Answered by Sidi Wasim Shiliwala

Question: When I was about 16, I didn’t really take religion seriously and used to hang out with the wrong people.  So, my question is regarding theft, for we used to steal from different stores.  How do I go about addressing that wrong?

1) The 1st store I stole from is a huge franchise. Therefore, I can’t really return the item and say I stole this and I’m sorry. And I can’t really donate to the store either.

2) The 2nd store I stole is no longer there. I’m not sure if it went out of business or relocated to another state. I don’t remember the name of the store either and neither do the current occupants of the building.

Answer: Jazakum Allahu Khairan for your excellent question!  May Allah reward you for your noble intention to correct past mistakes.

Keeping a Proper Perspective on Repentance

Firstly, it’s important to remember that so long as your repentance is sincere, insha’Allah your sins will be forgiven.  Islam is not a religion of despair, for Allah’s mercy is vast.

In order to properly repent, one must: a) leave the sin, b) feel remorse for it, c) resolve to never do it again, and d) return any rights or property that one took.

Returning Rights One Took from Others

In your case, this last condition is the most important.  For this, you would need to return (in order of preference): the same items, items similar to them, or their monetary equivalent.  For example, if you stole clothes that were worth $45, you should either return those same clothes, clothes like them of the same value, or $45.

When the Owner Can’t Be Found

As for the case where the store and the owner are no longer around, you should donate the stolen items to a non-Muslim charity.  This is because stolen items are haram to be used by yourself as well as other Muslims.

Returning Items to Stores

As for the first case, where the store you stole from is still around, you still need to redress that wrong.  However, precaution needs to be taken, as there is still a chance that you might be prosecuted for your past act, even though you are trying to fix it.

Rather, you could return the monetary value of the item (as per the example above, $45) with an anonymous note stating that you owe them that much money.  This way, you would be restoring their right without risking prosecution.

Ensuring Your Repentance is Sincere

Finally, you must remember that the actions listed above are steps in the repentance process.  In order to prove your true repentance to Allah, you must feel remorse for it and resolve to never do it again.  Increase in good actions, leave the bad, and follow the Prophet {saw}, for those who do so are guaranteed Allah’s mercy and salvation.

Jazakum Allahu Khairan,
-Wasim

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

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