I have just received an email mentioning an event of the Caliphate of Hazrat 'Umar (rta). It says that Hazrat Umar (rta) punished his son for adultery with the punishment of 100 flogs and during this punishment his son died. This whole incident is reported as a high sample of justice from the Caliph, Hazrat 'Umar (rta) that he didn't even space his own son. I am little bit confused as never heard of any such incident. Can you please confirm the authenticity of this incident?
Mawlana Amin Ahsan Islahi has pleaded to this hadith in one of his discussions on the same topic which forms part of his book Islami Riyasat (The Islamic State). I believe that the authenticity of this narrative may not be that forceful for it does not appear in the main sources. It should be taken as one of the historical narratives that are often considered and explained if they do not out rightly contradict the basic sources.
Following is the extract from the book Islami Riyasat:
Once his son, 'Abd al-Raḥmān, drank and become inebriated. Later on, he presented himself before 'Amr b. al-'Āṣ, the governor of Egypt and confessed his crime. He requested the governor to sentence him to the prescribed punishment. 'Amr b. al-'Āṣ (rta) says: "I tried to dismiss 'Abd al-Raḥmān after a little rebuke. But he insisted that if he was not sentenced according to the sharī'ah, he would go back to Madīnah and complain before his father. I feared that if I let him go unpunished he would go directly to the caliph and report to him who would instantly dismiss me. This made me punish 'Abd al-Raḥmān in my house. Later on he shaved his head off in a corner of my house. I did not inform the caliph about this issue. But after a few days later the following letter from the Caliph reached me.
This is from the chief of the believers, servant of God, 'Umar (rta) to the Sinner son of the Sinner. Your have baffled me by daring to break the promise. I believe you deserve removal from governorship. You dared to implement the punishment on 'Abd al-Raḥmān in the yard of your house and to shave off his head under your roof. While you well know that this kind of leniency is not my attitude. 'Abd al-Raḥmān was but one of your subjects. You were obliged to deal with him the way you deal with the ordinary subjects. But you have dealt with him considering him son of the Caliph. While you know that, with regards to justice, I do not show leniency to any. Now I order you to send 'Abd al-Raḥmān instantly to Madīnah so that I can make him taste what he did.
'Amr b. al-'Āṣ (rta) says: "Afterwards I sent 'Abd al-Raḥmān to the Caliph and confessed that I had committed a great mistake by punishing Abd al-Raḥmān inside the walls of my house while I would not deal with other Muslims and the dhimmīs this way. I sent a written confession and 'Abd al-Raḥmān under the custody of 'Abd Allāh b. 'Umar (rta)." Since 'Abd al-Raḥmān was not allowed to use but a saddle on the back of his conveyance he could not move easily over his mount. When they reached Madīnah, 'Abd al-Raḥmān b. 'Awf (rta) tried to intercede with the Caliph. He requested the Caliph to forgive his son for he had already been punished. 'Umar (rta) did not consider his requests. When 'Abd al-Raḥmān (rta) saw the rage of his father, he cried and pleaded that he was unwell. He lamented that his father was about to kill him. It has been narrated that ''Umar (rta) punished 'Abd al-Raḥmān while he was still unwell. He was put in custody till he fell ill and died.
Haykal, al-Fārūq 'Umar, 2: 197
Ibid., 2: 198. I have taken this story from Muḥammad Ḥusayn (rta) Haykal's Al-Fārūq 'Umar. The author maintains that 'Abd al-Raḥmān was punished again. I, however, doubt this. Some scholars have explained that 'Umar (rta) did not sentence him to the sharī'ah punishment again. He only punished him just as a father disciplines his child. This I believe is correct.