To illustrate this point I will cite jurist ‘Ali bin Mubarak Al-Karkhi [Rahimahullah], who studied under Imam, Abi Y’ala Al-Hanbali [Rahimahullah], himself a jurist and a judge and the chief Shaikh of the Hanbali school of Law: ‘One day, Judge Abu Y’ala said to me, while I was walking with him: “If you walked with someone you honor, where would you walk? I said: “I do not know.” He said: “Walk on his right. Place him at the position of Imam in the prayer. Leave his left side clear in case he needs to spit or to get rid of dirt.
An interesting story in this regard happened among three Muslim scholars. They were Judge Ahmad bin Omar bin Suriah (249-306 A.H.), Faqih Mohammad bin Dawood Al-Zaheri (255-297 A.H.), and linguist Naftawih (244-323 A.H.) [Rahimahumullah]. They were walking along together when they came to a very narrow passageway, and each wanted the other to go ahead. Ibn Suriah [Rahimahullah] said, “A narrow street begins ill manners.” Ibn Dawood [Rahimahullah] responded, “Though it points out status.’ Naftawih [Rahimahullah] said, “When friendship prevails, formalities disappear.”
The story does not tell who went ahead of the others, but it is likely that It was Ahmad bin Suriah [Rahimahullah] since he was a judge and a prominent imam at the imam at the time and ranked above his two companions. He may have said “A narrow street brings ill manners” apologizing out of politeness for going ahead. It is just wonderful to see such perfect behavior and nice apologies.
Do not walk in front of elders unless you have to show the way.