According to Islamic laws, theft is regarded as haraam or forbidden. The Quran condemns this act and decrees appropriate punishment against it which is to cut off the hands of the thief. The meaning is interpreted as the right hand of theman/woman thief be cut off from the wrist for the crime committed, as advocated by Allah. The Prophet is said to have stated that the hand should be cut off for stealing a quarter of a dinar or anything more.
The Prophet cursed the person who was a thief since he was a corrupt element in the society. It was believed that if the crime was left without a serious punishment, the corruption would spread to the rest of the society and affect other citizens as well. Severe punishment was applicable to small thefts like stealing an egg or a rope. The essence was to root out the evil.
The punishment was meted out equally to all class of people. Nobles or commoners, a crime committed would be punished equally. The prophet made it clear that no matter who it was, once the crime of theft was committed, the hands would be cut off.
The instructions of the law were understood and enacted a little differently which is condemned by scholars. Al-Nawawi stated that the hand is cut off from the wrist as punishment for theft. Al-Qurtubi stated that the innovation of cutting off fingers and leaving the thumb should not be practiced and the correct punishment meted out. Due to the severity of the punishment, it was stated that all thefts do not warrant cutting off hands. Certain conditions were to be met such as:
- The item stolen should have been stolen stealthily. If a property was seized in the presence of other people, the hands of the offender will not be cut off since the owner could have asked for assistance to stop the offence.
- The property stolen should be worthy unlike wine, pigs or musical instruments.
- The value of the item stolen should be at least 3 dirhams, one quarter of Islamic dinar or an equivalent in some other currency.
- The item stolen should have to be stolen from a place where it was placed for safe keeping, like cupboards.
- The theft should be proven by the testimony of 2 witnesses or 2 confessions of the thief.
- The owner of the stolen item should seek claim of the property and ask it back.
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