Theft is a cardinal sin, it is an aggression on other people’s rights. The punishment for theft is cutting the hand of the thief, but there are conditions for this to be enforced.
Definition, ruling and punishment
Theft is defined in Islam as ‘To take something belonging to another person stealthily from where similar things are normally kept, subject to certain conditions.’
Theft is forbidden because it is an aggression on other people’s rights and taking their property unlawfully. Its prohibition is based on the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the unanimity of scholars. ِAllah expels the person who commits this cardinal sin from His grace.
‘The hand of a thief was not cut off during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) except for stealing something equal to a shield in value.’
Related by al-Bukhari, hadith No. 6,792
Under Islamic law theft is punishable by cutting the hand of the thief, whether a man or a woman.
‘‘[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.’
Muslims are agreed that theft is strictly forbidden and that the punishment of cutting the hand of the thief should be generally enforced.. There are a number of strict conditions that must be fulfilled in order for such a punishment to be implemented. Among these conditions:
1- It should be stolen stealthily. If it was taken publicly or by force in broad day light, people can come to his rescue and help.
2- The stolen property should be something of worth, because that which is of no worth has no sanctity.
3- The value of the stolen property should be above a certain limit, which is three Islamic dirhams or a quarter of an Islamic dinar , or their equivalent in other currencies.
4- The stolen property should have been taken from a place where it had been put away or secured, like a drawer or safe.
5- The theft itself has to be proven, either by the testimony of two qualified witnesses or by the confession of the thief twice.
6- The person from whom the property was stolen has to ask for it back; if he does not, then the thief’s hand is not to be cut off.
Islam respects the right of people to own their property and forbids any aggression against this right, whether it is by theft, embezzlement, cheating, bribery, betrayal of trust or any other way of unlawfully taking other people’s property. A thief is a bad element in society and if he is unpunished, his evil may spread and cause very serious consequences. Therefore, Islam prescribes this punishment so that it serves as a deterrent to others, stopping them from committing this crime, and to ensure the protection of people’s property and rights.. It should be noted that such a punishment is only carried out for stealing stealthily as mentioned above in the conditions.
- Al-Nadawi, Al-Fiqh al-Muyassar, p. 375.
- Islamic dinar: 22k gold (.917) equivalent to 4.25 grams; dirham: pure silver equivalent to 3.0 grams.
Al-Nadawi, Al-Fiqh al-Muyassar, p. 376.