Quranic Reflection No. 404. Ayat 52:21 – Families in Heaven

وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَاتَّبَعَتْهُمْ ذُرِّيَّتُهُمْ بِإِيمَانٍ أَلْحَقْنَا بِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ
Walladhīna āmanū wattaba ‘thum dhurriyatuhum bi-imānin al-haqnā bihim dhurriyatahum
The faithful and their descendants who followed them in faith, We will make their descendants join them
(Sūrat al-Tūr, No.52, Āyat 21)

Many people wonder if they will be together with their families in the Hereafter. Will they have the joy of being with their children? Will differences in their reward and status with Allah ‘azza wa-jall mean they will be separated there and be unable to enjoy family time? These questions can create anguish for loving families. How can heaven be heaven without my family?

The Quran talks about it in the verse above. Believers who will be rewarded in heaven will be joined with their progeny, albeit those who believed from their progeny. Tafsīr Majma‘ul Bayān quotes from Ibn Abbās saying that children who believe will be joined with their parents in heaven so that they may be delighted by them just like they were in the world. Even if the status of the children may be lower they will join them because of the status of the parents. The children will join in their company, not necessarily in reward and status.

The Prophet sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālhi wa-sallam once reassured his companions that they would meet their children in heaven. He then recited the above verse. This reward for believers is a special favor of Allah subhānahu wa-ta‘ālā since the children are not deserving of the same status as the parents but are brought as a reward. Those whose faith is equal to that of their parents or are more perfect than their parents will already be present. For them to be in the company of their parents is not a special favor for the parents.

Note that the two words ‘ittabā’ and ‘alhaqnā’ both imply following but with a difference. Both mean there is one in front and one behind. But the word ‘ittaba’ means to follow in all aspects of following. ‘Luhuq’ on the other hand means one behind the other without necessarily following in all aspects. This shows that the generations will follow each other in heaven but may not be the same in everything they experience there.

The promise of Allah (swt) in this verse shows that emotional connection between families is considered to be a blessing for the human being. It brings joy and comfort to the heart and will be one of the rewards for believers in the hereafter. Parent-children relationships are lasting and go beyond that of life in this world. Once a parent, always a parent – even beyond the grave. Let this verse remind you of this important emotional connection and help you to appreciate your relationships with your children and your efforts for them.

Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma’ul Bayan; Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; http://www.alketab.org/