Many have spoken about Prophet Muhammad from different perspectives. Some depict him as a warrior, an ideal husband, a good leader while others depict him as a pedophile and a terrorist. In this short piece, however, I would like to take a unique approach by shedding light about how important is Prophet Muhammad to me as an individual with disabilities and to other Muslims with disabilities around the world.
To us, Prophet Muhammad was the initiator and defender of disability rights. 1,400 years ago, he made sure that people with different abilities were catered for and were given their rights and privileges, including the right to a normal life just like anyone else.
The Prophet changed the lives of disabled people by teaching the society that there were no stigmas or bad attitudes for those with disabilities. He emphasised that handicap itself cannot affect the individuals if they have strong faiths. He reassured those with physical difficulties 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 will have his or her sins forgiven.
Prophet Muhammad 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."
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 the humanity that disabled people should not be looked down or belittled because even though some people have certain disabilities they might be 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 powerful demonstration of the principle of inclusion. It was a dramatic act of advocacy, in word and action, 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. The Prophet also said the one who recites 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 Ibn Mas'ud's legs were tiny. 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 my source of inspiration 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 life in this world, God will remove his or her difficulties in hereafter. He also called the entire society to follow his examples in taking care 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. And that is why we admire the Prophet very much and we would defend his honor and dignity.