The human life cycle is in stages; the early stage, the middle stage and the last stage. The early stage marks the beginning of the human life. It begins with the conception of an individual in the womb of his mother till he’s born and grows to being a young child. At this stage, life expectancy of human being is minimal. A young child is new to the world and, as such, is in the process of learning adaptation to its new and immediate environment. He depends on virtually everything and everyone around him for sustenance. Usually, the parents are saddled with the responsibility of nurturing and ensuring that the individual is well prepared for life challenges. He grows further to become an adult with full strength, an independent human on its own.

Allah has emphasized this stage of life clearly in the Qur’an:

“And We have enjoined upon man to be dutiful and kind to his parent. His mother bears him with hardship and brings him forth with hardship, and the bearing of him and weaning of him is thirty months, till he attains full strength and reaches forty years…”

The above verse confirms that a man attains full strength at the age of 40.

Man further develops to the next phase of life if Allah wills. This stage is the last stage of his life, the bended period.

Abu Huraira narrated that the messenger of Allah said,

“The lifespan of my ummah is from sixty to seventy (years)”. (Hadith No. 4466, Book of al maghazi, sahih bukhari, vol.5)

Old age is that period or stage in human life cycle when an individual is surpassing life expectancy or nearing the end of his stay in this momentary world. He once again becomes dependent after he’s independent.

This can be well understood from the statement of Allah, the Almighty from suratul Rum, ayah 54:

“… and we cause what we please to stay in the womb till an appointed time, then we bring you forth as babies (weak in body, hearing, sight, senses, stamina, and mind), then that you may attain maturity (meaning his strength increase until he reaches the vitality and handsomeness of youth), and of you is he who is caused to die (means when he’s young and strong) and of you is he who is brought back to miserable old age (meaning advanced old age with its weakness in mind and body, in steady decline in comprehension, and disability to grasp…) ”.

Old people are also called the elderly, a senior, senior citizen, or an older adult. Elderly people exhibit limited regenerative abilities. They are often susceptible to diseases, syndromes, injuries and sicknesses than the younger adult. They face societal issues around retirement, loneliness and ageism.

Islam enjoins showing kindness and respect to the elderly irrespective of sex, colour, or religion. Several examples can be adopted from the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

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)

The hadith above emphasize the immense reward involved in honoring the elderly ones. As a muslim, humility must always be part of one’s character, young or old.

In one hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) disavows those who do not venerate the elderly and considers them alien to the Muslim society:

“He is not one of us who does not show mercy to our young ones and esteem to our elderly.” (At-Tirmidhi and Ahmad)

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

“The young should (initiate) salutation to the old, the passerby should (initiate) salutation to the sitting one, and the small group of persons should (initiate) salutation to the large group of persons.”‏ (Al-Bukhari)

In the hadith above, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gives practical examples of Islamic etiquette and starts with a token of respect to the old. Thus the young should take the initiative toward the aged in greeting and also helping, showing kindness, visiting, advising, phoning, and so on.

Similarly, giving priority to the elderly in different situations is a token of respect and honor to them. It was narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

“Jibreel ordered me to give priority to the elderly.”

The Prophet also ordered Muslims to “start with the elderly” when serving a drink or the like.

In addition, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered that priority be given to the old concerning leading prayers:

Malik ibn Al-Huwayrith (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet said,

“When the time for prayer is due, one of you should announce Adhan and the oldest among you should lead the prayer.” (Al-Bukhari)

This hadith does not contradict the other hadith that gives priority in leading the prayer to one who is distinguished in recitation and memorization of the Qur’an.

The two criteria are to be considered, as reported in the hadith of Mas`ud Al-Ansari (may Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said,

“The person who is best versed in the recitation of the Book of Allah should lead the prayer; but if all those present are equally versed in it, then the one who has most knowledge of the Sunnah; if they are equal in that respect, then the one who has immigrated (to Madinah) first; if they are equal in this respect, then the oldest of them.” (Muslim)

Regarding obligations, Islam exempts the elderly who cannot bear fasting the month of Ramadan from observing this obligation, but requires them to feed a poor person for each day that they miss. Also, the elderly who cannot pray standing up are allowed to pray sitting down; if they cannot pray sitting down, they are allowed to pray lying on a side.

In addition, it is authentically reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) once rebuked Mu`adh ibn Jabal when he led people in prayer and prolonged it:

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to him,

“O Mu`adh! Are you putting the people to trial? [Thrice] It would have been better if you had recited Sabbihisma Rabbika-l-a`la [Surah 87], Wash-shamsi wa duhaha [Surah 91], or Wal-layli idhayaghsha [Surah 92], for the old, the weak, and the needy pray behind you.” (Al-Bukhari)

Also, Islam allows the elderly who cannot perform Hajj to delegate another person to perform it on their behalf.

Al-Fadl narrated that a woman from the tribe of Khath`am came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said,

“O Allah’s Prophet! The obligation of Hajj has become due on my father while he is old and weak, and he cannot sit firm on the mount; may I perform Hajj on his behalf?” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Yes, (you may)” (Muslim).

Despite the several virtues attached to old age in Islam, it is expected of anyone who has been blessed with old age to become more steadfast as much as he can. These virtues should not be misused or taken for granted as this stage is the stage one should draw nearer to Allah by means He has made permissible on us, seeking more of His forgiveness for all past misdeeds and sins and hoping for His pleasure.

Old age is indeed a great opportunity. It is a last means of seeking forgiveness and getting our sins erased and overlooked by Allah. Sadly, people hardly maximize this opportunity. Some people believe it is the best time to get involved in all forms of frivolities and enjoy life to the fullest in ways that are not permissible in the shariah. It is necessary to remind ourselves to get prepared as death may reach us at anytime and we shall be raised the way we die.

May Allah grant forgiveness to us all. I beseech His blessing upon the noble soul of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). And Allah Knows best.

Your sister, Khaulat Ozigis

Editor: Umm Naml

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