A Father Killing His Son? Does it Really Go Unpunished?


The Question:

Can you clarify the Islamic stance on a father who kills his son intentionally? I’ve come across this and few times and find it confusing?

The Answer:

The Scholars and Premeditated Murder of a Child by His Father

Regarding the punishment of a father who kills his son intentionally, the sound opinion is that of Imām Mālik, the University of al-Azhar, and a large body of contemporary scholars who state: “If a father intentionally kills his offspring he should be punished; no one is excused in the case of intentional manslaughter.”

It should be noted that there were those who held the opinion that a father should not be punished [capital punishment] such as Imām al-Shafı̔ ī and Imām Ahmed. They based their opinion on the following tradition attributed to the Prophet [P.B.U.H]:

“A father should not be killed for the (killing) of his son.” (Related by al-Tirmidhī)

The Status of this Hadith

  • Imām Mālik and those who countered this contention noted that this tradition (A father should not be killed for the [killing] of his son) is weak; some holding its chain to be broken; others holding that its meaning is shaky.
  • Imām al-Tirmidhī wrote, “This hadith is shaky and  [because of this weakness] scholars stopped accepting it. In its chain is al-Hajāj bin Arāh and he is considered fraudulent.”
  • Imām al-Shafı̔̔ī about this hadith, “Every chain of this hadith is broken.”
  • The scholar of hadith ‘Abdul al-Haq wrote, “Every single one of these hadith [related to a father not being punished for the killing of his offspring] is weak and not acceptable for proof.”
  • Imām ibn al-Mundhir stated about the hadith above, “This hadith is false” and “We know of no authentic hadith that excused a father for the premeditated murder of his son.” Himāyah al-Nafs pg. 62.

Quranic Verses and Prophetic Traditions that Support Punishing the Father

Verses from al-Qur’an

“O you who have believe, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered.” 2/178

“A life [in exchange] for a life” 5/45

A Prophetic statement:

“The believers are equal (in their rights to demand) blood (of the one found guilty of premeditated murder).” Related by Ahmed in his Munad 1/119, Ibn Majah pg. 2685, and al-Nasaī 2751 and it is authentic.

The Generality of Sound Texts is not Overridden by a Weak One

Thus, according to Mālik and al-Azhar, this weak tradition cannot be used to restrict the generality of the authentic Quranic and Prophetic injunctions:

The Ruling

For that reason, a father who is found guilty of premeditated murder is punished. In a  Azhari text we find that “If a father intentionally kills his son, then the punishment is mandatory.” Al-Jināyah al-Nafs wa ma dunaha fi al-Fiqh al-Islamī pg. 106-107.

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11 Comments

  1. M . says:

    Assalamu alaikum

    When will muslims start using their brains?
    When will muslims wake up and realise the ‘flawed’ nature of so called ‘schools’ of Islam?

    When will Muslims stop taking the ‘scholar’s word’ as gospel and start doing a bit of research for themselves?

    It is time for a clean up of the silly flawed speculations which have entered the pure deen of Islam.

    Welcome to a new age of jaahiliyya; enforced upon us by our predecessors who so cleverly closed the door of ‘thought’ for those coming after them. Until we open the door for free thinking again we will be doomed. (Those who ‘know’ will understand this statement – it is up to YOU to buck the trend.)

    Wasalam

  2. Nomad78 says:

    When will we stop complaining and start doing?

  3. Respect the Scholars says:

    Dear M.
    What you have said could not be further from the truth. I believe Imam Malik said that if you come across a hadith and it contradicts his opinion then you should throw his opinion away. This is not closing any door of thought.
    And by the way, who are you to think that your mind is superior to all those scholars that you are advocating “free” thinking; the hundreds and thousands of scholars who dedicated their lives to preserving this deen and upholding the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH)?

  4. Suhaib Webb says:

    Asalamu alaykum,

    M:

    I understand your frustration, but find your assumptions flawed and lacking any evidence. Perhaps you could elaborate further?

    SDW

  5. Abu Majeed says:

    As-Salamu alaikum M.,

    I agree with Sh. Suhaib’s response to you. I really think that you are on the right track but you yourself need some
    more knowledge and balance to properly apply your wreckless statement. Take ibn ‘Uthaymeen (ra) for example who was a
    great Hanbali Mujtahid. He looked into what he had been taught as a Hanbali student (before reaching the level of Ijtihad
    and then made the following conclusion in explaining the famous Hanbali treatise Zad al-Mustaqna’.

    “The author (of Zad) wrote that the father cannot be killed as retribution for killing his son. This is because of
    the famous Hadith “A father should not be killed for the (killing) of his son.” (Related by al-Tirmidhī) and the
    point of logic where it was the father who is a cause for the existense of his son and th opposite must not be
    possible.”

    Ibn ‘Uthaymeen commented that although a few great scholars of Hadith such as al-Bayhaqi and Al-Albani considered it’s
    transmission as authentic there were many other great scholars who found many factors which weaken the different narrations
    of this Hadith. He then said as far as the logic used by the Hanbali scholars about the Father being a cause in the sons
    existense and thus the opposite is not possible. He simply said that if the father killed his son then by the general texts
    and the lack of proof in the doubtful Hadith it would not be the son who cause the death of his father, but it would be
    the father himself who brought upon his own demise by committing such a crime.

    That being said Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (ra) is an Usooli as well as a Muhaddith and a Faqeeh and he came to this conclusion by his
    and many others rightful opinion. But on the other hand for those who found the Hadith to be authentic and according to their
    principles they will find this to be the ruling and they are perfectly justified and correct in having such an opinion as this
    is a matter of disagreement.

    The point I would like to drive home is that none of these scholars came to their conclusions by just using their head or
    doing a little research. Those that hold the Hadith to be sound and thus the ruling are perfectly aware of the others
    opinion and it cannot be concluded that they held their own opinion to simply conform to a madhhab. To generalize the tradition
    of scholarship fr the last 12 centuries in such a way is an insult to the Ummah of Muhammad (saws), although in some cases it
    was probably so.

    Wallahu a’lam

  6. z says:

    dear imam Suhaib,

    as-salamu alaikum,

    i’d like to clarify an important point: in the Shafi’i madhab, a father is not to be KILLED as punishment if he were to be found guilty of intentionally killing his son, however, there is still punishment for the offense (which is ultimately determined by a governing authority or court).

    Though the hadith is weak, it is considered because of the Prophet’s (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) statement “Ward off punishments with the slightest of doubts”, which is fundamental when it comes to hudud.

    I do not know about the Hanabila, but I presume it is the same.

    Thus, the statement that the Shafi’s and the Hanbali’s hold that there is NO PUNISHMENT for such a crime is false, rather, the case is that the hadd of murder is not applied in this instance.

    was-salam.

  7. Suhaib Webb says:

    Asalamu alaykum,

    Z:

    Many thanks for that important point. I’m assuming that the translators intended “Capitol Punishment” when the said “Punishment.” Inshallah, when I go to work I will let them know.

    SDW

  8. mulismah says:

    i dont know there are so many hadith like that.. its quite crazy..

  9. M. says:

    Jazakallahu khairan to all for the lovely discussion.

    I would like to point out that my comment is actually worded incorrectly, and as Ustaz Abu Majeed says ‘to generalise would be an insult…’

    My statement ‘enforced upon us by our predecessors’ should be re-worded as ‘enforced upon us by SOME of our predecessors’. I apologise for this whole heartedly, and I also apologise for my ignorance which is by now is clear for all to see. I hide behind the shield ‘I don’t know’; always.

    I would like to put a simple point out there, the authenticating of hadith is a science in itself; but there remains an underlying criterion, aptly named ‘The Criterion’. The Fitra is a beautiful thing, and the Quran is a beautiful thing.

    What of the recent discussion in Egypt regarding the suckling of grown men? Must we enter into deep shuura for this? The hearts of (some) scholars were once so in tune with the ‘haqeeqa’.

    How is it that certain hadith which are deemed ‘weak’ came into existence? It is certain that some hadith are thrown out (as worthless) by many – how did they come into existence. I am being abstract because subtelty is one of the defining beauties of this deen and escapes the game of ‘labelling’, a favourite pastime of todays muslims.

    Who uttered the hadith and why?

    And what of the burning of the many ahaadeeth (documented in saheeh books of hadeeth) post rasulullah (saw) – why do we ignore this? Why do we believe what we are told – or as Sh. Yusuf Estes says, why do we take our deen off the back of a cereal packet? Yet do we ever ask ourselves regarding the hands in which ink resides? And in any case, what was the purpose of ink.

    Our discussion is good, becuase 50 years ago such discussion was not around. I do not pretend to be of knowledge, so please don’t attack me personally. But I do not wish to bring cement arguments until absolutely necessary as certain things are in front of us yet we do not see.

    ‘fa innaha la ta3mal abSaaru wa laakin ta3mal-quluub ullati fiSSudoor’.

    In conclusion and as mere opinion: somewhere along the line, WE were conned.

  10. Abu Adam says:

    I see the great value of following and learning a madhab in relation to our ibadah. Even with that said, I still feel a Muslim needs to be open to different opinions that can help to create easiness and flexibility in the modern world.

    However, with the case of muamalat I feel that one madhab is not sufficient to run a society. We must benefit from the great legacy of the legal schools without drowning in them.

    I think this article drives home this point.

  11. Abdullah says:

    ASA,

    Are the opinions that stem from this hadith applied to a female child as well?

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