How Liberal Secular Values Shape Muslim Attitudes to putting Elderly Parents into Care Homes

What many people fail to understand is that the system that they live under has the utmost effect on shaping their identity. This is in terms of how they view events that they face in life, how they solve their everyday problems and the tastes, likes and dislikes that they develop.

Let us look at an example. Let us consider the looking after of elderly parents. In the UK when parents are at their most vulnerable in old age, society at large sees sending them to care home as the best option. Not only will they get 24 hour supervised care. The children can carry on with their lives and make occasional visits and check up by phone as to how they are . Both the elderly parents accept this. This is not due to individual choices as is commonly believed. No. Rather this is based upon fundamental values of liberalism, which have become a norm in British society.

Liberalism gives the highest regard to seeking pleasure and minimising pain. Jeremy Bentham a leading British intellectual, wrote a book in 1781 entitled An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. In it he discusses topics like utility, he concluded man needs to pursue those things that give him pleasure and avoid those things that give him pain, that is the basis upon which to pursue actions. These thoughts and ideas are deeply embedded in the way things are done in Britain, i.e how people approach life has deep rooted way of thought linked to it. This thought is also backed up by the government that makes the laws and the judiciary and courts that implement them.

Returning to the example of looking after the elderly we can see how using the care home solution for the elderly is based on western intellectual constructs like individualism and is accepted by all within society. For Muslims our elderly are not viewed as inconveniences , and this is because for centuries Muslims followed what Islam said our view should be towards our elderly parents. Indeed it told us that they have the highest of status, Jannah is at the feet of your mother. You are not even allowed to say uff to your parents. This is why Muslims have since the beginning of Islam always looked after their parents and elderly within their families.

Living In Britain unfortunately many have not understood this fact and have changed the lens with which they view this issue. For example Muslim organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain have been working with UK Govt to provide “Islamic” provision for healthcare. In a report entitled Elderly and End of Life Care for Muslims in the UK, instead condemning the secular liberal values that lead to some Muslims to abandon their elderly parents and others to put them in homes, they are encouraging the services provided to be made Islamic, for example taking the elderly to Jummah. In this report a Community worker, East London is quoted as saying

“As Muslims, we believe that we should look after our elderly. It is in the Qur’an and hadith. It is a religious duty – but what is happening in this country? Families are not living in the traditional way where they are close to one another and providing support to the elderly. Siblings are living miles away from each other so looking after their parents is becoming difficult. Also, a lot of Muslims live in overcrowded houses, so it becomes difficult for them.” –

So those that ask about what seeing Islam as way of life encompassing a state – i,e the khillafah has to do with identity. What I have just mentioned shows clearly the impact of the system upon the character of people. Muslims that know full well that they are obliged to look after their elderly are unwittingly or in some cases voluntarily taking on a liberal secular perspectives towards their obligations to their parents.

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