Surah Al-Ma’idah >> Currently viewing Surah Al-Ma’idah Ayat 38 (5:38)

Surah Al-Ma’idah Ayat 38 in Arabic Text

وَٱلسَّارِقُ وَٱلسَّارِقَةُ فَٱقْطَعُوٓا۟ أَيْدِيَهُمَا جَزَآءًۢ بِمَا كَسَبَا نَكَـٰلًۭا مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌۭ
Wassaariqu wassaariqatu faqta’oo aidiyahumaa jazaaa’am bimaa kasabaa nakaalam minal laah; wallaahu ‘Azeezun hakeem

English Translation

Here you can read various translations of verse 38

Sahih International
[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.

Yusuf Ali
As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power.

Abul Ala Maududi
As for the thief -male or female – cut off the hands of both. This is a recompense for what they have done, and an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.

Muhsin Khan
Cut off (from the wrist joint) the (right) hand of the thief, male or female, as a recompense for that which they committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise.

Pickthall
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.

Dr. Ghali
And the male thief and the female thief: then cut (off) the hands of both, as a recompense for what they (both) have earned, as a torture from Allah; and Allah is Ever-Mighty, Ever-Wise.

Abdel Haleem
Cut off the hands of thieves, whether they are man or woman, as punishment for what they have done- a deterrent from God: God is almighty and wise.

Quran 5 Verse 38 Explanation

For those looking for commentary to help with the understanding of Surah Al-Ma’idah ayat 38, we’ve provided two Tafseer works below. The first is the tafseer of Abul Ala Maududi, the second is of Ibn Kathir.

Ala-Maududi

(5:38) As for the thief -male or female – cut off the hands of both.[60] This is a recompense for what they have done, and an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise.


60. The injunction is to cut off one not both hands. There is consensus among jurists that in the event of the first theft the right hand should be cut off. This punishment has been laid down for theft alone. The Prophet (peace be on him) declared: “There is no cutting off of a hand for he who embezzles.’ (Abu Da’ud, ‘Hudud’, 14; Tirmidhi, ‘Hudud’, 18; Ibn Majah, ‘Hudud’, 36; Nasa’i, ‘Qat’ al-Sariq’, 13 – Ed.) This shows that the punishment prescribed for theft does not cover acts involving embezzlement and other dishonest practices. It is applicable only to acts involving the seizure, by stealth, of someone else’s property.

The Prophet (peace be on him) also instructed that the punishment of cutting off a hand should not be applied in cases where the value of the article stolen is less than that of a shield. In the time of the Prophet (peace be on him) according to a tradition from Ibn ‘Abbas, this was ten dirhams; according to a tradition from Ibn ‘Umar, it was three dirhams; according to a tradition from Anas b. Malik, it was five dirhams; and according to another tradition from A’ishah, it was a quarter of a dinar. Owing to this discrepancy, there is disagreement among jurists regarding the minimum value of the goods stolen which merits the punishment of cutting off a hand. This value, according to Abu Hanifah, is ten dirhams whereas according to Malik, Shafi’i and Ahmad b. Hanbal, it is one quarter of a dinar (three dirhams). (For traditions on objects and amounts of things on which the hand of the thief is to be cut off, see Bukhari, ‘Hudud’, 13; Muslim, Hudud’, 1-7; Abu Da’ud, ‘Hudud’, 12, 13; Tirmidhi, ‘Hudud’, 16; Nasa’i, ‘Qat’ al-Sariq’, 5, 8-10 – Ed.)

Moreover, there are several things the theft of which would not necessitate cutting off a hand. The Prophet (peace be on him) directed, for instance, that no hand should be cut off if the stolen article was food. According to a tradition from ‘A’ishah: ‘(The hand of) the thief was not cut off during the time of the Messenger of Allah for the theft of trivial things.’ (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 3, p. 464; Darimi, ‘Hudud’, 4, 7 – Ed.) Furthermore, ‘Ali and ‘Uthman gave the judgement – and none of the Companions disagreed with it – that a person’s hand should not be cut off for stealing birds. ‘Umar and ‘Ali did not cut off the hands of those who had stolen from the public treasury, and on this question no disagreement on the part of any Companion has been reported. On these grounds the founders of the schools of Islamic Law exempted certain things from the application of this penal injunction.

According to Abu Hanifah a man’s hand should not be cut off for stealing vegetables, fruit, meat, cooked food, grain which is not stored in a barn, and instruments of music and play. Likewise, he is of the opinion that a hand should not be cut off for either stealing animals grazing in the forest or for stealing from the public treasury. The founders of the other schools of Islamic Law have also exempted the stealing of certain things from the punishment of cutting off a hand. But this exemption does not mean that the guilty parties should receive no punishment at all. (See the commentaries of Ibn Kathir, Ibn al-‘Arabi, Qurtubi and Jassas on this verse. See also Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol. 2, pp. 441 ff. – Ed.)

Ibn-Kathir

38. And (as for) the male thief and the female thief, cut off their hands as a recompense for that which both committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise. 39. But whosoever repents after his crime and does righteous good deeds, then verily, Allah will pardon him. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. 40. Know you not that to Allah (Alone) belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! He forgives whom He wills and He punishes whom He wills. And Allah is able to do all things.


The Necessity of Cutting off the Hand of the Thief

Allah commands and decrees that the hand of the thief, male or female be cut off. During the time of Jahiliyyah, this was also the punishment for the thief, and Islam upheld this punishment. In Islam, there are several conditions that must be met before this punishment is carried out, as we will come to know, Allah willing. There are other rulings that Islam upheld after modifying these rulings, such as that of blood money for example. When Does Cutting the Hand of the Thief Become Necessary In is recorded in the Two Sahihs that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said, n

«لَعَنَ اللهُ السَّارِقَ يَسْرِقُ الْبَيْضَةَ فَتُقْطَعُ يَدُهُ، وَيَسْرِقُ الْحَبْلَ فَتُقْطَعُ يَدُه»

(May Allah curse the thief who steals an egg and as a result his hand is cut off, and who steals rope and as a result his hand is cut off.) Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that `A’ishah said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«تُقْطَعُ يَدُ السَّارِقِ فِي رُبْعِ دِينَارٍ فَصَاعِدًا»

(The hand of the thief shall be cut off if he steals a quarter of a Dinar or more.) Muslim recorded that `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«لَا تُقْطَعُ يَدُ السَّارقِ إِلَّا فِي رُبْعِ دِينارٍ فَصَاعِدًا»

(The hand of the thief shall only be cut off if he steals a quarter of a Dinar or more.) This Hadith is the basis of the matter since it specifies (that the least amount of theft that deserves cutting the hand) is a quarter of a Dinar. So this Hadith fixes the value. And saying that it is three Dirhams is not a contradiction. This is because the Dinar in question was equal to twelve Dirhams, so three Dirhams equalled a fourth of a Dinar. So in this way it is possible to harmonize these two views. This opinion was reported from `Umar bin Al-Khattab, `Uthman bin `Affan,

When Does Cutting the Hand of the Thief Become Necessary

In is recorded in the Two Sahihs that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said, n

«لَعَنَ اللهُ السَّارِقَ يَسْرِقُ الْبَيْضَةَ فَتُقْطَعُ يَدُهُ، وَيَسْرِقُ الْحَبْلَ فَتُقْطَعُ يَدُه»

(May Allah curse the thief who steals an egg and as a result his hand is cut off, and who steals rope and as a result his hand is cut off.) Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that `A’ishah said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«تُقْطَعُ يَدُ السَّارِقِ فِي رُبْعِ دِينَارٍ فَصَاعِدًا»

(The hand of the thief shall be cut off if he steals a quarter of a Dinar or more.) Muslim recorded that `A’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«لَا تُقْطَعُ يَدُ السَّارقِ إِلَّا فِي رُبْعِ دِينارٍ فَصَاعِدًا»

(The hand of the thief shall only be cut off if he steals a quarter of a Dinar or more.) This Hadith is the basis of the matter since it specifies (that the least amount of theft that deserves cutting the hand) is a quarter of a Dinar. So this Hadith fixes the value. And saying that it is three Dirhams is not a contradiction. This is because the Dinar in question was equal to twelve Dirhams, so three Dirhams equalled a fourth of a Dinar. So in this way it is possible to harmonize these two views. This opinion was reported from `Umar bin Al-Khattab, `Uthman bin `Affan, `Ali bin Abi Talib – may Allah be pleased with them – and it is the view of `Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz, Al-Layth bin Sa`d, Al-Awza`i, and Ash-Shafi`i and his companions. This is also the view of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal and Ishaq bin Rahwayh in one of the narrations from him, as well as Abu Thawr, and Dawud bin `Ali Az-Zahari, may Allah have mercy upon them. As for Imam Abu Hanifah and his students Abu Yusuf, Muhammad and Zufar, along with Sufyan Ath-Thawri, they said that the least amount of theft that deserves cutting off the hand is ten Dirhams, whereas a Dinar was twelve Dirhams at that time. The first ruling is the correct one, that the least amount of theft is one forth of a Dinar or more. This meager amount was set as the limit for cutting the hand, so that the people would refrain from theft, and this is a wise decision to those who have sound comprehension. Hence Allah’s statement,

﴿جَزَآءً بِمَا كَسَبَا نَكَـلاً مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ﴾

(as a recompense for that which both committed, a punishment by way of example from Allah. And Allah is All-Powerful, All-Wise.) This is the prescribed punishment for the evil action they committed, by stealing the property of other people with their hands. Therefore, it is fitting that the tool they used to steal the people’s wealth be cut off as punishment from Allah for their error.

﴿وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ﴾

(And Allah is All-Powerful, ) in His torment,

﴿حَكِيمٌ﴾

(All-Wise.) in His commands, what he forbids, what He legislates and what He decrees.

Repentance of the Thief is Acceptable

Allah said next,

﴿فَمَن تَابَ مِن بَعْدِ ظُلْمِهِ وَأَصْلَحَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ يَتُوبُ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴾

(But whosoever repents after his crime and does righteous good deeds, then verily, Allah will pardon him. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) Therefore, whoever repents and goes back to Allah after he commits theft, then Allah will forgive him. Imam Ahmad recorded that `Abdullah bin `Amr said that a woman committed theft during the time of the Messenger of Allah and those from whom she stole brought her and said, “O Allah’s Messenger! This woman stole from us.” Her people said, “We ransom her.” The Messenger of Allah said,

«اقْطَعُوا يَدَهَا»

(Cut off her hand.) They said, “We ransom her with five hundred Dinars.” The Prophet said,

«اقْطَعُوا يَدَهَا»

(Cut off her hand.) Her right hand was cut off and the woman asked, “O Messenger of Allah! Is there a chance for me to repent” He said,

«نَعَمْ أَنْتِ الْيَوْمَ مِنْ خَطِيئَتِكِ كَيَوْمَ وَلَدَتْكِ أُمُّك»

(Yes. This day, you are free from your sin just as the day your mother gave birth to you.) Allah sent down the verse in Surat Al-Ma’idah,

﴿فَمَن تَابَ مِن بَعْدِ ظُلْمِهِ وَأَصْلَحَ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ يَتُوبُ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴾

(But whosoever repents after his crime and does righteous good deeds (by obeying Allah), then verily, Allah will pardon him. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) This woman was from the tribe of Makhzum. Her story was narrated in the Two Sahihs from Az-Zuhri from `Urwah from `A’ishah, The incident caused concern for the Quraysh after she committed the theft during the time of the battle of the Conquest ﴿of Makkah﴾. They said, “Who can talk to Allah’s Messenger about her matter” They then said, “Who dares speak to him about such matters other than Usamah bin Zayd, his loved one.” When the woman was brought to the Messenger of Allah , Usamah bin Zayd talked to him about her and the face of the Messenger changed color (because of anger) and he said,

«أَتَشْفَعُ فِي حَدَ مِنْ حُدُودِ اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ؟»

(Do you intercede in a punishment prescribed by Allah) Usamah said to him, “Ask Allah to forgive me, O Allah’s Messenger!” During that night, the Messenger of Allah stood up and gave a speech and praised Allah as He deserves to be praised. He then said,

«أَمَّا بَعْدُ فَإِنَّمَا أَهْلَكَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ أَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا إِذَا سَرَقَ فِيهِمُ الشَّرِيفُ تَرَكُوهُ، وَإِذَا سَرَقَ فِيهِمُ الضَّعِيفُ أَقَامُوا عَلَيْهِ الْحَدَّ، وَإِنِّي وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لَوْ أَنَّ فَاطِمَةَ بِنْتَ مُحَمَّدٍ سَرَقَتْ لَقَطَعْتُ يَدَهَا»

(Those who were before you were destroyed because when an honorable person among them would steal, they would leave him. But, when a weak man among them stole, they implemented the prescribed punishment against him. By Him in Whose Hand is my soul! If Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad stole, I will have her hand cut off.) The Prophet commanded that the hand of the woman who stole be cut off, and it was cut off. `A’ishah said, `Her repentance was sincere afterwards, and she got married and she used to come to me so that I convey her needs to the Messenger of Allah.” This is the wording that Muslim collected, and in another narration by Muslim, `A’ishah said, “She was a woman from Makhzum who used to borrow things and deny that she took them. So the Prophet ordered that her hand be cut off.” Allah then said,

﴿أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَـوَتِ وَالأَرْضِ﴾

(Know you not that to Allah (Alone) belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth!) He owns everything and decides what He wills for it and no one can resist His judgment,

﴿فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَآءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَآءُ وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ﴾

(He forgives whom He wills and punishes whom He wills. And Allah is able to do all things.)

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