ISLAM AND THE ELDERLY

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Dr. Rabie Al-Aydi, An Islamic Scholar*

Indeed, Islam cares about the human being; both his body and his soul. In regard to Islamic
legislation, his life constitutes an important matter and a red line regardless of his color, religion,
or age. In many situations, the holy Qur’an as well as Prophetic Ahadeeth emphasize the
importance of human life and the sanctity of its infringement or ending it. Allah SWT said,
“Whoever revives it is as if he revived all people” (Al-Maidah: 32)
The Prophet PBUH also said,
(No soul shall be unjustly killed, unless the first son of Adam has a share of its blood, because he
was the first to enact the killing) (Narrated by Ahmad)
In addition, Islamic jurists considered “preservation of life” as one of the purposes of the Islamic
law, which Quranic texts and ahadeeth narrations came to preserve it. They (Islamic jurists)
required the use of all mechanisms and ways to protect life from any possible harm approaching
it.
Accordingly, nobody whatsoever has the right to end the life of another human being whether he
is young or old, healthy or sick. The life and sanctification of human beings is the first nucleus in
which Islam is concerned, for the preservation of the elder’s life is as important as the preservation
of the young’s life.
Behind this philosophy is the fact that Islam does not deem the human being as a machine that
expires when a period of time has passed. Rather, Islam believes that the older the person, the
greater his moral value in all its forms.
Since Islam possesses great value and principle, “which is belief in Allah Almighty,” and that the
human being deals with his human brother not on the basis of worldly benefit only, but there is
also a benefit and reward in the Hereafter. This makes him a good person in his dealings with all
people. So, what do we think if these people have favors to us such as parents, and we have
innate bonds with them that a person cannot deny? So, due to the person’s faith and his instinct,
he initiates good treatment of his parents.
Some of the reasons why people belittle the lives of the elderly include:
1. The busy life of their family members.
2. Weakness of the human and moral motives.
3. Control of materialism over them.
4. Culture in society plays an important role in the production of such a thought.
These people behave out of a philosophy that gives priority to everything that is material. They
see that all considerations must be given to money. In their view, the value of a person is only in
the extent of his productivity!! When he reaches a certain age that makes him unable to work, he
gets neglected and lost in the first crisis sweeping the country. So, young people get first priority
in treatment, attention, and care in crises with no thought for the elderly.
Through Quranic texts and Prophet’s ahadeeth, Islam has given great attention to weak links in
society such as children. As such, it worked to build the family and its solidarity from within. And,
as well as orphans, it stipulated the great reward for caring for them and growing their money. As
for the poor and needy, it realized for them a share in the wealth of the rich [in the form of Zakat].
Today when we talk about another weak link in the society; i.e., the elderly, and in light of the
human battle against coronavirus, we see voices calling and practicing behaviors that contradict
our humanity and the morals of societies in preserving human rights, on top of which is “his right
to life.” The elderly had given their societies a lot of efforts and construction in their youth, so
society has to take care of them in their old age, and Allah Almighty says: 
(Is there any reward for good other than good?).
Indeed, Islam refuses to consider the elderly as a synonym for “expiration” for they are an inherent
cause in every present that a person lives in, and in every luxury and grace that individuals enjoy.
From here was the Prophetic guidance: Go back to your parents, and
be good in their company.”
Among the best ways to satisfy Allah, Islam considers favors to the parents and to the elderly in
general. Another Prophetic guidance is indicated by the Prophet’s saying,
That who does not have mercy on our young nor knows the right of our elderly is
not one of us). A balance between “mercy and rights” is mandated in dealing with all people in the
society. It is a theory that the world today needs to read many many times starting with mercy on
the young until when he grows up, then he returns mercy to the elderly.
Certainly, it is a cycle that does not end of mercy and rights, which complement one another.
Mercy and rights are a dichotomy a society cannot do without. Mercy is a human right the weak
must enjoy in all societies until he becomes capable of giving, then, we obligate him of the right
and mercy in society. When we deal with the weak with mercy, he will deal with his society with
mercy; otherwise, he will deal in society with a spirit of retaliation and chaos.
The elderly who dealt with society with mercy and giving must find this mercy in their weakness
in the form of extra care and attention. We do not deny that culture plays an important role in
spreading the spirit of hope to receive life and production, no matter how old a person is. Aging
should not be a justification for withdrawing from life.
In conclusion:
Civil society institutions and human rights associations must work to increase the procedures and
take the maximum means of protection to protect and preserve the elderly, whatever the cost.
Societies cannot continue on the materialistic side alone without the leading role of ethics, and
the biggest test the world faces today is its benevolence to the elderly.

 

1- Ahmed A. Soliman, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
2- Institute For Education and Strategic Studies,
7609 Glencannon Dr, Charlotte NC, 28227

Written by Dr. Rabie Al-Aydi*
Specialized in Islamic philosophy and Sharia
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

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