Q: People say that the children of people who were guilty of practices forbidden by God’s law, such as corruption, theft, rape and murder, seem to suffer much. They experience misfortune, poverty, neglect, etc. According to the popular view, the suffering is only a natural consequence of the evil deeds of their parents. How far is this view acceptable?
A: I am sure that some examples could be quoted to prove this common belief. There are other examples to prove the reverse. Who commits more crimes against God’s law than a dictator who does not care for human rights ? He treats his people like sheep, which he may kill for his food. Yet the children of dictators often live to enjoy vast wealth they get only because they were the children of a ruler who treated the whole country as his private farm. There are other examples, which may be quoted as well. There are many cases of a father who might not hesitate to commit any forbidden thing when they would serve his interest. His children may grow up as God-fearing people who do their best to
stick to what is permissible and refrain from anything forbidden. Where does this lead us? Only to the basic Islamic principle that each individual has his own status.
No one’s destiny is determined by his parents’ beliefs or behavior. God provides chances to every individual to recognize His guidance and to follow it. People either
take these chances or ignore them. Those who ignore them suffer, while those who take them and follow God’s guidance enjoy His blessing and reward. Having said that, I would like to add that those who resort to theft, corruption and murder normally do not bring up their children well. They are busy planning for their offenses or trying to escape punishment. Hence their children may have the wrong sort of upbringing. They are either spoilt or neglected. In either situation they are likely to suffer. Their suffering is due to their parents’ not looking after them properly. It is not a
punishment for their fathers’ deeds. That punishment is incurred upon the ones who committed those offenses, not their children. God says in the Qur’an: “No one shall
bear the burden of another.” This applies to children and parents as much as it applies to others.