Right after mentioning His right of worship, Allah (swt) mentions the rights of parents. In a single verse, He has specified the guidelines for the treatment of parents and has particularly stated that additional care should be given to them, when they become old. Allah (swt) says:
“And your Lord had decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour.” (Al-Isra 17:23)
Aging is accompanied with many physical, mental and emotional changes. For this reason, elderly parents need to be taken care of in a more considerate manner. Unfortunately, the growing materialism and influence of the West is depriving parents from their essential rights. However, according to the Quran and the Sunnah, this is a grave sin, as the Prophet (sa) has said: “They are (or your relation with them will determine) your Paradise and your Hell.” (Tirmidhi) At times, it does become difficult to deal with elderly parents, but with little patience, love and effort, elderly parents can be given the respect they deserve.
Adult children tend to be less grateful because of their independence. Often, resentments are held for parents’ inattentive attitude during childhood. However, this cannot be used as an excuse to justify any mistreatment on behalf of the children. This is because the pains borne by parents to bring a life in this world and nurture it outweigh everything. Parents tend to become kind as they become old; therefore, if someone has had a distant relationship with parents due to their strictness, it’s time to break the ice and start anew. Cleanse the heart from all kinds of bitterness and try to fill it with acknowledgement for them. If gratitude prevails in the heart, all physical actions tend to follow it.
Aged parents are either extremely concerned about their health or are completely casual about it. Irrespective of their attitude, their health and medical needs should be managed properly. This should include regular check-ups, monitoring of medicines and diet control. Diet often becomes a disputed issue in such situations. Talk to your parents politely about the disease and explain to them the consequences of over-indulgence.
Spending upon parents is compulsory for every Muslim. Allah (swt) says: “They ask you (O Muhammad), what they should spend. Say: Whatever you spend of good must be for parents…” (Al-Baqarah 2:215) Consideration should be shown while spending on them, in order to avoid hurting their self-esteem. Due to dignity, some parents don’t even demand anything for themselves. Hence, their needs should be attended amiably. It has been narrated from Jabir ibn Abdullah (rtam) that a man said: “O Messenger of Allah, I have wealth and children, but my father wants to take all my wealth.” He said: “You and your wealth are for your father.” (Ibn Majah)
A bizarre custom of our society is that aged people are expected to keep a very low profile and lead a simple life. They are not expected to show any kind of interest in worldly affairs. However, they are the same humans as any of us – feelings and desires do exist in them. So if an old mother wants to buy a bright dress or a father wants to be a kid for a while, cheerfully let them have their way, as long as they do not fall into the forbidden (Haram).
Once, a man said to the Prophet (sa): “Shall I participate in Jihad?” The Prophet (sa) asked: “Are your parents living?” The man replied: “Yes.” The Prophet (sa) said: “Do Jihad for their benefit.” (Bukhari) Imam Bukhari brings this Hadeeth under the topic of “Seeking permission from parents for Jihad.”
In our routine life, our parents need to be well-informed about our activities. For youngsters it is a must, and for adults it should be done as an act of courtesy and good manners. This will also save parents from the anxiety they go through in the absence of their children.
Change is something disliked, when one grows old. When any kind of change is expected, like buying new furniture or painting the house, talk to the elderly parents beforehand, involve them and ask them for their opinions. Even when going out for family outings, always ensure their comfort.
Retried parents often fall in frustration and even depression because of idleness. Look for productive activities they can engage in. Assign responsibilities to them that they can easily manage. Make them feel important, ask for their advice, include them in all kinds of family discussions and decisions, and spend quality time with them. Also, encourage your spouse to have an affectionate relationship with your parents.
The Prophet (sa) said: “The pious offspring, who casts a single look of affection at his parents, receives a reward from Allah (swt) equal to the reward of an accepted Hajj.” The people enquired: “O Prophet of Allah (sa), if someone casts a hundred such glances of love and affection at his parents, what then?” The Prophet (sa) said: “Yes, indeed, even if one does so a hundred times a day, he will get a hundred-fold reward. Allah (swt) is far greater than you can imagine and is completely free from petty narrow-mindedness.” (Muslim) Adults rarely express love for their parents. A natural shyness and distance develops as we grow older, but this Hadeeth should break all such barriers. Express your emotions! Occasional hugs and kisses and surprise gifts would uplift their spirits and bring extreme delight to them.
After giving the guidelines in Surah Al-Isra verse 23, Allah (swt) further orders: “And lower unto them the wing of submission and humility through mercy, and say: ‘My Lord! Bestow on them Your Mercy as they did bring me up when I was small.’” (Al-Isra 17:24) This verse makes us realize how indebted we are to our parents. For those of us who, at times, fall short to adhere to the decree, there is hope in the next verse, commanding us to keep trying.
“Your Lord knows best what is in your inner-selves. If you are righteous, then, verily, He is Ever Most Forgiving to those who turn unto Him again and again in obedience, and in repentance.” (Al-Isra 17:25)
May Allah (swt) enable us to realize and attend to the physical and emotional needs of our elderly parents. Ameen!