Is the Punishment of Amputation of the Hands, Rough and Violent?

Is the Punishment of Amputation of the Hands, Rough and Violent? Before answering this question it is essential to mention the conditions which govern the punishment of amputation of a thief’s hand.

From the entire collection of Islamic traditions, it can be inferred that there are numerous requirements, which have to be fulfilled, in order that this Islamic punishment is put into execution, and failing which, initiating this punishment is not permissible. Some of these requirements are as follows:

• The item that is stolen should possess a value of at least one-fourth of a dinar.1

• It should have been stolen from a secured place such as a house, a shop, internal pockets etc.

• The theft should not have taken place during famines and droughts, when the people are suffering from hunger and possess no means.

• The thief should be sane and an adult, and should have committed the act out of his own choice and free will.

• This ruling shall not be applicable in the case of a father, who steals from the property of his son, or a partner, who does so from the property of the partnership.

• Stealing fruits from the trees of a garden has also been exempted from this ruling.

• Every instance, in which there exists a likelihood of error on the part of the thief that he may have mistaken other’s property as his own, is exempted this ruling.

• In addition to the above, there are some other conditions, which have been mentioned and explained in books of jurisprudence.

The above should not be mistaken to mean that theft is prohibited and unlawful only when all the above conditions gather together; in Islam, theft in every form, in every measure and in every way is prohibited and unlawful. What is meant by the above conditions is that only under such circumstances can this penalty be put into execution.

The measure in which the hand should be amputated

It is popular amongst our jurists that on the basis of the traditions of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s.) only the four fingers of the right hand must be amputation and not more – unlike the Sunnite jurists, who have stipulated more than this.

Is this Islamic penalty rough and violent?

Very often the opponents of Islam and even some of the less knowledgeable Muslims have levelled this objection that this Islamic penalty appears to be intensely harsh, and if this ruling were to be implemented in today’s world, there would be numerous hands which would have to be cut. In addition, enforcement of this ruling would entail that a person, in addition to losing an important part of his body, would become infamous and notorious all throughout his life.

In answering this objection, attention ought to be paid to this reality that:

Firstly: Just as we had mentioned in the conditions of this ruling that not every thief shall become encompassed by this law, rather, there shall be only one group of dangerous thieves, who shall be formally subjected to this punishment.

Secondly: In view of the fact that in Islam there are several requirements and conditions that need to be met in order to prove a crime, the occurrence of this punishment further diminishes.

Thirdly: Many of the objections which people, possessing less knowledge, have propounded against the Islamic laws is simply because they have sought to examine its one ruling, independently and without taking into account its other rulings; in other words, they attempt to envisage that ruling in a completely non-Islamic society.

But if we were to take into consideration the fact that Islam is not just one ruling but a collection of rulings, which when implemented in a society results in enforcement of social justice, fight against poverty, correct education and training, awakening, awareness and piety, then it would become manifest that very few people would become eligible for this punishment. However, it should not be mistaken to mean that in today’s societies this ruling should not be enforced; rather, it means that all these aspects and dimensions ought to be taken into consideration at the time of judgement.

In short, an Islamic government is duty-bound to fulfill the basic needs of all the individuals of the country, impart to them the necessary education and also train them with respect to ethics and morals; it is self-evident that in such an environment, offenders shall be few and far in between.

Fourthly: If we observe theft to be rampant today, it is because such rulings are not being enforced; and hence, in environments in which this Islamic ruling is enforced (like Saudi Arabia, in which until very recently this ruling had been in force), extraordinary safety is observed to prevail over them with regards money and property.

Numerous pilgrims to the House of Allah (s.w.t.) have personally witnessed purses and wallets containing money lying on the roads and in the streets with none possessing the courage to touch them until such a time that the functionaries of the Department of Collection of Lost Items carry them to the mentioned department from where the owners retrieve their lost items by presenting the necessary identifications. Most of the shops are not locked at night but despite this, no one attempts to break into them.

Interestingly, this Islamic ruling – despite being in force for centuries and under whose shade the Muslims in the initial stages of Islam lived in peace, security and comfort – has only been implemented upon a very few number.

Is the amputation of a few criminal hands an extravagant price to pay for the several-century security of a nation?

Some people object: Is the execution of this penalty with respect to a thief for the sake of a quarter of a dinar not in contradiction with Islam’s immense respect for the life of the Muslims and the importance attached by it for protecting them from all harms? This is especially so in view of the fact that the atonement money, stipulated by Islam, for cutting four fingers of a person is an amount, which is excessive and extravagant.

Incidentally, this same question, as reported in some of the books of history, had been put to the distinguished scholar ‘Alam al-Huda – the late Sayyid Murtadha – a thousand years ago. The questioner presented his query in the form of a couplet, which is as follows:

يَدٌ بِخَمْسِ مِئَين عَسْجَدٍ وُوَدِيَتْ مَا بَالُهَا قُطِعَتْ فِي رُبْعِ دِيْنَارٍ؟
“The hand, whose atonement is five hundred dinars; why should it be amputated for a quarter of a dinar?”2Sayyid Murtadha, in reply, recited this couplet:
عِزُّ الاَمَانَةِ أَاغْلاَهَا وَ أَارْخَصَهَا ذِلُّ الْخِيَانَةِ فَافْهَمْ حِكْمَةَ الْبَارِيْ
“The honour of trustworthiness made it high-priced, while the abjectness of treachery lowered its value, so comprehend the wisdom of Allah.”3 and 4

1. One dinar is equal to one legal mithqal of coined gold, and one legal mithqal is equivalent to 18 barley grains. Thus, one legal mithqal is equal to ¾ ordinary mithqal.
2. Of course, it must be noted that five hundred dinars is in the event that five fingers are cut. However, as we have previously mentioned, according to the Shi’a faith, only four fingers are to be cut for theft.
3. This incident has been mentioned in vol. 6, pg. 134 of Tafsir Alusi, however, it has been attributed to Alam al-Din al-Sakhavi instead of ‘Alam al-Huda.
4. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 4, pg. 376

What is The Aim of the Verse: He Deviates Whomsoever He Likes And Guides Whomsoever He Likes?

AnswersMedium3Question: The Justice of Allah is a principle of our faith and we believe that Allah does everything on the basis of Justice and equity. Then what is the aim of the 93rd verse of Surah Nahl that: He causes to err whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases, and other such ayats and traditions? If guidance and error is from Allah, how for is it related to divine justice that we should be punished for error and rewarded for being guided?

Answer: Some Qur’anic verses explain others. There are many ayats, which should be studied along with other ayats in order to reach the correct interpretation.

The captioned ayat which mentions error and guidance is also this type. Therefore in order to understand it correctly we have to refer to other ayats that also mention error and guidance.

This ayat says that Allah guides whom He likes. In another ayat, for example in the 26th ayat of Surah Baqarah it said:

He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors.

In addition to this the 34th ayat of Surah Mo-min says:

Thus does Allah cause him to err who is extravagant, a doubter.

These two ayats explain how some people become deprived of the mercy and favors of Allah and how they deviate from the straight path of life and righteousness. Keeping in view these two verses we can understand the meaning of the ayat in question. When we study this ayat with other ayats of the same topic we realize that those who are deprived of divine mercy are none but transgressors, extravagant and unjust people.

Therefore we must keep it in mind that the deprivation of sinful people from Divine mercy is a natural thing. The goodness of every person is related to the fact that he must train all his physical and spiritual capabilities in the proper way. According to literary terminology these capabilities are termed as action.

And the best way of achieving this is to act on the law sent by the Almighty on the Holy Prophet (S) for the humanity. Those who ignore these laws and teachings and fall into sinful deeds. They are deprived from goodness. They do not remain eligible that Allah should bestow His mercy on them and that they should be guided. They lose their eligibility for getting Tawfiq (Divine assistance) and in the previous ayats mention that they are left in error due to their sins.

In the 79th ayat of Surah Nisa this is mentioned in another way. The Almighty Allah says:

“Whatever benefit comes to you, it is from Allah, and whatever misfortune befalls you, it is from yourself…”

In other words this means that the deeds of man himself are responsible for his deviation and deprivation from Divine mercy.

The ayat in question mentions the guidance (He guides whom He pleases) in the same sense. This guidance denotes the same favor and mercy of Allah which are for the righteous servants. These people act upon the heavenly laws and teachings and day by day they increase their ability and eligibility for receiving these bounties and they become more and more deserving of them.

The conclusion of this discussion is that divine guidance means divine assistance (Tawfiq) in good actions and righteousness. And it is only for those who tread the path of truth and those who strive in this way.

And (as for) those who strive hard for Us. We will most certainly guide them in Our ways.”1

Error means depriving from Tawfiq and the breaking off of the Divine help and this is only for the sinful, the oppressors and the faithless people. Otherwise the Almighty Allah neither guides anyone nor deprives anyone of His guidance without any reason.

  • 1. Surah Ankabut 29:69

Philosophy of Islamic Laws:Ayatullah Naser Makarem Shirazi, Ayatullah Jafar Subhani

Is Sacrifice And Offering Possible?

askQuestion: It is said that all the actions of man are to gain some material or spiritual benefit or to protect himself from some harm. So much so that even those acts which are apparently benevolent like helping the widows or training of children etc., they are also not exempted from this rule because by helping others and expressing love for them, man obtains consolation for his own soul and comforts his heart which had become restless after seeing their deplorable condition.

Keeping this principle in view that all the actions of man are caused by the desire to obtain some material or spiritual benefit, why is it so that some actions are termed as sacrifice, offering and selflessness etc?

The motherly love is the best example of sacrifice and a mother obtains peace by expressing her natural motherly feelings. If she does not rare and train her child she would be hurt. In such a case how can we say that motherly love is pure of every selfish motive and how can we call this a selfless sacrifice?

Answer: This question can be answered in two ways:

1.   Sacrifice and offering means that a person does something for the benefit of an individual or the society without any motive of getting anything in return. The opposite of this is to do something with a motive of profit or recompense and a person does this to obtain material gains.

Just assume that there is a person who feels very sad on seeing the conditions of widows and orphans or by helping them he experiences happiness. When this person helps them without show off and that too with no more money than is needed by them this action of his is called sacrifice and selflessness.

It is correct that this action frees him from the pangs of conscience and gives him pleasure and satisfaction. But since the motive of this act is not any worldly benefit and the desire for recompense has not made him do this, therefore this action of his is very meritorious both from the point of view of intellect as well as the Shariah and it is counted as a type of sacrifice.

In other words in order to find whether a particular act is an act of sacrifice or not we must see what are the motives behind it. Those sentimental or human acts which are called sacrifice or offering are those in which there is calculation of profits. At the time of performance man does not keep the material gains in view and the motives of this are deeply etched into his heart. He does this without paying attention to be an example or to show off. He doesn’t do this for any sort of acclaim by the society.

But while doing something if someone does not ignore the material benefits, and he does it for gaining something in return from an individual or the society, then this is a type of give and take and one who does this regarded as a trader.

The second reply to this question is that sometimes a person loves something or someone to such an extent that except for this love he forgets everything. He even forgets himself and this type of person also forgets his personal gain. It is the instance when man does not recognize anything except his beloved thing or person. He thinks nothing else except the pleasure of his beloved.

He absolutely ignores the aspect of gain and recompense where something is taken in exchange of something else. His sacrifice reaches such a stage that at this time he also forgets his beloved and the aim of his sacrifice whose imagination imparts comfort to his body and soul. The reason for this is that leave alone the physical and spiritual pleasures, he does not even see or recognize himself in this condition. It is the stage which is sometimes called the stage of annihilation.

Many of our leaders were having this type of condition with regard to the Being of Allah. And this same condition used to cause them to worship Him for Him only. And they used to seek His proximity and had imaginable devotion for Him as His being is pinnacle of perfection. They used to lay down their lives for His pleasure.

A tradition narrated from Amir al-Mu’mineen Hazrat Ali (a.s.) regarding worship, probably indicates this:

“O my Lord! I do not worship You for the fear of Hell or for desire of Paradise. I worship You because I find You are deserving of worship.”

The best example of devotion was Ali (a.s.) himself and he used to be so much engrossed in prayers that he did not feel any pain when an arrow was extracted from his feet. Such a person cannot think of his gain or loss at the time of worshipping Allah. Because when he sees he sees Allah and whatever he does he does it not for his personal gain, he does it for the Lord.

Philosophy of Islamic Laws:Ayatullah Naser Makarem Shirazi, Ayatullah Jafar Subhani

Did Amir al-Mu’mineen Ali (a.s.) Ever Depend On The Tradition of Ghadeer To Prove His Caliphate?


Question: As we know, on the day of Ghadeer, the Holy Prophet (S) announced the vicegerancy and Caliphate of Amir al-Mu’mineen (a.s.) and made obedience obligatory on all Muslims. Now the question arises:

“When the successorship of Amir al-Mu’mineen (a.s.) was declared on this, why didn’t he use the hadith to prove his Caliphate?”

Answer: Opposite to the assumption in the above question, Amir al-Mu’mineen (a.s.) had during his lifetime many times quoted the tradition of Ghadeer to prove his successorship. He used to mention the tradition of his Ghadeer to his opponent whenever it was appropriate according to circumstances and in this way he used to make people aware of his status.

And not only Imam (a.s.), the honorable daughter of the Holy Prophet (S), her sons, Hazrat Imam Hasan-al-Mujtaba and Chief of the Martyrs, Hazrat Imam Husain (a.s.) and many other exalted personalities like Abdullah Ibn Ja’far, Ammar Yasir, Asbagh bin Nubata, Qays bin Saad, Umar bin Abdul Aziz, the Abbaside Caliph, Mamoon and even the opponents like Amr Aas etc. had quoted this tradition.

Therefore the tradition of Ghadeer had been used since the time of Ali (a.s.) himself. In every age his followers had considered the tradition of Ghadeer to be one of the proofs of his Imamate and Wilayat (Guardianship). Here we shall mention of these instances by way of examples.

1.       On the day of shura (The shura was designated by the second caliph in such a way that everyone was knowing that someone other than Ali (a.s) would become the Caliph) when the b