Theft is Haraam (forbidden) according to the Quran, Sunnah [sayings of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah exalt his mention)] and Ijmaa’ (scholarly consensus). Allah, the Most Exalted, has condemned this action and decreed an appropriate punishment for it. The Hadd [i.e. the legal punishment prescribed by the Sharee'ah (Islamic law)] for a thief is to cut off the thief's hand. Allah Almighty Says in the Noble Quran (what means):
“[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they earned [i.e. committed] as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” [Quran 5:38]
The Prophet said:
“The hand (of the thief) should be cut off for (the theft of) a quarter of a Dinar or more.” [Al-Bukhari]
The Prophet cursed the thief because he is a corrupt element in society, and if he is left unpunished, his corruption will spread and infect the body of the Ummah (Muslim community). He said:
“May Allah curse the thief who steals an egg and has his hand cut off, or steals a rope and has his hand cut off.” [Al-Bukhari]
What indicates that this ruling is definitive is the fact that a Makhzoomi noblewoman (from the tribe of Makhzoom) stole at the time of the Prophet and Usaamah Ibn Zayd, may Allah be pleased with him, wanted to intercede for her. The Prophet became angry and said:
“Do you intercede concerning one of the Hadd set by Allah? Those who came before you were destroyed because if a rich man among them stole, they would let him off, but if a lowly person stole, they would carry out the punishment on him. By Allah, if Faatimah Bint (daughter of) Muhammad were to steal, I would cut off her hand.” [Al-Bukhari]
This is the ruling of Allah concerning theft; that the hand should be cut off from the wrist joint.
Al-Nawawi said in his commentary on Saheeh Muslim (Hadeeth collection): Al-Shaafa'i, Abu Haneefah, Maalik and the majority (of scholars) said: "The hand should be cut off from the wrist, where the hand meets the forearm." Al-Qurtubi said: "All the scholars said: The hand should be cut off from the wrist, not as some of the innovators do when they cut off the fingers and leave the thumb."
Because cutting off the hand is a serious matter, it should not be done for just any case of theft. A combination of conditions must be fulfilled before the hand of a thief is cut off. These conditions are as follows:
1- The thing should have been taken by stealth; if it was not taken by stealth, then the hand should not be cut off, such as when property has been seized by force in front of other people, because in this case the owner of the property could have asked for help to stop the thief.
2- The stolen property should be something of worth, because that which is of no worth has no sanctity, such as musical instruments, wine and pigs.
2- The value of the stolen property should be above a certain limit, which is three Islamic Dirhams or a quarter of an Islamic Dinar, or their equivalent in other currencies.
3- The stolen property should have been taken from a place where it had been put away, i.e., a place where people usually put their property, such as a cupboard, for example.
4- The theft itself has to be proven, either by the testimony of two qualified witnesses or by the confession of the thief twice.
5- The person from whom the property was stolen has to ask for it back; if he does not, then (the thief’s) hand does not have to be cut off.
If these conditions are fulfilled, then the hand must be cut off. If this ruling was applied in the societies which are content with man-made laws and which have cast aside the Sharee’ah of Allah and replaced it with human laws, this would be the most beneficial treatment for this phenomenon. But the matter is as Allah Says (what means):
“Then is it the judgement of [the time of] ignorance they desire? But who is better than Allah in judgement for a people who are certain [in faith].” [Quran 5:50]