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.
Silatur-Rahim or preserving family ties is not limited to visiting relatives, but also includes trying to satisfy their needs and strengthening emotional bonds with them. This depends of course on the situation of each member of the family; one might require money while the other has emotional needs .
Some of the examples of Silatur-Rahim are: visiting relatives; greeting and honoring them; inviting them even to a cup of coffee or tea; giving them good advice in case of a problem; not harming them by talking behind their back, insulting or accusing them, or by interfering in their personal affairs; being kind and caring about them; visiting them when they are sick; giving them gifts in different occasions; fulfilling their needs before others do, and participating in their funerals . Imam Sadiq has(AS) said: “… The best family tie is the one in which the relatives are not harmed” .
Upholding kinship with relatives has various advantages in this world and the hereafter:
Having the social and emotional support of family: In Surah Hud, where people threaten Prophet Shu’ayb (PBUH), they tell him if his tribe had not supported him, they would have stoned him (11:91).
Imam Ali (AS) said: “Upholding family ties brings affection and humiliates enemies” .
Having an immediate reward: Imam Baqir (AS) said: “The reward of Silatur Rahim is given more quickly than any good deed” .
Increase in wealth: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said: “Whoever keeps family kinship, God will love him and increase his wealth” .
Having some of the sins vanished: Imam Ali (AS) said: “Eliminate your sins by a voluntary charity and keeping family ties” .
Having an easy death and a long life: When Prophet Moses (PBUH) asked God about the reward of upholding family ties, the answer was: “(Whoever does so,) I will postpone his death, I will make his death easy, and the heaven angles will call him to enter heaven from every door he wishes” .
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever keeps family kinship …God will make his life longer and let him enter heaven” . Imam Baqir (AS) said: “Keeping family ties purifies one’s deeds, increases his wealth, keeps him safe from disasters, makes the accounting of his deeds easy and postpones his death” . Imam Sadiq (AS) said; “Silatur Rahim makes lives longer …, even if doers are not righteous” .
One cannot sever family kinship deliberately since upholding family bonds is a duty ordered by God, hence, the disobedience from this order is of the major sins (al-Kaba’ir) .
In Islam, the warnings against severing and breaking off family bonds are as many as the exhortations to uphold family ties. That is due to the disastrous consequences that neglecting and severing family ties can have on one’s life; these include:
Having a shorter life than it would be: Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “a man might have 33 years of his life left, but God will shorten it to 3 years if he breaks family ties” . In another narration from Imam (AS), negligence of family bonds is known as “a sin that perishes a man quickly” .
quickly receiving a punishment, Imam Baqir (AS) said: “four sins cause quick punishments … (one is) breaking family ties” .
Being cursed by God [i] and deprived of his mercy: “But as for those who ... sever what Allah has commanded to be joined, … it is such on whom the curse will lie, and for them will be the ills of the [ultimate] abode” (13:25).
Being doomed to the hell: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has said: “the sweet smell of heaven will be sensed from a thousand year of distance but those who have been insolent to the parents and those who have broken family ties will be deprived of it” .
One’s prayers (Dua) will not be accepted anymore after severing family ties .
One’s good deeds will be rejected: Imam Rida (AS) said: “whoever sever family ties, he does not fear from God (does not have Taqwa), his good deeds are therefore refused and will face grave punishments in this world and the hereafter” .
Cutting family ties has several reasons, but lack of modesty and greed are known as the two main ones. Imam Sadiq (AS) said that: “Some would not have respected parents’ rights and kept family ties if modesty had not existed” .
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) has warned about greed: “Beware of greed, for it was greed that commanded those before you to bloodshed and severing their family ties” .
[i] (2:27), (13:25), (47:22-23).
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Imam Sajjad (AS) enumerates the rights of parents in Islam, specifically the mother in ‘Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq)’, based on her efforts, such as how she withstood the difficulties during the pregnancy, the care and protection she provided after giving birth to the baby, the selfless sacrifices she made so that her child could grow up in the most comfortable condition and with the best education.
Then, Imam (AS) invites to show gratitude to the mother, but he adds in the end that one cannot reciprocate what she had done unless God helps him to succeed .
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) admits that one can never (repeats this two times) pay back the rights of the mother; even if he attempts as many times as the number of the raindrops and the desert sands of the world to pay her back for only one of the days that she had carried him in her womb during the pregnancy, he will not succeed .
The rights of the mother among parents in Islam are even known to be superior to those of the father  since it is said that: “If you are performing a recommended (mustahab) prayer (which is a kind of talking with God and being in His presence requires certain reverence) and your father calls you, do not break your prayer but if your mother calls, break the prayer”.
In this regard, it is narrated that a man, who claimed that had committed every possible sin, asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) if he could still repent or not. Prophet (PBUH&HP) questioned if either of his parents was alive. He answered, his father was. Then, Prophet (PBUH&HP) advised him to go and treat him well. A while after the man left, Prophet (PBUH&HP) said: “if his mother was alive [he would certainly have the opportunity to repent]” .
These, along with other Quranic verses and narrations (Hadiths) highlight the importance of parents in Islam and especially mothers’ rights; something that can never be returned unless with divine providence.
One of the rights of the father is to recognize him as the root that has given existence to his children. Whenever one is proud of him/herself for a blessing, he/she should remember that he/she has inherited it from his/her father. Hence, one should praise God and thank him for what He has granted him .
Imam Reza (AS) said: “offer your property, honor, and life to your father since you have received them from him. Do good to him and ask for the blessing and forgiveness for him after his death” . It is good to know that the amount of the father’s right in his child’s property is as much as it is sufficient for daily meals, without any dissipation, and only in case of need .
Gaining God’s satisfaction: “whoever his parents are satisfied with, I am satisfied with him/her” .
Long-lasting life: “Whoever honors his parents, will live a long life” .
Receiving good deeds from their own children: “honor your parents, so your children will honor you” .
Easy death: “Whoever honors the parents, God will ease his death” .
Being rewarded the highest levels in Heaven: “one, who gives Infaq to his parents, tolerates them, is beneficent to them and does not upset nor harm them, will be placed in the best levels of Heaven” .
According to Islamic teachings, not only mistreating parents in Islam is insolence to them, but also includes ignoring their rights, disobeying them in what is permissible and disrespecting them . It is known from Islamic teachings that:
Even if one’s parents have done something unfair to him, he is not allowed to look at them with a sharp, angry gaze. Otherwise, even a single prayer (Salat) of him will not be accepted .
Insolence to parents is one of the major sins and is Haram .
Prophet (PBUH) has warned about the consequences of Insolence to the parents by saying that the sweet smell of heaven will be sensed from a thousand years of distance but does not reach those who have been insolent to their parents .
It is essential to know that one may gain the satisfaction of the parents when they are alive, but will be readily insolent to them after their death by ignoring their rights like not paying their debts, not praying for them, etc.; and the other way around .
[i] (2 :83), (17:23), (4:36), (6:151), (31:13-14).
[ii] Doing prayer (Salat) and fasting (Swam) in place of parents, especially after their death, is highly advised in Islamic teachings. This is due to the importance of having respect for parents and these two Islamic practices. This also helps to maintain the emotional links between children and parents, even after their death.
[iii] Praying for parents and asking mercy on them is a duty on children that is emphasized in the Quran and Islamic narrations. If parents have committed some sins or have sometimes been disobedient, praying for them might be beneficial to them.
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