Oleh : Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat (Dosen Prodi HI) —
Stories of Prophet Muhammad SAW have been narrated from various perspectives. Some depict him as a warrior, an ideal husband, a good leader while others, especially Islamophobes, depict him as a paedophile and a terrorist. In this short piece, however, I would like to take a unique approach by shedding light on how important Prophet Muhammad SAW is to me as an individual with disabilities and to other Muslims with disabilities around the world.
To us, Prophet Muhammad SAW was the earliest initiator and defender of disability rights. 1,400 years ago, way before the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was enacted, he already worked hard to ensure that people with disabilities were catered for and were given their rights and privileges, including the right to a normal life just like anyone else.
The Prophet transformed the lives of the disabled people by teaching the society that there were no stigmas or bad attitudes for those with disabilities. He emphasised that disability itself cannot affect the individuals if they have strong faiths (Imaan). He reassured the disabled that their disabilities are not punishment but it is a means for their sins to be forgiven. The Prophet said that every time a Muslim is faced with a calamity, even hurt by a simple thorn, he or she would have his or her sins forgiven.
Prophet Muhammad SAW gave the disabled people a higher self-esteem and erased their sadness, misery, and lack of confidence. He always reminded them that “verily God does not look at your bodies nor to your faces but He looks at your heart.” (HR. Muslim)
The Prophet stood for human rights and abolished discrimination based on disability, which was prevalent during pre-Islamic times. He, for example, appointed one of his companions by the name of Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktoom, who was blind, as a caller for prayer, and asked him to lead the city of Madinah when the Prophet had to travel outside. As far as the Prophet was concerned, Abdullah’s blindness was not an obstacle in his ability to carry out his responsibilities. Through this example, the Prophet taught humanity that disabled people should not be looked down or belittled because even though they have certain disabilities they are capable of performing good actions and contributing to the community.
One of his best companions was Julaybib, who was deformed in appearance and short in height. While Julaybib was shunned by the society, the Prophet befriended him, took care of him, and raised his dignity. His love towards Julaybib was so much that the Prophet even said, “this man is from me and I am from him.”
The Prophet’s humane gesture was a powerful demonstration of the principle of inclusion. It was a dramatic act of advocacy, in words and actions, on the part of a community leader to educate his society about the significance of accepting and accommodating others for what they are and honoring those who others may have pushed aside in community.
The Prophet also accommodated the needs of those with disabilities. As an example, for those who were not able to perform daily prayers while standing, they could perform them by sitting down, and if they were not able to do so, the Prophet allowed them to pray while lying down. The Prophet also said the one who recites the Quran with difficulty, stammering, or stumbling through its verses, he or she would have twice the reward of those who recite perfectly.
While today people with disabilities are often taken as objects of amusement, mockery, and fun, the Prophet prohibited the people to mock those with disabilities. His companion Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, who was also one of the best interpreters of the Quran, was a weak man with small physical structure. Once, Ibn Mas’ud climbed a tree, and some other companions laughed because they saw Ibn Mas’ud’s tiny legs. However, the Prophet stopped them and said: “What makes you laugh? For the legs of Ibn Mas’ud are going to be heavier on the scale on judgment day than the mountain of Uhud.” The Prophet wanted to teach the people not to laugh or mock at one another, particularly when it comes to physical appearances. He reminded us that men and women are not defined by their disabilities, but rather by their actions and contributions to the society.
The Prophet is indeed a source of inspiration for all of us to help and advocate those with disabilities. He called the people to relive others from hardship. He said that whoever removes difficulties in people’s lives in this world, God will remove his or her difficulties in the hereafter. He also called the entire society to follow his examples in taking care of those with special needs by promising that “you are given your sustenance and victory for the virtue of those who are weak amongst you.”
Such were the Prophet’s treatments to those with disabilities. This should be a wake-up call for us Muslims to show more care and love towards our brothers and sisters whom Allah has blessed them with disabilities.
*Dosen Hubungan Internasional UII