We all have to deal with our elders at some stage. Elders are the bedrock of any society. One can tell a society’s state by looking at how it treats its elders and children. You will be shocked at the results from anywhere in the world.
When dealing with both elders and children alike, ‘Handle with care’ is the special ‘mantra’. But dealing with elders is a ‘slightly’ different story. I am using the word ‘slightly’ because there is not much difference between elders and children. Elders (especially those who have reached an advanced age) need more careful handling!
There are myriad reasons for the above. ALLAH Subahanahu Ta’ala states in the Holy Quran in Verse (36:68) the following about who are granted long life by HIM. HE reverses them in creation, i.e. changes their state to weakness after strength. And HE then asks human beings if they don’t have any sense, i.e. can’t they understand? Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) said, “He is not of us who doesn’t have mercy upon young children, nor honor the elderly.” (Al-Tirmidhi).
So, how does one deal with elders, especially one’s parents? Now even here, there is a catch. As long as both parents are alive and together, it’s one story. The situation changes the moment one of the parents passes away. And if it’s the woman who’s been widowed, you can’t even imagine the agony and difficulties she will have to go through!
Or worse still, even if both are alive, their pair is sometimes torn apart due to several reasons. It is like the typical ‘Baghban’ Hindi film situation! ‘Baghban’ was just a film. In real life, there might be several other reasons for separating the parents.
‘Inclusiveness’ – the greatest gift we can gift our Elders
I read the other day somewhere that the biggest gift one can give anyone is ‘inclusiveness’. This is 100 percent right and applies to elders too. Including just this one quality in our behavior will do wonders for elders.
‘Divide and rule’ long gone but still alive and kicking
Human beings always try to differentiate between people based on several factors like color, money, position, etc. ‘Divide and rule’ policy seems to be a basic human instinct, not just inherent among the ‘colonial-age’ British! The Britishers used this policy with great success and dominated a large country like India and several other countries for centuries. And the women (mostly) of today adopt this policy toward their family members. Especially when dealing with their in-laws.
Both Men and Women are to blamed
Let me explain! Both men and women are to be blamed equally for the ‘my side’ vs. ‘your side’ feeling. Man is always nearly at loggerheads and not at peace with his in-laws and other family members from that side.
Blame it on inadequate dowry (this is the worst scourge especially prevalent in India and other South Asian countries), ‘perpetual’ demands for extra items like money, 2-wheeler/s, 4-wheeler/s, etc. Several deaths have been reported among the women due to these unnecessary demands from their husbands and their family members even after several years of marriage. I am not saying that every man is like this. But there are at least a few men committing this gross injustice.
Differentiation between ‘your’ people vs. ‘my’ people
If the men differentiate between ‘their’ people and the people from their in-laws’ side, why will the women remain far behind? They too are reluctant to let go of their ‘tit-for-tat’ attitude towards their in-laws and their family members. Some women might also feel bad due to the past injustices meted out to them by their in-laws. And thus nurture a ‘perpetual’ enmity towards them.
Most of the daughters-in-law let their in-law/s into their homes based on ‘ulterior’ motives. Like the pension amount, jewelry (especially gold), and ultimately the ‘big daddy’ of all items – immovable property/properties! A few cases of the in-laws being tried to be bumped off after getting their signatures forcibly on property transfer documents have been recorded!
But the first thing the daughters-in-law do is to differentiate their behavior patterns towards their in-laws. Agreed, it is the sole responsibility of the son to take care of his parents. And the daughter-in-law cannot be forced to care for her in-laws. We should never forget though that there is something called ‘humanity’! Which should never be forgotten by anyone.
The daughters-in-law should remember that they too have parents and there might be daughters-in-law of their parents too. What if they too exhibit different behaviors toward their in-laws? Remember even if one does not believe in the existence of the ALMIGHTY who is ever watchful of all our behaviors and our hidden motives, there is a simple law from Physics known as Newton’s third law, ‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’.
Differentiation in several forms
So how do the ladies differentiate their behavior concerning their in-laws? In several ways. For example, deliberately giving a smaller cup for drinking tea/coffee, trying to keep separate utensils, washing their clothes separately, etc. Agreed, the ‘COVID-19′ days are far from over! And the proverbial Damocles’ sword is still hanging over all of our heads! But COVID-19 is not transmitted through sharing of items. Or they might deliberately exclude their in-laws from accompanying them on even small trips outside. Say, for example, going to a mall, relatives’ homes, etc.
In old age, most people are gloomy because they have to keep to themselves. They feel lonely, left out. Young people should never forget that they too will inevitably become old one day. And they would have to face the same situation their in-laws are facing today. Hence, one should desist from differentiating between their parents and their in-laws, and treat everyone well (especially the older people and children). We are given but one life – let us live it to the fullest without hurting anyone, especially our elders and children. And let the elders live happily in their twilight years. And go to their eternal abodes peacefully!
We can never pay the debt of our elders, especially one’s mother
I will end this article with an incident that occurred during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). A person carried his aged mother on his shoulders and completed the Haj pilgrimage. This person came and asked the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) if the former was able to repay his mother’s debt (that is repayment of the kindness and love showered upon by the mother upon her child).
Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) said that even if the person in question or for that matter anyone else would serve his mother even for his entire life, the person will not be able to repay even one single cry his mother would have cried during labor and childbirth!
Caring for our elders and children should be the sole priority of our lives. This is also a major factor in living a purposeful Islamic life.