Allama Jazairi (need not remove the following explanation as it does not create fiqhi complications for common man)who has rendered the above story from Arabic into urdu has added the following explanation to it :- “In Islam the punishment for committing theft is the cutting
off the hand. This is such a nice commandment of Allah in the ‘Holy Quran’ that in almost all the cases the possibility of repetition of the offence ends with it. Moreover a thief is always easily recognized thereafter and wherever this practice is in force people very seldom dare commit the offence.”
“However”, says the Allama, the question which arises with regard to the punishment itself is that whether the hand of the thief should be cut off from the wrist, the elbow or the forearm ? Because the ‘Holy Quran’ is silent after the main verse in this regard, i.e., “Cut off the hand of the thief, male or female.” “Those”, explains the Allama, “who argue in favour of cutting off the hand of the thief upto the wrist only cite the verse of the ‘Holy Quran’ wherein the word ‘hand’ applies upto that portion only, while some others cite another verse of the Holy Book regarding ablution the word hand precedes the words
“upto the elbow.”
‘Therefore, the second group of theologians have recommended that the hand of a thief should be cut “upto” the elbow, which in the arabic language, at times, means “including.”
There seems some major shortfall/mistake in quoting from the Urdu book. Since, I do not have the original Urdu book with me I cannot cross check. Please compare and corect.
Proceeding further with his explanation regarding the orders of Hazrat Ali (A) for cutting off the hand of the thief by which only four fingers were cut off as in the case of the negro, AlIama Jazairi of Lahore has reproduced (Abu Turab vol. 2, p. 113) the account of an incident from Muntahi-ul-Ama1 (vol. 2, p. 234) relating the same question, which once took place in the court of Motasim Abbasi, the Abbasiad Caliph.
The incident described by the author of Muntahi-al-Amal and reproduced by Allama Jazairi is as follows:
Once a thief was produced in the court of Motasim Abbasi and the thief admitted that he had committed theft.
“The Abbasiad Caliph turned to the theologians then present at the time in his court and asked them as to what portion of the thief’s hand should be cut off according to the religious law.”
“’One of the groups of theologians referred to the first verse of thc Holy Quran mentioned above and another, to the second also cited above. Then, the Caliph consulted Imam Muhammad Taqi (A) who also happened to be present at that time in his court, and asked him as to what he had to say in the matter.”
The Holy Imam (A) exclaimed:
“You have already heard what the two opposite groups of the theologians have said about it.” But the caliph said to him: “I want your opinion, Sir”
“Thereupon, the Holy Imam (A) referred to the order of Hazrat Ali (A) in that respect i.e., if only four fingers of the culprit are cut off, the commandment of Allah in the Holy Quran is fulfifled”.
When called upon to explain his claim, the Holy Imam (A) elaborated the point as follows ;
“In so far as the comments on the two verses of the Holy Quran by the theologians present here are concerned, they are correct and quite relevant in their respective places, but the words of the Holy Quran which were kept in view by Hazrat Ali (A) while awarding punishment to a thief were neither of the first verse nor of the second but of another verse which, I submit, has escaped the sight of the honourable theologians present here.”
“The Holy Imam (A) recited the following verse of the ‘Holy Quran’ :
“The parts (of the body) with which Sajdah (putting of head on the ground while offering prayers to Allah) is perfonned are all for Allah.” Explaining the above verse of the Holy Quran, Imam Muhammad Taqi (A) said to Motasim Abbasi, the then Abbasiad Caliph :
“If besides the forehead, palms of both the hands are not used while performing ‘Sajdah’ the ‘Sajdah’ would be incomplete and consequently the prayers also. This is what is meant by th verse I have just recited and followed by Hazrat Ali (A) when awarding punishment to a thief i.e., cutting off only four fingers of his or her hand”:
When enlightened by the Holy Imam (A) on the point of punishment to a thief, Motasim did not only agree with the views presented to him by the Holy Imam (A) but followed them and the thief concerned was awarded the punishment accordingly.
4. The One Whose Hand is Amputated as Punishment for Committing Theft
As reported by Imam Ja’far Sadiq (A) some thieves were brought to Hazrat Ali (A). The thieves admitted their crime and Hazrat Ali (A) ordered for cutting off their hands and when the order was carried out he said to them :
“Your hands have gone to Hell. If you offer penitence and abstain from committing theft in future, you can get them out, otherwise they will pull you all there.” (Wafi, vol.
9, p. 66).
7. Acquital of an Accused Who Admitted His Crime of Theft.
A person came to Hazrat Ali (A) and admitted before him that he had committed a theft. Hazrat Ali (A) asked him if he could read the Holy Quran. The man said that he could read Surah Baqarah of Holy Book of Allah.
Hazrat Ali (A) said to him: “I acquit you of the crime for the sake of that part of the Holy Quran.”
Hearing these words of Hazrat Ali (A), Asha’s bin Qais who happened to be present there said to him :
“Ya Ali’. Do you want to suspend the order passed by Allah for this crime ?”
Hazrat Ali (A) replied :
“O’ye ignorant t You do not know that an Imam who is just can acquit the accused who admit their crime themselves, but if they do not and two witnesses who are just and of good moral character are produced against each of them, he cannot.
(Wafi, vol. 9, p. 78 through Abu Turab (Urdu), vol. 2, p. 118)
10. Slave Trade
A trafficker in children i.e., a man who used to pick up children from the streets and then sell them as slaves was brought to Hazrat Ali (A). He punished that criminal by cutting off his hand. (Wafi, vol. 9, p. 67).
12. Punishment for a Pickpocket
(2) A pick-pocket was once brought to Hazrat Ali (A) with the accusation that he had picked the pocket of another person. Ali (A) said to the people present before him, :
“If he has picked the inner pocket of this man his hand should be cut off but in case he has picked the complainant’s outer pocket his hand should not be cut off. (Wafi, vol. 9, p. 64).
Note :-Hazrat Ali (A) would order only beating them and sending them to prison.
Note by the Compiler
It would be interesting to note in this connection a discourse in Arabic poetry between Abulula Moarri and Syed Murtaza Ibne Huda, (brother of Syed Razi, the compiler of Nahjul Balagha,) which we have rendered in English prose for the benefit of our readers.
Abulula: How is that the hand, the penalty of which is five hundred Dinars is cut off for half Dinar only.
Syed Murtaza: The penalty has been fixed at a higher rate for the hand of an honest man, whereas a thief lowers its price by degrading it by dishonesty.
14. Committing Theft During Famine
It has been reported by Hazrat Imam Jafar Sadiq (A) that Hazrat Ali (A) did not order for cutting off the hand of thief during a famine. ((Wafi, vol. 9, p. 64).
Allama Jazairi of Lahore has explained the above order as follows :
According to the meaning derived from reports recorded through some other Imams it has been calculated that such judgements mostly had been delivered by Hazrat Ali (A) only when somebody would have had stolen some articles of food only and that too, under compulsion of hunger during a famine otherwise he always awarded total punishment. (Abu Turab (Urdu) vol. 2, p. 126-27).