5 - Al Maida (The food)

4 Tafsir(s) related to verse 5.39

Al-Jalalayn

But whoever repents after his evildoing, refrains from theft, and amends, his actions, God will relent to him. God is indeed Forgiving, Merciful, in expressing what has been stated. However, the rights of the victim to have the penalty of amputation carried out and his property restored are not [automatically] forgone after repentance. In fact, as is clarified in the Sunna, only if he is pardoned before being taken to the Imam is the [punishment of] amputation waived, and al-Shāfi‘ī is of this opinion.

Ibn Al Kathir

The Necessity of Cutting off the Hand of the Thief

Allah commands and decrees that the hand of the thief, male or female be cut off. During the time of Jahiliyyah, this was also the punishment for the thief, and Islam upheld this punishment. In Islam, there are several conditions that must be met before this punishment is carried out, as we will come to know, Allah willing. There are other rulings that Islam upheld after modifying these rulings, such as that of blood money for example. When Does Cutting the Hand of the Thief Become Necessary In is recorded in the Two Sahihs that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said, n

«لَعَنَ اللهُ السَّارِقَ يَسْرِقُ الْبَيْضَةَ فَتُقْطَعُ يَدُهُ، وَيَسْرِقُ الْحَبْلَ فَتُقْطَعُ يَدُه»

(May Allah curse the thief who steals an egg and as a result his hand is cut off, and who steals rope and as a result his hand is cut off.) Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that `A'ishah said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«تُقْطَعُ يَدُ السَّارِقِ فِي رُبْعِ دِينَارٍ فَصَاعِدًا»

(The hand of the thief shall be cut off if he steals a quarter of a Dinar or more.) Muslim recorded that `A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«لَا تُقْطَعُ يَدُ السَّارقِ إِلَّا فِي رُبْعِ دِينارٍ فَصَاعِدًا»

(The hand of the thief shall only be cut off if he steals a quarter of a Dinar or more.) This Hadith is the basis of the matter since it specifies (that the least amount of theft that deserves cutting the hand) is a quarter of a Dinar. So this Hadith fixes the value. And saying that it is three Dirhams is not a contradiction. This is because the Dinar in question was equal to twelve Dirhams, so three Dirhams equalled a fourth of a Dinar. So in this way it is possible to harmonize these two views. This opinion was reported from `Umar bin Al-Khattab, `Uthman bin `Affan,

When Does Cutting the Hand of the Thief Become Necessary

In is recorded in the Two Sahihs that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said, n

«لَعَنَ اللهُ السَّارِقَ يَسْرِقُ الْبَيْضَةَ فَتُقْطَعُ يَدُهُ، وَيَسْرِقُ الْحَبْلَ فَتُقْطَعُ يَدُه»

(May Allah curse the thief who steals an egg and as a result his hand is cut off, and who steals rope and as a result his hand is cut off.) Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that `A'ishah said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«تُقْطَعُ يَدُ السَّارِقِ فِي رُبْعِ دِينَارٍ فَصَاعِدًا»

(The hand of the thief shall be cut off if he steals a quarter of a Dinar or more.) Muslim recorded that `A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«لَا تُقْطَعُ يَدُ السَّارقِ إِلَّا فِي رُبْعِ دِينارٍ فَصَاعِدًا»

(The hand of the thief shall only be cut off if he steals a quarter of a Dinar or more.) This Hadith is the basis of the matter since it specifies (that the least amount of theft that deserves cutting the hand) is a quarter of a Dinar. So this Hadith fixes the value. And saying that it is three Dirhams is not a contradiction. This is because the Dinar in question was equal to twelve Dirhams, so three Dirhams equalled a fourth of a Dinar. So in this way it is possible to harmonize these two views. This opinion was reported from `Umar bin Al-Khattab, `Uthman bin `Affan, `Ali bin Abi Talib - may Allah be pleased with them - and it is the view of `Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz, Al-Layth bin Sa`d, Al-Awza`i, and Ash-Shafi`i and his companions. This is also the view of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and Ishaq bin Rahwayh in one of the narrations from him, as well as Abu Thawr, and Dawud bin `Ali Az-Zahari, may Allah have mercy upon them. As for Imam Abu Hanifah and his students Abu Yusuf, Muhammad and Zufar, along with Sufyan Ath-Thawri, they said that the least amount of theft that deserves cutting off the hand is ten Dirhams, whereas a Dinar was twelve Dirhams at that time. The first ruling is the correct one, that the least amount of theft is one forth of a Dinar or more. This meager amount was set as the limit for cutting the hand, so that the people would refrain from theft, and this is a wise decision to those who have sound comprehension. Hence Allah's statement,

جَزَآءً بِمَا كَسَبَا نَكَـلاً مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

(as a recompense for that which both committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise.) This is the prescribed punishment for the evil action they committed, by stealing the property of other people with their hands. Therefore, it is fitting that the tool they used to steal the people's wealth be cut off as punishment from Allah for their error.

وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ

(And Allah is All-Powerful, ) in His torment,

حَكِيمٌ

(All-Wise.) in His commands, what he forbids, what He legislates and what He decrees.

Repentance of the Thief is Acceptable

Allah said next,

فَمَن تَابَ مِن بَعْدِ ظُلْمِهِ وَأَصْلَحَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَتُوبُ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

(But whosoever repents after his crime and does righteous good deeds, then verily, Allah will pardon him. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) Therefore, whoever repents and goes back to Allah after he commits theft, then Allah will forgive him. Imam Ahmad recorded that `Abdullah bin `Amr said that a woman committed theft during the time of the Messenger of Allah and those from whom she stole brought her and said, "O Allah's Messenger! This woman stole from us.'' Her people said, "We ransom her.'' The Messenger of Allah said,

«اقْطَعُوا يَدَهَا»

(Cut off her hand.) They said, "We ransom her with five hundred Dinars.'' The Prophet said,

«اقْطَعُوا يَدَهَا»

(Cut off her hand.) Her right hand was cut off and the woman asked, "O Messenger of Allah! Is there a chance for me to repent'' He said,

«نَعَمْ أَنْتِ الْيَوْمَ مِنْ خَطِيئَتِكِ كَيَوْمَ وَلَدَتْكِ أُمُّك»

(Yes. This day, you are free from your sin just as the day your mother gave birth to you.) Allah sent down the verse in Surat Al-Ma'idah,

فَمَن تَابَ مِن بَعْدِ ظُلْمِهِ وَأَصْلَحَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَتُوبُ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

(But whosoever repents after his crime and does righteous good deeds (by obeying Allah), then verily, Allah will pardon him. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) This woman was from the tribe of Makhzum. Her story was narrated in the Two Sahihs from Az-Zuhri from `Urwah from `A'ishah, The incident caused concern for the Quraysh after she committed the theft during the time of the battle of the Conquest of Makkah. They said, "Who can talk to Allah's Messenger about her matter'' They then said, "Who dares speak to him about such matters other than Usamah bin Zayd, his loved one.'' When the woman was brought to the Messenger of Allah, Usamah bin Zayd talked to him about her and the face of the Messenger changed color (because of anger) and he said,

«أَتَشْفَعُ فِي حَدَ مِنْ حُدُودِ اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ؟»

(Do you intercede in a punishment prescribed by Allah) Usamah said to him, "Ask Allah to forgive me, O Allah's Messenger!'' During that night, the Messenger of Allah stood up and gave a speech and praised Allah as He deserves to be praised. He then said,

«أَمَّا بَعْدُ فَإِنَّمَا أَهْلَكَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا إِذَا سَرَقَ فِيهِمُ الشَّرِيفُ تَرَكُوهُ، وَإِذَا سَرَقَ فِيهِمُ الضَّعِيفُ أَقَامُوا عَلَيْهِ الْحَدَّ، وَإِنِّي وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَوْ أَنَّ فَاطِمَةَ بِنْتَ مُحَمَّدٍ سَرَقَتْ لَقَطَعْتُ يَدَهَا»

(Those who were before you were destroyed because when an honorable person among them would steal, they would leave him. But, when a weak man among them stole, they implemented the prescribed punishment against him. By Him in Whose Hand is my soul! If Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad stole, I will have her hand cut off.) The Prophet commanded that the hand of the woman who stole be cut off, and it was cut off. `A'ishah said, `Her repentance was sincere afterwards, and she got married and she used to come to me so that I convey her needs to the Messenger of Allah.'' This is the wording that Muslim collected, and in another narration by Muslim, `A'ishah said, "She was a woman from Makhzum who used to borrow things and deny that she took them. So the Prophet ordered that her hand be cut off.'' Allah then said,

أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَـوَتِ وَالأَرْضِ

(Know you not that to Allah (Alone) belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth!) He owns everything and decides what He wills for it and no one can resist His judgment,

فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَآءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَآءُ وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

(He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills. And Allah is able to do all things.)

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

One hand of the thief (and not both hands) is to be cut off, and the consensus of opinion is that the right hand should be cut off for the first theft.

The Holy Prophet has excluded an act of breach of trust from theft and decreed that the hand of the one guilty of this is not to be cut off. An act of theft is committed only when a person wrongfully takes away goods from the custody of another and brings them into his own possession.

The Holy Prophet has also decreed that a hand is not to be cut off for the theft of a thing whose value is less than that of a shield. At that time the price of a shield according to (a) 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas was ten dirhams, (b) Ibn 'Umar three dirhams, (c) Anas bin Malik five dirhams, and (d) Hadrat `Aishah one-fourth of a dinar. That is why there has been a difference of opinion among the Jurists in regard to the minimum limit for theft for the cutting off of a hand. According to Imam Abu Hanifah, it is ten dirhams and according to Imams Malik, Shafi'i and Ahmad it is one-fourth of a dinar. (At that time a dirham was equal to the value of three mashas and one ands half rattis of silver, and one-fourth of a dinar was equal to three dirhams).

Moreover, there are many things for the theft of which the hand is not to be cut off. For instance, the Holy Prophet directed that hand should not be cut off for the theft of fruits and vegetables, and that there should be no cutting off of hand for the theft of eatables. According to a Tradition from Hadrat `A'ishah, "Hands were not cut off for the theft of paltry things during the time of the Holy Prophet (Allah's peace be upon him)." Caliphs 'Uthman and 'Ali decreed, and no Companion disagreed, that a hand is not to be cut off for the theft of a bird. Moreover, Caliphs 'Umar and 'Ali did not cut off a hand for a theft from the Public 'treasury and there is no mention of any kind of disagreement among the Companions about this also.

That is why the Jurists have not included certain things in the list of those for the theft of which hands should be cut off. According to Imam Abu Hanifah, hands should not be cut off for the theft of vegetables, fruits, flesh, cooked food, grain which has not yet been gathered together, articles used for sports and music. Besides these, he is of the opinion that the hand should not be cut off for the theft of animals grazing in forests and for theft from the Public Treasury. Likewise the other Imams also have excluded the theft of certain things from this punishment, but this does not mean that there is no punishment at all for those thefts. These crimes should be punished in other ways than this.

This does not mean that if the thief repents, his hand should not be cut off. It only means that if a person repents after his hand has been cut off and reforms himself and becomes a true servant of God, he will save himself from the wrath of Allah, Who will cleanse him of his sin. On the contrary, if a person does not repent and reform himself even after his hand has been cut off, but goes on nurturing evil thoughts, this clearly shows that he has not cleansed his heart even after this severe punishment. Therefore he shall deserve the wrath of Allah as he did before his hand was cut off. That is why the Qur'an exhorts such a person to beg for the forgiveness of Allah and reform himself. The hand is cut off for the preservation of society. The punishment does not necessarily purify the soul. This can only be achieved by repentance and' turning to God. It is reported in the Traditions that once the hand of a thief was cut off by the order of the Holy Prophet. After this he sent for him and asked him to say, "I beg for Allah's forgiveness and turn to Him." Accordingly, the thief uttered these words. Then the Holy Prophet invoked Allah's forgiveness for him.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

(But whoso repenteth after his wrong-doing) after his theft and being punished for it (and amendeth) that which is between him and his Lord through repentance, (lo! Allah will relent towards him) Allah will forgive him. (Lo! Allah is Forgiving) He pardons, (Merciful) towards him who repents.