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The Punishment of Theft
The punishment enforced in a number of Islamic countries for the crime of theft is based on the wrong interpretation of the following verse:
"The male thief, and the female thief, you shall "eqta’u" their hands as a punishment for their deeds, and to serve as a deterrent from God. God is Almighty, Wise" 5:38
The way these so called Muslims interpret this verse makes them enforce the punishment of severing the hand of anyone caught stealing. But is this the correct interpretation of God's words in 5:38?
To determine the correct meaning of 5:38 we analyse the key word in the verse. The key word in this verse is the Arabic word "eqta’u".
The word ‘eqta’u’ (which is the commnd from of the word ‘qata’aa’) has been wrongly interpreted by the traditional scholars to mean ‘to sever’. But the word for sever in Arabic is ‘batara’. In 108:3 we read the word ‘abtar” which speaks of he who has been cut off (his progeny severed). In 5:38 God did not use the word ‘batara’ but used the word ‘eqta’u’. The act of cutting can simply mean causing a wound or a marking. An example is of one who would be working in the kitchen and then may say “I have cut my hand”, this does not mean that he severed his hand!
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