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Are we allowed to hit our children to discipline them?

Generally, one should abstain from hitting their children and instead should concentrate on praying for them and advising them with love. The Promised Messiah as said:

I believe that beating children in a manner that the ill behaved child-beater pretends to be Allah’s partner in guiding and training children is a type of polytheism.

(Essence of Islam, vol. 3, p. 335)

However, in exceptional situations, hitting our children becomes an unfortunate but necessary means of discipline. The Holy Prophet sas said:

Command your children to pray when they become seven years old, and hit them for it (prayer) when they become ten years old.

(Sunan Abi Dawud, Book 2, Hadith 495)

There are two parts to this injunction. The first is to command our children to pray once they turn seven. With 5 prayers a day, 365 days a year, and 3 years from the age of seven till ten, parents have 5,475 opportunities to remind their children to observe prayer. If some child is so stubborn that, despite being reminded thousands of times, still does not observe prayers, then the second part of this injunction comes into effect, and the only discipline left for such a child is physical discipline. However, if parents ignore the first part of this Hadith, and when a child turns ten, they take license from this injunction to hit their children, they miss the basis and wisdom of this Hadith.

Spanking is harmful in most situations, but it cannot be said that it does not have good applications when appropriately used. Once, the Promised Messiah as hit his beloved son, Mubarak Ahmad, for not showing proper respect to the Holy Quran (Sirat Hadrat Masih Mau‘ud, p. 273).

This is the only time the Promised Messiah as ever hit one of his children, and it was not for the sake of his own respect but to inculcate respect for the Holy Quran. From this example, we learn that we should resort to hitting our children only for their sake, not for our sake to vent our frustration. The Promised Messiah as said:

When a hot-tempered person is provoked and punishes a child, he takes on the role of an enemy in the stress of his anger and imposes punishment far in excess of the wrong which has been done. An individual with self-respect and control over himself, who is also forbearing and dignified, has the right to correct a child to a certain extent as the occasion demands or seek to guide the child. But a wrathful and hot-headed person who is easily provoked is not fit to be a guardian of children.

(Essence of Islam, vol. 3, p. 335)

The delicate balance is in understanding situations in which the harms of spanking are outweighed by its benefits.

Updated on January 4, 2019

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