Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu
Muhammad Mus`ad Yaqut
(Muhammad Mus`ad Yaqut is an Egyptian preacher and researcher. He prepares and presents programs on the Egyptian TV and other Arab satellite channels. He is a member of the Afro-Asian Writers' Association.)
The civilized world has recently paid attention to people with special needs. This started after it had cast aside corrupt, racist theories calling for neglecting them on the false grounds that people with special needs are not of any benefit to the society. A report issued by the United Nations International Labor Organization in 2000 estimated the number of those with special needs to be more than 610 million, out of which 400 million live in developing countries. According to the World Bank's statistics, this category represents 15 percent of the world's population.
In Early Societies
A cursory look at the history of past societies shows the blatant neglect and persecution of people with special needs that culminated in killing disabled babies in some old European societies. Superstitious beliefs were responsible for this setback. For example, it was believed that people suffering from intellectual disabilities were possessed by devils and evil spirits. Even philosophers and scholars held such ideas. The laws of the legendary lawgiver of Sparta, Lycurgus, and the Athenian philosopher and lawmaker Solon allowed getting rid of those who had disabilities that made them unable to work or engage in war. Moreover, the renowned philosopher Plato came and declared that those who have special needs are a malicious category constituting a burden on the society and a damaging factor to his Republic. Likewise, English philosopher Herbert Spenser (1820-1903) called on the society to deny those with special needs any kind of help, claiming that this category constitutes a useless, heavy burden for a society to carry.
Whereas, the pre-Islamic Arabs — though they used to kill their female babies for fear of possible disgrace — were less hardhearted and more compassionate toward those afflicted with adversities and the chronically ill. They, however, abstained from sharing food or sitting at a meal with those who had special needs.
When the world was floundering between theories that called for the execution of the mentally disabled and other theories that called for employing them in drudgery, the East and the West, at long last, rightly arrived at the idea of the perfect care for people with special needs. That being the case, we, on the other hand, do see how our Messenger, the educator and teacher, (peace be upon him) was so merciful toward this type of people.
The Prophet and People with Special Needs
It is narrated that a woman, somewhat mentally defected, said, "O Messenger of Allah! I have a need that I want you to meet. He responded, "O mother of so and so, choose the way you like to walk in so that I may know your need and meet it." He walked with her in some route until she had her need fulfilled1.
This is, of course, a proof of his forbearance, humility, and patience in answering the needs of those with special needs. It, also, serves a legal proof that a ruler is obligated to care for people with special needs, socially, economically, and psychologically, and that the ruler should fulfill their needs and grant their requests.
The forms of such care include, but are not restricted to the following:
· Medication and regular check-up
· Proper education and training
· Assigning some workers to take care of them
Following this merciful Prophetic course, `Umar ibn `Abdul-`Aziz (one of the Umayyad Caliphates) asked rulers of the provinces to send him the names of all those blind, crippled, or with a chronic illness that prevented them from establishing prayer. So they sent him their names. He, in turn, ordered that every blind man should have an employee to guide and look after him, and that every two chronically ill persons — those with special needs — be attended by a servant to serve and care for them.2
The same course was taken by Umayyad caliph Al-Waleed ibn `Abdul-Malik The idea of the establishment of institutes or centers for the care of people with special needs was his. In AH 88 (707 CE), he ordered the establishment of a foundation specialized in looking after them. Doctors and servants, paid fixed stipends, were employed in this foundation. He granted a regular allowance to persons with special needs, and told them, "Do not beg people." Thereby, he made them sufficient enough to not beg others. In addition, he appointed employees to serve all those who were disabled, crippled, or blind3.
Honoring Them and Meeting Their Needs
It happened in a well-known incident that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) frowned at the face of a blind man, `Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoum when he came to ask the Prophet (peace be upon him) about a legal matter. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was sitting at that time with a group of noble and high-placed people attempting to win them over toward Islam. Although the blind man did not see nor perceive his frowning face, yet God blamed His Messenger for doing this, saying what means in the Qur'an,
"He frowned and turned away, that the blind man came to him. And what makes you realize whether he would possibly (try) to purify himself? Or that he would constantly remember, and the Reminding would profit him?") (Qur’an 80:1-4).
Afterwards, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to meet that blind man with a welcoming and smiling face, saying to him, "Welcome to a man for whom my Lord has blamed me!"4.
1. Narrated by Muslim
2. Ibn Al-Jawzi.
3. Ibn Kathir, At-Tabari
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