Videos of students in a Madrasah flogged for erring have gone viral that it caught the eyes of BBC. Though my opinion was sought and different people had immediately asked that the KnowIslam project wage in, I had advised against hasty conclusions. After careful investigation, reading from pros and cons, and having a perfect understanding of the now drama, I think it is necessary to put forth my opinion.

In another video, the school’s principal explained why the students had to be punished in that manner. According to him, they went to a birthday party where it was established that, at least, one of them had drunk alcohol which is a grievous sin and also brought disrespect to the school. Also, the parents of the students had asked the school to “deal with” the children even though we cannot establish how many of these parents consented to that form of punishment to each of their children.

Controversies have trailed the video, the Kwara State Government had reportedly suspended the principal while many others have given different opinions about it. While some Muslims are for and some against the punishment, non-muslims have seized the opportunity to demonize Islam and shown their resentment towards the religion.

Muslims who see no wrong in the punishment found themselves in-between African Culture and the culture of the religion of Islam. In Africa, it is common practice to punish children in ways that other cultures may consider barbaric and inhumane. Beating children to the point of stupor, inflicting injuries in the name of correction, some go as far as cutting children with sharp objects while some mothers have been reported to even strip children naked, pour pepper on the children, and flog them at the same time.

In the matter of not sparing the rod and polygamy, the culture of Islam bears semblance with African culture. This makes it easy to practice African Culture in the guise of Islam but they are not the same. An example is polygamy, many horrible tales we hear about polygamy are those that are practiced in the way of African tradition but given an Islamic colouration. For the sake of this subject, we will not delve deeply into differentiating between Islamic Culture and Cultural Islam.

The supporters of how these students were flogged had premised their opinions on their respective upbringing while also arguing that one’s focus should be on the sin of these students instead of the punishment. Just like the school principal, they justify the punishment with Islam, citing that alcohol is grievous and the children should be punished as such to serve as a deterrent to others and to be better Muslims themselves. However, a careful look into the Shari’ah shows that this action cannot be justified with the religion of Islam.

I am putting forth my argument on the following premises;

  • That they have attained the age of puberty
  • That the sin of alcohol warrants hudood punishment

Buying, selling, and drinking alcohol in Islam is not permissible and it is a grave sin. Allah says,

“O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), and gambling, and Al-Ansaab, and Al-Azlaam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Shaytaan’s (Satan’s) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful”

[al-Maa’idah 5:90]

For someone who has attained the age of puberty, the Shari’ah had spelled out the punishment for taking alcohol. In punishing the one who drinks alcohol in this world, the punishment is flogging. However, there are different opinions as to whether it is forty or eighty lashes. Find full evidence for the punishment here.

Based on the above, the principal and those who support how these children can support their stance with Islam but the question to ask is, how should these punishments be carried out?. In answering this, I will use an answer from Islamqa that answers the description of how Hudood punishments should be carried out which includes Zina.

Praise be to Allah.

Flogging in the case of hudood punishments is not meant to kill, rather it is intended as a form of discipline and rebuke, and to purify the person of sin. Hence many fuqaha’ have pointed out that it must be done with moderate force, and the person carrying out the punishment should not raise his arm so high that his armpit shows, and he should not use a new whip, or strip the person of his clothing unless it is something like a thick coat, which should be removed. The person being punished should be flogged standing, according to the majority of scholars; he should not be made to lie down and he should not be bound, and blows to the face, head and genitals are to be avoided. 

Ibn Qudaamah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Rather the blows should be distributed all over the body, so that each limb will have its share, but most of them should be on the fleshy parts such as the buttocks and thighs, and the sensitive areas should be avoided, namely the head, face and genitals of men and women alike. 

He said concerning the person being punished that he should not be made to lie down, or be bound, and we do not know of any difference of opinion concerning that. 

Ibn Mas’ood said:  It is not prescribed in our religion to make the offender lie down or to tie him up or remove his clothing. The companions of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) flogged offenders but there is no report that any of them made the offender lie down or tied him up or removed his clothing. 

His garment should not be removed, rather he is it acceptable if he is wearing one or two garments, but if he is wearing a thick coat, it should be removed, because if it is left on he will not feel the blows. Ahmad said: If winter garments are left on him, he will not feel the blows. Maalik said: His clothes should be removed [apart from that which covers the ‘awrah], because the command to flog implies that the blows should be directly to his body. We have the view of Ibn Mas’ood, and we do not know of any of the Sahaabah who differed with him. Allaah did not command us to strip the offender, rather he commanded us to flog him, so whoever is flogged through his clothes has been flogged. 

And he said: Once this is established, then the whip should be of moderate quality, not so new that it would cause injury and not so worn out that it hardly hurts him. It was narrated that a man confessed to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that he had committed zina, so the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) called for a whip and he was given a broken whip. He said, “Better than this.” So he was brought a brand new whip. He said, “Something between these two.”  Narrated by Maalik from Zayd ibn Aslam in a mursal report; and it was narrated from Abu Hurayrah in a musnad report. 

It was narrated from ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) that he said: Moderate blows with a moderate whip. Not so harsh as to kill and not so weak as to be no deterrent. He should not raise his arm completely, or keep it so low that it causes no pain. Ahmad said: His armpit should not show in any of the hudood punishments, i.e., he should not raise his arm so high, because the point is to discipline him, not kill him. 

From al-Mughni, 1/141-142.”

In light of the answer above, we ask those who support the way they were punished if they can really justify their stance with Islam. That is not the way to punish in Islam, that is barbarism.

The Need For Islamic Rehabilitation Centres

Few weeks ago, Dr. Ahmad Nafiu Aljahwahri contacted me about his mission, “At-taqwa Rehabilitation Centre”. He, Dr. Ahmad and some others who are concerned about moral decadence amongst Muslim Youths of today have come with the idea of a rehabilitation centre that would include psychologists, psychiatrists, behavorial scientists, counsellors, prophetic medicine experts and clerics.

In this age, projects like that are needed and not a barbaric customs practiced in the name of Islam. There are several other places where things like this happen but do not make it to the public. The Muslim ‘ummah should be intentional about rehabilitation centres and howthese projects are executed should be based on pristine Islamic practices. Madrasahs could also serve as rehabilitation centres as they have been for over a century, however, rehabilitation should be based on Islamic Culture not African Culture. Those who agree with how the students were punished should also understand thta what they are proud of is not Islaamic heritage but barbaric practices that should be abandoned.

Islam does not ask that we spare the rod, however, the implementation of corrective measures as defined in Islam is different from other cultures.

Mixing Islamic Corrective measures with Africa’s is like mixing it with Jewish/Biblical practices. We read from the Bible,

Deuteronomy 21:18-21
(New International Version)

A Rebellious Son

18. If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him,

19. his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town.

20. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.”

21. Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

You will not find something like this in the Qur’an or Hadeeth. So, those who are taking advantage of the actions of some barbarians to castigate Islam need to tear some pages off their book, and if they want to argue that it is obsolete, they could stop tithing too.

The validation of Islamic practices is not dependent on the thought-processes and opinion of the non-Muslim. However, it is necessary that we differentiate between Islamic Culture and Cultural Islam. The former is Islam, the latter is not.

Know Islam, Know Paradise


Bashir Lucas Samson Lukman (The KnowIslam Project)


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