Home Quranet Chapter 4 How can we reform a boy who has stolen?
How can we reform a boy who has stolen?
Chapter 4

أَلَمْ يَعْلَمُواْ أَنَّ اللّهَ هُوَ يَقْبَلُ التَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَأْخُذُ الصَّدَقَاتِ وَأَنَّ اللّهَ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ (سورۃ التوبة, آيۃ 104)

Know they not that Allah doth accept repentance from His votaries and receives their gifts of charity, and that Allah is verily He, the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful? (Surah 9, Verse 104).

The mother of Amer, an eighth-grader, noted that his conduct had changed in the past week. She went to his teacher and asked him to check if something was bothering Amer in school. She said that her son was behaving strangely. For example, in bed he covered his head with a blanket as if hiding, he refused to go alone to his grandmother's house etc.

The class teacher called Amer for a talk and realized that Amer had taken part in the theft of money collected for the annual class trip from the bag of the pupil who had collected the money. At their next session, Amer admitted that his partner in the theft was insisting that he keep quiet or else he would beat him. Amer was trembling as he spoke. He was afraid that the principal would expel him and Allah would never forgive him because the parents of his classmates had worked hard to raise the money for the trip. The teacher explained to him the error of his ways and ordered him to carry out various tasks for the general good in class in order to atone for his actions. He added that if someone errs and repents, Allah forgives him, and read him the verse: "Know they not that Allah doth accept repentance from His votaries and receives their gifts of charity, and that Allah is verily He, the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful?"

Amer understood how wrong his actions had been, but felt relief at gaining forgiveness.

Explanation: the issue of punishment and forgiveness requires equilibrium. We want Amer to understand the gravity of his actions but if he is very frightened, we will not achieve our objective. Amer needs to refrain from stealing not because of fear but because he has realized that thereby he is wronging someone else. If he stops stealing merely because he is afraid, he may revert to doing so when he is convinced that nobody can see him. Fear is not a good teacher. The difference between a child who refrains from stealing because of fear and one who refrains because he is not willing to harm someone else is very great. The former is motivated by an outside factor and the other is inner-motivated. We prefer internalized education because it accompanies the child wherever he goes and is not dependent on time and place. Since Amer has already stolen, he deserves punishment but the reaction should fit the deed: example, work on behalf of the community in order to repair the damage he has done to the community or financial compensation for the victim. It is important that there be a clear connection between the action and the punishment so that it will be easy for Amer to internalize new rules of conduct. It is no less important to allow Amer some hope, in other words forgiveness, which will enable him to mend his ways. Without forgiveness he will have no reason to improve his behavior. And here we see the greatness of the Quran.