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 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 Arṫāh 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 Muṡnad 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:
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.
Dar al-Ifta al-Massariyah email department