My 89-year-old motherly grandfather has four sons and four daughters. The eldest of the children is 65 years old and the youngest 45. I mean most of them are quite old themselves. My grandfather is looked after by one of his children each month in that child’s home. However, almost every child is so reluctant. The sons say “we’re unable to look after anybody since we are men who don’t know how to take care of people. And our wives don’t have to look after their father-in-law. So, only the daughters have to look after their father in their own homes. But we’re ready to pay the money needed for his care.” The daughters on the other side say “our husbands don’t have to accept another’s father in their homes even if we ourselves look after our father.” So, what should happen now? All of them sound so right. So, can my poor grandfather be left in the midst of a street if nobody actually has to accept him in his/her home?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
It’s quite unfortunate to hear that children are unwilling to take care of their father, especially at a time when looking after one’s elderly father is most needed.
It is true that daughter in-laws do not have to take care of their father in-law, as this is not their responsibility. Their responsibility is to obey their husband in everything related to their marriage and take care of their own children.
As far as the daughters are concerned, their primary responsibility (after marriage) is to take care of their husbands and children. They should do whatever they can for their elderly father, but their first and foremost duty is towards their own family.
This leaves us with the sons, and the fact is that, looking after and taking care of the father is the responsibility of the male children, even after marriage. The statement made by the sons: “we are unable to look after anybody since we are men who don’t know how to take care of people” is surely incorrect, selfish and being helpless. Rather, being a man demands and requires that you have the strength and power to help those in need.
Islam primarily places the responsibility of looking after the parents on the shoulder of the male children. They should not force their wives to look after their own parents; rather they should take care of their own parents themselves.
Allah Most High says:
“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. 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 to them the wing of humility, and say: “My Lord! Bestow on them your Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” (Surah al-Isra, v: 23-24)
In the above verse, Allah Most High commands us to be kind to our parents, and not even utter a slight word of contempt. Surely, not taking care of them and letting them suffer is worse than uttering a word of contempt.
Imam al-Mawsili (Allah have mercy on him) stated in his al-Ikhtiyar:
“Allah Most says: “We have enjoined on man kindness to parents” (al-Ankabut, v: 8), meaning one should do good for them, and surely leaving them suffering despite having the capability of fulfilling their needs is not considered doing good to them.” (al-Ikhtiyar li Ta’lil al-Mukhtar, 2/232)
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) also greatly emphasised taking care of one’s parents, especially if they are elderly.
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Let him be humbled into dust; let him be humbled into dust; Let him be humbled into dust. It was said: O Messenger of Allah! Who is he? He said: He who sees either of his parents during their old age or he sees both of them, but he does not enter Paradise.” (Sahih Muslim, no: 2551)
The meaning of this Hadith is that serving one’s parents especially when they are old is a means of entering paradise, hence the one who missed this opportunity of entering paradise by serving them has indeed incurred a great loss. (See: Commentary of Sahih Muslim by Imam al-Nawawi, P: 1832, Dar Ibn Hazm edition)
Therefore, the sons should do their best to serve their father. They cannot force their wives to serve them, however if their wives wish to do so on their own accord, it will be a source of great reward for them, Insha Allah. If the sons are old and not capable themselves of looking after their elderly father, they should pay someone to take care of their father.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK