Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
If I used the tram without paying, is this considered stealing? And if yes, do I have to return every penny for every tram stop? Do I need to return anything, or is repentance sufficient, considering that you are not taking something but instead using a service without payment? Also, if I need to be made aware of how often I have done this, what should I do? If admitting that I used the tram without paying could result in trouble, such as receiving a fine (which I can afford, but my family would be upset, and I might face significant consequences for admitting it), can I donate the money instead?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
May Allah reward you for your desire to repent and facilitate ease in your actions to fulfill a sincere and accepted repentance.
Using public services, such as a tram, without paying when a fee is required does raise ethical and religious concerns. The concept of stealing is applicable here, as you are availing a service without fulfilling its financial obligations. Islam emphasizes honesty, integrity, and fulfilling one’s responsibilities.
Allah Most High says, “O My slaves who have wronged themselves! Never lose hope in the mercy of Allah. Verily, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, He is the Most Forgiving and the Most Merciful.” [Quran, 39:53]
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The one who repents from sin is like one who never sinned.” [Ibn Maja]
Conditions of Repentance
The following are conditions for genuine repentance when one’s sins are between oneself and Allah:
(1) One must immediately cease sinning.
(2) One must regret one’s sins.
(3) One must resolve never to return to the sins.
With the conditions mentioned above, repentance will be valid. [Nawawi, Riyad al-Salihin]
Repentance from Sins Connected to the Rights or Property of Others
When one’s sins involve the rights or property of others, then the three conditions mentioned above apply, along with the following:
(4) One must absolve oneself from the rights of the person/s affected. If, for example, the sin is stealing wealth or property, you should return the items to their rightful owner.
Repentance without the fourth condition would not be sufficient to waive any rights owed to others. One must restore the rights of the victim/s.
[Nawawi, Riyadh al-Salihin]
Returning the Right
In financial dues, it is right to return what you owe. In this case, if you used the tram without paying, it is recommended to calculate the fares you owe for each instance and try to repay those amounts. If you are unsure, err on the side of caution. You could find out the relevant banking details and make an anonymous deposit. You should not reveal your past actions to anyone, especially as this may get you into more trouble, and Allah knows best.
Still, give some charity, if you can, to please Allah and extinguish His Displeasure.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “…Giving charity secretly, extinguishes the Anger of Allah…” [Tabarani, Mu‘jam al-Kabir]
Regret is the primary condition, or the most significant aspect, of repentance. Therefore, the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Regret is repentance.” [Ibn Maja]
One of the scholars said: “Regret is enough to achieve repentance, for it implies giving up the sin and resolving not to go back to it, which stem from regret and do not occur independently of it.” [Ibn Hajar, Fath Al-Bari]
Mulla Ali Qari (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Regret is repentance” because this will lead to the other essential components of repentance – namely giving up the sin and resolving not to go back to it, and restoring people’s rights wherever possible.… The above refers to remorse for sinning because it is sinful and for no other reason. [Mirqat Al-Mafatih]
I pray this is beneficial, and that Allah guides you and accepts your repentance.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.