I'm curious as to WHY we should apparently cut the hand of a thief as a punishment?

“[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they earned [i.e. committed] as a deterrent [punishment] from Allaah. And Allaah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” [Quran 5:38]

Please relate answers specifically to answer the question: 'WHY'

And for bonus points: hypothetically: if I am a shopkeep/homeowner/lawmaker should I cut the hand (or fingers or whatever) of (assuming they are proven guilty and are not poor/have any good reason):

  1. A child that steals from my shop/home
  2. A mother that steals from my shop/home
  3. A man that steals from my shop/home

Related Questions:
  1. Where do we get the idea of beheading, stoning and hand-mutilation in Islam?
  2. From where the hand of the thief should be amputated?
  • the answer is in the verse itself : deterrent [punishment] from Allaah
    – user940
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 11:54

3 Answers 3


Firstly, the hand is amputated from the wrist, and not the fingers or whatever. Secondly, children are not accountable until they reach of age, so amputation of the hand won't go for them, though they maybe punished in some lesser form so that they learn that "Stealing is Bad".

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

رُفِعَ الْقَلَمُ عَنْ ثَلاَثٍ عَنِ النَّائِمِ حَتَّى يَسْتَيْقِظَ وَعَنِ الصَّغِيرِ حَتَّى يَكْبُرَ وَعَنِ الْمَجْنُونِ حَتَّى يَعْقِلَ أَوْ يَفِيقَ

The pen has been lifted from three: From the sleeper until he wakes up, from the minor until he grows up, and from the insane until he comes back to his senses or recovers.

Thirdly, the hand of the thief is amputated as punishment, firstly because that is what God revealed and hence that is what the punishment is, secondly it is a deterrent to the person him/herself from going back to that crime, as well as it is a deterrent for others from going close to the crime.

Lastly, it is not You who cuts the hands who steals from your shop/home, rather, if there were witnesses and the thing stolen was of great value, then the authorities would take charge and carry out the punishment, not you.

  • Thank you for the response. I still feel like cutting someone's hand is a bit far
    – aop1
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 12:32
  • @aop1 It is a very harsh punishment. It shows how Allah detests stealing.
    – user2350
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 13:30
  • 1
    @aop1 it is in no way far, and what we think of it doesn't matter, it is set as law by God, and it is law and no questioning is needed. Also it is a great deterrent, for decades of Islamic history only few hands were amputated.
    – مجاهد
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 14:04

Well I have read other answers also. I think you have got the ref. Ayat for this but lets come to your point "why" lets see there are a situation that country going in a slum and many people are living there life lower than average, if every one become a robber what will happen, a chaos that what Islamic punishments are for not harsh but to aware other that do not do anything wrong which hurts your fellow man you cut one person hand and other ten who are watching will ask forgiveness from ALMIGHTY ALLAH and live there life according to HIS orders.


In Islam we do not cut the hand due to simple theft, and this is done by the judge in the tribunal of an Islamic country, not by you or me.

The stolen item should be more than 4.374 grams of gold (about $ 200), and this answers your question: why we cut the hand of a thief? if someone stole more than that, This means that he is not hungry, but wants corruption in the land, and this must be a lesson for people to stop theft in order to enrich...

Thus cutting off the hand is to stop the mafia and spoilers and not for the poor.

The second Caliph Umar al-Khattab suspended the sharia punishment for theft when they were wounded by famine, because the prophet peace be upon him said:

"There is not cutting in the compelling famine." لَا قَطْعَ فِي مَجَاعَةِ مُضْطَرٍّ

here is a detailled answer by an Islamic scholar:

The different penalties prescribed by Shari'ah are not in order to inflict harm on people and make them suffer; rather the Shariah concept for imposing penalties for the various crimes is that they prevent harm, destruction and anarchy in the society. They are not prescribed in order to harm people, but the contrary.

Allah Most High says:

“In the law of retaliation there is (saving of) life to you, O you men of understanding.” (Surah al-Baqarah, 179)

Due to the idea behind these various penalties being imposed not to make an individual suffer, rather to create a better society as a whole, the Shariah laid down certain strict rules and conditions in order for the punishment to be established or enforced. These strict conditions can be seen in all the various penalties that have been imposed.

The case with theft and stealing is the same, in that certain conditions have been laid down for the penalty to be imposed. If the conditions are met, only then will such a penalty be enforced.

Conditions for the penalty of theft:

The following are the conditions which must be met in order to establish the penalty of theft:

1) The one who steals is sane

2) He has reached puberty

3) He steals equivalent to the amount (nisab) or more. The Nisab is one Dinar or ten Dirhams (i.e. 4.374 grams of gold).

The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said:

“There is no cutting (of hands) for stealing that is less than ten Dirhams.” (Musnad Ahmad)

Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reports that “The hands were not cut in the time of the Messenger of Allah for stealing worthless things.” (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah)

A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that: “The hand of a thief was not cut off during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give peace) except for stealing something equal to a shield in value.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 6792, & Sahih Muslim, 1685)

A shield was worth one Dinar at that time, as narrated by Ibn Abbas in Sunan Abu Dawud & Sunan Nasa’i

4) He steals the article from a place that meets the requirements of security and safeguarding. This security is considered when the article is safeguarded by a guard or by it being locked up in a place.

5) The article is in the ownership of another person.

6) There is no confusion in it (as to whether he took it by way of theft or for some other reason).

7) It was stolen secretly (not by force, etc…).

If any of the above conditions are not met, then the penalty of theft will not be established.

Allah Most High says:

“As to the thief, male of female, cut off his or her hands. A punishment by way of example from Allah, for their crime.” (Surah al-Ma’idah, 38)

As far as the evidence and testimony is concerned, stealing will be established by self admittance (iqrar) once or by the testimony (shahadah) of two adult males. The witnesses will be asked the full details of the incident, as not to make an error.

A person’s hand is not amputated when he steals: less than the equivalent of 4.374 grams of gold, from a place that does not meet the requirements of security, something that is useless, something that is in general ownership such as water in the river, sticks from the wood, etc…, food that rots very quickly such as milk, meat, fruits, etc…, articles that are unlawful due to the possibility that one had an intention of getting rid of it, such as musical instruments.

The penalty:

The penalty for the one who steals (when the above conditions are met) is that his/her right arm is amputated. If a person steals a second time, his left foot is amputated; if a third time, then he will be imprisoned until he repents, but no further amputation will take place.

Sayyiduna Ali (Allah be pleased with him) says:

“I feel guilty in front of Allah if I leave him without hands (i.e. amputating both) by which he eats, and feet, by which he walks.” (Sunan Darqutni, al-Bayhaqi & Musannaf ibn Abi Shayba)

The above are some of the important aspects relating to the penalty of theft. It has been primarily based on the famous Hanafi work al-Ikhtiyar li ta’lil al-Mukhtar, P341-351).

And Allah knows best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam Darul Iftaa Leicester , UK


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