Mine or theirs? – A thought about neighbour’s fruit.
Apparently you may wonder if there could be any ethical issue involved with a simple act of plucking a fruit from a tree whose wide-ranging branches enter your property line. Surprisingly, the matter does not plainly end with the “finders’ keepers” or “neighbour’s right” motto; it calls for understanding certain questions of morality and integrity associated with the subject.
We commonly hear stories of how trees become a reason for enmity and hostility between neighbours. In some cases fruit laden trees are trimmed or even chopped down to end skirmishes arising over the rights of claiming fruit or the raking of dry leaves, messing up the neighbour’s garden.
Can you guiltlessly pick up any fruit which falls from the neighbour’s tree in your garden, without struggling with the thought, “Am I stealing it?” Can you casually pluck guavas from a tree, growing in your neighbour’s garden but the branches freely encroach in your compound? Has it ever crossed your mind that permission may be required to enjoy fruit which grows on a tree rooted in your neighbour’s house, taken care of by your neighbour who is by all means the rightful owner of the produce?
Does Islam Offer a Solution?
Any advice shared with a religious perspective, clears away confusion that may leave one clueless about the aforementioned situation. Although there is no direct instruction specifically dealing with fruits that fall from a neighbour’s tree. There are however, Quranic verses and Hadith on the subject of property and wealth belonging to others. Inferences from these sayings about analogous situations, answer the questions of ethics and principles coming from such affairs.
Prophet Mohammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “A Muslim may not take another’s property without their permission.(Related by Bayhaqi; Nawawi stated that its chain of transmission is rigorously authenticated (sahih), in his Majmu).
There is one more Hadith which says, “Worldly things are sweet and seemingly whoever takes them with permission shall find them blessed, while whoever takes them with avidness shall not find any blessings in them and will be like those who eat and yet are not satiated. And the upper hand is better than the lower hand,” [Bukhari and Muslim, from Hakim ibn Hizam].
Take Permission, Please
In the light of these Hadith it becomes clear that permission is mandatory for taking anything that belongs to others, be it fruits or flowers in this case. A neighbour’s consent will clear any feeling of guilt you may experience while picking or plucking a fruit, which grows on a tree which is not yours. If the neighbour happily grants the permission, then you can go ahead but if the opposite happens, the fruit must be returned to the owner- it is all about practising the virtues of honesty and fairness like a true Muslim.
(Written by: Shazman Shariff, freelance writer based in Bangalore, available at [email protected].)