The Twenty-First Letter
In His Name, be He glorified!
And there is nothing but it glorifies Him with praise.(17:44)
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. * And out of kindness, lower the wing of humility, and say: “My Sustainer! Bestow on them Your mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” * Your Sustainer knows best what is in your hearts: if you do deeds of righteousness, indeed he is Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again [in true penitence].(17:23-5)
O heedless person who has in his house an elderly parent or an invalid or someone no longer able to work from among his relations or brothers in religion! Study the above verses carefully and see how on five levels in different ways it summons children to be kindly towards their elderly parents. Yes, the highest truth in this world is the compassion of parents towards their children, and the most elevated rights, their rights of respect in return for their compassion. For they sacrifice their lives with the utmost pleasure, spending them for the sake of their children’s lives. In which case, every child who has not lost his humanity and become a monster honours those respected, loyal, self-sacrificing friends, serves them sincerely, and tries to please them and make them happy. Uncles and aunts, maternal and paternal, are like parents.1
So understand from this how base and lacking in conscience it is to be contemptuous of those blessed elderly people, or to want their deaths.
Bukhari, Sulh, 6; Tirmidhi, Birr, 6; Abu Da’ud, Talaq, 35; al-Haythami, Majma’ al-Zawa’id, ix, 269; al-Daylami, Musnad al-Firdaws, ii, 207.