Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran:
“(As for) the thief, male or female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent (punishment) from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and in Wisdom. But whoever repents after his wrong doing and reforms indeed, Allah will turn to him in forgiveness. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful”. (TMQ- 5:38& 39)
So according to this verse the Islamic ruling for theft is amputation of the hands. Besides this, the door of tawba/forgiveness is always open for those who repent their sins before Allah (swt) because Allah (swt) is All-forgiving and Merciful.
Here I would like to mention some ahadith which provide us with detailed information regarding the Islamic law on theft.
Hazrat Ayesha (ra) reported that Allah’s Messenger (saw) said, “The hands of a thief should not be cut off for less than a quarter Dinars”. (Sahih-al- Bukhari)
According to this authentic hadith the hands of a thief should be amputated if he has stolen something which costs a quarter Dinar or above. So a quarter Dinar or 3 Dirhams (1 Dinar equals to 12 Dirhams) has been specified as the amount over which the thief’s hands will be amputated.
Imam Ahmed recorded that Abdullah Bin Amr said, “A woman had stolen something during the time of the Prophet (saw) and the people whose items she stole brought her before the Prophet (saw) and said ‘O Allah’s Messenger, this woman stole from us”. Her people said, “We ransom her but Prophet Mohammad (saw) said, “Cut off her hand”. On hearing this, her people offered a ransom of 500 Dinars but Prophet Mohammad (saw) did not relent. Consequently the woman’s right hand was amputated following which she asked Prophet Mohammad (saw), “O Messenger of Allah! Is there a chance for me to repent? Prophet Mohammad (saw) replied, “Yes, this day you are free from your sin just as the day when your mother gave birth to you”.
Like verse 5”39 this ahadith also states that Allah (swt) has kept the doors of tawba open for those who repent. However, this hadith also sheds light on another important factor regarding the law on theft. The lady mentioned in this hadith belonged to the Mazhkum tribe and her story as narrated by Hazrat Ayesha (ra) is as follows:
“The theft committed by the Mazhkumiya lady, during the battle of the conquest of Mecca, had made the Quraiysh anxious. They said, “Nobody can talk to Allah’s Messenger about the woman’s issue. They said, “Who dares talk to Allah’s Messenger besides Usamah bin Zaid, his loved one”. Finally Usamah bin Zaid spoke to Prophet Mohammad (saw) when the woman was brought before him. Prophet Mohammad (saw)’s turned red with anger on hearing to Usamah and he asked Usamah, “Do you intercede in the punishment prescribed by Allah?” That night the Prophet (saw) stood up and addressed the people. He said, “Those who were before you were destroyed because when a respectable person amongst them stole, they used to leave him scot-free. But when a weak person stole something they used to punish him. By Him in whose hand is my soul! If Fatima, the daughter of Mohammad, steals, I shall have her hand amputated.”
This hadith shows that the Islamic Laws are based on justice and equality. They do not distinguish between a rich criminal and a poor one. The law is the same for all. The Islamic law on theft is Divine and hence full of wisdom. Cutting off the hand of the thief (for stealing such a meager amount) acts as a deterrent for others in the society and thus, prevents the spread of corruption.
Amel soname contact