What is Islam’s view on stealing?
Muslims may not steal from each other. In fact, Muhammad had people’s hands cut off for that. But the same is not true of unbelievers. Property rights for them exist only at the discretion of their Muslim rulers. Non-submissive infidels frequently had their property stolen from them by Muhammad’s warriors, which sometimes included wives and children.
Qur’an (5:38) – “As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power.” Keep in mind that the Qur’an promises the most severe of punishments for those who believe in one part of the Qur’an, but not the other (2:85). There is no such thing as moderate Islam. Those Muslims who reject cutting off hands for theft are not only disregarding their own religion, but are subject to punishment from true believers for it, since they are hypocrites by definition (see 66:9).
Qur’an (8:69) – “So enjoy what you took as booty; the spoils are lawful and good.”
Qur’an (48:20) – “Allah promised you many acquisitions which you will take, then He hastened on this one for you and held back the hands of men from you, and that it may be a sign for the believers and that He may guide you on a right path.” Allah promises Muslims that they will profit materially in their war against unbelievers. It isn’t stealing when it’s taken from an unbeliever.
Qur’an (33:27) – “And He caused you to inherit their land and their houses and their wealth, and land ye have not trodden. Allah is ever Able to do all things.” Referring again to the property of unbelievers, which is given to those Muslims who defeat them.
From the Hadith:
Forbidden to Steal from Fellow Muslims
Bukhari (81:780) – The Prophet said, “The hand should be cut off for stealing something that is worth a quarter of a Dinar or more.”
Islamists practice this today.
Bukhari (81:792) – Narrated Aisha: “The Prophet cut off the hand of a lady, and that lady used to come to me, and I used to convey her message to the Prophet and she repented, and her repentance was sincere.”
Abu Dawud (38:4373) – The Prophet (peace be upon him) had a mans hand cut off who had stolen a shield.
Stealing from Unbelievers Permitted if Needed
Ibn Ishaq (327) – “Allah made booty lawful and good. He used it to incite the Muslims to unity of purpose. So enjoy what you have captured.”
Ibn Ishaq (503) – “Allah saw what was in their hearts [what they coveted] so he rewarded them with victory and with as much spoil as they could take. Allah promised that they would soon capture a great deal of booty.” 508 goes on to say that, “Whenever they heard of a Meccan caravan setting out for Syria, they intercepted it, and killed everyone they could get a hold of. They tore every caravan to pieces and took the goods.”)
Ibn Ishaq (764) – As for taking from unbelievers, perhaps the most illuminating example among many comes from the aftermath of the battle against the Khaybar as recorded by Muhammad’s earliest biographer. The Khaybar were a peaceful community of Jewish farmers who did not even know they were at war until Muhammad led his men against their town one morning, taking them by surprise and handily defeating them.
Not only did Muhammad take much of the town’s possessions and land, but he actually had the tribe’s treasurer, a man named Kinana, tortured until he gave up the location of hidden treasure. Muhammad then beheaded the man and “married” his traumatized widow, Safiyya (who passed through the hands of one of his lieutenant’s first due to the luck of the draw).
Bukhari (44:668) – “We were in the company of the Prophet at Dhul-Hulaifa. The people felt hungry and captured some camels and sheep (as booty)…” Muhammad said that Allah would always provide sustenance for those who believe in him. Stealing from non-Muslims was a legitimate means of fulfilling Allah’s promise.
Ahmad 4869 (also found in the original Hadith of Bukhari and Sahih al Jaami’ As Sagheer 2828) – It is mentioned from Ibn ‘Umar from the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, “I have been raised between the hands of the Hour with the sword, until Allah the Exalted is worshipped alone with no associates. He has provided sustenance from beneath the shadow of spears and has decreed humiliation and belittlement for those who oppose my order.” Muhammad’s livelihood is found in the property of those who disobey him – to be seized by force if necessary. ‘Humilition” refer to the jizya that non-Muslims are supposed to pay Muslims by the mere fact of their unbelief.
After being chased out of Mecca, Prophet Muhammad and his small band of followers sought refuge in Medina, where he was accepted as a mediator between disparate factions. In order to make ends meet, he raided caravans carrying goods from Syria to merchants in Mecca, taking what he wanted and killing or capturing whoever resisted. Aside from establishing the rule that stealing from non-Muslims is permissible, Muhammad’s raids also laid a firm foundation for Islamic terrorism.
In later battles, Muhammad ordered his men to set aside a fifth of whatever they were able to take from a conquered population and give it to him. This is how he eventually accumulated great wealth (which his eleven widows did not inherit, even though they were forbidden from remarrying).
As Wafa Sultan puts it: Bedouins feared raiding on the one hand, and relied on it as a means of livelihood on the other. Then Islam came along and canonized it (A God Who Hates).
The legacy of Muhammad’s raids makes the property rights of non-Muslims extremely tenuous.
For centuries, the Muslim empire subsisted on war booty (Maal-e-Ghanimat) and jizya extorted from the labor of conquered people. In Western countries today, radical Muslims often live on public benefits – perhaps the best example being Anjem Choudary of Britain. What could be wrong with stealing from the infidel?
Consider this remarkable excerpt from a recent televised sermon by Abu Ishak al Huweini:
“We are at a time of Jihad; Jihad for the sake of Allah is a pleasure, a true pleasure. Mohammed’s followers used to compete to do it. The reason we are poor now is because we have abandoned jihad. If only we can conduct a jihadist invasion at least once a year or if possible twice or three times, then many people on Earth would become Muslims. And if anyone prevents our dawa or stands in our way, then we must kill them or take as hostage and confiscate their wealth, women and children. Such battles will fill the pockets of the Mujahid who can return home with 3 or 4 slaves, 3 or 4 women and 3 or 4 children. This can be a profitable business if you multiply each head by 300 or 400 dirham,. This can be like financial shelter whereby a jihadist, in time of financial need, can always sell one of these heads (meaning slavery). No one can make that much money in one deal (from hard work) even if a Muslim goes to the West to work or do trade. In time of need, that is a good resource for profit.”
Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric born and raised in the United States and once held up as an example of moderate Islam, instructs his followers not to steal for the sake of self-enrichment, but rather for the cause of Jihad:
“The reasoning behind comparing booty to hunting and wood gathering is because the property which exists in the hands of the disbelievers is not considered to be rightfully theirs in our Islamic shari’ah because of their disbelief and when Islam does give them the right to own it, it is an exception to the rule such as in the case of ahl al-dhimma after they pay jizyah. This is why our scholars say that Allah has called booty as “fai’” which means “to return”, so they say that the property of the disbelievers that doesn’t belong to them has “returned” to the believer: its “rightful owner.”
Even so, he goes on to add that
“The income generated from booty taken by force from the enemies of Allah is purer and more virtuous than income generated from being a businessman, an engineer, a physician, or a farmer, simply because that was the source of income that Allah destined for his Messenger Muhammad.”