The phrase ‘Golden Oldie’ is commonly used to refer to an old song or film that is still well known and popular. It obviously places value and gives importance to things that are of past generations, that have become classics. These are also often referred to as Forgotten Treasures. It made me ponder why is it that as a society people can value older ‘things’ but not older PEOPLE!
A visit to my grandmother this past weekend, is what sparked this train of thought. Seeing Ma makes my heart simultaneously incredibly happy and very sad.
The reason for my happiness is because Ma has always been the heart of our family. I know her to be strong, determined and always always having the Quraan at her side. In a time, when women in general and Indian muslim women in apartheid South Africa in particular, were still ostracised and shunned for even thinking of working outside the home, Ma not only helped my grandfather establish a successful business, but then spent years right by his side building it up. While he managed sales, Ma did all of the accounts, purchasing and marketing. All of this whilst simultaneously raising 5 children with very strong Islamic values and still fulfilling all of the traditional expectations of a wife in that era. In fact one of my earliest memories is that of Ma being a master at folding samoosas into those perfect triangles. I would eagerly sit at the table waiting for those little delicacies to be fried, and then savouring the golden goodness. Those childhood memories bring such joy.
In order for any building to have some level of longevity and success, it has to first have a solid foundation. And Ma is what gave our family this strength to endure whatever adversity may come with strong imaan. Subhanallah because of her love for Allah and her love for the Quraan, and her success in instilling it in her family, she can now claim numerous huffaaz amongst her progeny. I remember a few years ago, when she had to have a cataract operation, her biggest concern was that she be able to still read the Quraan on her own afterwards.
And seeing her now makes me sad…because the strong woman I once knew is now ravaged by old-age. She has back aches, low appetite, has literally shrunk ( a result of osteoporosis) looks weak, speaks softly, doesnt have much energy, and makes me realise that our time with her in this Dunya is slowly coming to a close. Yes, we never know how much time is ever allocated to any of us, and we might be called back before her, but this does make one appreciate her and her love that much more. I find myself wanting to listen to her talk, to tell tales of the past, of having to make a fire to boil the water before she could bath her kids, of going for Hajj and Umrah by ship, of not having takeaways and restaurants, of the time they bought their first car, or got a telephone…or the whole history of our family, and how her father was kidnapped by British soldiers and brought to South Africa as a slave! But she gets weak now…
And so the best we can do is love her, and listen when she speaks, and get her water when she asks for it, and treasure every moment we have with those that Allah has blessed us with.
Allah says in the Quraan: “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that (you show) kindness to parents. Should one or both of them attain to old age with you, Say not “Fie” unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word. And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little. Your Lord is best aware of what is in yourselves. If you are righteous, then Lo! He was ever forgiving unto those who turn unto Him” (17: 23-25).
This verse clearly depicts the Islamic relationship between (grand)parents and their children. It is a relationship based as we see on belief in Allah, and believing that He observes all that we do and that we are accountable to Him in the treatment of our elders.
Anas ibn Malik (ra) narrated that the Prophet (saw) 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) In another hadith narrated by Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari (ra) narrated that the Prophet (saw) said, “It is out of reverence to Allah to respect the aged Muslim.” (Abu Dawud)
These are just few examples of the Prophet’s gentleness, mercy, and respect towards the elderly. These narrations, and many others, are a practical example of the perfect Islamic code of ethics for treating the elderly and provide Muslims, generation after generation, with a model that they should follow. This 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.
If youre still blessed with a grandparent or two, even your own parents, honour them, treasure them, make them smile, earn their duaas…before we have nothing left but regret. A humble request to please remember my beautiful grandmother in your duaas. May Allah grant her strength and health and many more years to bless us with her knowledge of Him. Ameen