What does Islam say about caring for our parents in their old age?
All religions and all societies have given parents an honourable status. From a purely material viewpoint, we find ourselves indebted to our parents, particularly our mother. Remember the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) - “Paradise lies under the feet of the mother”. If Paradise lies under the feet of your mother and your father holds the key, will sending your aged parents to an old-aged home get you Paradise? Stop for a moment and reflect on the sacrifices our parents have done for us.
• Our mother carried us in her womb for 9 months. She not only nourished us in her womb, but during this time, she became ill with nausea, she got stretch marks, her feet swelled, her back ached and she could hardly walk.
• She experienced excruciating pain during child birth and she looked after us like a precious jewel. She attended to all our cries, whether it were for food; relieve or comfort. She toiled when we were totally helpless infants.
• She used to hear us before we could talk, hold us before we could walk and when we were ill, she sacrificed her sleep, stayed up all night, just to make sure we were better. She spent sleepless nights caring for us. She loved us even before we were born.
• Our father was there to support our mother. Our parents as a team provided for all our needs: physical, educational, psychological, and in many instances, religious, moral, and spiritual.
Our indebtedness to our parents is so immense that it is not possible to repay it fully. It becomes obligatory for us to show the utmost kindness, respect, and obedience to our parents. The position of parents, and the mutual obligations and responsibilities, have been addressed in Islam in great detail. The Quranic commandments, as well as Hadith guide us in this matter. The parent-child code of behaviour in Islam is unique, since rules were laid down by divine command.
References to parents have been made at least 15 times in the Holy Qur'an with numerous others made through the Hadith.
"And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents. In travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in two years was his weaning. Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents; to Me is thy final goal." (Quran 31:14)
According to the above verse, gratitude to Allah (Glorified and Exalted) go hand in hand with parents- Gratitude to Allah (Glorified and Exalted) is incomplete without showing gratitude to one's parents. Since being grateful to Allah (Glorified and Exalted) is a form of ibadah (worship) which earns heavenly rewards, it can therefore be said that being grateful to one's parents also earns heavenly rewards.
"Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or more attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say, "my Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy, even as they cherished me in childhood." (Quran 17: 23-24)
"We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents; in pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth." (Quran 46:15)
Dumping our parents at old age homes
Parents and children have the purest relationship. It is the duty of children to look after their parents when they are old and cannot care for themselves. Unfortunately, recent trends show that people would rather leave their parents in old age homes, an act which has devastating effects on the emotions of the abandoned parents. Is it fair to abandon aging parents because we are too caught up in our lives to spare some time for them? How can we forget that they cared for us when we were dependent infants? These people sacrificed outings, friends, vacations and other pleasures only to make us feel happy, wanted and part of the family. We are what we are today because of them. This is the greatest form of disrespect. This would not be done by a person who has fear of Allah the Exalted in their hearts.
Even if we call them every other day or visit them on Eid, can the phone fulfil the anticipations and expectations that a parent has to meet his / her son and /or daughter? Can the visit fulfil having their child whenever they need them?
How would you feel if your child did this to you?! When you age and become sick they take you and place you in an old age home. How would you feel? How angry would you be at them? And what would be the sin that he; your child, would incur? Why then do you demand the rights that are due to you but you do not want to give the rights which are required from you?!
Parents and children in Islam are bound together by mutual obligations and reciprocal arrangements. Allah Says (which means) “…No mother should be harmed through her child, and no father through his child…” [Quran 2: 233]
There are heartbreaking stories of the elderly in other old-age homes, in which they were dumped by their children, against their will.
According to Islamic principles, old-age homes should not be in existence. As our parents have cared for us when we were younger, we should do the same for them in their old age. It is unfortunate that in this age that we are living in, we have attached so much importance to attaining material wealth. We have failed to realize that our greatest wealth and treasure are our parents.
The responsibility for aged parents falls not only on their children though. The “sandwich generation” should be getting help from the Muslim community in taking care of their aged parents. This means helping them with errands like going to the doctor, for instance. If the child does not have the means to look after their aged parents, they can get donations in terms on money; groceries; nursing and other needs from people or NGO’s. Remember, Hazrat Yousuf (Joseph), as a royal Minister in Egypt, called his old, poor parents from their far off home and offered them seats on a high platform (he did not feel shy of behaving in a kind manner to poor parents in the presence of his officials).
Our elderly have to be revered and cared for. They are the reason we are here, they are responsible for us, and that they are old and infirm, they are our responsibility. Roles get switched, they need us now, later we will need our children.
Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "If a young man honors an elderly on account of his age, Allah appoints someone to honor him in his old age." (At-Tirmidhi)
Let us pray to Allah (Glorified and Exalted) that He guide us to be respectful, kind, and obedient to our parents, and that we continue to show them humility regardless of the power, position, wealth, and influence we may possess. Let us also pray that we be patient, kind, thoughtful, and friendly with our children, as we guide them through their lives, and that we discharge our responsibilities towards them as required by our religion, so that Allah (Glorified and Exalted) may be pleased with us, and may He Bless and reward us, both in this world and in the Hereafter.