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Selling What One Does Not Own

Adil Salahi

Arab News, 2/27/04

Q. In our home country, a transaction takes place whereby one person sells a plot of land to another, but they sign blank papers to enforce the sale. The point here is that the seller does not own the land in question, but he and the agent assure the buyer that he will be owning it at a later date. The format of the blank paper in question is devised by the property agent. Is such a sale permissible in Islam?

A. Nawaz

A. There is a principle in Islam that forbids selling what is not known for certain, and what one does not own. There are, however, details that make certain sales permissible, as in the case of selling the expected produce of agricultural land, while others are forbidden, as in the case of selling the expected fish catch before the fisherman starts his work. The question raised by the reader falls into this general category, but he has not furnished sufficient details to make the transaction clear. On the basis of the sketchy information we have, we are bound to say that this seems a highly suspicious transaction that is more or less forbidden, but we cannot say this for certain without further details.

What does not seem to be understandable is why should anyone want to buy a piece of land from someone who does not own it, on the basis that he will be its owner in the future. Why does he not go to its owner and buy it from him? What happens if the seller does not procure the land? Does he return the money in full, or does he pay the buyer more in consideration of his having had use of the money for a period of time? Moreover, why is the form blank, not specifying the land in area and location? Does not that allow the seller to determine the piece of land he eventually gives to the buyer, which makes the buyer totally ignorant of the commodity he is buying? If this is a possibility, then the transaction cannot be sanctioned by Islam.


Earth, a planet hungry for peace


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers (Ran Cohen, pmc, 5/24/03).


The Israeli apartheid (security) wall around Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, like a Python. (Alquds,10/25/03).

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