thanks to Mohammed Hassim who emailed me this article.
Physically Challenged Deserve Dignified Treatment!
By A Husein
Historically, people with physical disabilities have been referred to as â€œhandicapped,â€ as â€œdisabled,â€ and as â€œcrippled,â€ but more recently, there has been a shift to use more dignified terminology and so more and more we hear talk of the â€œphysically challenged.â€
According to Islamic teachings, we say that Almighty Allah has tested such and such person with blindness or hearing loss or any number of other physical challenges. Saying someone has been tested by Almighty Allah is very different than treating them differently because of whatever physical challenge with which Almighty Allah has tested them. Islamic teachings enjoin us to treat with dignity and respect those in our family and community who are physically challenged.
Twice Tested: First By Allah, Then By Family and Friends
Most often, people who are physically challenged are already very self-conscious with the level of their consciousness being directly related to the type and nature of their particular challenge. They accept that they have been tested by Almighty Allah, and that according to Islamic teachings, they are not to engage in the type of self-victimizing thinking which leads to thoughts and statements. such as â€œwhy me,â€ or â€œwhy is Almighty Allah punishing me,â€ or even worse, â€œI wish I was dead and did not have to live like this.â€
The real problem is that in addition to being tested by Almighty Allah, such people are often further tested by family and friends. Much in contradiction with the sublime teachings of the Qurâ€™an and Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), we end up testing people who are physically challenged further by treating them as if they are somehow less human; less complete than the rest of us.
Depending on the particular familial or cultural approach, this contradiction manifests itself in a number of ways ranging from the physically challenged person being relegated to some corner of the house with little or no social contact, to being constantly reminded of how embarrassed the family is because of their condition or how difficult it is on the family to have to bear the burden of having to care for or provide for them.
If the physically challenged person is young, the consequences are sometimes worse because other young people might not only treat them differently, they might actually ridicule them, abuse them verbally and physically, and alienate them entirely. All such behavior is contradictory to our Islamic teachings. Disrespecting the physically challenged tests them beyond that with which Almighty Allah has already tested them. It is time that we restore to them the dignity and respect which Almighty Allah has granted them.
Valuing the Physically Challenged For Who They Are
As a young Muslim, especially if Almighty Allah has blessed you with good health, you have to appreciate that your quality of life is much different than a young or old person who is physically challenged. Therefore, you have a tremendously significant role in changing the manner in which your own family and community treat such people.
We must begin to value the physically challenged for who they are. Ask yourself what possible gain is there in ridiculing a person who is unable to walk? A person who is unable to talk? A person who is unable to hear? What possible gain is there in ridiculing a person who is blind? What can they do if they have been tested by Almighty Allah with the loss of sight?
Spending time with a blind person might help us to realize that although they cannot physically see the world, there is much about the world, which they can perceive, and about which they have ideas, opinions, and feelings.
There are, for example, increasing efforts around the world to refine the production of Qurâ€™ans in Braille text so that blind people can have access to the beautiful message contained in it. There are also various efforts being made to help blind children to memorize the Qurâ€™an.
Valuing the physically challenged in general, and especially the blind, for their tremendous inherent potential is a lesson which Almighty Allah saw fit to include in the Qurâ€™an. During the height of his efforts to convey the teachings of Islam to the powerful and influential men of Makkah, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was approached one day by a blind man who sought to understand the message of Islam. In a very human moment, which has been recorded in the Qurâ€™an for eternity, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) frowned and turned his attention away from the blind man. A chapter of the Qurâ€™an is entitled â€œHe Frownedâ€ (Sura Abasa) and it documents the Prophetâ€™s actions and the reminder from Almighty Allah that while on the surface the man seeking knowledge was blind, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and all of us should keep in mind that perhaps he and others like him, would benefit from being valued and accepted for who they are.
In another example, Ibn Um Maktum, (may Allah be pleased with him) was in the company of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), as he dictated to Zaid bin Thabit the Prophetâ€™s scribe, the verse: “Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home) and those who strive and fight in the Cause of Allah.”
We learn from the narration of Zaid (may Allah be pleased with him) that â€œIbn Um Maktum came while the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was dictating to me, and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! By Allah, if I had the power to fight (in Allah’s Cause), I would,” and he was a blind man. Therefore, Almighty Allah revealed to His Apostle “Except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame etc).” (Sahih Bukhari, Book 60, Hadith 116).
So valued are the physically challenged in the sight of Almighty Allah that their physical challenge was not held against them; rather, they were given an exemption from the requirement of those who are physically able, to strive in the path of Almighty Allah.
Islamic teachings enjoin upon us the treatment of physically challenged people with respect and dignity. Despite all of the advances in medicine and biomedical engineering, there are still among us people who live daily with the physical challenges with which Almighty Allah has tested them. To the extent they are capable of doing so, they should be given the opportunity to enjoy all aspects of life. Our goal should be that we will not test such people further.
We should do our best to ensure that we do not treat the physically challenged differently. We should value them for who they are; beautiful and unique human beings who have been created by Almighty Allah.
â€œAnyone who believes in Allah and the Last Day should say what is good or keep quiet.” Sahih Al-Bukhari,