Caring for the elderly

Imagine that you get old or ill, and you need care, but you find yourself neglected by your loved ones or even your closest family members. We see the increasingly tragic situation in first world and even developing countries, where once the person reaches the level where he needs care, he is neglected, or even abused or admitted into a nursing home. The main humane elements of love and mercy are hardly seen today, with the bankruptcy of basic mercy and compassion for others. 

Reported by `Amr bin Shu`aib (RA): Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "He is not one of us who shows no mercy to younger ones and does not acknowledge the honour due to our elders". [Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud] 

One of the fundamental elements of Islam is to care for the elders, especially the parents, and remember their goodness and struggle for you, and how hard they worked to please you and to work for you. The Qur'an and Hadith emphasise  how much Allah SWT encourages us to care for the elders and the abundant rewards, and warnings if we do not do so. Sometimes, when we are young, our health, status, money and the material life cycle makes us so arrogant that we do not remember that we are even going to age at all. 

We think we will be strong and young forever, but the truth is actually the opposite.  

In Islam, we have a fundamental belief, that the way you deal with others is the way Allah will deal with you. We have seen this repeatedly. It is the promise of Allah. If you care for your parents and the elderly, when you are in need and elderly, Allah will send someone to care for you. The importance of this topic cannot be underestimated.  

The cycle of life is something we cannot escape from. One way or another, something will happen in life and you will need someone to care for you. When we say care, we not only mean medical or physical care, but also emotional caring, with mercy, compassion, love and dignity. The person being cared for needs all of these.  

In many ahadeeth about caring for the elderly, the amount of rewards is magnifient, not least that Allah SWT will take care about you in your time of need. There are plenty of ahadeeth about the parents to the extent that some ahadeeth warns that there is no value in performing good deeds if he is not fulfilling his duties to towards the elders.  

And We have enjoined upon man [care] for his parents. His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years. Be grateful to Me and to your parents; to Me is the [final] destination. (Al Qur'an 31:14) 

And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word. And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, "My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small." (Al Qur'an 17:23 and 24) 

"Our Lord, forgive me and my parents and the believers the Day the account is established." (Al Qur'an 14:41)

It is a sign of the mercy from Allah for Allah to give you a compassionate husband or wife, or a relative or children to care for your in your time of need. The following hadeeth are just two of the many narrations on the topic of caring for the parents: 

'Abdullah b. Mas'ud reported: I said: Messenger of Allah, which of the deeds (takes one) nearer to Paradise ? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: Prayer at its proper time, I said: What next, Messenger of Allah? He replied: Kindness to the parents. I said: What next? He replied: Jihad in the cause of Allah. (Muslim) 

Reported by Abu Hurairah (RA): The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "May he be disgraced! May he be disgraced! May he be disgraced, whose parents, one or both, attain old age during his life time, and he does not enter Jannah (by rendering being dutiful to them)". (Muslim).  

The journey of caring is also a part of the continuation of the bond and unity of the family and society. When we look into history, many nations have come and gone with material status, but they do not leave a legacy because all the worldly things die and are gone. However, manner, character and goodness never die. 

When you care for the elder, you are actually also taking care of yourself. To be compassionate to others, you are actually earning a form of credit for your future use. Keep in your mind and heart, what you are doing is going to your "bank account" of good deeds between you and Allah, in dunia and akhirah. It cleanses your heart from being selfish and greedy, and makes you live in a different style of happiness. To be served gives you happiness, but to serve others gives you a deeper and more fulfilling happiness.  

Ask anyone who does so, and also, look at those who do not care about others and are living for themselves. The latter will end up lonely, miserable and neglected by the majority. It is not a nice position to be in at all. And the opposite, to feel the love and caring and serving of others, has a beautiful impact on your soul as it gives you tranquillity, peace and inner happiness.  

In Islam, when one visits an ill person or to care and serve the elderly, the rewards include divine protection, being surrounded by angels, being granted the love of the people by Allah and obtaining the ultimate dignity  because you will be famous in the kingdom of Allah and His angels. Their manner, character, servitude to others and being good will never die, it will be abundantly rewarded, during this life, in the grave and on the Day of Judgment.  

How many kings, leaders and rich people die and after that their legacies are obliterated. Whereas how many simple folk die and their name remains alive by the number of people who weep and supplicate for them. Even Allah allows the earth and the sky to cry for those He loves.  

Compassion and caring is a quality. You are fortunate if you have it and you are lucky if you work towards it without waiting for a pat on the back from anyone. In Islam, we should aspire to do everything purely for Allah.  

Imagine the impact that you will benefit from when you visit the ill or elderly. Their prayer for you is accepted. They can be lying down and helpless, but crying and making du'a for you.

All the enjoyment and pleasure of this life is fleeting – it fades away after you experience it, like eating a meal or something you like. All the pleasure is limited except if you gain the pleasure of your parents, the angels, the Prophet SAW and Allah. This pleasure is infinite and eternal. It lives with you in this life and accompanies you in the grave, and you will see the result on the Day of Judgment when you meet Allah. At this moment you will wish that you had spent more of  your life serving instead of being served!  

May Allah allow us to be among those who serve others and care for them, starting with our parents, members of the family, and mankind. Remember that true Islam is full of servitude, kindness, compassion and mercy for all, even animals and the environment, and what more your family, the elderly, you brothers and sisters in Islam and humanity.

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