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Sharia Punishments: Amputation

Sharia Punishments: Amputation


With every religiously motivated crime committed by the so-called Islamists, we hear the very same response from Islam's apologists: "They are a tiny minority that have either misunderstood Islam, have interpreted the scriptures out of context, or have hijacked Islam to fulfill their political ambitions". That would not be too hard to believe if it referred to some isolated incidents here and there, occurring from time to time. Obviously that is not the case; we are facing unmistakable patterns of medieval like violence and brutality. Observing Islamic violence all over the world raises legitimate questions that deserve much more serious answers than the apologists are offering:

- Why Muslims are overwhelmingly over-represented in religiously motivated violence?

- Why Muslims seem to be the only religious group that is in conflict with all other major religious groups in the world? (Christian, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists...)

- Why Muslim majority countries are constantly failing to establish real modern democratic states?

- Why Muslim majority countries are the most oppressive to minorities? (Iraq, Syria, Egypt, etc..)

- Why Muslim minorities are the loudest and the most violent separatists? (India, Thailand, Philippines, Russia, China, UK, etc..)

- Why are Muslims often the most violent when it comes to internal sectarian conflicts? (Sunni/Shia/Ahmadis)

- Why are Muslims the most oppressive to women? (Saudi Arabia, Iran and Middle East in general)

The list can go on...

This article is the first of a series of articles that attempts to answer these questions. Each article will present one form of violence that we witness today, and try to find its roots in the Islamic scriptures and early history of Islam. The main references for the series will be:

- The Quran, the holy book of Islam which according to Islamic faith is the verbatim word of God that is good for all times and places.

- The major six Sunnah books that are considered by the vast majority of Sunni Muslim scholars to be the most authentic sources for Mohammad's biography, habits, practices, sayings and teachings.     

- The history of the immediate successors like Abu Bakr and Umar who are believed by the vast majority of Sunni Muslims to be the role models for the Islamic State Caliphate.

Recently, Reuters reported that two mosque leaders in Philadelphia tried to cut the hand of a man with a machete for stealing jars of money from the house of worship. The question that might come to one’s mind is: What drove these Imams to have such a ruthless and disproportionate reaction toward that thief? We would expect mercy and forgiveness from religious clerics, or at least some restraint by handing the case to the rule of law. The answer lies within the verses of the Quran and Mohammad's history. 

Islam's teachings are not limited to a set of theological beliefs and a moral code, but rather they form a model that describes in details a social and political system including components like civil law, criminal law, economy, tax system and so forth. As this article focuses on the punishment for theft, I have chosen one verse from the Quran and an instance from Muhammad's life that together explain the behavior of the Imams in Philadelpha.

The punishment for theft is mentioned in the Quran at Surah Al-Maeda (5) verse 38 :     

"As for the thief, both male and female, cut off their hands. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise"

Even though the verse is explicit and self explanatory, we still find apologists claiming that cutting the hand is metaphoric or taken out of context. Unfortunately, that is not the case because Muhammad's actions leave no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation. From Sunan Abi Dawud (one of the six references mentioned above), Safwan ibn Umayya, one of Muhammad's companions, narrates his personal experience when he brought a thief to Muhammad after he was caught taking his cloak:

“I was sleeping in the mosque on a cloak of mine whose price was thirty dirhams. A man came and pinched it away from me. The man was seized and brought to the Messenger of Allah. He ordered that his hand should be cut off. I came to him and said: Do you cut off only for thirty dirhams? I sell it to him and make the payment of its price a loan? He said: Why did you not do so before bringing him to me?”

The same story is mentioned elsewhere in Islamic scripture. 

From the story, there is no doubt that Muhammad was very literal about amputating hands - even for a theft as trivial as stealing a robe. Furthermore, the fact that the victim himself waived his rights as he clearly found the punishment disproportionate, that did not stop Muhammad from proceeding with the punishment without mercy.

Back to our Philadelphia Imams, keeping in mind that according to their faith, the Quran is the verbatim word of God, and where it has been repeatedly mentioned that the main way of pleasing God is to obey Him and follow the footsteps of His messenger Muhammad, why would we expect from them a behavior that would be any more reasonable or tolerant than their own role model? These clerics were only obeying Islamic law exactly as Muhammad had demonstrated by his own acts.

It is about time to stop putting the blame only on Muslims and confront the real problem: Islam itself.