“Religion is sincere good counsel (nasiha).”
— the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
“Whoever fails to care for our youth, respect our aged, enjoin right, and denounce wrong is not counted among us.”
— the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
The other day, I spoke with an elderly cousin of my mother’s. She resides in India, and I asked her if she would come for ‘umrah and visit me in Jeddah. When she said she’d consider it, I mentioned that she should make sure to let me know beforehand, because sometimes I have to travel back to the States with my husband due to his work. Immediately she responded, “You guys should go if you have something important to do. Never upset your husband by giving preference to your own family!”
Her advice was loving and wise, and it reminded me of the great blessing we have within the treasure trove of an elderly believer’s life experience. In our contemporary culture, however, some may scoff at advice such as hers, since it emphasizes traditional values of honoring one’s husband and being an obedient wife who handles her various relationships with wisdom and love. Of course, we would be none the wiser if we chose to ignore good advice that is in line with the Shari‘ah, especially if it comes from pious Muslims who have lived a long life of worship and obedience to Allah.
In order to more fully celebrate the presence of elders in our communities, the following recommendations should be considered:
Make it a point to find a person older and wiser than you, and take time out to sit with them. Often times, the most service-oriented and worshipful Muslims of the older generations are also the most quiet and hidden. Seek out such people, and just visit for tea, or help them with a chore. You may find them sharing a Prophetic dua, or a word of advice, that will stay with you and help you for the rest of your life.
Encourage your children to be kind to the elderly, and to greet them with sincerity and not simply as an impatient formality. Teach your children to always be patient with those who are older than them; the elderly can sometimes become cranky and difficult, and young people can learn important lessons about patience, humility, and holding one’s tongue, if they are taught to be kind in return.
Don’t hesitate to give a word of advice if you find yourself in a position of greater maturity than those around you. In one of our Sila online sessions, Umm Sahl mentioned that irreligiousness has spread in her city of Amman because people no longer follow the religious requirement to “command the right and forbid the evil.” It is our duty to call people to Allah, even in the mundane-seeming actions of everyday life. If you have life experience or religious insight that the people around you could benefit from, make dua for help and try to share your advice with them for the sake of Allah. Your own experience of having sat with the elderly and the pious should help guide you as to how to do this! Who knows; perhaps if you give advice with humility, sincerity, and with the appropriate balance of firmness and gentleness, you may yourself have a positive effect on those of the next generation.