An Introduction to Islam and Disability Acceptance

Let’s talk about disability and neurodiversity, which are two topics that are scarcely talked about within the Muslim community.

It often surprises me that it’s not, considering that Islam itself stands as a great advocate for neurodivergent communities, but unfortunately, whatever knowledge people typically have regarding the topic is most likely inaccurate or stigmatised.

Islam has always elevated and advocated for principles such as equality and inclusivity, yet, a lot of the time, when Muslims come to discuss the topic, it is paired with harmful assumptions and a negative mindset. We are, for the most part, viewed as lesser and that is not okay.

We’re not viewed as people; we are infantilised and dehumanised, simply because of how Allah created us and it’s just straight-up wrong.

Julaybib is the Arabic word for “small-grown”, which likely refers to dwarfism. Julaybib was also a companion of the beloved Prophet (SAW), who viewed him as family.

Would you ostracise and ridicule Julaybib (RA)? No. So why would we do it to any other disabled or neurodivergent person today? What purpose is there behind excluding us from society simply because we do not fit your bracket of social norms?

Disregarding and thinking lesser of people because they are disabled and/or neurodivergent is mocking Allah’s creation. It’s devaluing Allah’s creation. It’s mistreating Allah’s creation.

My name is Iqra. I’m a Muslim, autistic woman with ADHD. I want to share Islam’s perspective with the intention of helping to destigmatise these conversations and to encourage listening not only to autistic Muslim voices but also to Islam’s disability and neurodivergent advocacy to help understand the community better.

There are an abundance of Qur’an verses, Hadiths and stories of the Sahaba that perpetuate and provide good examples of disability inclusion. I want to share just a few of these with you in the hopes that they provide you with a better, Islamic understanding and acceptance of us.

Quran 24:61

“There is no blame on the blind nor any blame on the lame nor any blame on the sick nor on yourselves that you eat in your own houses, or your fathers’ houses, or your mothers’ houses, or your brothers’ houses, or the houses of your sisters, or the houses of your fathers’ brothers or the houses of your fathers’ sisters, or in the houses of your mothers’ brothers, or in the houses of your mothers’ sisters or in the houses whose keys you possess, or the house of a friend. There is no blame if you eat together or separately. But when you enter such houses, greet each other with a salutation appointed by Allah, a salutation that is blessed and good. Thus, does Allah expound His signs to you in order that you will act with understanding.”

This is one of my favourite passages because it beautifully contextualises one form of disability advocacy by talking about a disabled person’s right to sit wherever they want to eat as they are owed this at the very least by society. It can also be interpreted as Allah telling us that our accessibility or sensory needs are not a burden, which they are not. Disabled people are entitled to comfort and safety just as much as able-bodied people, which is specifically pointed out in the line: “There is no blame if you eat together or separately”.

This verse acts as a reassurance for disabled Muslims.

Quran 49:11

O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.

Here, Allah is advocating for us to treat each other with respect and dignity and to avoid insulting, discriminating and name-calling one another. Ableism fits into the many types of discrimination faced today and must be included in the extensive list. We are warned to not engage in belittling behaviour towards each other lest we wish to face Allah’s divine punishment for it.

Did you know that Firawn, on-top of being the tyrant that he was, was also an ableist? This can be inferred from Surah Az-Zukhruf:

Quran 43:52

“Am I not better than this (Moses), who is a contemptible wretch and can scarcely express himself clearly?”

It is known that Prophet Musa (AS) for a period dealt with a stutter. Here, the Pharaoh is explicitly mocking him for it.

In today’s world, disabilities such as stammering or similar conditions like Tourette’s are still widely misunderstood by people who have little to no actual knowledge about them. This verse, more than anything, just shows how far ableism dates. It’s always been there, and this verse helps us realise that.

There are also many Hadiths which also eloquently illustrate support for disabled and neurodivergent people. A particular one reads as follows:

The Prophet SAW said: “Cursed is he who misleads a blind person away from his path.”

We can infer that there is a severe penalty for those who take advantage of the community. The Prophet (SAW) contextualises this with the example of not “misleading” a blind person if they are asking for help with something and the recipient of the said request mistreats them on purpose and is left “cursed.”

A common theme I find within Hadiths and Qur’anic verses is the warning of punishment for mistreating, mocking or ostracising disabled people. As Muslims, we must fear Allah’s punishment, so it’s best to think twice about your behaviour. The punishment of the Almighty should be more than enough to reflect on your own internalised ableism and mistreatment of others.

Narrated by Anas Bin Malik: The Prophet (SAW) said “Facilitate things to people (concerning religious matters), and do not make it hard for them and give them good tidings and do not make them run away (from Islam).”

When I read this Hadith for the first time, I felt so much relief.

To me, this Hadith tells the Ummah to provide Muslims with accessibility and accommodation so that we can practice Islam in ways that suit our own needs. We should not have to prove that “we are just as worthy of practising Islam as anybody else”. Of course, we are! We are also Allah’s creation. We are human beings too so access to Islam is essential in this conversation.

This article is merely a stepping stone into understanding the richness of Allah’s advocacy for us and our community. I want to urge everyone to take the time and effort into listening to disabled and neurodivergent voices. Listen to us and our experiences to understand us. Help amplify our voices, so we are heard across the entire Ummah. Provide us with the accommodation Allah has asked of his Ummah. Listen to Allah’s commands to treat us well. We are all his creation, and the social justice & disability advocacy present within Islam must be understood to reshape outdated perspectives and attitudes towards the topic as a whole.

By Iqra Babar
If you want to learn more about Iqra’s work, click here.

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