The Elderly: Social & Religious Responsibility in Islam (Part 1 of 3)

A Moment with Our Prophet, Muhammad (S)

By Imam Zijad Delic

Day 244: The Elderly in Canada

Anas ibn Malik (r) narrated that the Prophet (S) said: “No young person honors his/her elders but that Allah will appoint someone to honor him/her in his/her old age.”

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَا أَكْرَمَ شَابٌّ شَيْخًا لِسِنِّهِ إِلَّا قَيَّضَ اللَّهُ لَهُ مَنْ يُكْرِمُهُ عِنْدَ سِنِّهِ

Source: Tirmizi

Transliteration: “Ma Akrama Shabbun Shaikhan Li Sinnihi Illa Qabbadallahu Lahu Man Yukrimuhu ‘Inda Sinnih.”

Let me start this discussion about the elderly in Islam, by contextualizing it within the larger Canadian context of which Canadian Muslims are an integral part.

By the end of the last century and the beginning of 21st century, the world has witnessed a remarkable interest in the elderly members of the society and their conditions.

Many local, national and international conferences and symposiums were held to deal with the issues and challenges seniors encounter in their lives nowadays.

In 1982, the first initiative to care for the elderly was introduced as the United Nations declared the ninth decade of the 20th century “the decade of the elderly.”

In 1983, the World Health Organization adopted the slogan “Add Life to Years.”

In addition, the UN conference held in Madrid in 2002 adopted a plan of action to solve the problems of the elderly in various countries around the world.

The outcome of these conferences, however, was just sweet promises and plans without any actual application of the talks.

Even at home, here in the country of plenty – our Canada, we often only talk and do not do much to “Add life to Years” of the most disadvantageous of the society – seniors.

It seems that this large segment of Canadian population and their needs and rights are ignored and are not on the radar of governments’ support.

Statistics Canada reports that seniors are one of the fastest growing population groups in Canada.

In 2011, seniors made up 14.4% of the population, almost 5 million.

It is estimated that by 2030, about 23% of the population will be over 65 (9.5 million).

Canada Median Age is 41.5 years!

Muslim Median Age is about 30 years.

Seniors (65+) of Canadian Muslim community, approximately, make up to 7 % of the Canadian Muslim population.

Analyzing the statistics and different reports on seniors and listening to the political discourse in Canada these days and the ways the seniors (elderly) are treated lately, make me wonder how I will be treated when my time comes to enter the stage of seniority.

It seems that as a nation we do not contribute as we should to an important segment of our population – our elderly – people who have once served this country diligently and wholeheartedly.

And now when they have given almost all they had and need to be taken care of, they find themselves on the margins of the society.

I am not speaking here merely about the material level of care.

Social, spiritual and emotional support of the elderly has to be part of the equation as well.

This article will further highlight teachings and attitude of Islam related to treating the elderly and give glimpses of how the Prophet (S) put the theory into practice.

Ya Rabb! Guide us to take care of the elderly so that we, as we grow older, could be taken care of by the younger generation of the community/society!

Allahumma Amin!

(the next post – Part 2 – will focus on “the Elderly & Social Responsibility in Islam)

Allahumma Amin!