Rights of a child suspect, Rights of children in Islam
Rights of children in Islam
Protecting our offspring means helping them to fulfil their true potential.
EARLIER this month, the sentencing of a father who abused his biological daughter sexually and physically did not just become major news locally but also captured the attention of the international media.
We need to realise that for the child, the emotional and psychological impact of those horrendous acts would definitely be very difficult to overcome.
One cannot fully absorb the thought that such abuse has actually happened.
And whatever we might feel, it is truly not the same as what the victim felt when going through the ordeal of living in fear with someone who was supposed to protect and love her as a father should.
From the Islamic point of view, a child is bestowed upon his parents from Allah the Almighty as a trust (amanah). With this trust, comes responsibility.
The responsibility of a parent includes providing the child with a living environment in which he or she can feel safe and able to develop his or her individuality to achieve the best that life can offer.
It is stated in the Quran: “And they who say: O our Lord! Grant us wives and our offspring the joy of our eyes, and make us guides to those who guard (against evil)” (Al-Furqan, Chapter 25: Verse 74).
However, the word “irresponsible” is simply not enough to describe the acts of the father mentioned.
A parent’s monstrous abuse of a child cannot just be categorised as being irresponsible.
Somehow or other, this man has lost his sense of mercy, compassion and love that a normal man would have for his child. In short, his mental condition is indeed questionable.
When it comes to treating children, one must emulate the Prophet Muhammad.
Anas ibn Malik, the servant of the Prophet recollected: “I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than Allah’s Messenger.
“His son Ibrahim was in the care of a wet nurse in the hills around Madinah. He would go there, and we would go with him, and he would enter the house, pick up His son and kiss him, then come back.”
In addition, the Prophet’s love, compassion and mercy were for all children and not just towards his own offspring.
Just as we are concerned with the individual rights of adults and constantly seek to improve the enjoyment of those rights, we must never forget the rights of children.
Children’s rights seldom receive the deserved attention in most societies. Specific focus on this must be given in policy-making and social development programmes.
Children’s rights are not just about giving them education and protection; it is ultimately about their right to have a normal childhood filled with happiness.
In the Islamic worldview, the framework of maqasid al-Shari’ah (the intentions of Syariah law) should be the best guidance for those with the power and responsibility to make decisions and formulate policies that aim to protect the welfare of children.
The higher intents of Syariah are principles, answers and the wisdom behind rulings and laws in Islam.
Muslim scholars and jurists have largely agreed that the broad objectives or these intents are to promote the overall welfare of mankind and prevent harm and evil.
The fundamental rule to be observed is that the intention behind a ruling must be directed towards the fulfilment of something good and the avoidance of something harmful.
Allah the Almighty says in the holy Quran: “[And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.” (Al-Haj, Chapter 22: verse 41)
Therefore, any effort to protect the rights of children must also meet the objectives or the intentions of Syariah, which include the preservation of the five essentials of religion, life, mind, offspring and property. These essentials are so critical that without them, life may be impossible or chaotic.
Allal Al-Fassi explains: “The general higher objective of Islamic law is to populate and civilise the earth and preserve the order of peaceful coexistence therein; to ensure the earth’s ongoing well-being and usefulness through the piety of those who have been placed there as God’s vicegerents; to ensure that people conduct themselves justly, with moral probity and with integrity in thought and action, and that they reform that which needs reform on earth, tap its resources, and plan for the good of all.”
In this case, protection of the offspring is not just limited to upholding and formulating the laws and rules of the religion with regard to children; it must also include promotion of their right to benefit from what life can offer them.
Thus, to quote the former Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr Muhammad Sayyid Al-Tantawi, with regard to the rights of children in Islam: “Whoever violates one of the rights of children, who are tomorrow’s men and women, and the hope of each nation as its future leaders, actually disobeys Allah and contravenes the lofty heights of the Syariah.”
The death of 23 students and teachers of the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah tahfiz in Jalan Datuk Keramat in a fire has shocked the nation.
At the time of writing, City police Chief Comm Datuk Amar Singh has informed the public in a press conference that seven people aged between 11 and 18 have been arrested in connection with the fire.
It would appear that the suspects are mostly children, and according to the police the fire was a deliberate arson attack arising out of a disagreement between the suspects and some students from the tahfiz.
Yet, even before the press conference, alleged details and photos of the suspects were already circulated on WhatsApp and social media platforms.
Regardless of our own personal feelings about the tragedy, we must remind ourselves that at this juncture the seven teenagers are still just suspects. They are not even charged for any offence yet at the time of writing.
We must remember that most of them are still children in the eyes of the law.
The Child Act 2001, amongst others, provides for the rights of a child offender and the procedure when it comes to a criminal charge against a child.
According to the Act, a child who is alleged to have committed an offence shall not be arrested, detained or tried except in accordance with the Act.
When a child is charged in Court, the child will be charged and tried in a Court for Children. If the child is jointly charged with adults, the case may be heard by a Court other than a Court for Children, but that Court is to exercise all powers relating to the child as a Court for Children.
A Court for Children consists of a Magistrate who is assisted by two advisors, one of whom must be a woman. The role of the advisors is to inform and advise the Court for Children with respect to the child.
The Court for Children has the jurisdiction to try all offences except offences punishable by death. Unless the child suspects in the tahfiz fire case are charged with murder, it is likely that they will be charged and tried in the Court for Children.
There are also additional protections for a child offender at the stage of sentencing. The Court for Children must consider a probation report of the child. Child offenders also cannot be sentenced like an adult.
The Child Act prohibits the media when reporting about criminal investigations or prosecution of a child from publishing the photograph or reporting the name, address educational institution, or include any particulars that can lead to the identification the child.
The Act also prohibits the publication - which includes sharing on social media - photographs of any child suspect in a criminal investigation. Anyone contravening these provisions may be charged for an offence under the Act. Those who spread the photos and details of the child suspects in the tahfiz fire case may have committed an offence by doing so.
In any society, members have a responsibility to protect the weakest amongst the ranks. Children would most certainly fall within that category.
We may have our own personal thoughts about the guilt or innocence of the seven suspects, but at the end of the day the law must take its course and ensure that the rights of these suspects are not violated.