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IslamQA: Are we responsible for bad things that befall our families?

Assalamu Aleykom Wa Rahmatullah Wa Barakatuhu, is it legitimate to think that one's actions can bring affliction to one's family? am i crazy to think that me misbehaving or sinning or straying away from Allah can have a direct impact on my family? the reason why every wrong thing happening to them, in their own personal life is solely my fault? that it couldn't be their own actions that lead them to be so miserable? is it a little bit of both? should i only pray for their wellbeing?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

It is possible that our sins can negatively affect our families, just as our good deeds can positively affect them. The Quran says:

And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphaned boys in the city. Beneath it was a treasure that belonged to them. Their father was a righteous man. Your Lord wanted them to reach their maturity, and then extract their treasure—as a mercy from your Lord. (The Quran, verse 18:82)

The above verse implies that one of the reasons why God took care of the treasure of the orphans was that their father was a righteous man. God decided to do something good for them because of their father’s virtue.

The Quran also says:

Would anyone of you like to have a garden of palms and vines, under which rivers flow—with all kinds of fruit in it for him, and old age has stricken him, and he has weak children—then a tornado with fire batters it, and it burns down? Thus God makes clear the signs for you, so that you may reflect. (The Quran, verse 2:266)

In this example, the parent’s sinfulness causes suffering to their children.

So our fates are connected. Our families can be sources of both tests and blessings for us, and our sinfulness and righteousness determines how we are tested.

But it is incorrect to think that the bad things that happen to your family are solely your fault. Think of your family’s fate as a shared pool of water. The good things you do improve it and the bad things you do pollute it. But if another family member has a great share of their own virtue then they will enjoy God’s protection and may not be harmed. God does not unjustly punish someone for another’s sins. But if your child was going to have an accident, then whether God protects them and prevents the accident or not may partly depend on whether you deserve the protection or not. The child is innocent of your sins and if they suffer God can always make it up for them in the future with other blessings. But the suffering caused to you because of what befalls your family members may or may not be repaid by God to you depending on whether you deserve such repayment or not. The child may enjoy great blessings because of their suffering while the blessings may be prevented in one way or another from reaching you and benefiting you.

So when something bad befalls a family member, it is always good to think of your own sins and use that as an encouragement to be better. But do not go to extremes in that. There are all kinds of reasons why bad things befall someone, and we can never be sure if we have a share of the fault for its happening. But you can be certain that your goodness and virtue will positively impact your family. The family of Mary (mother of Jesus) was a good family, so when her mother prayed for her child to be blessed and protected, God accepted the prayer:

And when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female,” and God was well aware of what she has delivered, “and the male is not like the female, and I have named her Mary, and have commended her and her descendants to Your protection, from Satan the outcast.”

Her Lord accepted her with a gracious reception, and brought her a beautiful upbringing, and entrusted her to the care of Zechariah. Whenever Zechariah entered upon her in the sanctuary, he found her with provision. He said, “O Mary, where did you get this from?” She said, “It is from God; God provides to whom He wills without reckoning.” (The Quran, verses 3:36-37)

And God knows best.
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