24) Highwaymen Who Menace the Road

Beliefs & Practices, Major Sins / Monday, February 16th, 2009

Allah says,

“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and his Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hand and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land that is chief disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the hereafter.” (Al-Ma’idah: 33)

Al- Wahidi comments, “To wage war against Allah and his Messenger means to disobey them.” To strive for mischief through the land” refers to killing people, robbing them, and violently consuming their property. Hence, to take arms against a Muslim stands for fighting with Allah and his Messenger. Such an opinion was held by Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i, and Al-Awza’i.

As to Allah’s saying, “Execution…. Or exile from the land”, Al-Wahidi said from Ibn ‘Abbas that “or” in this verse is used for giving the choice and permissibility. Hence, the Imam- the Muslim leader has the full option to enforce killing, or crucifixion or banishment. Al-Hasan, Sa’id ibn Al Musayyab, and Mujahid supported this view.

According to another narration through’ Atiyyah, Al- Walibi said, “or” in the verse is not for permissibility, but it rather signifies the order of the legal rule “Hukm” in regard to the variant crimes. In other words, those who murder and plunder property must be killed and crucified. Those who only rob property, their hands and feet must be cut off and those who violently shed blood but do not rob property must be put to death. Finally, those who scare people in their ways but do not commit murder must be exiled from the land.

Imam Shafi’i is quoted to share the some previous view. He is mentioned as saying, “Each criminal is judged according to his/her offense. So, in case of killing and crucifixion, the evildoer should first be put to death lest he is painfully tortured. Then, he is crucified for three consecutive days and then let down. In case of killing only, the criminal is executed and his corpse is to be handed to his kinsmen to be buried. If the sentence is of cutting off of hands or feet, the right hand is first to be chopped off and cauterized. If he returned to theft, his left leg should be severed. In the third time, his left hand should be amputated.

Concerning the cutting off of thieves’ hands and feet the Prophet said,

“If someone committed theft cut off his hand, if he stole a second, cut off his leg, if he stole once again, cut off his (other) hand if he insisted on stealing, cut off his (other) leg.” (Abu Dawud)

Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (May Allah be pleased with them all) were unanimously used to inflict such a legal rule upon thieves. Allah’s saying” From opposite sides” illustrated the contrasting order in cutting off of a hand at then a leg.

Ibn ‘Abbas in his exegesis of Allah’s saying {Or exile from the land } made open that if the thief is out of control, the Imam should pass a command to shed his blood in vain. But if he is under arrest, exile connotes imprisonment that restricts and hinders his freedom.

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