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IslamQA: Dealing with fraud without legal recourse

This is a bit of a particular question, but how are Muslims to deal with fraudsters and malicious cons? How are transactions, trade, or deals initially agreed upon supposed to be enforced when legal institutions aren't a viable option (for example in remote villages, an informal loan or deal made between people in civil society, or simply because legal action would be too costly)? Are we expected to turn the other cheek and allow such people in those circumstances to get away with it scot-free?

While Judaism teaches justice and Christianity teaches forgiveness, Islam gives us both as options. It gives us the right to do what fair and just, but it also recommends to us to do what is compassionate and generous regardless of justice. For example, it may be just to take vengeance on someone, but to forgive them is better. Islam tolerates both options, recommending forgiveness as the higher ideal while acknowledging that not everyone can attain the ideal.

When we are defrauded, Islam would approve of all means to restore justice as long law and custom is not broken. A villager who is sold a counterfeit good by a traveling salesman could rally other villagers in his support so that they detain the man to get the villager’s money back (if no police or government is present to do it). There are no clearly defined courses of action for us. We can do what is necessary to restore justice, we can forgive if we wish, and we must not break the law.

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