One characteristic of the month of Ramadan in Egypt is the family gatherings. I come from a very big family, my father has 8 brothers and sisters so you can imagine the number of cousins I have. Add wives, husbands and you will end up with a small tribe.
So, in one of those gatherings one of my uncles decided to analyze the similarities between those 9 brothers and sisters in a try to find which of us (the sons and daughters) resemble them.
After an hour of back and forth talking between the uncle and the aunts and giggles from the sons and daughters side my uncle said that the only thing in common between them will always be the religious background. He said that they were raised religiously, and he hopes that they have passed that way of life to us.
His words reminded me with something that my father once said about the way he raised us. He said that the most important thing that makes him rest assured that we, me and my brothers, will choose the right direction is that he raised us on religion.
I am not sure if I ever questioned that religious background. As I have said before, religion is one of the few things in life that I take for granted. Occasionally I would have caught myself guilty of questioning the essence of faith, I am a Muslim and a believer that Islam is a great religion and I am also a believer that religion is all about accepting the unknown and this is exactly what usually leads me to what I call my devilish thoughts.
One of the most recent devilish thoughts came to me after a talk with one of my uncle’s wife. She went to Umrah right before me so in another Ramadan family gathering we chit chatted about our experiences there. And then she popped the question, have you seen those black women with amputated hands. I replied, I didn’t really notice. I noticed that there were lots of black female beggars in the streets of Mecca and I even noticed them in the Friday prayers in Medina. She then started telling me a story about another black woman who was dragged by police officers. She said that the woman was screaming and crying to the extent that she almost cried for the woman’s misery. I wondered what she might have done to be dragged that way.
She commented she might have been stealing and this explains her screams as you know they cut off the thief’s hand in Saudi Arabia.
Then the talk got drifted to other things. Later that night as I started recalling what happened through the day I remembered what she said and some how I related to the scenes she described. I remembered those black women with amputated hands asking for money in the streets and in the mosque itself. I never thought these missing hands are the sign of their crime. And when I finally related I couldn’t keep that devilish thought away.
In Islamic Law, there are penalties called “Hudud” and in Islam the penalty of theft is amputating the thief’s hand. Something that I never questioned before, I even remember that I have argued that maybe amputating the thief’s hand is the best way to stop people from stealing till I started recalling the pictures of those women and the only thing that I can think of is that they have turned them into nothing but beggars. They are women, ignorant and poor. They must have stolen out of need. And though in Islam petty thieves are to be exempted of that penalty I doubt that anyone considered any of these women petty thieves. And even if they weren’t petty thieves, I believe that amputating their hand should never be the solution because it is not a way of reform. When you cut off someone’s hand, you turn a healthy person to an impaired person. What type of job could a person do with his dominant hand amputated, given that this person is ignorant and poor and at the best he will only be capable of physical jobs?
What if this person was caught at his first theft? Can we punish someone on a non-recurring mistake that severe punishment? Even those calls to only amputate three fingers in the first theft, does this count as mercy?
Umar Ibn El Khattab, canceled the theft penalty in the time of starvation, which can be compared to our current days where scarcity is the norm. He withheld that penalty because the Islamic state who was responsible of the fair distribution of resources couldn’t maintain that job. So how dare current governments who enforce Islamic law apply that penalty in the time they don’t do the same function? I can understand cutting off the hands of big thieves who steal directly and indirectly from innocent people. Gangs that live of theft, gang leaders and old members who take theft as a profession, but casual thieves? Poor thieves who steal to support families?
I am not talking about the cruelty of the act, as they amputate hands while the person is conscious as if the amputation itself isn’t punishment enough but I am talking about the rationalism of application. It such penalties are almost performed on small thieves because they are the most likely to get caught I believe that these governments should start reconsidering the cases where such a severe punishment should be applicable to have what so called preventive effect.
I believe that there should be some Islamic reform. It is not possible to stick to interpretations that are more than 10 centuries old in the time we have proofs that thinking outside the box was common back then.
I believe if Umar Ibn El Khatab lived our time he would have canceled lots of these punishments. Because you can’t put the man who steal a pound with the man who steal millions. You can’t simply cut off the first man’s hand because he was dumb enough to get caught while labeling the other one as a businessman because he is indirectly stealing.
A chance to repent and be reformed should be given to those who committed minor mistakes. Minor means a crime that didn’t form a threat on the community and only for once because a recurring crime is a threat to a community regardless how small it is.
I mean that those governments applying the Islamic law should give them a chance to live healthy and productive instead of being impaired and beggars.