Disciplining of Children – An Islamic Perspective
The subject under discussion is controversial one in the Western World. Only recently ‘experts’ in the West have suddenly re-discovered that the old-fashioned age-old method of using the cane to discipline children is the only one that really brings results.
Man in the Western world is living in an age when the topsy-turvy values of Western culture have virtually reversed the role of parent and child. It is becoming increasingly difficult, almost impossible for parents to effectively discipline their children in the Western world. In most countries, a single slap to an intransigent child is deemed a criminal offense which could result in prosecution – a fine, or even a prison sentence. Children have been accorded such rights in the legal system of most Western countries, they almost dictate to parents, and parents have no option but to comply, or else face the chance of losing their children to some child welfare group, ostensibly removing them to a ‘safe’ home.
The Islamic viewpoint on this matter is very clear. It is a balanced approach. On the one hand, Islam allows disciplining of children out of necessity, so that children do not go out of hand. On the other hand, such strict rules have been imposed in this matter, that does not allow any abuse of authority by the parent. In accordance with the teachings of Islam, occasions do arise when children need to be disciplined, even to the extent of employing corporal punishment. Among the ten important advises that Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) had enjoined upon his beloved companion, Hadhrat Muáaz bin Jabal (Radhiyallaahu Anhu), one of them is ‘let your rod be hanging on them (children), as a warning and to chastise against neglect of their duties towards Allah’. (Ahmad; Tabraani-Kabeer). According to this Hadith, it is evident that Muslims should not spare the proverbial ‘rod’ in checking their children from becoming reckless in doing anything they like. Sometimes, it is necessary to use the rod. It is a general observation that many parents out of a false sense of pity and sympathy for their children, neglect and turn a blind eye to this important teaching of Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam), but when their children get spoilt, they cry and complain about them, ‘To spare the rod and spoil the child’ is no kindness at all.
If a child is physically ill, no amount of pain the child may experience will deter the parents from ensuring that proper medical treatment is administered to the ailing child. Yet, it is most surprising then, that the very same parents cringe at the thought of ‘disciplinary treatment’ for a child who is morally and mortally ill in terms of his behaviour.
Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) has often been reported to have said, ‘Enjoin Salaah on your child when he is seven years old and beat him if he neglects it after he reaches ten years of age’. (Abu Dawood; Durr-Manthoor). Once more, the emphasis on beating a child who defaults in the important duty of offering Salaah is clearly indicated in this Hadith. Initially, it is the fear of the rod that compels a child to fulfill the taxing injunction of Salaah, then by dint of habit it becomes accustomed to offering Salaah. Not only did Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) encourage the use of the rod at the time of need, he even prayed for those parents who kept the rod hanging in the home for the purpose of maintaining discipline and admonition. He is reported to have said, ‘May Allah Taãla bless the person who keeps a lash hanging in his house for the admonition of his house folk’. (Jami Sagheer). Luqman (Alayhis Salaam), the wise, used to explain the importance of the rod in these words ‘The use of the rod on a child is as indispensable as is water for the fields’. (Durr-Manthoor).
Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) advised, ‘When one of you beats anyone, he should avoid striking the face’. (Abu Dawood)
Shari Limits of beating
It should be borne in mind at all times that beating is the final resort and measure that is adopted for rectifying a spoilt child. When the extreme occasion of administering this painful punitive measure does arise, it has to be carried out within the limits of Shariáh.
The first and foremost rule to remember is NEVER to punish a child in the state of anger or emotion. In this state, the intellect becomes clouded and proper reasoning is impossible. Calm down completely, lie down, drink water, take a walk. Thereafter, think twice or thrice, over the gravity of the situation, the extent of mischief and misbehaviour. A suitable form of discipline should be considered thereafter. The outcome of uncontrollable rage at the time of disciplining can be disastrous. Terrible damage or harm could be done. It could leave behind a lifelong regret.
As a last resort, if the child is to be beaten, never strike the face, head or any other sensitive part of the body. Never inflict wounds, weals or bruises to any part of the body. This is forbidden in Islam. If these Sharée limits are not adhered to, the parent will be guilty of Dhulm (oppression), for which a heavy price will have to be paid on the day of Qiyaamat if pardon was not obtained from the oppressed. It must also be remembered that the forgiving of a minor is not valid; only after attaining puberty will the forgiveness of a child be valid.
Hadhrat Mufti Kafaayatullah (RA) writes in his famous Fataawa on this subject: ‘Excluding the face and sensitive parts of the body, it is allowed to beat a child for the purposes of discipline so long as the limits are not transgressed. i.e. to beat the child in a manner that a wound is inflicted, or a bone fractured or broken, or a bruise appears or an internal disorder results (to the heart or brains, etc.). If the limits are transgressed as described above in any way, even by a single stroke, such a person will be regarded as sinful’.
It should be borne in mind that repeated punishment is extremely undesirable as the effect is lost and audaciousness and shamelessness set into the child. Many other methods of disciplining exist other than beating which could be employed effectively, such as denying the child certain privileges. These prove to be more effective than beating in many instances. Finally, Duá is the most effective ‘weapon’ that could be employed for the disciplining of a child. It has worked miracles for many frustrated parents and teachers.
Mufti Z. Bhayat