Privileges for Elderly Parents

Elderly Parents

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!

Elderly Parents – Handle With Care!

Vol 3- Issue 1  Elderly ParentsYouth is a gift of nature; age is a work of art. The gray in the hair and the wrinkles on the skin reflect close encounters with life. Incidents and emotions many of us have just read about have been lived by many elderly people. Ironically, not much is ever said or done about the elder stratum of our society, though they form a nuclear part of each family.

The purpose of this article is to bridge the gap between adults and their elderly parents. How can we give an aesthetic and meaningful touch to the nature’s most treasured family ties? We can simply turn the occasional tartness into a treat by retaining our own perspective. Following are the tips that focus on the upside of positive attitude and the benefits we may reap.

Recognize the Child in Them     

An old man is twice a child, according to William Shakespeare. No wonder grandparents and their grandchildren often seem to get along so well. However, we apply a different formula to handle both. With kids, we tend to be softer and ignore many questionable situations, taking into account their limited comprehension and experience. Conversely, with older folks we adopt a much harsher attitude, expecting them to demonstrate grace and wisdom always. Just as a child at his worst behaviour needs to be loved and handled with patience, the same applies to the elderly. If we agree that the old age is the second childhood, we should gear ourselves to deal with both likewise – with tolerance!

Help Them Slow Down

If our parents have led a very energetic life, they sometimes refuse to accept that age is catching up with them. Just like any machinery works at its best when it’s new, it needs regular servicing as it depletes. We fail to recognize the signs, and our parents don’t listen to the signals of their body. As children, we also at times expect our parents to function like they did ten years ago. They simply feel frustrated, when they cannot operate with the same vigor and virility. All super parents do get old and need to condition themselves to a gradual slow-down. Children must help them re-schedule their lives with maximum support and assurance that they can still do much but at a slower pace.

Encourage Them to Live on

Age brings multiple complexities in life. Some elderly fall in the trap of taking a pre-mature retirement from the life itself. This may occur after retirement from employment, marriage of children, or death of one of the spouses.  Feeling redundant, they wait around for their candle to blow out. Here, we can give them assuage that if they are alive, they certainly are not worthless.  It means there is still a plenty they can contribute. For example, they can teach the basic language and mathematic skills to the household servants, pass on familial traits (such as cooking or gardening) to their grandchildren, and do much more depending on their interests, mobility, and health.

Pull Them Away from Dangerous Habits

Richard Carlson comments that the elderly have far more years of bad habits to overcome than youngsters. Having generous portions of time available to them, they occasionally negatively capitalize on it by indulging into gossips. This is an indeed hurtful habit for the ambience of the home. Try to explain to them politely, how such loose conversation invites Allah’s (swt) wrath. You may pretend to place the blame on yourself or other factors for enticing them into starting it. This will save them from embarrassment. In case they do not budge from their stance, distract them with other chores and divert the conversation to more general topics. If nothing works, stop lending them your ear.

Dodge the Criticism

Disraeli has said that youth is a blunder, manhood – a struggle and old age – a regret. Criticism is just a way that certain people express themselves. It says less about us than it does about their need to criticize us. At times, due to hardships of life, our parents become habitual critics. Bitterness entrenches so deep in their lives that they can never appreciate a kind gesture or sincere intentions. Here the job is certainly a tough one, as humans temperamentally demand reward and recognition for their efforts. In such situations, just remember that the One, Who really needs to know and see, is Omnipotent and Omniscient. With Allah (swt) lies our ultimate reward.

Give Them Time

Panin once said that in youth the days are short and the years are long, while in old age the years are short and the days long. Sometimes neglect causes parents to behave inappropriately to warrant attention. Especially, when they feel their worth is no more than an old piece of furniture lying around the house. The best way is to engage them in any possible way. We can ask them to play board games with grandchildren or to share some old tales. We can set exclusive time to have tea or snacks with them in their room. We may discuss current affairs, family issues, hobbies or even seek their advice on their areas of expertise. Besides, they may not be around for long.

Try to be in Their Shoes

Age is a wretched combination of sickness, hopelessness, and dependence. When a case of common cold hits us, we end up becoming miserable. Though with medicines and appropriate treatment it goes away, we are cured by the mercy of Allah (swt). In old age, most of the diseases become a permanent condition. The symptoms differ only according to days, nevertheless, they are to stay. It takes nerves of steel and an iron will-power to fight it daily. This may translate into irritation, which is thrown up on others. According to Simone de Beauvoir, it is this very awareness that one is no longer an attractive object that makes life unbearable for so many elderly people.

Recognize Their Resistance to Change

Michel de Montaigio says: “Has anybody ever seen old age that did not applaud the past and condemn the present?” Often, older generation refuses to acclimatize itself to new ideas. This is a natural phenomenon. The nostalgia is so overwhelming that it doesn’t let them part with their past, let alone bury it. This makes them overly critical of all that is new and associated with it. They visit down the memory lane and want others to appreciate it with the same zeal. We do not have to start a heated argument, shooting down their perceptions as being old and outdated. Just open up our mind and close our mouth to draw the best out of their experience. When we get off to a good start, our positive attitude feeds on itself.

Listen to Them

Regardless of age, human beings have an instinctual need to be heard. If we consider ourselves, we tend to like the most those friends, who have a heart to hear us out patiently. Schopenhauer said that the first forty years of life give us the text, then the next thirty supply the commentary on it. The elderly like to relive their memories and occasionally share them with others. This may mean having to listen to their tales over and over again. We should take it in our stride with a touch of humour. One day, we may sound like a broken record playing a song over and over again for our children, too. We can all unanimously attest to the fact that the clocks are ticking also for us.