On December 5, Arabic news website Masrawy published a full report and interview with Ali Afifi, an Egyptian man who did just that – violently cut off both his hands to punish himself for, and prevent himself from, stealing, “according to Islamic Sharia” law. A summary of the report follows:
Four years ago, in Elgharbeya province, Egypt, 28-year-old Ali Afifi placed his left hand on the train tracks to be amputated by the wheels of a running train without using any anesthetics.
Upon reviving, he went to the townspeople to show the stump of his bloodied arm while yelling at the top of his lungs, “People, I was a thief, and praise Allah, he has forgiven me.” He repeated this multiple times, while people passing by looked shocked.
Normative Islamic law calls for the amputation of the hands of thieves, per Koran 5:38.
Ali began his career as a thief at a very young age; however, one day he decided to stop being a thief and to find honest work. Despite his best efforts, the harder he tried to quit stealing the more intense was the comeback. He was unable, as he put it, to overcome “the devil’s whisperings” in his ears.
According to Ali: “I started at a young age. In first grade I stole other students’ pens and sandwiches. When I grew up, I began to steal cell phones, gold, and money. I performed over one hundred robberies and was arrested multiple times, but I was a smart thief, always able to avoid making the charges stick.”
Ali’s dad works as a Muezzin at one of the mosques and tried many times to dissuade him from being a thief, which caused problems between father and son. Ali’s father took him to many Muslim sheikhs and clerics, and Ali asked them to amputate his hand “in accordance with Islamic Sharia.” The sheikhs refused, claiming that only the ruler can make such rulings, and that there are authorities responsible for dealing with such issues. One of the sheikhs encouraged Ali to repent once and for all.
Ali said angrily, “Most of these sheikhs traded with religion and refused to implement the Sharia [law] of Allah.”
The problems between Ali and his father continued, until father decided to take son to a psychiatric center to help him quit stealing. But this also failed, because Ali continued to steal with his right hand (after having amputated his left hand).
Said Ali: “I saw that I did not deserve Allah’s mercy unless I amputated my other hand. Shortly before January’s revolution , I myself amputated my right hand using the same method I used for amputating my left hand [placing it under a speeding train]. I did this because I discovered that nothing was changing; I cannot repent unless I amputate my hand. Thus, I became the authority [sultan], judge, and executioner.”
Ali continued: “I went to the railroad tracks with joy, placing my right hand under the wheels of the train, experiencing peace of mind knowing that I will not steal again. Despite feeling this peace of mind as a result of my repentance to Allah, my family and neighbors were in shock.”
Ali now lives with his family, consisting of his parents and four siblings, in a modest home. He says with sorrow, “I only receive 215 Egyptian pounds from the department of Social Affairs, but I cannot live on this amount of money.”
The repentant thief asks the government to provide honest work for him, or a special stipend, and an apartment to help him build a new life, so that he can support his family and get married. He also requested that King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia host him, as the first thief in the world to apply Islamic Sharia upon himself.
Ali also prays that he becomes a role model for every repentant Muslim. And he wishes that authorities would implement Islamic Sharia as he applied it to himself, adding with disappointment, “I applied the punishment of Islamic Sharia on myself and amputated my hands, but the Muslim Brotherhood did not implement Islamic Sharia.”
While many in the West will deem Ali “insane,” it is important to note that, according to Islamic Sharia—which those clerics he consulted with are learned in—insane thieves should not have their hands amputated, suggesting that those clerics who tried to dissuade him did not deem him insane, otherwise they would have used that line of reasoning with him.
“Infidels,” or non-Muslims, or the wrong kinds of Muslims (Alawites and Shia for example) are often seen as the natural recipients of Islamic violence, or jihad, as prescribed by Islamic law, the Sharia.
Few, however, are aware exactly how Sharia can cause individual Muslims to do violence upon themselves.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians. A Mideast and Islam specialist, he is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Hoover Institution Media Fellow, 2013.