From WikiAhmadiyya, the free encyclopedia on Islam and Ahmadiyyat

Theft is a crime in Islam that can, in extreme cases, be punished by removing the fingers of the criminal. The punishment was prescribed as a deterrent and was highly effective - in the early history of Islam it was extremely rarely applied simply because the threat of this punishment alone was enough to ensure the crime became extremely rare. However in modern society where in many places punishments are relatively light - or non-existent, in some cases - large scale corruption is seen in both governments and the financial sector, costing the public enormous sums each year. 

Even so, there are limits to the application of this punishment:

  • The Quran generally teaches it is better to forgive and pardon sins (ie not to apply any punishment) on the condition that the perpetrator is willing to reform their ways. 
  • In the verses which prescribe the punishment, the Quran uses the phrase 'man who steals,'otherwise translated as 'thief' (Quran 5:39). Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, notes this does not indicate a one-off instance of petty theft, but to a professional thief who chooses stealing as their career and consistently indulges in the act. 
  • The punishment is not applicable to extremely petty theft (ie negligibly small sums). 
  • The perpetrator must be shown to have other options for economically supporting themselves. If no jobs or financial support is available and someone steels to feed their family, they are not necessarily punishable. 
  • According to the interpretation Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, society must be shown to be generally moral. If large portions of the society are corrupt - ie there is a criminal atmosphere - the punishment is not applicable until general moral standards are raised. 
  • If the punishment is in force, it must be equally applicable to all sectors of society and the rich and powerful are not to be immune from facing the law. The prophet of Islam, Muhammadsa was so insistent on emphasising this point that he is reported to have said that even if his own daughter were a thief, he would prescribe the same punishment for her as for any other person. 

See also