Surah Al-Ma’idah : Chapter 5 (line 30-40) The Table

30. Then His soul prompted him to kill his brother, so he killed him, and became one of the losers.

31. Then God sent a raven digging the ground, to show him how to cover his brother’s corpse. He said, “Woe to me! I was unable to be like this raven, and bury my brother’s corpse.” So he became full of regrets.

32. Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel: that whoever kills a person-unless it is for murder or corruption on earth-it is as if he killed the whole of mankind; and whoever saves it, it is as if he saved the whole of mankind. Our messengers came to them with clarifications, but even after that, many of them continue to commit excesses in the land.

33. The punishment for those who fight God and His Messenger, and strive to spread corruption on earth, is that they be killed, or crucified, or have their hands and feet cut off on opposite sides, or be banished from the land. That is to disgrace them in this life; and in the Hereafter they will have a terrible punishment.

34. Except for those who repent before you apprehend them. So know that God is Forgiving and Merciful.

35. O you who believe! Be conscious of God, and seek the means of approach to Him, and strive in His cause, so that you may succeed.

36. As for those who disbelieve, even if they owned everything on earth, and the like of it with it, and they offered it to ransom themselves from the torment of the Day of Resurrection, it will not be accepted from them. For them is a painful punishment.

37. They will want to leave the Fire, but they will not leave it. For them is a lasting punishment.

38. As for the thief, whether male or female, cut their hands as a penalty for what they have reaped-a deterrent from God. God is Mighty and Wise.

39. But whoever repents after his crime, and reforms, God will accept his repentance. God is Forgiving and Merciful.

40. Do you not know that to God belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth? He punishes whom He wills, and He forgives whom He wills. And God is Capable of everything.

My Interpretation: 

Muhammad is told that Cain could not find a way to bury his brother’s dead body, so a crow was sent to Cain to torture him with guilt as he dug the hole for Abel’s body. It showed Cain that he was ignorant even in a way that made a crow above him in intelligence.

From then on murder, unless it is for self defense or to stop corruption on earth, is seen as murder to the whole human race. And saving one life, is like saving all of humanity. God tied us together and made it so important for us to understand that what one does to one, does to another ultimately.

Gabriel is giving explicit commands to Muhammad that those who make war against God and His Angels, will be killed in their aggression, and their bodies will be dishonored by mutilating them for all to see. This is serious warnings coming from an Angel of God. At this point it was necessary to be so stern with the people who keep killing the messengers, and God’s innocent people of the land. There is no more tolerance of this behavior and justice either in this life or the next, will be had. The punishment for murder is strict, in order to keep people in fear of God, for those who don’t naturally incline towards peace.

Today, I believe we evolved past this type of punishment. I believe that God sends messengers to the people to comment on the certain times that they were in. Now it is up to us to evolve past this violence, and find new ways towards peace.

Cutting the hands of a thief may seem like a harsh punishment today, but in the past their lives were taken away for stealing. So this is a way to create a karma retribution to the thieves. If they commit a sin with their hands and take from another person, they lose that hand. No more unequal payments of thievery and the thief be killed before they can repent. Since theft is less of a sin than murder it is not to be punished the same.

But any criminal who repents and seeks sincere forgiveness from God, is looked at with Mercy. This is important for Muhammad to tell the people of the land. Justice must be served by those who are themselves just and honest, and to take into consideration when someone reforms and changes their ways for the better.