No Boxed Gifts!
I have a query regarding the common polite request in wedding invitation cards for "no boxed gifts" i.e only monetary gifts. I recently read a fatwa that it was haram. I wished to get your own opinion on this matter as people usually give gifts (monetary or otherwise) at weddings and such a request would help to avoid the newly wed couple from the disappointment of receiving the same gift more than once (e.g. who would need more than one kettle or tea set?).
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu 'alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
In analyzing the phrase "no boxed gifts" in wedding invites, consider the following. Shariah encourages exchanging of gifts. Rasulullah ﷺ said:
(تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا (الأدب المفرد ص: 208
Translation: Give gifts to one another and you will love one another (Al-Adab Ul-Mufrad P:208)
While exchanging gifts in general is encouraged, it is a norm to exchange gifts during happy occasions, like weddings etc.
Gifting is governed by the Shariah laws of Hiba (هبة). In fact, the laws of Hiba are more stringent than the laws of buying and selling (بيوع). A purchase and sale transaction is concluded with a proposal (ايجاب) and acceptance (قبول) with other subsidiary conditions. However, a Hiba is concluded with a proposal, an acceptance as well as taking possession (قبض) of the gifted item. Furthermore, the gifted item has 3 restrictions:
A) مَعْلُومَة - it is specific
B) محوزة- free from any links to the ownership of the giver
C) مفروغة- it is free from joint partnership
In fact, the consequences of a gift (هبة) with a condition of an exchange of a gift transforms to a purchase and sale transaction. For example, if Zaid gives Umar a gift with a condition that Umar also gives him a gift, if Umar reciprocates that with a gift from his side, now the exchange of the gifts becomes a بيع. As such, all the Shariah laws of buying and selling will apply.
It is clear from the above that there are two dimensions to gifting. While it is a voluntary act and encouraged, it is also a transaction (معالمه). It should be noted that Shariah has granted an individual absolute independence in his dealings (معاملات), hence the Shariah laws of co-oersion (اكراه) and usurpation (غصب). Gifting being a dealing is also left to the independent choice of an individual, hence the condition of acceptance (قبول) and possession (قبض). This implies that an individual has a right to accept or reject gifts. It is his right and prerogative.
It is also understood from the generality of such a condition that he has a right to accept whatever gift he likes and reject whatever he dislikes. After havinginternalized the above fundamental principles of gifting, let us analyse the phrase 'no boxed gifts.' In essence, the potential recipient (موهوب له) informs the potential giftee that he will not accept boxed gifts. From a transactional point of view, he has the right not to accept gifts as he has to accept (قبول) a gift for it to be complete.
It is also important to analyse the statement from a practical point of view. It is a well known fact that exchanging gifts especially during weddings is a norm. The host expecting gifting on such an occasion does not fall in the category of Ishraaf (اشراف) as gifting is a norm on such occasions. The issue of Ishraaf will feature in a general situation. However, recipients of gifts also experience practical difficulties with certain types of gifts. In many instances, there are duplication of gifts. At times people experience space problems. In some instances, people experienced 'strange things' in gifted boxes.
The purpose of gifts is to be valued and appreciated, not just giving. Gifting ought to enhance love, it should not be a burden. In view of the practical realities, the potential recipient informs invitees that he won't accept boxed gifts. In doing so, he is exercising his Shariah right not to accept gifts. He is not looking down upon the gifts and neither is he demanding monetary gifts instead of boxed gifts.
The statement 'no boxed gifts' should be viewed from a practical perspective. In fact, such a statement actually relieves one from choosing a gift which can be a cumbersome exercise. It is much more easier to offer some money as a gift rather than purchasing an item. The recipient has the flexibility of purchasing an item of his/her choice which will be more valued than a duplicated gift which may not be valued at all.
It is also important to clarify the following points. The above is meant to explain that gifting is a transaction and one has the right to refuse a gift in a general or a particular type of gift. However, in doing so there should be no unislamic factors in adopting such an attitude, for example:
i) The phrase should not be used to indirectly solicit monetary gifts. The host should review his intention before inserting such a condition. Rasulullah ﷺ advised:
(استفت قلبك (مسند احمد 29/533
Translation: Ask your heart (conscience). (Musnad Ahmad 29/533) 
As a matter of precaution a phrase may be included to that effect.
ii) The phrase should not be construed by invitees and others as a way of extracting monetary gifts. We are advised to have good thoughts of people. We should not rely on media reports on people's thoughts as media reporting is subjective.
iii) The intention behind the phrase, no boxed gifts should be for practical purposes and not to look down upon boxed gifts. In fact, the monetary gift could be equivalent to or even less than the boxed gift. The host should also not look down upon the small monetary gift.
If the phrase, no boxed gifts is free from any unislamic factors, then it is permissible as one is exercising his Shar'i right of not accepting a specific type of gift. Furthermore, there is no specific prohibition in Shariah for putting such a condition.
The various etiquette's of gifting stated in the Ahadith should not be interpreted as conditions of gifting. If there are any unislamic factors, as explained above, then such a phrase with unislamic intentions and conduct will contaminate the gifting process and deprive one of the barakaat and blessings of gifting.
And Allah Ta'āla Knows Best
Mufti Ebrahim Desai
النتف في الفتاوى للسغدي (1/ 512)
ان تكون مَعْلُومَة
ان تكون محوزة
وان تكون مفروغة
النتف في الفتاوى للسغدي (1/ 518)
فَقيل الْقَبْض لَهَا حكم الْهِبَة
وَبعد الْقَبْض لَهَا حكم البيع فان كَانَت فِي حكم البيع لَيْسَ للْوَاهِب فِيهَا رُجُوع وللشفيع فِيهَا الشُّفْعَة وَترد بِالْعَيْبِ اذا وجد
مسند أحمد ط الرسالة (29/ 533)
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