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Islamic Law on Robbery 

Does not the Quran by amputating the hand of the one who commits theft, totally neglect the family, which depended on him for its living?

The goal of the penal laws of the Quran in the case of theft is never to create a multitude of the handicapped. On the contrary, it is to create and make possible a situation wherein nobody is robbed off one's possessions. Indeed, the Lord Creator, who knows that to eliminate robbery and theft, poverty and hunger of the destitute must first be addressed, had Himself revealed the Quran. It was for this specific reason that the Quran had first provided for the instructions pertaining to the solution for poverty and hunger before it addressed the issue of theft and punishment for the crime.

The system of italicize in Islam was instituted to resolve the problems of the poor and the needy. The Islamic directive, in this regard, has been to take from the wealthy and to give to its rightful owners. Zakat is never a charity offered by the rich. On the contrary the Prophet had taught it to be right of the poor. Undoubtedly, the basic requirements of the poor in society will be accomplished if the Zakat system of Islam is effectively implemented. Indeed, this has been the lesson of history. Islamic history does put forward numerous instances where circumstances prevailed in which there were to be found none to accept Zakat in the societies where the system was implemented with rigour and efficiency. In the vision of Islam, if the hunger and poverty of the poor cannot be addressed fully eradicated even with the Zakat that is collected, the rulers are duty-bound to provide for them through other means.

It was thus that Islam alone, among the religions of the world, produced laws aimed at the elimination of poverty and became exemplary for all by way of going on to implement them as well. Islam, then, spoke of penal laws only after the removal of circumstances which actually rendered the crime imperative. It is never in a society wherein unemployment and poverty go hand in hand that the Quran calls for the execution of the stringent penal laws. The injunction of Islam has only been the amputation of the hands of the thieves who disrupt the peace of society even after conditions have become so favourable that there need not be thefts or robbery to gain food or the other most basic necessities of life.

Look at the robberies that are committed in India itself. Are they for the purpose of alleviating hunger? In fact, 99 percent of the robberies that do take place in India are nothing but the easy means that youngsters resort to in order to enjoy life . These are the people who loot and kill for the sake of getting new cars, for staying in luxury hotels and have for having numerous female companions. It is certain that if at least some of those young men who are proved guilty of such crimes, have their hands amputated, 90 percent of the crimes being committed could have been prevented. The question is whether we are prepared for such stringent measures.

Even in Islamic countries famine and starvation is possible. In such an event Islam does not permit the amputation of hands if a man were to commit theft. It was in the time of Caliph Umar (radiallahu anhu) that a thief, who was caught during a period of famine in the land, was let off on the premise that he had probably committed the theft under the pressing compulsion of hunger. Here we witness the humane face of Islam which pronounced punishments with the objective of making criminals non-existent and which had proved such a vision to be practicable as well.

Courtesy: M M Akbar

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Holy Qur’an 16:125

"Narrated Aishah (radhi-yallaahu 'anhaa): The Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam) said, “Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and receive good news because one's good deeds will not make him enter Paradise.” They asked, “Even you, O Allah's Messenger?” He said, “Even I, unless and until Allah protects me with His pardon and His Mercy."

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 8, Hadith No. 474