Jun 13, 2011

Advocating for the Rights of People with Disabilities from the Teachings of the Holy Quran & Sweet Sunnah

By: Sr. Sohada Mohamed
Registered Occupational Therapist

Disabilities Advocacy Specialist

"They are deaf, dumb, and blind, so they return not to the Right Path." (Quran- alBaqarah, 2:18)

Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. Just because some are known to have disabilities doesn't mean that the rest of us are excluded from abnormalities. In fact it could be that most of us who have our senses intact are the ones who truly define the label of being impaired yet have too much darkness in our hearts to contemplate the light. Allah does not refer to those we sometimes look down upon due to their lack of motor, cognitive or social skills. Allah is talking to those who indeed may have those abilities yet have chosen a path in contradiction to our prescribed purpose of life- to truly strive in righteousness for the sake of our Creator, Allah the Most High, in all that we do.

Among the best of Allah’s creations after our Noble Prophets and Messengers, peace & blessings be upon them, are those with special needs. While most people on the face of this Earth are ungrateful, children and adults with disabilities tend to be of those who are most content and satisfied. SubhnaAllah. Some would give them the right to complain, live in tears, and doom themselves in misery, but because of Allah’s support upon their hearts, you will not find most people with handicaps or impairments as such. On the contrary they are most ready to graciously accept the challenges Allah has willed upon them. They are honored servants of Allah with dignity whom are dignified by Allah and should be dignified by us as well. Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alayhee wasallam taught:

"Show mercy to those on earth, and God will show mercy to you." (Hadith: At- Tirmithi and Abu Dawud)

People often look at people with disabilities and pity them. However having sympathy for them is usually not a strong tool in advocating for their rights as humans. Feeling bad for people who live with handicaps is not useful in promoting their rights. A more valuable emotion that should be used is empathy because then, the hope for successful outcomes is seen and the whole person is viewed as a unique special addition to humanity. They desire and deserve the support to achieve their goals, and when we empathize, we realize the struggles they face. We then become better equipped to help give them the tools in reaching their potential level of independence, instead of saying “oh haram, miskeen, poor people”. It is the Qadar of Allah that they are as they are, and it is also the Qadar of Allah that we are given the blessed opportunity to advocate for them in any way we can. All Muslims are responsible to this noble cause. Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alayhee wasallam emphasized this when he said:

"Whoever meets the needs of his brother, Allah will meet his needs." (Hadith: Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

Allah gives and takes from each of us and just because someone seems to be at a loss, doesn’t mean they are a hopeless case without the ability to succeed to his or her potential level of independence, strength, or capability. Allah created each of us in uniqueness:

Oh humanity! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other, not that you may despise each other. (Quran- alHujurat, 49:3)

This verse isn’t just about various cultures and societies, but about the differences in people and Allah celebrates the diversity which He created so that we may reflect. People with disabilities are no exception to that beautiful diversity we have in this life.

“And cooperate with one another towards righteousness and piety and do not cooperate towards sinfulness and aggression.” (Quran- alMa'idah, 5:2)
Allah here specifically tells us that we need to cooperate with one another, and this should be realized that as we are able to help people with disabilities, we should also expect that they too can be teachers through their life experiences in giving us a glimpse of what it means to patiently strive for the sake of Allah. As they may be able to benefit from us, we too may be able to benefit from them.

Prophet Muhammad salAllah alayhee wasallam told us:

"None of you is a true believer until you wish for your brother what you wish for yourself." (Hadith: Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Each of us has an obligation to them. Remember that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, also taught that even a smile is a charity, and that charity is prescribed for every person every day the sun rises. Why not the next time you see a child or adult in a wheelchair, bend down, look at them in the eyes and just say ‘Asalaamalaiakum’ or sincere ‘Hello” with a smile. They may not have the capabilities of hearing you, seeing you, paying attention to you or responding to you..but they have hearts and certainly they will feel it. Try it for the sake of Allah.

There is more than just a benefit of this donia in reaching out to someone who is facing a difficulty of any kind. As Muslims we know the reality of the Hereafter is to come. So we must keep in mind that a Harsh Day is expected for many who neglect and refrain from assisting others when they are given the chance to. Be hopeful towards Allah’s Promises of great rewards by striving to help a person in any sort of need and do not shy away from them in fear of offending them. Sometimes we convince ourselves that others will hold the door for the man in the wheelchair who is 15 feet behind us because there are others walking by. Sometimes we assume that small child is just acting like a spoiled brat when he does not listen and is annoyingly making high pitched screechy sounds, rather than understanding deafness and attention hyperactivity deficits consume him. Let’s stop these sorts of assumptions and stand up to the responsibilities we have in expressing the spirit of One Ummah, One Humanity, for the sake of our One God. Do you know how much just a look of compassion on your face would alleviate distress from them or their caregivers? There is so much wisdom in that smile hadith of our beloved Rasullilah salAllahu alayhee wasallam. He also explained a 100% guarantee, with the radiant incentive that Allah Promises to the caregiver, assistant, and to those who do good in helping others who are in difficulty:

"If one removes a hardship of a Muslim in this life, Allah will relieve a hardship from him on the Day of Judgment." (Hadith: Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Allah reminds us in the Holy Quran that one assigned a struggle of any type, including the the various forms of an impairment, disability, or handicap has rewards up for grabs if they persevere as well:

“Only the patient will be paid back their reward in full without measure...” (Quran- AzZumar, 39:10)

Rasullilah salAllahu alayhee wasallam was sent as the Mercy to all of us. He was so compassionate to those without disabilities, that when it came to people with cognitive, social, or physical impairments he became even more sensitive towards their needs. He reached out to them and communicated Truth to them on their levels of understanding. People who had a hard time comprehending Islamic teachings were given graphic organizers drawn out into the sand. He didn’t just utilize spoken words, but visuals, demonstrations, and hands on teachings were used to get his point and the Points of Allah across to the masses. Never with humiliation, but with honor towards people with all sorts of needs. Allah directly addresses Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alayhee wasallam as a mercy for all- not just towards those who can apply the physical actions of worship, he spoke to hearts which everyone is capable of using just by feeling, regardless of what medical diagnosis they have or health condition they are challenged by.

Allahumma salli 3leh Nabiyanna Muhammad, our beloved Rasullilah!!

“Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He is anxious over you; for the believers he is full of empathy, kindness, and mercy.” (Quran- atTawba 9:128)

Advocating for the rights of people with special needs through counseling, rehabilitation, and education have been clearly identified in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alayhee wasallam. These people are NEVER to be excluded in Islam, so they should always be highlighted as extraordinary individuals of our Ummah. Being ashamed of them or embarrassed in having them as siblings, children or neighbors is ignoring their beautiful attributes which should be highlighted. Unfortunately, in some Muslim populated cultures we see many different takes of disability. We see the ‘QadarAllah Be All Philosophy’- Allah wanted this to happen, so let it be. This is all good, but when moderation of this philosophy lacks, then wide scale neglect of efforts are witnessed, and as a result many people with disabilities who have a potential to reach higher levels of independence in self-care, physical mobility, social skills and higher-cognitive functioning simply do not. Back to the verse above, 9:128, Allah explains to us that our beloved Prophet Muhammad peace & blessings be upon him does not want us to suffer. Attaching this to the purpose of our lives (which is to strive for the sake of Allah in righteousness) we have to understand that being empathetic, kind and merciful is nurturing esteem, dignity, courage and hope in others by giving them supportive tools in overcoming their biggest challenges. This is why he was constantly worried about us and our fate in the Hereafter. He lived trying to assure we all were given the tools in reaching levels of independence by teaching us dependence on Allah, Allah Alone.

In conclusion, Allah reminds in the Quran:

By no means shall you attain Al-Birr (piety, righteousness, etc., it means here Allah's Reward, i.e. Paradise), unless you spend (in Allah's Cause) of that which you love; and whatever of good you spend, Allah knows it well. (Quran- aliImran 3:93)

Allah judges us according to our piety and righteousness, not according to the skills and abilities He has given us. If we can remember that, then it becomes that much more easier to always keep people with disabilities or handicaps in mind as people who can, not people who can not. We can all step back and learn from their purpose in life, because in reality, it is very much the same as ours. Next time you see a person with a unique type of challenge make duaa for them, increase in gratitude towards Allah, lend a hand, avoid describing them as ‘the disabled person’ (they are not their disabilities), let them be your teachers too.

Remind, for indeed reminders benefit the believers.” (Quran- adhDhariyat 51:55)

Remember that no one, not you, not anyone is complete in except Allah Who Owns perfection. It could be those simple deeds which winds you straight into Firdous by Allah’s Grace. The Last Messenger of the Most Loving, alWaddud warmly advised us to demonstrate mercy on the creations on earth, so that the One Above all that exists will have mercy on us.

May Allah help us help others and increase us in compassion and mercy for our brothers and sisters, and increase His Mercy and Compassion on all of us!

I'd love to hear your views on this article. Please tell me in the comments section below :)


SubhanAllah, this is a beautiful article. Being a parent of a child with a disability and a professional in special education, I can truly say that those of us who have disabilities are the best of teachers...if we would only stop and learn from them. Alhamdulillah.

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