The Curse of Christmas loneliness
….it’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
The Christmas period has arrived where many people make merry and the wine flows in abundance. Far from a religious period, it has become a time people enjoy the vices which life offers of drink and comfort and follow their individual pursuits to seek their enjoyment. Enjoyment is key to the festive mood and workplaces, schools, streets and town centres are awash with its messages.
However during this time where individuals are seeking their enjoyments, many of their parents, relatives and neighbours are languishing in their own homes alone without a companion or friend to give them comfort of ear or word. Their lives are miserable due to loneliness and silence.
The curse of loneliness in the west
A study by Age UK has stated that nearly a quarter of elderly people are not looking forward to Christmas because of loneliness and fears that it will bring back bad memories
This year 23% of those aged over 65 – the equivalent of 2.5 million people in Britain – suggested that the festive season would not be a happy one.
The research also revealed that nearly 400,000 pensioners are dreading the prospect of a lonely Christmas, while 650,000 worried the festive season “brings back too many memories of those who have passed away”.
The study further suggested that the effects of loneliness increase during the winter months with 2.1 million people worried about not being able to go outdoors as much because of shorter, darker days and poor weather conditions.
In another research paper by Independent Age and the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK), it is suggested that by 2030 the number of older men living alone is expected to rise by two-thirds.
According to the study, more than 1.2 million men over 50 in England say they suffer from isolation. Men are more likely than women to experience loneliness as they get older because they have significantly less contact with children, family and friends than women, academics discovered.
Almost a quarter of men living alone have contact with their children less than once a month, compared with 15 per cent of older women.
These are terrible and heart wrenching statistics which illustrate the problems of this society of individualism, lack of family values and lack of community concern. Initiatives which have been proposed by the public and voluntary sector have including using technology to help elderly people in the community fill the vacuum of life. This is by volunteers or paid members of staff having conversations with them over Christmas, rather then their family members. These include volunteers having telephone conversations or visiting them for a few moments over the Christmas period. There are many dedicated helplines that have been set up to cater for older people in case the pain of having nobody becomes too overwhelming.
The elderly in society have been dishonoured where technology has become a substitute for human interaction and where families are just a distant memory.
Islam honours the elderly and does not ignore
Anas ibn Malik (ra) that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said,“If a young man honors an elderly on account of his age, Allah appoints someone to honor him in his old age.” (At-Tirmidhi)
In another hadith, the Prophetصلى الله عليه وسلم belittles those that do not show mercy to the elderly and considers them afar from the Muslims:
“He is not one of us who does not show mercy to our young ones and esteem to our elderly.”(At-Tirmidhi and Ahmad)
The Islamic way of life gives the elderly honour even in starting conversations. Once, Huwayyisah and Muhayyisah, the sons of Mas`ud ibn Ka`b, and `Abdur-Rahman ibn Sahl came to the Prophet to discuss a certain matter with him. `Abdur-Rahman, who was the youngest of them all, started talking. Thus, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said, “Let the eldest (among you) speak first” (Bukhari).
The Prophetصلى الله عليه وسلم advises and encourages strongly the young and indeed society to honor the elderly due to their age. These narrations send powerful messages to the Muslim community that Islam has placed elderly people- regardless of their creed and background in a high position, not the lowly position which they experience in the western society.
It is a sad world we live in when the elderly in the west are ignored by kith and kin. Instead of messages of emotional support, encouraging strong relationships with elderly parents and relatives, honouring the elderly and supporting the less fortunate, the commercial media blares out messages of selfishness, materialism and individualism.
Whilst Christmas parties take place, presents are opened and people enjoy themselves- there are millions of elderly people in the western world who are a company to themselves and the walls that they are trapped between.
Only the Islamic way of life is able to create a society that gives happiness to all people regardless of their age, race and background.
وَأَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الذِّكْرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ وَلَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
“And We have also sent down unto you the Reminder and the Advice (the Qur’an) that you may explain clearly to the people what has been sent down for them” (An-Nahl 16:44)