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Islam and the Practice of Physical Punishment

Under category : Correcting Misunderstandings
4977 2011/09/19 2024/07/17
Article translated to : Español


as you know, islam is the religion of truth and moderation with neither exaggeration nor negligence. therefore, islam does not prevent beating completely or consider it insignificant in upbringing. rather, sometimes the human soul needs this method, particularly when other methods are ineffective.

on the other hand, islam considers the psychological danger of beating and therefore it puts some rules and regulations for using this method: it is not a principle; it is only used in case of necessity; and it is used proportionately. reflecting on the islamic sharee‘ah (islamic legislation), one observes that it adopts a moderate attitude regarding using beating as a means of upbringing. being comprehensive, the sharee‘ah considers the positive points that could be achieved while using the method of beating. meanwhile, it avoids the negative points which could take place due to exaggeration in using this means.

the islamic sharee‘ah and the principle of beating:
almost everyone knows the hadeeth (narration) in which the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “order your children to perform prayer when they are seven years old and beat them (for neglecting it) when they are ten.”[al-albaani: hasan]
the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, did not order beating children who neglect prayers before the age of ten, though, he ordered the parent to command his children to perform the prayers when they are seven. this means that there are three years left between the two stages. the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, delayed using beating for three years and only allowed the parent to verbally direct and discipline during this period. he considered the negative consequences of beating that should be avoided by those who assume the upbringing of children.
if the parent keeps ordering his child to perform the prayers for three years and the child keeps refusing, this means that he is stubborn and therefore he deserves beating. this wise approach of using beating leads to positive results, provided that it is not severe. that is because severe beating results in negative consequences. the child feels that the one who beats him hates him and uses beating as a means of revenge, not of discipline and upbringing.
great benefits:
in a hadeeth, the prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: do not lift your stick against your wife and children and urge them to fear allaah the almighty.”[al-albaani: hasan] the hadeeth implies one of the great principles of upbringing: the motive behind doing what is right and good should not be fear of the stick and physical punishment; rather, it should be from within, an internal conscience which blames one even for an inappropriate whisper. the hadeeth implies that punishment should not be physical only; rather, moral chastisement is more useful, comprehensive and lasting. fear of allaah the almighty does not come from one or two situations; rather, it is an ongoing method of explaining, teaching and reminding for the young child, until it is firmly established in his soul and heart. it is fear of the observer who hears and sees everything and also reckons for it in the hereafter. allaah the almighty sees what others cannot see and knows the soul’s whisper when it longs for what is forbidden and disallowed.  
the rules of beating children in islam:
clarifying these rules, dr. khaalid al-qurayshi says,
reflecting on the relevant sharee‘ah texts, we can set some rules for using physical chastisement with children, as follows:
the first rule: beating should not be used unless other means of upbringing have been used previously, such as direction, kind admonishment and advice.
the second rule: beating should not be used with children less than ten years old.
the third rule: the punishment with beating should be appropriate to the misdeed.
the fourth rule: beating should not hurt the child either psychologically or physically.
the fifth rule: choosing a suitable setting for the punishmnet, not before people, relatives, and so on.
the sixth rule: the child should not be beaten when you are angry in order to be aware of what you are doing. you should also know that the beating is required for discipline, not for revenge or torture.
the seventh rule: the child should not be beaten in delicate places. imaam ahmad, may allaah have mercy upon him, was asked about a teacher beating boys and he said, “beating should be appropriate to their misdeeds and one should avoid dangerous places.”
beware of abusing children by beating them. some parents might misuse this means to a large extent, such as when one beats the child's face or head or uses a stick, belt or wire or carries the child, throws him on the ground or catches him and pushes him against the wall. such means as well as others result in dangerous negative consequences: physical, such as bruises or some fractures that may occur as a result of the child crashing against the wall or the ground; or psychological due to using beating improperly. this is contrary to the purpose for which beating has been prescribed in islam. misusing beating leads to negative consequences and harm which islam warns against and rejects. parents should take into consideration these islamic manners when they discipline their children and must not transcend the appropriate limits. when they adhere to such manners and apply them, beating will be an effective and successful method in upbringing.
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