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  3. Refuting the Suspicion that says: Cutting the Thief's Hand is a Proof of Violence in Islam

Refuting the Suspicion that says: Cutting the Thief's Hand is a Proof of Violence in Islam

14825 2008/04/20 2024/07/16
Article translated to : العربية Español



refuting the suspicion that says: cutting the thief's hand is a proof of violence in islam



they said: cutting the thief's hand in the islamic legislations is a very severe punishment not stipulated or enacted in any other religion; therefore, this will cause additional psychological pain to the thief, even after repenting, because the people will continue reproaching him.


refuting this suspicion


before thinking in this discredit, you should know the essential facts of the matter and put in your mind that those people are accustomed to lying & falsifying to the same degree the human beings are accustomed to drinking and eating; therefore, don't feel surprise while reading this discredit.


cutting the hand is a punishment known in all religions


the punishment of cutting the hand is not an islamic legislation only, but it was prevailing in the other religions alike, and here are the proofs:


first: the old testament


1- the lord told moses:

anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death [1]


2- the lord said:

(you must observe my sabbaths. this will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that i am the lord, who makes you holy)

(observethesabbath, becauseitisholytoyou. anyonewhodesecratesitmustbeputtodeath)[2]

(iftwomenarefightingandthewifeofoneofthemcomestorescueherhusbandfromhisassailant, andshereachesoutandseizeshimbyhisprivateparts, youshallcutoffherhand. showhernopity)


second: in the new testament


the gospel of mathew stated:

(18:8) (if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. it is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. and if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell)


the statements of the priests and ministers proved that they have encouraged their followers to cut their limbs in order to please jesus (as they claim).


the gospel of mathew stated also:

(19:12) (forsomeareeunuchsbecausetheywerebornthatway; othersweremadethatwaybymen; andothershaverenouncedmarriagebecauseofthekingdomofheaven. theonewhocanacceptthisshouldacceptit)


the gospel of mathew stated also:

(butifanyonecausesoneoftheselittleoneswhobelieveinmetosin, itwouldbebetterforhimtohavealargemillstonehungaroundhisneckandtobedrownedinthedepthsofthesea).


we can notice from the above mentioned texts the following:


the punishment of cutting was an applicable legislation before islam.

the punishment of cutting was not restricted to the hand, but it was including other parts, such as the one who wishes to make sexual intercourse with a woman or commit a sin his punishment will be to cut the member or organ of his body by which he has committed the sin.

one of the ways which were followed to get the pleasure of god is to castrate oneself.

committing suicide was permissible.



the above mentioned texts prove that islam did not create the cutting punishment as alleged by them; contrary, such punishment was prevailing in the divine religions before islam. in fact, islam has regulated and restricted the punishment of cutting into few cases only.


applying cutting after the collapse of the self deterrence


we should know that punishments in islam came as a second stage after the collapse of the religious self deterrence. principally, man should worship allah, follow the orders of the holy quran and the orders of the prophet mohammad -peace be upon him- but in certain cases, some people go beyond the borders of the islamic teachings. in such case, there should be a deterrent punishment for any person thinking in violating the islamic teachings; accordingly, the punishment of cutting the thief's hand was legislated to any person who dares to breach the orders of allah the almighty.


the punishment of cutting before & after islam


as mentioned before, we noticed that the punishment of cutting was not limited to stealing before islam. it was applicable on several cases, but in islam, this punishment was restricted into two cases only:


first: cutting the thief's hand

second: highwaymen punishment.


both are considered of the crimes which inflict serious damages on society; accordingly, there should be conformity between the crime and the punishment in order to deter the criminals and put an end to such phenomenon.


restricting the punishment of cutting


the punishment of cutting the thief's hand is not applicable on all cases. the stolen things should reach certain limit in order to apply this punishment. for example, the one who steals some insignificant things will not be subject to the cutting punishment; he will be censured only [3].


prohibiting stealing


islam always provides the radical treatment to the problems before it happens. islam has prohibited stealing and warned from stealing in order to enhance the religious self-deterrence attitudes of people in a way to make them fear allah the almighty and avoid involvement in such crimes. ali -may allah be pleased with him -was asked: does the prophet -peace be upon him -conferred you any special things? ali replied: no, the prophet -peace be upon him -did not confer us anything not conferred to the public at all except something in the sheath of my sword. he then took a sheet stating: allah the almighty has cursed these kinds of people: the one who offers sacrifices for other than allah, the one who steals the lands of others, the one who curse his parents, and the one who accommodates a person inventing new religious matters not stipulated by the prophet -peace be upon him -or his companions. [4]


the prophet -peace be upon him -demonstrated the prohibition of stealing because it entails the curse from allah the almighty. the curse means depriving him from the mercy of allah the almighty; accordingly, if the man understood the meaning of curse and insisted on stealing, he will be subject to a deterrent punishment.


stealing prevention in islam


islam has taught muslims to refrain from begging people in order to maintain their dignity and keep them away from the insignificant things. the prophet -peace be upon him -has stipulated these principles in the pledge of allegiance. abu muslim al-khawlani narrated that awf bin malek said: "we -seven, eight or nine persons -were once with the prophet -peace be upon him. he said: will you pledge allegiance to the prophet? -peace be upon him -we were then new muslims. we replied: yes, we pledge our allegiance to you. the prophet repeated the sentence three times and we replied in the same manner. then, a man said: o prophet of allah, we have pledged allegiance to you, but for what? the prophet -peace be upon him -said: "pledge that you will worship allah alone without setting other gods beside him, pray the five prayers every day and obey me. then he said in low voice: "don't beg people anything". hearing that, we complied to the degree that someone's whip may fall down and he does not ask us to give it to him". [5]


the author or "al tarhib & al targhib" book said:

those good companions have implemented the essence of the pledge exactly. allah the almighty was pleased with them. the companions have achieved victory against themselves before achieving the victory on people. they have adhered to the right way of islam.


thoban narrated that the prophet -peace be upon him -said: if any of you promises that he will not beg people anything i promise him paradise. thoban said: i will do. saying that, thoban did not beg people anything at all. [6]


the prophet -peace be upon him -has demonstrated to them that the taking-hand is the "lower hand" and the giving-hand is the "higher hand" and taught them to be virtuous and satisfied so that allah will bless them with virtues and satisfaction always.


abi saeed al-khudri -may allah be pleased with him -narrated that some of al-ansar (locals of medina) asked the prophet -peace be upon him -to give them alms. the prophet -peace be upon him -gave them what they wanted. then they asked him again for more until they took everything. the prophet -peace be upon him -said then: (if i have anything for charity i will give you but the one who seeks to be virtuous allah will bless him with virtues, the one who seeks satisfaction allah will make him satisfied and the one who seeks tolerance allah will make him tolerant; there is nothing better than having patience and tolerance) [7]


work is the solution


the prophet -peace be upon him -has taught the companions two major islamic principles:


the first principle:


work is the pillar for earning living. the muslim should seek work and ask allah to provide him with means of subsistence, because work is better than begging people and face-losing.

al-zubair bin al-awwam -may allah be pleased with him -has narrated that the prophet -peace be upon him -said: [it is better to take a rope, gather firewood, carry it on your back and sell it seeking the satisfaction from allah than begging people who may give or decline] [8].


the second principle:


it is prohibited to beg people and ask them for alms because this will expose the person to face-losing, humiliation and disgrace. the muslim should not beg others for alms except for a force of majeure. however, if he asked people while having something satisfying his needs, his begging will turn into a scratch in his face on the day of judgment.


there are several prophetic traditions containing fearful threats from begging. hamza bin abdullah bin abih narrated that the prophet -peace be upon him -said: [if a person insisted on begging people again and again, he will lose the flesh of his face when he meets allah the almighty at the day of judgment] [9]


ashab as-sunan narrated: [if a man begged people for alms while having something satisfying his needs he will come at the day of judgment with scratches on his face]. the companions asked the prophet -peace be upon him -what is the limit of satisfying the needs? he replied: fifty dirham or its equivalent of gold]. narrated by the four narrators. therefore, begging people for alms will prejudice the most important mark for dignity and humanity i.e. his face.


another tradition stated: [the person who has an ounce and beg people for alms is considered importunate] narrated by abu dawood and an-nasai. the ounce is equal to forty dirham.


another tradition stated: [the person who begs others for alms while having something satisfying his needs is just demanding much of fire -or firebrands of hell -as much as he is begging people for more]. the companions asked? what is the limit which satisfies his needs? he replied: [something enough for his lunch and dinner]. narrated by abu dawood. is the meaning here to have the actual food for lunch and dinner only? or does he earn his living day by day permanently? the latter option is the most appropriate, because the one who earns his living day by day, on continuous basis, is the one who has something satisfying his needs.



the practical treatment for this phenomenon has two aspects:



to provide a suitable job for each un-employed person because this is the duty of the islamic country toward its citizens. the in-charge officers should not remain like a bystander doing nothing for the un-employed persons. similarly, they should not just provide subsidies to them from the money of zaka (alms giving).



the prophet -peace be upon him -said: (almsgiving should not be given to a rich or healthy strong man) because any subsidies given to a healthy strong man will encourage him to remain un-employed and will make him compete with the weak and helpless people for their rights.


the right thing to do here is exactly what the prophet -peace be upon him -did when one of the beggars came to him. anas bin malekh narrated that one of al-ansar (the locals of medina) came to the prophet -peace be upon him -begging him. the prophet said: don't you have anything in your house? the man said: yes, i have a saddlecloth (piece of cloth put on the back of the camel or stretched in the ground under other clothes), we wear part and stretch part thereof and we have a pot to drink water from. the prophet told him: bring them here. the man brought them to the prophet. the prophet -peace be upon him -took them and said: who wish to buy these items? a man replied: i buy them against one dirham. the prophet said: who pay more? (he repeated the sentence two or three times), than another man said: i buy them against two dirham. the prophet gave the items to the man and took the two dirham and then told the begging man: take one dirham and buy food for your family and buy with the other an ax and then come to me. the man done the same and returned back to the prophet -peace be upon him-. the prophet pulled a stick with his hand and said: [go and collect firewood and sell it. don't come here except after fifteen days]. the man started collecting and selling firewood and earned ten dirham. he bought some clothes and food. the prophet -peace be upon him -told him: [this is far better to you than coming at the day of judgment with spots on your face. begging for alms is not allowed except for three kinds of people: a man suffering abject poverty -i.e. extreme poverty -a man under heavy burden of debts or losses, and a man bound with a blood money".


islam is the pioneer always


in this great prophetic tradition we noticed that the prophet -peace be upon him -did not wish to give the begging man from the almsgiving money because he was strong and healthy and should not have approach people except after finding no way out. the in-charge of authority should help such man by providing job opportunities enabling them from earning their living.


this prophetic tradition set up the pioneer methods in treating this problem. the prophet -peace be upon him -did not give the man temporary subsidies or preached him only -as done by many people. he has helped the man to find the solution for his problem by himself successfully.


the prophet -peace be upon him -has taught the man that everything helping you to legally earn your living is considered a noble work, even if you just collect firewood and sell it. by this way, he can maintain his dignity and save his face. moreover, the prophet -peace be upon him -has chosen the suitable job for his abilities, circumstances and environment then prepared the tool of work for him in order to guide him to the right way and save him from confusion. not only this, the prophet -peace be upon him -has given the man a respite of fifteen days in order to evaluate the fitness of such work to such man in order to either approve the job or guide him to another work.


the prophet -peace be upon him -has taught that person practical and theoretical lesson in order to find a solution for his problem. accordingly, we should all follow this great prophetic method in preventing begging. we should first solve the problems then provide the suitable work for each un-employed person.


the role of zaka (almsgiving)


zaka has a great role in solving an essential part of the problem. a certain part of zaka returns can be allocated to help the healthy un-employed people finding the right job. they can be trained to work in certain profession helping them to earn living, not only this, the returns of zaka can be used to establish joint projects -such as factories, shops, farms, etc -to employ the un-employed persons and give them the full or part of the title thereof.


the second aspect in treating the problem of begging, in the perspective of islam, is to ensure a good living level for anyone unable to earn his living either


first: because of a physical weakness preventing the person from earning his living such as the children and orphans or for suffering from any disability in senses or members of the body or severe sickness, etc. such physical reasons which prevent the person from overcoming them are considered a ground to take a share from the returns of zaka in order to provide them with their living and help their weakness. however, in our modern life, society has provided some job opportunities for the handicapped by helping them in learning and training them on certain professions and jobs in a way to fit their disabilities and enable them from earning their living. it is allowed to take from the money of zaka in order to teach and train them.


second: or because of not finding the canals of the permissible jobs by the un-employed persons in spite of their sincere search and attempts, and in spite of the efforts excreted by the in-charge authority to provide them with jobs. in such case, those persons will be considered in the same category of the disabled even if they are healthy and strong, because strength and health alone are not enough without a source of earning living.


imam ahmad and others narrated the story of the two men who came begging the prophet -peace be upon him -to give them from the almsgiving money. the prophet looked at them and noticed that they are strong enough to earn their living by themselves, then said: "if you want, i will give you, but you should know that almsgiving is not for the rich or the strong person who can earn his living".


accordingly, we can notice that many people have mistaken when they thought that alms can be given to any one begging for money. not only this, some people thought that zaka is increasing the number of beggars! but actually, if we understood the real meaning of zaka as legislated by islam, if we collected zaka as ordered by islam, and if we distributed zaka as instructed by islam, we will surly put an end to beggary.



the prohibition of inflicting damages on oneself


islam has prohibited all kinds of harming the self; therefore, islam did not legislate offering sacrifices by cutting a member from the body, such as castration, and did not legislate to tear out the eye if it looked for something prohibited; contrary, islam has provided a radical solution by prohibiting any action which may cause damages or harm on the self, money or third parties.


suicide is prohibited in islam


before islam, killing the self was one of the worships to god, but in islam, it is prohibited to do the same and it is considered a great sin. allah the almighty said: [and do not kill yourselves (nor kill one another). surely, allah is most merciful to you * and whoever commits that through aggression and injustice, we shall cast him into the fire, and that is easy for allah * if you avoid the great sins which you are forbidden to do, we shall remit from you your (small) sins, and admit you to a noble entrance (i.e. paradise).] (10).


allah the almighty has prohibited us from killing ourselves or killing others, and leveled a serious warning and severe punishment to anyone killing himself, then demonstrated that obeying the orders of allah and avoiding the matters prohibited by allah are the right way to reach happiness in the life and hereafter.


accordingly, we should acknowledge that islam has treated the problem before taking place by setting up the rules and principles which should be strictly followed in order to protect people from committing such big sins; therefore, anyone that knows that well and insists on committing such prohibited actions, this means that there is some imperfection in his belief and he deserves to be punished in a way conforms to his crime, because stealing in such cases is considered illegal & satanic desires.


as for torture in applying the cutting punishment, we should not leave our emotions and feelings prevail on our thinking, because the thief himself did not have mercy on himself, how can we give him mercy. moreover, if the thief thinks about the punishment, he will refrain from doing the crime because of his previous knowledge of the punishment; furthermore, he will be an example to the others who see him, because islam in this regard cares for the common welfare not the individual interests.



[1] gospelofexodus(21:16), gospelofexodus(31:14).

[2] gospelofdeuteronomy(25:11).

[3]- censureisapunishmentwhichestimationissubjecttothediscretionofthejudge. itisdifferentthanthecrimesstipulatedbyallah. thejudgecanimprisontheaccused, imposedpenaltyonhimorwhiphimeightylashesatmost.

[4]sahihmuslim, volume3, page1567, hadithno. 1978, theseriesofnarratorsare: mohammadbinalmuthannaandmohammadbinbashar, mohammadbinjafar, shoba, alqasimbinbaibiza, abialtufial.

[5] sunanabidawood, volume2, page121, hadithno. 1642, theseriesofnarratorsare: hishambinammar, alwalid, saeedbinabdulaziz, rabiabinzaid, abiidrisalkholani.

[6] tahthibal-atharbook, al-tabri(theauthor), volume1, page48, hadithno. 41, theseriesofnarratorsare: mohammadbinabdulmalek, abdulrazaq, muamar, ayyoub, abial-aliyah.









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