O elderly men and women! Know that the weakness and powerless of old age are means for attracting divine grace and mercy. The manifestation of mercy on the face of the earth demonstrates this truth in the clearest fashion, just as I have observed it in myself on numerous occasions. For the weakest and most powerless of animals are the young. But then it is they who receive the sweetest and most beautiful manifestation of mercy. The powerlessness of a young bird in the nest at the top of a tree attracts the manifestation of mercy to employ its mother like an obedient soldier. Its mother flies all around and brings it its food. When with its wings growing strong the nestling forgets its impotence, its mother tells it to go and find its own food, and no longer listens to it.
Just as this mystery of mercy is in force for the young, so is it in force for the elderly, who resemble young in regard to weakness and impotence. I have had experiences which have led me to form the unshakeable conviction that just as the sustenance of infants is sent to them in wondrous fashion by divine mercy on account of their impotence, being made to flow forth from the springs of breasts; so too the sustenance of believing elderly, who acquire innocence, is sent in the form of plenty. This truth is also proved by the Hadith which says: “If it were not for your elderly folk with their bent backs, calamities would have descended on you in floods.”1 It states both that a household’s source of plenty is its elderly inhabitants, and that it is the elderly that preserve the household from the visitation of calamities.
Since the weakness and impotence of old age are thus the means of attracting divine mercy to this extent; and since with its verses:
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,”(17:23-4)
the All-Wise Qur’an summons children most miraculously in five ways to be kind and respectful towards their elderly parents; and since the religion of Islam commands respect and compassion towards the elderly; and since human nature also requires respect and compassion towards the aged; we elderly people certainly receive significant, constant mercy and respect from divine grace and human feeling in place of the fleeting physical pleasures and appetites of youth, as well as the spiritual pleasures arising from
al-‘Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, ii, 163; al-Munawi, Fayd al-Qadir, v, 344, No: 7523; al-Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, iii, 345.