Islam asks believers' to respect the elders

Story by  Eman Sakina | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 09-09-2022
Parents and children: Representational image (Ravi Batra)
Parents and children: Representational image (Ravi Batra)


Eman Sakina

Islam is the religion of compassion and justice, a religion that teaches perfect morals and forbids bad conduct, a religion that grants man his dignity if he adheres to the laws of Allah. 

There can be no doubt that Islam has given the elderly a special status, as there are texts which urge Muslims to respect and honour them.

Friday Musings

There was an old man who was left dead in his apartment for four years, and his body was only discovered by accident.  

A report from the Ministry of Families, Youth and Seniors in Germany in 1993 says that 440,000 elderly people are subjected to physical and mental abuse at the hands of their relatives and family members at least once each year.

There was an old paralyzed woman who died of starvation in her apartment because her son had cut off her water, electricity, and gas until the neighbours found out what was happening… but it was too late.

And an elderly man died in his flat in London; he had five children but not one of them knew of his death until six months later.

While Islam emphasizes respect for all elders in society, children have a special responsibility towards their parents.

The Qur’an says:

“Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: “My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” (Translation of Al-Qur’an 17:23-24) 

In these verses, kindness towards parents is mentioned along with belief in One God. These two verses reflect the compassion, respect, and sense of responsibility that Islam requires the believers to have towards their parents.

Islam makes it mandatory for children to be responsible for the maintenance as well as care of their parents once the children have become independent.

Compassion and respect toward the elderly are essential elements of Islamic conduct. The Prophet of Islam stated clearly:

  • “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]
  • Islam is the fountain of mercy, sentiments, and sympathy. Hence, it is not strange to see Islam paying attention to the elderly and instructing Muslims to give them compassion. There are texts from the Quran, the sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), on how a Muslim should treat an elderly person. These include:
  • Always honor and be merciful to the elderly. For respecting them is considered a form of worship in the sight of Allah while disrespecting them is absolutely rebuked, and it is against the pristine teachings of Islam.
  • In case of necessity, always render assistance to the elderly [5].
  • Consult the elderly for guidance on personal and collective decisions, for they are guides in a family and the society similar to a Prophet of God.
  • Never insult or scold an elderly because disrespect to them is reprimanded by Allah, the Prophet, and his pure Household.
  • Allow our elderly to live with us. It is a bad habit to send them to nursing homes just because they are considered nuisances to society.
  • All Muslims are therefore expected to adopt a culture of honouring elders, whether they are parents, relatives, or not. Similar to that, we should always be aware of and grateful for their influence over us, especially our parents. It is a blessing from Allah to have aged people in the family and in society. Their presence will offer Allah's kindness, joy, harmony, calm, and recompense. Considering our elderly as a public nuisance and removing them from our community is, in fact, against Islamic law.
  • Being Muslims, we must keep good relations with relatives. According to a saying of Prophet Muhammad, we should visit our relatives, inquire about their matters, spend on them and give them ‘sadaqa’ if they are poor.
  • The relatives hold a special status in Islam. Islam gives great stress on the rights of relatives and encourages Muslims to maintain a good relationship with their relatives.