Prayer Time

  |      |      |   The Message of Islam:

Islam is the religion of compassion and justice, a religion that teaches perfect morals and forbids bad conduct, a religion that grants man his dignity, if he adheres to the laws of Allah. The edifice of Islam stands on the foundation of virtues which are concerned in relation to: society and God. The former class embraces habits, and the latter comprises different forms of worship. Paying respect to elders falls within the first category of virtues afore mentioned. Islam attaches so much importance to it that it is equated with glorifying the Almighty Allah. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: “Of the glorification of Allah, certainly is the honor shown to an elderly Muslim, the bearer of the Qur’an (by heart) without treachery therein and keeping aloof from it: and the honor shown to a just king.”


From the Hadith above, we can see that,  Islam has given the elderly a special status, as there are texts which urge Muslims to respect and honor them.

Recognize the status of the elderly and give them due respect. When walking with them, walk slightly behind, to their right. Let them enter and exit first. If you meet them, greet them properly and respectfully. If you discuss something with them, let them speak first, and listen to them attentively and graciously. If the conversation involves debate, you should remain polite, calm, and kind-hearted and you should lower your voice. Never forget to remain respectful.

Let me review with you some of the Prophet’s sayings and traditions that uphold these polite manners. Imam Bukhari and Muslim reported that Abdullah bin Sahl made a trip with Mahisa bin Masoud in Zayed to Khaibar. When they were to about to return, Mahisa found Abdullah had been murdered. He went to the Prophet(peace be upon him) with his older brother, Howaisa and the victim’s brother, Abdul Rahman bin Sahl. Mahisa who witnessed the incident started to talk, but the Prophet said, ‘the elder, the elder.’ At that, Howaisa spoke and then Mahisa.

Another story emphasizes this behaviour further. When he was young, Abdullah bin Umar was at a gathering of the Prophet(peace be upon him) and his senior companions like Abu Bakr and his father. The Prophet asked his companions, ‘Tell what is the tree that does not shed its leaves and which is like the Muslim.’ The companions started suggesting names of desert trees. Abdullah bin Umar thought it was the date-palm. Since he was the youngest, and seeing Abu Bakr and Umar silent, he shied away and said nothing. Then the Prophet told his companions: ‘It is the palm tree’. Later, Abdullah told his father that he knew the right answer but shied away. Umar said to his son ‘For you to have said it right then, would have been worth a lot to me.’

Imam Ahmad, Al-Hakim and Al-Tabarani reported that ‘Ubada bin Al-Samit stated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: ‘Whoever does not respect our elders is not one of us.’ Another version reported: ‘Whoever does not respect our elders, is not compassionate to our youth, and does not give our scholars due honor, he is not one of us.’


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)

However, it is now appropriate to give some practical examples from the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) life. We will see him listening politely and respectfully to an elderly polytheist, seeking to release an elderly man captured by Quraish, and honoring an elderly person and ordering him to improve his appearance.


Listening to an elderly polytheist respectfully. Ibn Kathir, in his biography of the Prophet, narrated that `Utbah ibn Rabi`ah, one of the chiefs of Makkah’s polytheists, came to the Prophet trying to dissuade him from his call. He addressed the Prophet in a ridiculing manner, “Are you better than `Abdullah (the Prophet’s father)? Are you better than `Abdul-Muttalib (the Prophet’s grandfather)?” But the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not respond to those degrading remarks. `Utbah continued, If you say that they are better than you, then they worshiped the gods you criticize; and if you claim that you are better than they, you can proclaim this loudly in order to be heard. You exposed us before the Arabs until it was spread among them that the Quraish has a magician or a monk. Do you want us to unsheathe the sword and engage in a bitter war until annihilation?”


When `Utbah noticed the politeness of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), he changed his offensive tone and continued, “Oh my nephew! If you desire money and wealth by preaching what you are preaching, we will collect enough for you from our own. We will make you the wealthiest of all of us. If it is chieftainship that you desire, we are ready to make you our paramount chief, so that we will never decide on a matter without you. If you desire rulership, we will make you our ruler. And if this condition that you call revelation is a jinn whose grip you cannot escape from, we are ready to call the most distinguished physicians of time to examine you, and we will spend generously till you are completely cured. For sometimes a jinn seizes hold of a victim totally till the former is exorcised.”

When `Utbah finished his impudent speech, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked him politely, Is that all, Abu Al-Walid?” “Yes,” he replied. “Then listen to me,” the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to him. “I will,” agreed `Utbah. Then the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) recited the beginning of Surat Fussilat (Qur'an41).


Seeking to release an elderly captive. In the biography of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), Ibn Hisham reported that when the Muslims captured `Amr ibn Abi Sufyan ibn Harb in the Battle of Badr, it was said to Abu Sufyan,  Pay for the ransom of your son `Amr.” However, Abu Sufyan answered,  Must I lose twice! They have killed Handhalah and now I must pay for the ransom of `Amr! Let him stay with them, they can keep him as long as they wish.” Afterwards an old man called Sa`d ibn An-Nu`man of the tribe of Banu `Amr ibn `Awf departed for Makkah to perform `Umrah. In spite of the critical political conditions, especially after the Battle of Badr, Sa`d ibn An-Nu`man thought that he would not be captured in Makkah since the Quraish did not harm pilgrims. However, Abu Sufyan attacked him and held him hostage until the Muslims in Madinah released his son. Some people of the tribe of Banu `Amr ibn `Awf went to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and told him what had happened to their relative. They asked him to give them the son of Abu Sufyan to free Sa`d ibn An-Nu`man from captivity. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) released the son of Abu Sufyan without a ransom and then sent him to his father who, consequently, released the old man.

Treating the elderly gently. Ibn Kathir tells the following in his biography of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) entered Makkah in Ramadan AH 8 (January 630) and entered the Sacred Mosque, Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) brought his father, Abu Quhafah, to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to embrace Islam. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) saw him, he said to Abu Bakr (peace and blessings be upon him),“Why didn’t you leave the old man at his house and I would’ve gone to him there?” Abu Bakr said, “You are more deserving of him coming to you than he is of you going to him.”The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) seated Abu Quhafah in front of him and honored him. Then he (peace and blessings be upon him) passed his hand on Abu Quhafah’s chest and asked him to embrace Islam and Abu Quhafah did. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), noticing that Abu Quhafah’s hair was white, directed that his hair be dyed but not with black colur.

These are just few examples of the Prophet’s (peace and blessings be upon him) gentleness, mercy, and respect towards the elderly. These examples, and many others, translate the sublime Islamic code of ethics for treating the elderly and provide Muslims, generation after generation, with a practical model that they should follow. Such care for the elderly is in line with the Islamic principle of the dignity of the human being and with the spirit of solidarity and mercy that pervades the Muslim society.





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