By: Dr. Abdulhak Hamiche
On December 13, Arab countries celebrate the Arab Day for Persons with Special Needs. On this occasion, it is relevant to highlight the perspective of Islam towards persons with special needs, and how Islam accorded them great attention and care helping them being normal people practicing their lives like all other members of the society.
Disability has since ancient times attracted people’s attention, and different people expressed different attitudes towards it depending on their social systems. Therefore, persons with special needs have encountered different treatments since ancient times, varying from execution, disdain, exile, and negligence.
Islamic Shar`iah presents attitudes from the sublime sources, the Qur’an and Sunnah, towards humanity and life. It was the first in giving persons with special needs the appropriate status as humans with the same rights as normal people, and carry similar duties complying with their abilities given to them by Allah.
Islam’s Perspective of Persons with Special Needs
First: Human beings in Islam are honored. Almighty Allah says,
And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference. (Al Israa’ 17:70)
This honor appears in the status that human beings hold in Islam and in the responsibility tasked to them in a way that there is no status that compares to it, except the visions and faiths of Islam. The whole universe was created for mankind, and human beings are assigned to rule the earth. It is worth mentioning that this honor and position given to human beings is linked to the supreme characteristics that distinguish human beings from other creatures. In addition, this favoring was based on piety. Allah the Almighty says:
Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. (Al-Hujurat 49:13)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Allah doesn’t look at your features nor at your wealth but at your hearts and deeds.”
As for the point of view of Islam towards the incidence of disability is based on considering it as a trial and test from Allah, life in Islam is all trial and test. Allah (Glory be to Him) says,
And it is He who created the heavens and the earth in six days – and His Throne had been upon water – that He might test you as to which of you is best in deed. (Hud 11:7).
[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving. (Al-Mulk 67:2)
For that, all scholars of Islamic civilization agree that humanity is one of the special characteristics of Islam in the manner in which they deal with others on all levels, being social, political etc.
Islam expressed great care towards this group of society, and it granted them special provisions. What’s more, Islam cared for their feelings; if Allah took away one of their senses, the religious duties in relation to the disability are dropped. For example, the crippled and paralyzed are not obliged to participate in war and Jihad.
Based on the above, it is possible to specify the basis of Islam’s point of view towards people with special needs, as per the following:
1. Respecting the dignity of persons with special needs, given that they are honored creations of Allah, whom he created willingly. For that Allah requires Muslims to not mock each other. He says,
O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. (Al-Hujurat 49:11)
2. Specifying grounds to differentiate between people through piety, because a person is valued by their piety and not their health and the wellness of their body parts. That is because Allah does not consider the way people look, rather he considers their hearts and deeds. Allah says,
Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. (Al Hujurat: 13)
3. Stating the full rights of persons with special needs in equality and justice through leveling between their rights and duties in accordance with Shari`ah of Allah.
4. The nation is obliged to care for the disabled, on the basis that the ruler is the guardian of those with no guardians.
5. Assigning work in accordance to the ability and preparation of the person whether disabled or not. The Qur’an says,
Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. (Al-Baqarah 2:286)
6. Finally, Islam demands consideration of reasons and depending on Allah, then having patience and no regrets for negligence and what it may cause.
And be patient over what befalls you. (Luqman 31:17)
Guardianship and Care for Persons with Special Needs:
Caring for the disabled is a collective obligation; if done by some is dropped from others, and if no member of the society does it, then the whole society is sinned.
The guardianship of the blind, deaf, paralyzed and all other disabled persons is the responsibility of the society as a whole, like their responsibility towards the poor and needy. As the nation is responsible for covering the needs of poor people, it is also responsible for the needs of the disabled, or else the whole society is sinned.
There is no doubt that the responsibility of caring for the disabled falls first on their guardians. In addition, family members are each other’s guardians because as they inherit from each other, then they must be each other’s guardians.
Moreover, each Muslim is obliged to follow the commands of Allah in that regard, and the Muslim people and nation should help the guardians of persons with special needs, especially if they were unable to provide to for them. Especially those who totally depend on others, for example, the fully paralyzed who need others to eat, drink, wash get dressed, and all other personal matters, which is a great burden on the people surrounding them.
Since charity and righteousness are required from all humans, then they are even more required with people who need them, such as ones with disabilities. The reward of being kind with them is much greater than being kind with others.
Islam obliged capable Muslims to support their needy relatives, whether their need was due to being poor or whether it was incidental. Islam also set severe penalties for the members of every town or city who are negligent towards the needy.