51. Theft is forbidden

Surah No. 5, Al Maeda, Ayat No. 38

وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُوا أَيْدِيَهُمَا جَزَاءً بِمَا كَسَبَا نَكَالًا مِنَ اللَّهِ

o وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

Translation :

Cut off the hands of the thief, male or female : a punishment for their deed which they have committed. This is a lesson for others from Allah. And Allah is All Powerful, full of Wisdom.

Comments :

There is consensus among jurists that in the event of the first theft the right hand should be cut off. This punishment has been laid down for theft alone. The Prophet (saws) declared: "There is no cutting off of a hand for he who embezzles.' (Abu Da'ud, 14; Tirmidhi, 18; Ibn Majah, 36; Nasa'i, 13 .) This shows that the punishment prescribed for theft does not cover acts involving embezzlement and other dishonest practices.

The Prophet (saws) also instructed that the punishment of cutting off a hand should not be applied in cases where the value of the article stolen is less than that of a shield. In the time of the Prophet (saws) according to a tradition from Ibn 'Abbas, this was ten dirhams or from 'A'ishah, it was a quarter of a dinar.

Moreover, there are several things the theft of which would not necessitate cutting off a hand. The Prophet (saws) directed that no hand should be cut off if the stolen article was food. According to a tradition from 'A'ishah: 'the hand of the thief was not cut off during the time of the Messenger of Allah for the theft of trivial things. 'Umar and 'Ali did not cut off the hands of those who had stolen from the public treasury.

According to Abu Hanifah a man's hand should not be cut off for stealing vegetables, fruit, meat, cooked food, grain which is not stored in a barn, and instruments of music and play. Likewise, he is of the opinion that a hand should not be cut off for either stealing animals grazing in the forest or for stealing from the public treasury. The founders of the other schools of Islamic Law have also exempted the stealing of certain things from the punishment of cutting off a hand. But this exemption does not mean that the guilty parties should receive no punishment at all. (See the commentaries of Ibn Kathir ).