Islamic Human Rights (52)
Welcome to this week’s episode of the series Islamic Human Rights. In contrast to many who imagine that the disabled individuals obstruct progress and development, the divine religion of Islam considers the disabled individuals as honorable human beings, and has taken into account especial rights for them.
A disabled individual is someone who suffers a significant and continuous disorder in general health and efficiency and/or in social, economic, and professional domains due to a physical or mental defect to the extent that the related disorder lowers his personal, social, and economic independence.
In the 155th ayah of Surat Baqarah, God refers to the divine test, via which the level of humans’ patience is assessed, noting: “And We will most certainly try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits; and give good news to the patient.”
According to Holy Quran, any physical and mental disorder is a means for testing human beings, so that the disabled would be grateful to God for countless other blessings which have been bestowed upon them, and the healthy individuals would be thankful for their health; and would comply with the rights of, and would assist the disabled.
Islamic culture has put emphasis on respect for the blind and deaf individuals, and those who suffer from a mental and physical handicap.
Holy Quran and the traditions of the Prophet of Islam’s Infallible Household have on countless occasions attached significant importance to the affairs of disabled individuals.
The actual viewpoint of the divine religion of Islam toward those, who are physically disabled can be discovered and understood by the remarks and hadiths of the prominent Islamic figures. Upon a glance at the tradition of Prophet of Islam and the Infallible Imams, we observe several encounters of them with physically handicapped individuals; which teach us great lessons. The Prophet and his Infallible Household never considered those, who suffered from a physical handicap in one of their limbs as completely incapable individuals, while encouraging the disabled to make the best of their other abilities and to make up for their disability by actualization of the potentials and capacities embedded in them. For instance, centuries prior to emergence of the idea of usage of canes by the blind, the Prophet of Islam had called on a blind individual, who had referred to his blindness as a reason for his absence in congregational prayers, to use a rope as a means of assistance for his presence in the mosque.
There are great lessons to be learned by the Islamic community from the encouragements and guidelines of the Infallible Imams for the prevention of isolation of the disabled and prevalence of a sense of uselessness in the handicapped individuals. Prominent Islamic figures encourage the disabled individuals to actualize their embedded potentials in a bid to compensate for their handicap with their God-given capacities.
The Prophet of Islam, Mohammad (Blessings of God upon him and his progeny) noted that if an individual walks a blind person for forty steps, all the gold in the world are insufficient as a reward for a minute part of this charitable deed; and if an individual rescues a blind person from falling into a well, that individual’s good deeds will wipe out all of his sins on the Day of Resurrection and will guide him to Heavens.
The First Infallible Imam of the Prophet of Islam’s Household, Imam Ali (Peace be upon him) in an address his appointed governor in Egypt, Malek-e Ashtar, notes: “Malek safeguard the rights that God has considered for the disabled. Allocate part of the treasury in each city for the disabled and disadvantaged strata; always pay attention to them and never turn your back on them.”
Furthermore, one can refer to the remarks of the Third Infallible Successor to Prophet of Islam, Imam Hussein (Peace be upon him), in Arafat, about the disabled. Imam Hussein noted: “O People; you have blatantly broken your pledge with God; while you are seemingly fearful of the violation of commitments by your fathers. However, you have practically discredited your vow toward the Prophet of God. Thus, the blind, the deaf, and the handicapped have been left unassisted in your cities. O People, you do not maintain a sense of responsibility toward the disabled and do not make any effort to provide the disabled’s welfare. If you are incapable of doing anything; the least you can do is to be thankful toward the disabled who serve you.”
All of these hadiths portray and mirror the especial attention that the sacred religion of Islam and Prophet Mohammad’s Infallible Household paid to the affairs of the handicapped individuals; given that these infallible figures always focused on the religious, cultural, and welfare affairs of the disabled, even at the peak of their campaign against injustices. The Prophet of Islam’s Infallible Household encouraged people and elites to focus on the needs of the disabled, and named negligence of the handicapped individuals as the violation of pledge of the people and elites to God and the Prophet of God.
History attests that Imam Ali allocated a part of treasury for the disabled. According to a hadith; Imam Ali, throughout his caliphate, saw a fragile elderly man, standing next to a wall. Imam approached the man and asked him about his well-being. Imam realized that the elderly man had no one to take care of him and to pay for his expenses. Thus, Imam Ali allocated a monthly allowance for the elderly man from the treasury, noting: “Given that this elderly man has worked for the benefit of the community at a young age, and has played a valuable role in the society; his valuable status remains treasured by us and we shoulder a responsibility toward him.”
Meanwhile, in the view of divine religion of Islam, the disabled individuals also maintain a number of duties, which are mainly ethical in nature. For instance, the disabled are duty-bound to be patient.
The disabled individuals should actively take part in the decision-makings, especially in the organizations; whose members are disabled; and the establishments which serve the handicapped. Such organizations enable the disabled to present their viewpoints and to make decisions about their lives, in addition to maintenance of their social relations, economic independence, and social dignity.
The disabled should have the opportunity to develop their creative talents and to make use of their talents to fulfill their personal interests, and to enrich the community. For this purpose, the disabled should be granted the opportunity for participation in cultural activities.