one is obligated to sincerely repent to Allah Most High. If, however, the wealth was acquired unknowingly or unintentionally, then one must return the wealth as above, but they are not sinful. [Ibid.]

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.