بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Allah mentions in the Quran:
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
“And We have not sent you(Oh Muhammad), except as a source of mercy for the universe.” [Surah Anbiya, Ayat 107]
In another verse, expounding on the exalted character and manners of Nabi (عليه السلام), Allah says:
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
” And verily you are upon an exalted character!” [Surah Qalam, Ayat 4]
As Muslims, we understand that Allah has revealed the Quran as a source of complete guidance for humanity, not sparing any aspect of human life. In order to practically demonstrate this guidance, Allah sent to us the Best of Mankind, our beloved Prophet, Muhammad Mustafa عليه الصلات و السلام.
In reference to this, Allah mentions:
وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ
“And We have revealed the Reminder(Quran) to you(Oh Muhammad) so that you may explain(in word and action) to the people what has been revealed upon them.” [Surah Nahl, Ayat 44]
This article wishes to shed light and clear the smoke on a heavily debated, misunderstood and misrepresented aspect of our beautiful Deen; Corporal Punishment.
The confusion may arise from a statement/advice of our Beloved Nabi (عليه السلام):
مُرُوا أَوْلاَدَكُمْ بِالصَّلاَةِ وَهُمْ أَبْنَاءُ سَبْعِ سِنِينَ وَاضْرِبُوهُمْ عَلَيْهَا وَهُمْ أَبْنَاءُ عَشْرِ سِنِينَ وَفَرِّقُوا بَيْنَهُمْ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ
“Command your children to pray when they become seven years old, and beat them for it (prayer) when they become ten years old; and arrange their beds (to sleep) separately.” [Abu Dawood : Hadith 495]
Another hadith states:
علقوا السوط حيث يراه أهل البيت فإنه لهم أدب
“Hang the whip where your family can see it, for verily it is a means of discipline for them” [Tabarani 10/345, See Maqasid Hasanah]
From these ahadith, we clearly may ascertain the permissibility and usefulness of Corporal Punishment in disciplining a child, and to deny this is to deny the words of the Messenger of Allah (عليه السلام).
However, the questions arise:
1- Who is eligible to administer Corporal Punishment to a child?
2- Under what circumstances is Corporal Punishment justified?
3- To what extent is this Corporal Punishment permitted. I.e. What are its limits?
The Ulama/Jurists have provided these answers for us as follows:
1- The hadith mentioned, relates to a parent disciplining their own child. A teacher in authority is only permitted to administer Corporal Punishment to another’s child, with the permission of that parent/guardian. — in light of this, no school or madrasah teacher is permitted to strike a child attending that institute unless it forms part of the clause of enrollment, or permission is explicity sought and granted by the guardian.
2- Corporal Punishment should only be administered as a last resort, after other forms of rectification have failed.– firstly the child should be addressed in a kind, cordial, loving manner. An effort should be made to correct any misbehaviour through this kind counsel first. Only after all measures have been exhausted, should Corporal Punishment be resorted to, then again, only with the permission of the guardian (in the case of a teacher). Also to note, Corporal Punishment should be meted out as a form of discipline and means of rectification. It should not be a means of venting one’s anger or frustration. In this case, it is imperative on the person to seek assistance in anger management and self control.
3- The child should only be disciplined to the extent required for his/her rectification. Neither should he/she be hit in the face or head, nor should the lash be so hard as to cause bruising. The hand should be used, not a stick, belt, hanger or any other object.
The grand Mufti of India, Faqeehul Ummat, Mufti Mahmood Hasan Gangohi رحمة الله عليه in a reply to a question pertaining to Corporal Punishment has reiterated these points listed above, and had gone to the extent to state if a teacher exceeds these limits permitted by Shariah, then Qisaas(retribution) will be taken from him/her on the day of judgement, by the oppressed student. [Fatawa Mahmudiyya, Vol 14 Pg 126-129]
The above discussion so far, has provided us with insight into the legal/technical aspect to Corporal Punishment as endorsed in Islam.
Now we may take one step further, to understand the true spirit of Islam; what our beautiful Deen defines as the ideal, or the desired method of action. For this, we need to take a wholistic approach; analyzing the practical example of our Leader, Nabi Muhammad (عليه الصلات و السلام), whilst simultaneously being cognizant of the time, place and overall atmosphere we are currently living in.
Despite permitting Corporal Punishment(according to the conditions mentioned), the Nabi of Allah عليه السلام also said:
لَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ لَمْ يَرْحَمْ صَغِيرَنَا وَيَعْرِفْ شَرَفَ كَبِيرِنَا
“He is not from amongst us who does not have mercy upon our young, and who does not recognize the honor of our elders.” [Tirmizi: Hadith 1920]
In yet another hadith He(عليه السلام) stated:
الرَّاحِمُونَ يَرْحَمُهُمُ الرَّحْمَنُ ارْحَمُوا مَنْ فِي الأَرْضِ يَرْحَمْكُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ
” The merciful ones are shown mercy by Ar Rahman(Allah). Show mercy to those on the earth, the one in the skies will show mercy to you.” [Tirmizi: Hadith 1924]
The Nabi of Allah (عليه السلام) was sent as a source of complete mercy, not only to mankind, but to all of creation. Every teaching and action of the beloved Messenger(عليه السلام) is filled with mercy. Now let us reflect and question ourselves thus: Am I exemplifying the Best of Mankind, and attracting the Mercy of Allah(which we all are in need of) by punishing my child/student to the extent of bruising? What if my child develops a distaste for Islam due to my excesses in this regard? Am I willing to see my child/student stray from the path of Islam due to my misconduct? If our answer is no to any of these questions, then we should humbly ask of Allah’s forgiveness and make a sincere effort to modify our means of disciplining our children/students, in line with Islamic teachings. There are numerous reported cases of brothers and sisters leaving the fold of Islam due to traumatic experiences of their childhood in relation to Corporal Punishment.
My beloved friends,the storm of apostasy is above our heads! Our youth are being exposed to every type of evil, and are drifting further away from Islam by the minute. It is our responsibility as parents and teachers to nurture our kids in such a way which embeds the love of Allah, His Messenger and the Deen of Islam in their hearts. On the contrary, do we want to be giving the enemies of Islam another reason to critique Islam and place doubts and insecurities into the minds of our youth?
Unfortunately in some cultures and communities, excessive beating beyond the limits permitted by Shariah has become established as acceptable and a norm. No culture besides the culture brought to us by the Master of Humanity, that culture detailed through revelation; is free from shortcomings. As Muslims, we submit 101% wholeheartedly to the teachings of Islam. Any aspect of our culture, be it modern or traditional, which conflicts to the teachings of Islam; must be abandoned. Our beloved Nabi(عليه السلام) was commissioned to eradicate the ills prevalent in his society, and we too are responsible for the same.
In conclusion, this article by no means, intends to disqualify or abrogate the permissibility of Corporal Punishment in Islam. Rather, it is meant to highlight the conditions and limits under which Corporal Punishment is permitted by the Shariah, as well as serve as a reminder to us all to strive to implement the pristine example of our Messenger(عليه السلام) into our lives. In this is our success of both worlds, and inshaAllah, the protection and preservation of our Islam and that of our progeny.
May Allah grant us all understanding.
وَمَا عَلَيْنَآ إِلَّا ٱلْبَلَٰغُ ٱلْمُبِينُ