Radiant Teachings of Islam
Respect for Elders
Mawlana Awais Yamin Attari Madani
Human life can be divided into three stages: childhood, adulthood, and old age. Childhood is a time of play and exploration, while youth is dedicated to personal growth and achievement. In old age, however, individuals may experience physical ailments and vulnerabilities and need love, comfort, and care. Islam, in its guidance, addresses various aspects of life, including prayer, fasting, Hajj, and business. Additionally, it emphasizes the importance of honouring and treating the elderly with respect. Alongside the command to worship Allah, the Almighty also instructs us to honour and serve our elderly parents. The Quran states:
وَ قَضٰی رَبُّکَ اَلَّا تَعۡبُدُوۡۤا اِلَّاۤ اِیَّاہُ وَ بِالۡوَالِدَیۡنِ اِحۡسَانًا ؕ اِمَّا یَبۡلُغَنَّ عِنۡدَکَ الۡکِبَرَ اَحَدُہُمَاۤ اَوۡ کِلٰہُمَا فَلَا تَقُلۡ لَّہُمَاۤ اُفٍّ وَّ لَا تَنۡہَرۡہُمَا وَ قُلۡ لَّہُمَا قَوۡلًا کَرِیۡمًا (۲۳) وَ اخۡفِضۡ لَہُمَا جَنَاحَ الذُّلِّ مِنَ الرَّحۡمَۃِ وَ قُلۡ رَّبِّ ارۡحَمۡہُمَا کَمَا رَبَّیٰنِیۡ صَغِیۡرًا (ؕ۲۴)
“Your Lord has commanded not to worship anyone except Him and treat parents with goodness; if one of them or both reach old age in front of you, so, do not say ˹even˺ 'Ugh' to them and do not scold them, and speak to them words of respect. And spread for them the arm of humbleness with a soft heart, and request humbly that 'O my Lord, have mercy on them both, just as they brought me up in my childhood.'”
Respect the Elderly
Islam has commanded us to respect our elderly parents as well as our relatives and the elderly members of our communities. The final Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “It is from the reverence of Allah to honour an elderly Muslim.”
Sayyidunā Anas رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ reports that an elderly man went to visit the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. The people were slow to accommodate him, so the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “The one who is not merciful towards our young and respectful towards our elderly is not from us.”
Imam Ṭāwūs رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه states it is a sunnah to respect four types of people:
1. a scholar
2. an elderly person
3. a ruler
4. and a father.
Give Preference to the Elderly
Imam al-Ghazālī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه states:
The highest level of respect for the elderly is to not speak in their presence without their permission. Sayyidunā Jābir b. ꜤAbdullāh رَضِیَ الـلّٰـهُ عَنْهُمَا states that a delegation from the tribe of Juhayna went to the beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم and a young man from amongst them stood up to talk. The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: مَہْ فَاَیْنَ الْکَبِیْرُ, “Wait, where is the elder?”
Enhance Your Life by Respecting the Elderly
The beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said, “The young man who respects an elderly person due to his age, Allah will appoint someone who will honour him during old age.”
Commenting on this hadith, Imam al-Ghazālī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه explains that this is a harbinger of a long life. It also shows that the ability to respect the elderly is given to those who will be blessed with a long life.
Acting upon the teachings of Islam, it is crucial to honour and show respect to the elderly. When you are at home or in any other place and an elderly parent, grandparent, or relative arrives, it is recommended to stand up as a sign of respect. Greeting them warmly and politely inviting them to take a seat further demonstrates our regard for their presence and their esteemed status. Similarly, if you are travelling somewhere and see an elderly person, respect and greet them. Help them carry groceries if needed. Likewise, when you are travelling on a bus, train or another form of public transport, earn the supplications of the elderly by allowing them to sit in your seat. Mufti Aḥmad Yār Khan NaꜤīmī رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه states:
The supplications of the elderly are more readily accepted in the court of Allah Almighty. Allah Almighty does not turn away His elderly servants when they ask with their outstretched hands.
May Allah Almighty grant us the ability to act upon the teachings of Islam, and the ability to respect and honour the elderly.
اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ خاتَمِ النَّبِیّیْن صلَّی اللہ علیہ واٰلہٖ وسلَّم