Allah in His infinite wisdom created everyone differently. To some, He gave more emotional intelligence while to others, He bestowed physical strength. Some are created with more visible differences – they’re faced with greater challenges than usual and may have certain mental, physical, emotional or learning disabilities.
These special children, to varying degrees, cannot function as normal children do. They might have problems with communication, self-care, socializing and mobility and thus, need extra care and support from their family and community. As with everything, Islam has given us guidance about how to treat them. Allah hasn’t shunned such people or deemed them as less in any way.
The people in pre-Islamic Arab society felt disgusted and too proud to eat with the blind, crippled and sick. The disabled also started avoiding eating with others so as to not embarrass themselves. Allah then revealed the following ayah instructing people that it was okay to eat with them, thus making the disabled feel included:
“There is no restriction on the blind, or the disabled, or the sick. Nor on yourselves if you eat from your homes or the homes of your fathers…” (Surah Nur 24: 61)
In light of Islamic teachings, here are some ways we can support children with special needs, as parents and as a community:
Accept them as a special gift from Allah
The first step is to have the correct mindset. These children are not a burden on society or a punishment for parents. Rather, they are a special gift from Allah and pave our path to Jannah. Treating them with patience and kindness is a means of reward for us. It is observed in many instances that these children bring their parents and family closer to Allah.
This shift in our perspective makes us think positively and have a positive attitude. We trust in Allah’s wisdom and His love for us and our children. He chose what’s best for us even if we may not understand this. Furthermore, we believe in this ayah:
“Allah does not burden any soul with more than it can bear.” (Surah Baqarah 2: 286)
A reminder about the test in this life
We tend to forget our place in this world and become so engrossed in dunya that we fail to remember Allah and the hereafter. These differently abled children remind us that the perfection we seek in life is not destined for this world, it is to be found in the hereafter. We’re merely here for a test and these children are a part of that test, to see how we fulfill our duties towards them and whether or not we’re grateful for the blessings Allah has given us.
Moreover, being tested doesn’t mean we’re lacking in faith. In fact, it is a sign of Allah’s love.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:
“The greater the tribulation, the greater the reward. When Allah loves people, He tests them. So whoever is content, for him is pleasure; and whoever is discontent, for him is displeasure” (Tirmidhi)
It is said in another hadith:
“On the Day of Resurrection, when people who had suffered affliction are given their reward, those who were healthy will wish their skins had been cut to pieces with scissors when they were in the world.” (Tirmidhi)
Encourage their unique talents
We must understand that disability is a spectrum. Most of these special children are highly functioning and have been gifted with unique talents and qualities. We should identify these talents and help nurture them with proper guidance and encouragement.
We have the best example in Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He honored his blind companion, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktoom (RA), and would always welcome him with a smile. He recognized his strengths and tasked him with giving adhan five times a day, and sometimes even put him in charge of Madinah when he left for an expedition.
Be kind and compassionate
Kindness is the hallmark of a Muslim, and it should be multiplied when dealing with those who are weak among us, including children with special needs.
There are many examples of how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) showed kindness to the differently abled. One of them was Julaybib (RA), a man in Madinah whom people did not like much because he had some deformity. However, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) praised him, paid special attention to him and helped him marry a noble woman from the Ansar. Similarly, a mentally challenged woman once stopped the Prophet (pbuh) and asked him for some help. The Prophet (pbuh) listened patiently to her and fulfilled her needs.
Seek knowledge and treatment for their disability
Islam gives us hope and encourages us to seek treatment for our illnesses and disabilities. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said,
“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.” (Bukhari)
He (pbuh) also said:
“Seek treatment, O slaves of Allah, for Allah does not create any disease but He also creates with it its cure except for one disease.” It was asked: “O Messenger of Allah! What is it?” He said: “Old age.” (Abu Dawud)
Therefore, we should not neglect children with special needs. We must seek medical advice and intervention from qualified professionals and use different means to improve their condition.
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