Question # 346: Last week of December 1969, I was in university in ___. During Christmas holidays I went to ____ on a friend invite. At that time I was in ____ for less than a year. We went to ____ for a day, being a poor student, I had no money so my friend gave me 350$. I used the money and promised to return. I never had the money at that time. Then I forgot about it. Recently I tried to locate him to settle this debt but found out that he passed away 8 years ago. I tried to search on internet about other relatives but no luck. I could try harder. How shall I settle this debt per Islamic concept?
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: If one finds out that the person to whom the debt is owed has died as well as he could not track the person’s heirs, then he should give the same amount in charity on behalf of the lender, and Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) will ensure that the reward reaches him, for He knows the hearts of His slaves and He is Able to do all things.
Long Answer: The debtor is obliged to repay his debt when he is able to do so, and his obligation is not discharged unless he pays it off, because the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “For a rich man to delay repayment is wrongdoing.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim) He (صلى الله عليه و سلم) also said: “A person owes whatever he took until he pays it back.” (Narrated by Ahmad; Shu‘ayb al-Arna’oot said concerning the isnad of this hadith: It is hasan because of corroborating evidence)
If the person to whom the debt is owed has died, then what the debtor must do, when he is able to, is to repay the money to his heirs, or ask all of them to let him off, or at least ask each heir to let him off his share of this money. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever leaves behind wealth, it is for his heirs.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)
[However,] if one has tried to find the person’s [heirs] without success, then [he should] give the same amount in charity on behalf [of the lender], and Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) will ensure that the reward reaches him, for He knows the hearts of His slaves and He is Able to do all things.
(The above reply is based on various answers by Shaykh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.