Recognise the status of the elderly and give them due respect. When walking with them, walk slightly behind, to the right. Let them enter and exit first. When you meet them, greet them properly and respectfully. When you discuss something with them, let them speak first, and listen to them attentively and graciously. If the conversation involves debate, you should remain polite, calm and gentle. Ensure that you speak to an elder in a low tone. When you address him, never forget to remain respectful.
Let me review with you some ahadith of Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] that encourage these polite manners. Two brothers came to Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] to discuss a personal matter. The younger brother began to speak. At this Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] remarked, “The elder, the elder,” meaning, give the elder brother his right and allow him to speak first. [Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]
Sayyiduná ‘Ubádah Ibn Samit [Radiallahu anhu] reports that Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] said, “Whoever does not respect our elders is not of us.” Another version reports that, “Whoever does not respect our elders, is not compassionate to our youth, and does not give our scholars due honour is not of us.” [Ahmad, Hákim and Tabaráni]
Observe in the following narration how Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] taught the youth the manners of companionship and the habit of giving priority to elders.
Sayyiduná Malik Ibn Huwairith [Radiallahu anhu] said, “I was among a group of youth of similar age that visited Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] in Madinah for twent nights. Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] was very kind and compassionate. He sensed that we might have been longing for our families back home, and enquired about whom we had left behind. When we informed him, he remarked, “Go back to your families, live with them, teach them Islam and inform them of good deeds. At the time of prayer, let one of you call out the adhán and let your eldest lead the saláh.” [Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]
Hafidh Ibn Rajab Al-Hambali [Rahimahullah] has narrated from a jurist, Imam Áli Ibn Mubarak Al-Karkhi [Rahimahullah] who studied under Imam Qadhí Abu Ya’lá Al-Hambali [Rahimahullah], himself a jurist, judge and chief shaykh of the Hambali school of law during his time. Imam Áli Ibn Mubarak Al-Karkhi [Rahimahullah] says, “One day, Qadhí Abu Ya’lá said to me, while walking with him, “If you had walked with someone you honour, where would you walk?” I replied, “I do not know.” He said, “Walk to his right. place him at the position of Imam in saláh, leave his left side clear, in case he needs to spit or get rid of dirt.” [Dhail-Tabaqátul Hanabiliah]