Q&A: Corporal Punishment



As a parent, to what extent is it permissible for me to punish my child in order to discipline him?



Punishment as a means of discipline is to be resorted to only when other positive methods have failed. However, punishment is not confined to corporal punishment. Rather, corporal punishment is only to be used rarely within specifically defined limits. When the need does arise for punishment, other forms of punishment, such as depriving the child of some privilege or withholding certain benefits, often produces far better results.

Nevertheless, in many instances parents and others who have children under their care liberally resort to corporal punishment. Where genuine justification for meting out corporal punishment exists, the following fatwa of Hazrath Mufti Mahmoodul Hassan Gangohi (R.A.) should be kept in mind:

“A child may be hit with the open hand, not with a stick, thrice only (such as three slaps on the back). Only so much force may be exerted which the child will be able to bear (i.e. it should not bruise the child or leave marks on his body). The child must not be hit on the face or head. Anything beyond this is not permissible, otherwise the child will take retribution on the day of Judgement. Children should be treated with kindness and affection. The time of spanking children has long gone. The effects of hitting children are not positive. As a result the child becomes obstinate and fearless” (Fataawa Mahmoodia v.16, p.102).



Before laying a hand on a child, first stop and ponder: Is the child going to be punished (within the limits) because this is in the best interests of the child, or is it in order to vent one’s own anger? If it is due to the latter, it will be clear zulm (oppression). If the limits are exceeded, or if no justification existed for hitting the child, this will also be zulm. Zulm has drastic consequences in this world and the Hereafter. Therefore, when justification for punishment does exist, first ponder as to what is the appropriate punishment.

Thereafter only mete out part of that punishment, not the entire punishment. In this way one will be saved from committing zulm. Remember — the object is to make a child, not break him!

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