THE Holy Qur’aan calls out:
“Serve Allah and join not any partners with Him. And be kind to parents, relatives, orphans, those in need, neighbours who are related, neighbours who are strangers . . .” (Ch4 : v 36).
The Holy Qur’aan constantly highlights and emphasises the need for each and everyone whom Allah has bestowed with any of His bounties, to be considerate of and generous towards those who may be less privileged or in a state of need.
The circumstances of need may differ from category to category – like orphans, widows, elderly, sick and needy, among others – but the underlying factor is that man should not remain indifferent to the plight of these sections of community. In a sense, Islam teaches that these people have a kind of a “right” on the rest of community and society.
After all we are all of the same humankind and experience the same human emotions, and feelings.
Besides parents and relatives, it is worthy to note that there are also others in community who have “rights” upon us – and the categories are listed in the order of the bonds of relation that we have, as well as the need that others have.
The Prophet of Islam, Muhammed constantly stressed the importance of respect for the rights of the weaker and poorer sections of society – the orphans, the widows, the needy, the destitute and downtrodden. To care for their needs and look after their well being has been described as a virtue of the highest order in Islam.
Caring for the orphan
Prophet Muhammed also taught that the best home is the one wherein an orphan is supported and is treated in a loving and affectionate manner, and the worst is that home wherein an orphan lives and is treated badly or cruelly.
This will apply to anyone who accepts the responsibility of supporting an orphan belonging either to his own family or any other family with whom he has no particular blood tie.
In fact other prophetic teachings highlight that even if one is unable to take full care of an orphan but merely shows love and compassion, he will attain great blessing from The Almighty. Prophet Muhammed stated “Whoever caresses the head of an orphan (in affection), solely for the sake of The Almighty (with no ulterior motive), a good deed will be written to his account for every hair over which he passed his hand.”
Attending to the needs of the widow and the needy
The Prophet Muhammed said: “Whoever strives to relieve (the distress of) the widow and the needy, is as one who fasts continuously during the days and spends the nights in prayers (in terms of reward and blessings)”
The act of spending one’s days in fasting and nights in prayer is greatly rewardable. These acts of worship are the best in terms of drawing closer to The Almighty and serving Him, but we are taught that the same is the worth, value and reward of a person who takes pains to assist and comfort the widow or those in need – by any means like spending his wealth on them, simple acts of kindness by way of assisting in their daily chores, giving some time to listen to their plight, share some consoling words or by sincerely trying to draw the attention of others to their problems and difficulties.
Respect and honour for the elderly
In every society there are some members who are older in age and others who are younger to them. The Prophet Muhammed has also explained in his teachings what their mutual behaviour should be. This aspect of social conduct, which may appear insignificant to some people, plays an important part in promoting a happy and peaceful life, both at family and community levels.
The Prophet Muhammed is reported to have stated that “He is not of us, who is not affectionate to those who are younger than him and is not respectful to those who are older.”
The occasion for this statement, as related by one of the Companions of the Prophet was when an elderly man came to meet the Prophet and the people present in the gathering took some time to make way for him. They did not move quickly enough as the old person’s age would have required and the Prophet felt that this was a lack of respect for the elderly man.
It is extremely important that the elderly are always treated with great respect and tolerance.
Anyone who professes faith in The Almighty and following His messengers, should accord due respect and honour to the old and infirm – whether they are of one’s family or not. In a Prophetic teaching we are told “For the young man who will honour an old man because of his age, The Almighty will appoint men who will honour him in his old age.”
Thus we see that, although the eventual reward for showing good manners and respect to one’s elders will be in the Hereafter, from The Almighty Himself, The Almighty bestows His favours to such people in this world too.
For further information on Islam or a free copy of the Holy Qur’aan, please contact: MajlisulUlama Zimbabwe, Council of Islamic ScholarsPublications Department, P.O. Box W93, Waterfalls, Harare; Tel: 04-614078 / 614004, Fax : 04-614003; e-mail: [email protected]