A translation of Sura 5:33. Egyptian-born MAS Abdel Haleem, educated at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, and Cambridge University, now professor of Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, translates as follows:
5:33 Those who wage war against God and His Messenger and strive to spread corruption in the land should be punished by death, crucifixion, the amputation of an alternate hand and foot or banishment from the land: a disgrace for them in this world, and then a terrible punishment in the Hereafter, 34 unless they repent before you overpower them: in that case bear in mind that God is forgiving and merciful. (The Qur’an, Oxford UP, 2004)
Now, the historical context of Sura 5:33. Some Arab tribesmen visited the prophet, but fell sick in the uncongenial climate of Medina, so Muhammad told them to follow a shepherd outside of the city, recommending to them an old folk belief: drinking the milk and urine of a camel. Subsequently, they are reported to have felt better. However, for some reason, they killed the shepherd (another version says shepherds), turned apostate, and drove off the camels for themselves. This news reached Muhammad, and he ordered them to be hunted down and brought before him. He decreed that their hands and feet should be cut off. Then he committed these excesses:
Then he ordered for [sic] nails which were heated and were branded with those nails, their eyes, and they were left in the Harra (i.e. rocky land in Al-Madina). And when they asked for water, no water was given them till they died . . . . (Bukhari vol. 4, no. 3018)
Though this passage is awkwardly translated, it is one of many that should shock Westerners and everyone of a sound mind. Muhammad actually pierced their eyes with nails (one version says with needles). Then their bodies were thrown on stony ground, dying of dehydration. One version says they died from the battering they suffered from being thrown on rocky ground; another says they died from loss of blood, for Muhammad did not cauterize their amputated limbs.
Click here to read more about the classical interpretations and applications of Sura 5:33.