The Killing of People Who Steal
Albert Samuel Anker's oil painting “Old age,” 1885
The killing of those who persist in stealing is another product of fabricated hadiths that has no place in the Qur'an. This is also murder.
Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: A thief was brought to the Prophet (pbuh). He said: kill him. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Hadith 4396)
The pronouncement on the subject of killing people who insist on stealing appears nowhere in the Qur’an and is a product of another fabricated hadith. It is also outright murder.
The pronouncement in the Qur’an regarding people who steal is as follows:
As for thieves, both male and female, cut off their hands in reprisal for what they have done: an object lesson from God. God is Almighty, All-Wise. (Qur'an, 5:38)
The Arabic term used for the verb “to cut” here is “iqtaa.” This word is the plural form of the verb “qata’a,” to cut. The verb “qata’a” in the Qur’an describes a particular mode of cutting, as we can see from its use in another passage:
But when she heard of their malicious talk, she sent for them and made a sumptuous meal and then she gave a knife to each of them. She said, “Go out to them.” When they saw him, they were amazed by him and cut their hands. They said, “God preserve us! This is no man. What can this be but a noble angel here!” (Qur'an, 12:31)
It is quite obvious here that they did not cut their hands off with the knife for peeling fruit that they were given. We can see that the knife slipped from their hands and left a cut in the skin. Therefore, when we bear in mind the meaning of the word, we can see that we are not looking at a pronouncement regarding complete severing, but a cut resembling a scratch or flesh wound being made for deterrent purposes, or to mark the person as a thief and thereby prevent him from doing it again.
Looking at the Qur’an in terms of the pronouncement about stealing, we can see that, as with all forms of crime, the emphasis is always on forgiveness here. The verse after 5:38, in which the pronouncement about stealing is set out, is about forgiving people who commit that action. The most important condition for this, of course, is that the person should repent afterward and amend his ways. The verse reads:
But if anyone repents after his wrongdoing and puts things right, God will turn towards him. God is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur'an, 5:39)
Another important point needing to be emphasized here is the reason for the theft. Societies in which the pronouncement of the Qur’an in question about stealing will be implemented are without doubt societies loyal to the Sharia of the Qur’an. It is impossible for a society that abides by the Sharia of the Qur’an to have rich people on one side and very poor people on the other because societies based on the Qur’an are societies with the most perfect welfare systems. In other words, people of means protect those who have none and bear a responsibility to give to the needy. Verses on the subject read:
It is impossible in a society that abides by the genuine Sharia of the Qur'an for there to be rich people as well as poor ones. The rich always protect those in need and have a responsibility to give to the poor.
It is not devoutness to turn your faces to the East or to the West. Rather, those with true devoutness are those who have faith in God and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book and the Prophets, and who, despite their love for it, give away their wealth to their relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to travelers and beggars and to set slaves free, and who establish prayer and pay alms; those who honor their contracts when they make them, and are steadfast in poverty and illness and in battle. Those are the people who are true. They are the people who have piety. (Surat al-Baqara, 177)
They will ask you what they should give away. Say, “Any wealth you give away should go to your parents and relatives and to orphans and the very poor and travelers.” Whatever good you do, God knows it. (Surat al-Baqara, 215)
They give food, despite their love for it, to the poor and orphans and captives: We feed you only out of desire for the Face of God. We do not want any repayment from you or any thanks. (Surat al-Insan, 8- 9)
Give your relatives their due, and the very poor and travelers but do not squander what you have. (Surat al-Isra’, 26)
Having provided this information, let us now ask the question, why do people steal in the first place?
The first reason is out of need. When someone is in a difficult position, in debt or wracked by poverty he may make the false choice of turning to theft. Yet in such a community under the protection of the Qur’an, it is impossible for anyone to be in difficult circumstances, in debt or wrecked by poverty. The poor will be protected by those with greater means, while the pronouncement in the Qur’an concerning the debts of people in difficulties is manifestly clear, and reads as follows; “... making a free gift of it would be better for you if you only knew.” (Surat al-Baqara, 280)
The second probable reason for theft may well be mental or psychological disorders. This is a special condition requiring treatment and rehabilitation, and the individual concerned is sick, not guilty.
In practical terms there are no other reasons that might lead a person to steal. Doing away with the causes concerned with it, such a crime as theft is prevented in Islamic communities right from the outset.
Since the peddlers of superstition, who naturally ignore all this, seek to depict Islam as a religion of death and violence their pronouncement is completely at odds with the Qur’an. It is of no concern to them that while theft is unlawful, someone who steals is generally either in need or else suffering from some psychological disturbance, yet both needy and sick people are the responsibility of Muslims. Since they fail to see that responsibility they are capable of the most shameless murder because of this pronouncement. The people who impose this false pronouncement unwisely dislike the Qur’an (may God forbid), regard it as incompatible with their own perverse mindsets and seek to implement their own justice system rather than that of the Qur’an. Yet when we look at the Qur’an, we see love and forgiveness, rather than violence.