Self-flagellation is forbidden in Islam and great Shia scholar have prohibited it.
Self-flagellation is forbidden (Haram) in Islam. Great Shia scholars such as grand Ayatullah Khamenei who is the leader of Islamic Republic of Iran and Ayatullah Sistani, the Shia Leader in Iraq, have prohibited any self-mutilation such as self-flagellation with knives or chains (Tatbir) and even walking on fire. You can see their Fatwas (religious opinions) on tatbir.org
Tatbir (i.e.self-flagellation) is one of the wrongdoings. I know that
some people would say: “It was better for him not to mention Tatbir.”
They would say: “Why do you bother with Tatbir? Some people do it, let them do!”. No! it’s not right to remain silent toward such a wrong action…
is wrong that some people hold daggers and hit themselves on the head
to bleed. What are they seeking?! How can this be an act of mourning?!
Of course hitting on the head with one’s hands is a sign of mourning.
You have seen it several times that when people face suffering, they hit
on their chests and heads. This is a typical symbol of mourning. But
where have you ever seen a person who is suffering from the loss of a
dear one, hit on their head with a dagger and make it bleed?! How can this be an act of mourning?
Tatbir is a fabricated tradition. It is among the issues that does not belong to the religion and undoubtedly God is not also pleased with such a practice.
more I thought about it, the more truly I realized I cannot overlook
informing our dear people about Tatbir which is certainly an act of
wrongdoing and a heresy. Do not practice it! I do not approve of it. If
someone does something to pretend that they want to practice Tatbir, I
will be truly dissatisfied with them. I am declaring this solemnly.”
-Imam Khamenei’s saying in 1994
The following questions are also replied by Grand Ayatullah Khamenei :
Question 1449: In
commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Husayn (PBUH) on the tenth of
Muharram, some people hit themselves with a machete, or walk bare-footed
on fire. Such actions defame Shi‘ism and put it in a bad light, if not
undermine it. They cause bodily and spiritual harms on these doing it as
well. What is your opinion in this matter?
practice that causes bodily harm, or leads to defaming the faith, is
haram(forbidden). Accordingly, the believers have to steer clear of it.
There is no doubt that many of these practices besmirch the image of
Ahlul Bayt’s (PBUH) School of Thought which is the worst damage and
Question 1450: Is hitting oneself with swords halal (allowed) if it is done in secret? Or is your fatwa in this regard universal?
“In addition to the fact that it is not held in the common view as
manifestations of mourning and grief and it has no precedent at the
lifetime of the Imams (a.s.) and even after that and we have not
received any tradition quoted from the Infallibles (a.s.) about any
support for this act, beit privately or publicly, this practice would,
at the present time, give others a bad image of our school of thought. Therefore, there is no way that it can be considered permissible.”
See more Fatwas at tatbir.org