Disciplining and Punishing Dependents

Question:
Dear scholars i have a question concerning the following hadith:
May Allah Taãla bless the person who keeps a lash hanging in his house for the admonition of his house folk. (Jami Sagheer).

I was shocked when i found about this hadith on the site:
www.jamiat.org.za

In the sahih hadith i know that the prophet discouraged hitting, and
that he only refers to a miswak (instead of a rod) , i feel bad
because of this hadith. I mean how can someone who discourages the
'hitting of a wife like slave' in this hadith 'praise the person with
a lash hanging in his house'

I hope that Shayk G.F. Haddad could inscha'allah please tell me if this hadith is sahih or weak. I really feel sad to discover such a hadith in my religion islam. I would be so thankful to receive an answer, this is the only question i have.


This Prophetic hadith is narrated from Ibn `Abbas by `Abd al-Razzaq, al-Bazzar, al-Tabarani and others. It has been graded "fair" (hasan) in consideration of the totality of its chains.

Some versions have: "for the servants" while others have: "for the wudu' of the housefolk." Meaning: their purification from ill will.

As for the general meaning, the hadith is about firmness and the use of deterrence in running a household, like raising the voice to forbid or scold. It is not about counseling people to whip their children and servants but rather, as today's parenting magazines advise parents, to "set limits and let children understand they will be kept firmly."

At the same time the upright life sometimes requires disciplining (ta'dib) and punishing (qisas). This principle is in the Qur'an (2:179).
The Sunna touches on the modalities. For example, the Prophet MHMD upon him blessings and peace, once pulled a boy by the ear in punishment for eating someone else's grapes. This gesture is the lightest form of corporeal punishment in the Sunna.

These modalities often emphasize mercy and restraint. For example, it is forbidden that the arm of the lasher in the application of criminal penalties (hudud) be raised more than a certain low angle. This is in hudud, with convicted criminals. With unruly servants and youth, a fortiori, there are more rules: gradation before sanction, hitting lightly, not exceeding three times for ta'dib or ten for qisas, avoiding the face, or hitting only the legs for boys according to Suhnun, and only the feet for girls, not hitting the same place again, using a light birch that is neither too green (harmful) nor too dry (useless), and the prohibition for a parent or teacher of hitting in anger or in retaliation.

A notable multi-leveled rule is that:
(1) children should not be disciplined before the age of ten
(2) and if that, only boys
(3) and if that, for nothing less important than Salat which is the pillar of the Religion, because of the hadith "Order your boys to pray at seven and hit them for [neglecting] it at ten."
[Abu Dawud and Ahmad]
In other words, before that age, they are beyond the reach of corporeal discipline no matter what they do.

All these strictures spell mercy with a high purpose in education, as opposed to the kind of false mercy that is tantamount to neglect and indifference. This is a necessary, qualified backdrop for approaching the hadith in the original question or the Prophetic recommendation to Mu`adh to "not let off disciplining your dependents with your staff but use intimidation so they will fear Allah"
[Ahmad and al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad].

The website in question may reflect such qualifications or not. This is their responsibility and they will be questioned about it. However, I myself did not, on that webpage, see cause for alarm beyond some lingering tactlessness. Allah knows best and gives dhawq to whomever He pleases.

Finally, a note on the tone of the original question. The healthy method for us is to question our own understanding and practice of the Religion first and last. It is not we who honor and adorn Islam but rather Islam that honors and adorns us. If something authentic in the Sunna repels us, we can be sure that such repulsion stems from a problem in our own souls rather than the Sunna. Should we detect such a symptom in ourselves, we should pray for a strengthening of faith and enlightening of heart so that we keep within the bounds of appropriate speech as well as put things in their right place, which is the definition of justice.

GF Haddad
[2005-11-10]


{ and there is life for you in the law of retaliation,
O men of understanding, that you may enjoy security. }
Sura The Cow (2) verse 179

 




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