In the holy Quran a very interesting word appears twice which has become a part of our everyday living. This word is ‘raheen’ meaning collateral. These are the two verses where the word ‘raheen’ has been used:
وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَاتَّبَعَتْهُمْ ذُرِّيَّتُهُم بِإِيمَانٍ أَلْحَقْنَا بِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَمَا أَلَتْنَاهُم مِّنْ عَمَلِهِم مِّن شَيْءٍ كُلُّ امْرِئٍ بِمَا كَسَبَ رَهِينٌ
Translation: And as for those who observed the faith and whose offspring also followed them in faith, We (Allah) shall unite them with their offspring (in Paradise); and We (Allah) shall not let their deeds go waste: but every human being will be held in pledge for whatever he has earned. [52:21]
كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ رَهِينَةٌ . إِلَّا أَصْحَابَ الْيَمِينِ
Translation: [On the Day of Judgment,] every human being will be held in pledge for whatever [evil] he did. Except those who will have attained righteousness [74:38 & 39]
In these verses Allah Subhanuhu wa Taala introduces the concept of extendable reward within the scope of individual accountability. Allah promises that the inhabitants of the Paradise will be able to get their offspring upgraded to the level of their own rank in Paradise, if they followed their parents in faith and remained steadfast in life. But this concession does not supersede the fact that everyone will be judged according to his deeds and only those who deserve to be in Paradise will enter it in the first place. An illustration of this is provided in the story of Nuh. At the time of the great flood, Nuh cried out to Allah to save one of his sons who refused to board the arc and said he will be ok but the flood rolled him away; Allah told Nuh that “most certainly he was not of his family because of his unrighteous conduct” [11:46]
Allah Taala explains accountability as a mortgage, which literally means ‘bound until death’. In modern times we don’t need a lot of explanation to understand what is a mortgage. It is the most commonly used term for taking a big loan from a bank or building society to buy a house. Often an element of interest is included in mortgage or charged separately. The promise to return this loan remains with the borrower until death. In Allah’s account, interest accrues only on good deeds such as one act of charity becoming equal to seventy acts of charity and so on; but there is no interest charged on evil. One evil deed remains only one evil deed, which its operator will have to account for before Allah. In our world, mortgage ends with death. But in Allah’s world the mortgage of our actions and deeds continues and will be accounted for on the Day of Judgement, except those who are righteous.
The reason why offspring will be able to receive an upgraded by their righteous parents if both are in Paradise is because after a person passes away in this world, his book of deeds is closed. But three things remain open: a good act performed once but it continues to benefit mankind; a contribution to knowledge he made that continues to benefits mankind; and good offspring he left behind who continue to seek Allah’s forgiveness for their parents and ask for their high rank in Paradise. This is why the righteous offspring will be able to join the high rank of their parents if their own deeds do not carry them that far to attain the same high rank as that of their parents, if the latter desire it. But the concept of ‘raheen’ implies that if the offspring are not righteous, this will not affect the good deeds or rank of their parents, if they did their duty to educate their children when they were young about right and wrong but could not change them to become good in the world.
There is no doubt that divine justice is comprehensive and far beyond the limits of reward and punishment in the mortal world. Our earthly laws and criminal justice system are only a shadow of perfect justice and suffer from all kinds of systemic inequalities, politics, economic interests and social biases. We can always improve these but can never reach the level of divine justice.