Author [EN] [PL] [ES] [PT] [IT] [DE] [FR] [NL] [TR] [SR] [AR] [RU] Topic: Question about your view on "cutting off" the hand of thieves - For Joseph Islam

Offline Reader Questions

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 505
    • View Profile
Salam brother Joseph,

I hope this reaches you well in this blessed month of Ramadan. I wanted to ask clarification as to why you translate the word "iqta" as cut off instead of cut. You often rely on the Quranic verse to follow the best of meanings. But the word iqta can clearly mean cut OR cut off, with the latter being much harsher. I understand your argument that the punishment would be reserved for the worst of thieves (as a general and specific deterrent), but I want to understand why you landed on "cut off" being the best of meaning (esp. in light of Surah Yusuf which also references the women cutting their hands).


Offline Joseph Islam

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1858
    • View Profile
    • The Quran and its Message
Wa alaikum assalam

I understand that your question is in reference to the article [1] below.

I have often seen Surah Yusuf (12:31) readily quoted / cited by many that question the interpretation of ‘cut’ to imply sever in verse 5:38.

However, it is noteworthy that the 'cut' mentioned in Surah Yusuf (12:31) is not in the context of serious exemplary punishment as a result of repeated transgression. In contrast, this ‘cut’ in Surah Yusuf is something that occurred inadvertently by women and not as a command administered as an exemplary punishment. These are two totally separate contexts.

Rather, the comparison of verse (5:38 - From primary verb Qata'a) would be more pertinent with a few verses prior (5:33) which speaks of other punishments such as waging war against the prophet. These verses are about punishment. In this prior verse and context, one will note that even death is given as an option for serious transgression. Thus the cutting of the feet and hands on opposite sides is arguably not simply a token cut.

Therefore, in the context of the thief a few verses later, the context of exemplary punishment continues (Nakal). As I mentioned in my article, the theft in verse 5:38 is not a simple matter but appears to be focusing on serious repeated transgression which leads to societal ill. The punishment thus is exemplary and harsh. This is for the state to administer arguably after due process is invoked.

As I mentioned in the article:

  • "We have noted the context of the verse which deals with an ‘exemplary punishment’ (Arabic: Nakalan) meted out to the repetitive thief who remains intent on transgression (as indicated by other Quranic verses). We also note that previous verses refer to serious transgressions in the land such as ‘fasaad fil ard’ where such exemplary punishments (cutting of hands and feet) are explicitly mentioned.
    Therefore, it seems untenable that we interpret the verse dealing with ‘theft’ in isolation of its previous verses where a theme is being addressed and the context being imparted as referencing those that create mischief in the land (fasaad fil ard). This is also strengthened by the verse’s own context when it refers to an ‘exemplary punishment’ (Arabic - Nakalan)."

Despite our own worldviews, I truly believe we must remain consistent during Quranic interpretations and to endeavour to understand God's wisdom sincerely within context.

I hope this helps, God willing,



'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell