Law to suit self-interest

Q323 :There is a Muslim community in my home country where people believe that it is permissible to steal money and property from non-Muslims in order to distribute it among poor Muslims. Members of that community may rob a bank and claim that they are working for Islam. To my thinking, if stealing is a sin, it remains so when the stolen property belongs to a non-Muslim. Please comment.

A323 : This sort of thinking may sound plausible among a minority community, particularly if it is at the receiving end of unjust practices, and laws, as it is the case in your home country. It is the mixture of ignorance and a keen sense of persecution that gives such reason acceptance among those Muslims. To say this is not to justify their action, because it remains unjustifiable. I am only trying to point out the sort of conditions which may give rise to it. All societies and communities in all ages agree that stealing is an evil practice. Some of them enforced very stiff punishments for theft. It was not a long time ago when the English law made theft punishable by death or deportation to the colonies. Hence, no one can argue that stealing could be permissible under any circumstances, except when a person is about to die of hunger and no one is willing to give him food. In such a situation, he is allowed to take whatever food he can to keep himself alive. Since respecting other people's rights and keeping their properties safe is good, then it is the attitude Islam requires of all its followers in all situations. This is due to the fact that Islam orders its followers to do good to all its people, maintaining the standards of goodness which Islam requires. It is not permissible, in Islam to divide people into two groups, extending good treatment to one and dealing badly with the other. Islam promotes what is good because it is good, Islam is the religion of goodness and goodness must be universal. What is evil cannot be considered good in certain situations; nor can evil be considered permissible at any time. Since the Prophet provides the proper example for all Muslims to follow, we should always look to him for guidance. After preaching his message in Makkah for 13 years, the Prophet emigrated to Madinah. Throughout those 13 years, the Muslims suffered a great deal of persecution at the hands of non-believers who wielded power in Makkah. On the night the Prophet left, those unbelievers were determined to kill him. They sent a group of young men representing all clans of Quraish to murder him. In spite of that, people of Makkah always gave him their valuables for safekeeping. Before his departure, the Prophet asked his cousin, Ali, to stay behind and to give every article in his house to its rightful owner. If taking away other people's property could be allowed in any situation, then the Prophet would have been allowed to leave with those valuables. He was leaving behind his house and furniture. Moreover, he was leaving because those very people were plotting to kill him. To take their property would have been the smallest of compensations. Yet the Prophet would not for a moment think of doing that, because betraying a trust and taking other peoples' property is evil. The Prophet has taught us what is good because doing good is beneficial to the doer, the recipient and the community. From another point of view, when a Muslim implements the teachings of Islam, and works hard to make his actions a reflection of what Islamic life is like, he actually calls on people to accept Islam. When they realize that the goodness in him is brought about by his faith, they would like to learn more about Islam. The more they learn, the greater are the chances of their acceptance of this blessed faith. On the other hand, if a person speaks all the time about the benefits of Islamic life to mankind, yet at the same time allows his actions to give a bad image of Islam and Muslims, his words will only fall on deaf ears. How can people believe him when his actions give the lie to his word? He simply cannot say to people: "Come to Islam because it is good and yet he does away with the other people's property." A Muslim is always a teacher of what is good. To justify stealing when taking away the property of a non-believer, is to teach something bad to others. I cannot emphasize too strongly the fact that Islam does not admit one action and its opposite at the same time. How can it be? If something is good then its opposite is bad and, as such, unacceptable. Another important point is that when people justify stealing for themselves in this way, they become hardened thieves. They may start by stealing from non-Muslims, but they would later find it easy to steal from Muslims as well. They simply become accustomed to taking other people's property since they feel they can take it away with impunity. Moreover, someone may start by stealing in order to give the stolen property to poor Muslims. When he finds out that he could get away with this sort of action, it will be easy to justify by taking away the stolen property for himself. Besides, Islam does not require anyone to steal in order to help a poor person, if they truly care about poor Muslims, then they should do something positive and good to help them. They either donate some of their own money in order to help the poor or they should start some sort of project which benefits the Muslim community. If they do that, then they show that they truly care about the poor Muslims. The idea of robbing others in order to help our own poor people is totally unacceptable from the Islamic point of view. [There is no concept of Robin Hoods in Islam.] This action is undoubtedly forbidden.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )