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(Introducing the Concept of
A form of justice and injustice we are used to is that which is done between people who are alive (intra-generational justice) - where, if necessary, one can take the other to court and the necessary penalties or sanctions against the offender can be met. A form of justice and injustice which we usually give little thought to is inter-generational justice. In other words, justice or injustice one generation may do to another - where a crime or good deed may be done by one generation and the suffering or benefit would be reaped by some other generation(s) in the future.
It is very important for Muslims to take inter-generational justice as seriously as they take intra-generational justice. This is because for every form of injustice done, a Muslim will be called to account for it on the Day of Judgement, and the worst form of injustice is that which hurts the greatest number of people. It is easy to escape with inter-generational justice in this world since the generation that is cheated might be unable to take the cheating members of the previous generation to court. But in the Hereafter, the generations will stand together as one, and an atom's weight of wrongdoing done will be seen by all those that have gathered.
The Prophet (pbuh) said that if you encourage others to do good, you attain the same reward as they do for doing it, without reducing their own reward in the least. And if you encourage others to do bad, you attain the same punishment as they do for doing it, without reducing their own punishment.
From this, it should be clear that if justice or injustice persists as a result of your own action or inaction, Allah will hold you responsible even though somebody else is doing it - whether you are dead or alive!
The inter-generational sense of responsibility a Muslim should have is also made clearer in the Islamic concept of sadaqatun jaariyatun. These are inter-generational acts of charity (sadaqa) which one may do in his lifetime for the benefit of humans and other creatures of Allah that would continue to be a source of reward for that individual even after his death.
But just as doing good can have inter-generational impacts, so too can doing bad. There is the need for us to be more alert than we usually are about the inter-generational impact of our single or cumulative actions on future generations and our accountability to Allah for them.
What type of sadaqatun jaariyatun are you leaving behind? These could be in many forms: sponsorship to students, building or supporting schools, prevention of all forms of pollution and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, protection of forests and planting new trees, conserving wildlife and biodiversity, protection and purification of rivers, building wells and bore holes, printing or publishing literature for distribution, supporting da'wah activities and the spread of Islam, ensuring a legacy of anti-corruption, providing good education for children, enabling individuals to achieve secure self-reliant livelihoods, and any other form of good or justice that would continue to benefit people after one's death, for as long as possible.
Above all, for our own sakes in the Hereafter, we must learn to meet our needs in this life without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.
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