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Stealing is obviously wrong, and disallowed in Islam.

However there are still some questions I have (because I cant see how to make them generic, I have phrased them as examples) and would like well referenced answers preferably from fiqh :

If I see a penny on the floor, can I pick it up with the intention of keeping it? What about the intention of giving it to charity? Assumption: the penny is not owned by anyone ergo, I can claim it.

What if I see a large sum of money? Or a valuable natural resource (e.g gem stone) that may/may not be naturally occurring?

What about small non-monetary items like pens and free news papers? Assumption: Items that are given away free remain free when dropped. Also these items are easily replaceable.

What about expensive monetary items? Watches, fountain pens etc?

What if you find any of these items buried?

What of those can I claim?

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When it comes to lost items that are found (luqata) there are usually two rules that apply:

  • If it is an item of insignificant value (muhaqqirat), it is permissible for you to claim them. This is based on the hadith of the Prophet (ﷺ) where he gave different decisions for what to do about a lost camel (leave it be) in the desert and a lost sheep (take it). You can use it for yourself or give it in charity or even intend for the reward to go to the owner.

  • Otherwise, the classical ruling is to make an announcement for a year and verify any claimants that step forward.

Of course if there is an authority in the area that deals with lost and found items, it may be most appropriate to hand it over to them instead.

For more related ahadith, you can browse through the book of lost items in Sahih al-Bukhari.

Source: Class on Fiqh of Transactions.

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