Elderly in Muslim Community

Elderly in Muslim Community

As Ibn al-‘Arabi observes, “Support for one’s family and relatives fulfills the criteria of charity while upholding family kinship”, Muslim religious culture generates the necessity of moral normativeness for care of the family as far as elderly care. This religious and cultural value system of society has been drawn largely from religious teachings of Islam, and hadith “Whosoever desires to have expansion in his sustenance and a prolonged life, should treat his relatives with kindness.”

It is a moral obligation to both family and community towards the treatment of elderly.It is generally very much closer to their norms of religiosity, spirituality, and morality. The family unit plays a critical catalyzing role to meet the various needs and changes on the part of the elderly through the process of ensuring acceptable degrees of integration, engagement and meaningful purpose. From birth, to marriage, and into old age is strongly built within a vital family support network in the Muslim community. It has been observed that majority of the Muslim families; elderly parents live with their children because it is necessary to take care of their parents.  ‘When the parents are old, extended families often attempt to live together or at side by side at the least; and when young men marry, they usually bring their wife to the home of their parents. Extended families effectively include grandparents, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and even cousins and may therefore provide Muslims with better chances of caring for their needy or deserving ones.’ In an extended Muslim family, the elderly is regarded with respect and dignity. They have the rights to be involved in matters of arbitration, and they lead ‘serious consultation, as well as heading notable social functions and celebrations such as weddings, visits and funerals, and at times filling the role with wise individuals, solving problems, arbitrating and preventing crisis.’

From a qualitative study on position of elderly in Muslim community, it was gravitated that the Muslim cultural framework consistently holds older individuals in high regard and respect. The young member treats them as“He is not one of us who does not show mercy to our young ones, and esteem to our elderly”and they have firmed faith that “He who honors an old man for his old age – meaning during his old age – God will grant him one to honor him during his old age.”

It was observed that the social and religious life of this community inspires its members to care for the elderly.  ‘Society’s respect and kindness towards the elderly may further be grasped through the recommendation of the elderly in leading a congregational prayer.’It also directs that ‘treatment of the elderly in public functions, particularly with respect to the priority of people being served, as seen in the instance where Prophet Muhammad is reported to have instructed Muslims’: “Begin with the elderly”.

Therefore, Muslim religiosity exercises significant influence on the psychological well-being of old people. Consequently, it ‘decreasesdepressive symptoms among elderly, and it facilitates overall better quality of life , psychological well-being and better mental health , more flexible adjustment to life’s problems, and a lower rate of aggression, hostility and rebelliousness.’

Harasankar Adhikari is a social commentator


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