Emulating The Prophet’s Way of Treating the Elderlyby Abdul Rahman Rahuni
Age is the duration of a person’s life journey. The older a person is, the more wisdom and experience they possess. Likewise, the energy fluctuates from weak to strong to weak again.
Since there is a range of ages among humans at any given time, we must also understand how Islam treats each individual according to their age. This time, we discussed the relationship with the elderly in accordance with the Prophet’s ﷺ way.
The Prophet ﷺ appreciates people of all ages and genders, including the young and the old, men and women. He taught, among other things, respect for the elderly. We should be aware that the emergence of the younger generation is due to the existence of the older generation. Later in life, the younger generation will also age and be replaced by another younger generation. Islam teaches us to respect the elderly. The Prophet ﷺ said:
“إن من إجلال الله إكرام ذي الشيبة المسلم…”
“Indeed, among the forms of glorifying Allah is glorifying those who are elders among the Muslims.”
In this hadith, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ instructed us to show respect for the elderly. Even in conversation or giving something, the older person should come first. It’s in honour of the elderly, though perhaps the younger are more enlightened.
A chapter in Imam Bukhari’s hadith note is titled “Chapter of glorifies older and allows the elders to speak and question first.” This demonstrates his comprehension of the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ and how one should interact with older people.
One day, some of the Prophet’s companions came to him with their problems, and the youngest of them began a conversation with him, to which he replied, “Start with the older ones.”
When it came to the Prophet ﷺ and his senior companions, Abdullah bin Umar prioritized the elders. The Prophet ﷺ once presented a riddle to those in attendance regarding a tree that is comparable to a Muslim. He knew the answer but remained silent to allow the elders to speak.
The Prophet ﷺ also prioritized older people when giving gifts. In his words, the Prophet ﷺ said:
“I dreamt that I was cleaning my teeth with a Siwak and two persons came to me. One of them was older than the other and I gave the Siwak to the younger. I was told that I should give it to the older and so I did.”
[Narrated by Imam Al-Bukhari]
However, if a young person is on the right and an older person is on the left, it is best to start with the young person on the right. This can be seen in the life of the Prophet ﷺ, who is known for starting things off right.
On one occasion, the Prophet of Allah sat with his companions, a young companion on his right and an older one on his left, and he was given a drink.
After drinking, he asked the one sitting on the right for permission to give the remaining drinks to the older one. He said, “Would you allow me to give him first?”
The older companion in this story was on the left. He asked the young man on the right for permission to give to the older person first because he wanted to honour the older while also granting rights to those on the right. However, he first gave it to him because he did not give permission.
Another hadith also emphasizes respecting the elderly, as in the hadith of the Prophet ﷺ: “He is not one of us who does not have mercy on our young and does not respect our elders.”
[Narrated by Imam at-Tirmidhi]
The Prophet ﷺ when the fath of Makkah was approached by Abu Bakar, who led his father to convert to Islam. Then he said, “Why don’t you leave your parents at home and allow me to visit his house?” When viewed from the perspective of glory, he is the more noble individual, but he still honors the elderly by offering to visit his home.
The Prophet ﷺ was also concerned about the frailties of an older person. The body frequently becomes weak as we get older and older. The Prophet ﷺ corrected a young companion who had extended his prayer by saying, “Indeed, some of you drive people away. Make your prayers shorter when you pray with others. Indeed, some people (the congregation) are ill, old, and rushing among them.”
This hadith was revealed as a result of a complaint made by a companion of the Prophet ﷺ who claimed that their imam kept reciting long verses, which made the prayer tedious. He didn’t correct them like, “You have weak faith. you should not feel tired in praying“, but instead, to celebrate the congregation, the imam received reprimands.
The Messenger of Allah instructs us on how to interact with the elderly, demonstrating that they occupy a noble position on the side of religion. This is also how we should include or treat older individuals among us.
Abdul Rahman Rahuni
Ustadz Abdul Rahman Rahuni. The author is a graduate of the Islamic University of Madinah studying in the field of Islamic Sharia. He is currently a lecturer at Sekolah Menengah Ugama Islamiah, Tawau, Sabah.