Tag: religious education

Disability in Islam

Young boys on wheelchairs praying side by side with other people in a mosqueAs a Muslim doctor who treats all children with different abilities, I ask myself: how does Islam look at people with disabilities?

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. There are around 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.

Both religion and common beliefs are important. They shape the way we see things.

Islam’s main books are Quran and Sunnah. Quran is the Muslim’s holy book. Sunnah is what the prophet Mohamed said or did.

In the Quran and Sunnah, there is no mention of the word ‘disabled.’ These resources used the word ‘disadvantaged.1

The Prophet Mohamed advised Muslims to care for people in need.

The Muslims built the first home and hospital for people with cognitive disabilities1.  They coupled a caregiver to each person with needs. It is the society’s duty to take care of the people with disabilities.1

The Prophet Mohamed stated that the disability is in the way Muslims view things and not in the physical loss.  ‘The visually impaired is not the person who lost sight of his eyes but who lost sight of his heart’ Hadith

The prophet himself visited and prayed at a visually impaired man’s house. At that time, people did not want to be seen around anyone with a disability. They believed that it affected their social status.

Allah Burdens not a person beyond his scope…Quran 2:286.

Rights of People with Disabilities:

The right to be taken care of:

{And do not give the weak-minded your property, which Allah has made a means of sustenance for you, but provide for them with it and clothe them and speak to them words of appropriate kindness.}2 Quran 4:5.

The meaning of the Arabic translation for ‘Weak minded’ is either children or people who are lacking decision-making skills, emotional strength, or intellectual capacity. This is Islam‘s first step to building ‘guardianship for individuals with disadvantages’: It means we should care for them until they can make their decisions. It means we should be kind to them.

The prophet Mohamed visited sick, visually impaired people and other people with disabilities. He encouraged his followers to do the same. The prophet meant to lower their suffering. He did not want them to be alone.1

Allah gives some people wealth and asks them to pay their duties. Islam encourages donations (Zakat). Muslims can spend the Zakat on “people with disabilities” as well as on the poor. This zakat is to ensure social justice. One of Allah’s titles is {The Just}.

The right to be protected:

Islam is against doing harm to people with disability. This harm can be physical or emotional.

{Believers, let not a group of you mock another. Perhaps they are better than you. Let not women mock each other; perhaps one is better than the other. Let not one of you find faults in another nor let anyone of you defame another. How terrible is the defamation after having true faith? Those who do not repent are certainly unjust}3. Quran 49:11

The right to be educated:

{He frowned and then turned away from a blind man who had come up to him You never know. Perhaps he wanted to purify himself or receive some (Quranic) advice which would benefit him}4. Quran 80:1-4

We understand from this story that a person who is visually impaired has the same right to learn. This person should receive equal treatment. Islam promotes learning for everyone.1,5

The right to marry:

In early Islam, there was a person named Julaybib who had a deformed face.  People at that point did not want to be around him. One day, the Prophet asked him why he is not married yet?  And Julaybib replied: ‘No woman will accept me.’ The Prophet sent him to propose to a girl from a well-known family. Her father refused the proposal and sent him away. When the girl heard the news, she insisted on meeting Julaybib. She agreed to his marriage proposal when she saw that he was kind and has a good faith. This story indicated that Islam encourages the acceptance of ‘people with disabilities’ as part of the society. And it is important to get married and build up a family.1

Do people with disabilities have the right to marry? Can they carry on the responsibilities of a marriage life? To love and to be loved is a natural need. Sexual needs are basic needs. These needs are present in people with disabilities. They have the right to have a partner. In certain cases, such relationship may need to be supervised by a guardian.

What is the general Muslim’s view on disability?

Muslims’ public view on disability is based on their faith. Allah had created us and our destinies. If it is meant to happen, it will happen. Life is a test, and it is up to us to pass it or fail it.

Islam teaches us:  if we do ‘an atom’s weight of good’ we will be rewarded. And if we do ‘an atom’s weight of evil’ we will see it. Taking care of people with needs is rewarded in this life and the afterlife.

Some Muslim parents feel guilty about having a child that is not ‘normal.’ They feel that they are punished for something they did. This feeling can delay seeking help. This guilt has led to shame. Families tend to hide their children with apparent disabilities to avoid this shame.

It is fine to believe in destiny and search for treatment. ‘Allah has not sent down a disease except that He has sent down its cure ‘6

People feel ashamed when having a child who is different. They think they were envied (Hasad or evil eye). Having seizures can be looked at as ‘Jinn Possession’ or even black magic.  These are common beliefs with no clear Islamic roots for them. In the Quran, it states the power of Hasad. We can protect ourselves by having faith in Allah.

The Muslim in modern time:

Nowadays, there is an increased awareness of the special needs of people with disabilities.  There are more mosques now accessible to people with physical disabilities.  Quran recital is recorded and can be read in Braille (Saudi and Malaysian versions). Sign language interprets Friday’s khutbah in some mosques. In Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) there are distinct paths to do ‘Tawaf’ around Kaaba using wheelchairs with the help of volunteers.  There is a recent application that a group of Malaysian researchers is working on to teach children with autism how to pray.

We are hoping for a brighter future. There are more Muslims with disabilities asking for their rights. They are seeking to get their needs met. We hope that the religious institutes will help them in getting what they need.

I hope that we find the cure for all illness {And when I am ill, it is He Who cures me}7 Quran 26:80


  1. Islam and the cultural conceptualization of disability, Hiam Al-Oufi, Nawaf Al-Zyoud and Nobayah Shahminan, Page 205-219, published online 15 March 2012, https://eis.hu.edu.jo/Deanshipfiles/pub110133790.pdf
  2. http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=4&verse=5 Sahih International translation
  3. http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=49&verse=11 Muhammad Sarwar translation
  4. http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=80&verse=1 Muhammad Sarwar translation
  5. Disability in Islam: Fully Enabling Our Community, Shad Imam, 18 December 2013, http://almadinainstitute.org/blog/disability-in-islam-fully-enabling-our-community/
  6. http://tibbenabawi.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=68&Itemid=97
  7. http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=26&verse=80 Yusuf Ali translation

For more readings:

Including Children and Youth with Special Needs in Religious Education Settings

children with notebooksMany parents of children with special needs choose not to put their children in religion classes and youth groups. There are many reasons for this. Some parents are afraid their child will have trouble during a quiet moment and disrupt the class. Others fear volunteer instructors will feel burdened by their child’s needs or behaviors. Some might feel ashamed of their child or afraid of what their child might do or say. They might avoid such public settings. Indeed, there are challenges in creating programs for all children, but these guidelines can help things go smoothly.

What Parents Can Do

Parents sometimes choose not to be direct about their child’s special needs. This causes extra stress in religious communities. For example, the instructor and program director might worry about a child, and wonder if the parents know their child has a learning disability or ADHD.  When parents are forthcoming about their child’s needs, supports can be put in place. The leader and child can get off to a good start when parents meet with the program director and talk about how to best help their child.

What Religious Educators Can Do

Including youth and children with special needs will bring about some challenges, but religious educators help.

  • Adults can be added to improve the adult-to-child ratio.
  • Extra time can be scheduled for parent communication.
  • Volunteer staff can be offered support and training.
  • Grants can be obtained to cover assistive technology, American Sign Language interpreter services, or professionally trained one-to-one aides.

What Inclusion Can Do

Many benefits come from including children with special needs in religion classes and youth groups.

  • Children with special needs receive religious instruction and feel part of the group.
  • All children and teens gain experience from being around a variety of peers. They likely learn that others are not so different than themselves.
  • As more children and teens with special needs attend classes and services, the community culture changes and including all children becomes the usual way of doing things.
  • Parents of special needs children enjoy the support of their community.

Integrating children with special needs in religious education settings benefits the community as a whole. This, in turn, has a positive effect on our society.