Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: Given recent news items from a Muslim country, where a father was given minor punishment for killing his own daughter: Is it true that parents cannot be executed for killing their children?
In the Name of Allah, the Benevolent, the Merciful
Walaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and spirits.
This is not accurate. The prescribed (hadd) punishments cannot be applied to crimes within immediate family, but discretionary punishments (even potentially capital punishments, according to some jurists) can and do apply.
The Place and Role of the Prescribed Punishments in Islam
The basis in Islamic Law is that all excuses are used to avoid the firm prescribed (hadd) punishments, including prescribed capital punishment. The wisdom underlying the prescribed punishments (hudud) is deterrence, but they are not normally meant to be applied–and all means are taken to avoid their application. Punishment is better as a deterent than as a policy in dealing with crime and social ills.
Rather, the teachings of Islam–as outlined in the Qur’an and Prophetic guidance–revolve around Mercy. Mercy is understood to be concern for preserving and promoting good, and prevention and warding off harm.
Warding Off Prescribed Punishments
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “Use all excuses to ward off the prescribed punishments.”
He also said (peace and blessings be upon him), “Ward off prescribed punishments from people as much as possible. If there is any way to avoid applying these punishments, avoid punishing them. For the ruler to err in forgiving is better than for them to err in punishing.” [Tirmidhi, Hakim, and others]
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “It is more beloved to me to avoid applying the prescribed punishments than to apply them.” [Ibn Abi Shayba, Musannaf]
This is also why the required evidence for applying the prescribed punishments (hudud) is so exceedingly difficult.
This doesn’t negate the application of discretionary punishments, even the most firm, in such cases.
Why not apply the presecribed punishments with immediate family?
Thus, it is established in Prophetic teachings that immediate family aren’t given capital punishments for killings–as this has many subsequent harms (consider, for example, the impact on other children, parents, etc), and can make things worse for those already affected.
The misapplication and abuse of justice in some Muslim lands should not be used to doubt or be confused about the Beauty, Mercy, and Justice of Sacred Law and Prophetic guidance.
And Allah alone gives success.