Should I Pay My Debt of an Unlawful Transaction?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick


Suppose someone bought something haram using credit (e.g. An intoxicant). Should he pay back the credit owed or just give it to charity?


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

May Allah guide every dimension of our lives to that which pleases Him.

Purchasing unlawful items renders the transaction invalid. The buyer is not the lawful owner of the commodity, and the seller is not the lawful owner of the price. According to Islamic law, the item and its price should be returned, and both parties should repent. The unlawful item should be destroyed at the seller’s expense. However, if the seller is not Muslim, one cannot enforce Sacred Law upon him, and the law of the land must be considered to avoid further trouble.

If the item no longer exists, the buyer should either clear his debt if the seller agrees or pay his debt (part of the initial unlawful transaction) and repent to Allah. Paying for the unlawful item is unlawful but is considered part of the consequences of the initial unlawful transaction. Allah knows best. [Nawawi, al-Majmu‘]

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[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.