New Age Islam
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Islamic Society ( 19 Apr 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islam and Old Age Ethics



By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam

19 April, 2014

Humans are really foolish, or are they blinded by arrogance? When we are young and energetic, we seldom think, leave aside of the next life, about the end of this life, when we will be old and out, lying in a corner, with no one by the side at night to sooth the nerves, with no one during the day to give food and water and even no one in the morning to clean the toilet. We have become so busy that we are ridiculously oblivious to the fact that there is one more person in the house.

Old age is difficult, really difficult, especially if you are bed ridden and can’t do anything on your own. First of all there is the problem of who will stay in the house- since everyone, from 6 to 60, is busy in their own world. Secondly there is the problem of nagging. The aged person nags his or her son or daughter to gain some attention but actually he or she gets distanced even further. Thirdly, there is the problem of regular doctor visits and the extra money that is (mis)used to keep the elderly alive. Most importantly there is the problem of who or how the toilets will be cleaned up.

There is only one thing that is common in here- wish for death. The old person thinks that he or she has become too much of a burden and since nobody seems to care, it is better to die; and his or her children too think and wish for the same, though they will never acknowledge.

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: Let him be humbled into dust; let him be humbled into dust. It was said: Allah's Messenger, who is he? He said: He who sees either of his parents during their old age or he sees both of them, but he does not enter Paradise.

Fear Allah, remember everything is accounted and not even atom’s weight of thing will be missed out. I think old age is a great way to attain salvation. By helping a dying person we can please Allah who knows all our sins might be cleaned when we clean the old person’s toilet. But at the same time if you totally ignore him or her, then wait for your turn.

In Islam there is no concept of old age home. Old machines are not to be discarded, but to be oiled and taken care of so that they may work one day longer. Allah is the best psychologist and He knows that we get irritated by them, so specifically He mentions that we do not even say “Uff” to them.

“Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and be kind to parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not say 'Uff (a word of contempt) to them or chide them, but speak to them in terms of honour and kindness. Treat them with humility, and say, 'My Lord! Have mercy on them, for they did care for me when I was little'. (17:23-4)”

Serving one’s parents is considered to be the second most important duty in Islam.

“He is not one of us who does not show tenderness to the young and who does not show respect to the elder.” [Hadith from at-Tirmidhi]

We often give more attention to what our wife is saying or what our children are saying, but this is not correct. First priority should be given to your old mother of father who is trying to say something. Even while serving food or water we should, first of all, serve it to the elderly.

It was narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Jibrael ordered me to give priority to the elderly.”

Once the Prophet got very angry when Mu’adh ibn Jabal prolonged the prayer while leading the prayer. He got angry because he was concerned about the difficulty the elderly had to suffer while performing such lengthy prayers. He told him it was better to recite a short chapter instead of reciting a lengthy one.

We should not forget what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said

“If a young man honours an elderly on account of his age, God appoints someone to honour him in his old age.” [Hadith from At-Tirmidhi]

It should also be kept in mind that we should not torture ourselves also while taking care of the elderly. It is not befitting for anyone to console night after night the elderly and not being able to sleep oneself. Doing ‘zulm’ on oneself is also a sin in Islam. Take care of the elderly as much as you can but do not inflict punishment on yourself. Allah does not like that either. We all should ask Allah for this:

"O Allah! I seek refuge with You from helplessness, laziness, cowardice and feeble old age; I seek refuge with You from afflictions of life and death and seek refuge with You from the punishment in the grave."