What is the Punishment for Stealing in Saudi Arabia?

Stealing is a great crime. Stealing means to take away a possession of someone else without his permission, without his consent or forcefully. Stealing or theft is a social vice that can cause a great many problems and thereby it has been Prohibited or declared Haram in Islam.

The religion of Islam calls for peace and harmony. It asks all its followers to behave in the best way. Those who do not abide by the rules and move astray are subject to punishment. Islam has always told Muslims not violate the rights of others. If rights violators are left uncharged, society will not prosper.[irp]

The society’s roots will be polluted with corruption and it would be impossible to up-bring a healthy and happy society. As stealing is a crime that actually violates possession rights of others and can upshot many social vices, it is heavily punishable.

According to the principle stated by Allah Almighty in Surah Al Maa’idah either be a male or female thieves, their hands shall be cut off from the wrist. “[As for] the thief, the male, and the female amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” Quran 5:38

The Prophet Muhammad S.A.W cursed the thief and declared that the punishment shall be that his hands be cut off. Also, the Prophet asked for justice. If a person rich or poor, male or female, old or young, commits the crime of stealing the punishment of hand being cut off is to be imposed. This is a hadd punishment declared by Allah Almighty.

It was narrated from Jabir that: a woman from Banu Makhzum stole (something), and she was brought to the Prophet. She sought the protection of Umm Salamah, but the Prophet said: “If Fatimah bint Muhammad were to steal, I would cut off her hand.” And he ordered that her hand be cut off – Sunan an-Nasa'i 4891

Saudi Arabia is a state where Islamic law prevails. When Allah Almighty Himself has declared laws for us, why do we cast them away and replace them with man-made laws? Allah has declared that the punishment of a thief is that his hands be cut off then why do we seek other laws?

However, Hazrat Umar bin Khattab R.A. ordered not to cut the hand of the thief who steals dates in the year of famine. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal also narrated that hands should not be cut for theft when there is a need for that and the people are in famine and hardship.

According to our knowledge, the hands of the thief will only be cut down in case the following 6 conditions are met. After reading these 6 conditions, you will realize that Islam is the religion of Justice.

1-The thief stole a good or property which was protected the punishment of cutting hands would be applied. For instance, he had to break in the office, cupboard or locker. If something was not protected and got stolen, for example, you left some valuable at a public place and somebody picked it up, the punishment of cutting the hands will not apply.

2-The owner asks for his stolen thing back from the thief, if he doesn’t ask for it, hands are not to be cut off. In other words, if the owner feels pity for the thief and awards the property, there is no punishment of cutting the hands.

3-The thief acknowledges twice that he committed the crime or two witnesses declare that they saw him stealing. The purpose of having two witnesses to apply the punishment is to be 100% sure that the crime has been committed by the thief.

In the modern days, the two witness requirement can be replaced by some other evidence e.g. CCTV camera footage etc.

4-The stolen thing shall have a worth. Worthless things are not catered for this crime. It has a direct relation to what Hazrat Umar bin Khattab ordered during the time of his Khilafa. Subhan Allah, what a system of Justice that was.

Let’s say if somebody stole food or something else which doesn’t have much monetary value, there is a possibility that he might have stolen it to feed his family as he doesn’t have means to feed. In this case, the Islamic law does not require to impose the punishment of cutting the hands.

5-The stolen thing value should be equal or greater to value of three Islamic Dirhams or quarter of an Islamic dinar. The value of the quarter of Islamic dinar is SR 153 today. However, I have heard that Saudi Arabia has not set this amount as a criterion to impose the punishment of cutting hands.

A Saudi friend of mine told me that the value of the amount stolen should be at least SR 80,000 to impose this punishment. I would appreciate if anyone with better knowledge can enlighten us about this.

6-The thief must be adult having a sane mind. This condition doesn’t only apply to this punishment but any other punishment of Islamic law. If a 5 years old child steals something, you can’t cut off his hands even if all the above-mentioned criteria are met. Same goes with someone who doesn’t have a sane mind.

Source: Islam QA

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