Hands amputated by the Prophet (sws)
Islamic Punishments
Question asked by .
Answered by Tariq Haashmi

In the incident in which the Holy Prophet (sws) ordered the amputation of the rich woman’s hand, was she a habitual thief or just a first time offender. Was she given warnings before or was she spreading much nuisance in the land. Also, when people asked for clemency, the Prophet (sws) is recorded to have mentioned about his daughter Fāt*imah on that occasion. My question is: Was the crime of the lady grave so grave as to deserve this punishment?


Before looking into the case you have referred to we must consider the following points, which are based on the research work of Mr Javed Ahmed Ghamidi:

The Almighty has used the terms ‘assāriq’ and ‘assāriqah’ for the male and female thief who have to be punished thus. It has not simply said ‘if someone steals something, cut his limbs off.’ The Qur’ān has used the adjective form to connote the ultimate nature of the theft. According to linguistic principles, in the Arabic language, the adjective form is used to denote that the doer of any act has performed it in its ultimate form. Thus these terms would only be applied to a person whose act may justly be called the crime of theft. The Holy Prophet (sws) himself has explained this subtle linguistic principle and made it clear that the punishment for theft is to be administered when someone commits the crime in the ultimate form in that he steals something of value, and that he takes things after they have been kept secured. None would be punished if they just take away the fruit hanging down from a tree or take a strayed goat found in an open field.

Keeping the above information in perspective, we can understand that the Prophet (sws), who was a symbol of mercy and justice, would not have punished the criminal had there been some allowance due to her as per the God’s directives. We need to know that the H*adīth literature does not give full details of every such incident; therefore, we may remain ignorant of some of the aspects of the actual incidents. However one thing is sure that the Prophet (sws) cannot be imagined to have punished someone when they deserved lenience.

As for the record of the criminal we do not have any information whether the woman was a habitual criminal or if it was her first offence. Needless to say, that the Qur’ān or the Prophet (sws) has given no lenience to those who commit the crime in its ultimate nature even for the first time. The nature of the crime and the circumstances in which someone commits such a crime would definitely have been considered first by the Holy Prophet (sws) as they should be by everyone.

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