Home Quranet Chapter 8 Is explanation preferable to punishment?
Is explanation preferable to punishment?
Chapter 8

وَالَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا سَنَسْتَدْرِجُهُم مِّنْ حَيْثُ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ (سورۃ الاعراف, آية 182)

Those who reject Our signs, We shall gradually visit with punishment, in ways they perceive not. (Surah 7, Verse 182)

Abed, who is in the eleventh grade, is a diligent student. One day, when he returned from school after a long day, his mother smelled smoke on his clothes. She discovered that he was in the habit of smoking cigarettes with his friends after school. Distressed, she went to see the class teacher who told her that she was aware that a group of her pupils smoked. Abed's mother demanded that the teacher expose the smokers and punish them, but the teacher said she had other plans. She was preparing a short video about smoking and its risks. "First through a video, then through lecturers, stage by stage, we'll get them away from smoking", she explained to the mother. "For example, these children like sports and I've also made a short video on the damage that smoking causes to athletes". Abed's mother was still not persuaded by the teacher's non-punitive method until the teacher said: "Those who reject Our signs, We shall gradually visit with punishment, in ways they perceive not". "This is what the Quran teaches us", she said and the mother was convinced.

Explanation: indeed, imposing punishment is generally the less successful alternative and it is usually preferable to employ explanation. The reason is simple. A punishment contains an element of revenge and is liable to generate frustration and resistance. Punishment can evoke fear in the child and we want him to understand the importance of good behavior and not merely to behave properly out of fear of punishment. An explanation is internalized, makes the child think and enables him to internalize and adopt the principles of the authority figure (parent, teacher) not out of fear but out of admiration and love. While punishment may lead him to change his conduct out of fear , this change will not be long-lasting because, when the threat is removed, the child will revert to the bad behavior.

Hence, the counselor did well in deciding that, instead of punishing the pupils, she would explain the facts of life to them and what is known today about smoking and its risks. She even found support in the Quran for the need to be patient and not to expect immediate change.