Islam is a comprehensive way of life, and one of the characteristics through which it is distinguished from many other religions is that it encompasses every aspect of a Muslim’s life. Islam teaches Muslims to respect the elderly whether they are parents, relatives, or any other old person. This is because caring for the elderly in Islam is considered an important obligation through which one seeks closeness to Allah.
There is no doubt in the special status of the elderly in Islam, as there are several texts, which urge Muslims to respect and honor them. An elderly person has a high status before Allah and His Prophet particularly if he is a believer.
In the Quran, Allah says:
“ And whomever We give a long life, We cause him to regress in creation. ; …?”(36:68)
From the verse, it is obvious that the inception of old age is a period of decline – decline comes partly from physical and partly from psychological factors. Thus, at this critical stage of life, Islam recommends adequate caring for them because they are like a prophet in a family and a blessing in the society. The Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) said:
“The elderly among his family is like a Prophet among his community” 
Moreover, honoring the elderly is synonymous with honoring Allah and His Prophet. In this regards, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was reported to have said:
“Honor the elderly because honoring them is part of honoring Allah” 
Meanwhile, Imam Sajjad (AS) while describing the right of the elderly in his book ‘Treatise on rights’ said:
“The right of him who is older than you is that you show reverence toward him because of his age and you honor him because he entered Islam before you. You leave off confronting him in a dispute, you do not precede him in a path, you do not go ahead of him, and you do not consider him foolish. If he should act foolishly toward you, you put up with him, and you honor him because of the right of Islam and the respect due to it”.
Similarly, Islam commands a Muslim to honor and respect senior citizens because honoring the elderly will guarantee the protection against every calamity on the Day of Resurrection. The Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) said:
“Whoever honors the gray hair due to an old age, Allah will definitely save him from the panic of the Day of Judgment”.
Islam is the fountain of mercy, sentiments, and sympathy. Hence, it is not strange to see Islam paying attention to the elderly and instructing a Muslim to give them compassion. There are texts from the Quran, the sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his pure Household (AS) on how a Muslim should treat an elderly person. These include:
Always honors 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 .
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 a disrespect to them is reprimanded by Allah, the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) and his pure Household (AS).
Allow our elderly to live with us. It is a bad habit to send them to nursing homes just because they are considered as nuisances to the society.
Respecting the elderly and honoring them are among the characteristics of a Muslim society. Therefore, it is expected of every Muslim to imbibe the culture of respecting old people whether they are parents, relatives or not. Likewise, we should always acknowledge and appreciate their presence within us especially our parents. The presence of the elderly either in the family or the society is a blessing from Allah. Their presence will bring peace, happiness, concord, tranquility, mercy, and reward from Allah. It is indeed an un-Islamic practice to consider our elderly a public nuisance and eject them from our midst.
- Bihar al-Anwar, Vol. 72, P. 137.
- Wasail al-Shiah, Vol. 12, P. 100.
- Treaties on Rights, Right 44 (i.e. The right of the one older than you)
- Mustadrak Wasail, Vol. 8, P. 391.
- Al-Kafi, Vol. 2, P. 165; Jami at-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1919.
A family in Islam is not only a place for reproduction but also a site for growing the healthy spirit and character of human beings. To clarify this point, some principles are mentioned below which are derived from the verses of the Quran:
1. Having amity and mercy within the family and providing security and peace for each other. This verse refers to family and its spiritual relations: “And of His signs is that He created for you mates from your own selves that you may take comfort in them, and He ordained affection and mercy between you. There are indeed signs in that for a people who reflect” (30:21).
2. Consultation and satisfaction of the couple in decision making .
3. In verse 71 of Al-Tawbah, men and women are introduced as each other’s friends and helpmates. In these verses, the importance of consultation is notified, and it is also mentioned that the viewpoints of all the family members are of equal value and no one’s approach receives more importance than the other’s .
4. The importance of family interests over personal interests .
5. Improving affairs and seeking reconciliation .
6. Forgiving each other’s mistakes, establishing peace and amour, and avoiding egocentricity: “If a woman fears from her husband misconduct or desertion, there is no sin upon the couple if they reach a reconciliation between themselves; and reconcilement is better. The souls are prone to greed; but if you are virtuous and God wary, Allah is indeed well aware of what you do” (4:128).
7. Being good-tempered in etiquette and commerce: “deal kindly with them” (4:19).
The principles mentioned above indicate that the style Islam suggests for families is achievable through a true collaboration of all family members. Every family is a small part whose rectification contributes to the improvement of the whole society and consequently its perfection.
- (9:71, 28:26, 28, and 37:102,103)
- (2:229, 4:19)
“Your Lord has decreed that you shall not worship anyone except Him, and He has enjoined kindness to parents. Should they reach old age at your side one of them or both do not say to them," Fie!" And do not chide them, but speak to them noble words” (17:23). Sitting on the porch of her house, with a deep frown on her face, she seemed absorbed by some unending thoughts. She did not know where she was, neither the boy who was so kindly and attentively taking care of her like a kind nurse, nor the deep unknown feeling that steered within her when he helped her. The only thing she remembered, was that her beloved husband had died and she was left alone.
It had been so many years since the mirror in her room reflected the view of a white-haired, withered, old woman sitting in a wheelchair. But still, she wanted to solve the mystery of the boy’s identity. “Someone must have hired him to take care of me,” she thought. “But who? I’m sure I have no one.”
Instantly, the door of the house opened, and the mysterious young nurse appeared, wearing a big and cheerful smile and a warm, loving look on his face [i][ii] . He had brought her pills. As usual, he put the pills one by one and patiently in her mouth and gave her water to swallow them.
Then kissed her on the forehead and hugged her tightly. She remembered the days when she did not feel good. When she shouted and cursed him violently. She also remembered his patient face at those moments, when he was trying so hard to hold back his tears, taking her hands and kissing them. “What kind of a nurse is he?” she wondered. Respect was an inseparable part of his behavior toward her, always observing not to raise his voice, not to walk ahead of her, and not to act in a way that would make her feel ashamed and humiliated [iii] .
She did not remember if she had ever asked him who he was. So, she gathered her courage to ask and went inside. Entering the house, she saw a man sitting on the couch, arguing on an apparently serious matter with her nurse. “Let’s not bother them,” she thought and turned her wheelchair toward her room, but suddenly something caught her attention.
The man was shouting so she could not help hearing his words: “she does not remember you, not even your name and you are wasting your time here nursing her? What about your job? You are a successful manager for GOD’s sake!” The old woman turned to the boy to see his face. For the first time, she saw the look of rage in him: “She doesn’t, but I do. She is my mother, and I will take care of her to my last breath. “For the record, I became what you say I am, because of her.”
He suddenly felt the weight of the old woman’s look on him. Tears fell on her cheeks irresistibly. After all, the mystery had been solved: her kind and a generous nurse was her loving son, her one and only child.
The next day, when she woke up, the first thing she wanted to see was the face of her nurse, his smile, his kind look. She did not know his name or that why he was there, but she felt sure that her patient, loving and a nice nurse would never ever leave her alone.
[i]. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) said: “Every righteous child who casts a look of mercy and affection upon his parents shall be granted, for every look of his, Rewards equivalent to that of an accepted Hajj.”
[ii]. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) has said: “The look of a child towards his parents out of love for them is an act of worship.”
[iii]. Imam as-Sadiq (peace be upon him) has said (in regards to one’s parents): “Do not cast your gaze upon them except with love and compassion; do not raise your voice above theirs; do not raise your hands above theirs; do not walk ahead of them.”
- 'Allama Majlisi, Bihar al-Anvar, V. 74, p. 73
- ibid, V. 74, P. 79