By : Dr. Nur Rofiah, Bil. Uzm.

Allah created human beings in diverse conditions, whether in their nature, character, intelligence, skin color, eye color, hair color, face shape, nose shape, height, and etc. There are people who have mental and physical condition as the common people, but some are different. We often make the common condition as a standard so that to those who are different from us are given certain name that determines our perspective and way in addressing the such differences.

Injustice is not derived from the differences which are the nature of Allah upon human being, but from our perspective in seeing these differences. For example, the assumption that the blue-eyed person is better than the black-eyed one, the white-skinned person is nobler than the black-skinned man, the taller man is better than the shorter one, and so on. This unequal perspective that put one group of people are superior  rather than other group can lead us to injustice. The similar perspective  sometimes happened to the many people in seeing person with disabilities.

The neglect on the special conditions of people with disabilities by society and the state may cause them get many difficulties in doing their daily activities, including in fulfilling their needs. The society should understand their specific conditions. Moreover the government as the duty bearer,  responsible and implementing parties of the people affairs (ulil amri) should  the into consideration specifically   in fulfilling the needs of the people with disabilities.  

Prohibition to Humiliate

Indeed, people with disabilities were often found during the Prophet era, mainly because of the war occurred in those days. Usually they could not be separated from their nickname. Moreover the Arab societies were the society whose name looked alike and even similar. They distinguished each other by lineage and nickname (laqab). The most popular nickname was “somebody’s father”. For example, Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir ibn Yazid ibn Kathir Tabari was the full name of one of the famous commentators of Quran (Mufassir). His given name was Muhammad, and then his nickname was “Ja’far’s father” followed by lineage (nasab) and ended with another nickname “ath-Tabari”. But there was also a narrator of the hadith (holy traditions) whose nickname was “The cat’s father” because of his love upon the cats, that was Abu Hurairah.

In fact, the nickname that referred to the physical condition of the companions was also used. Even some of these titles were already popular. In Rijal al-Hadith (the study on the narrators of the hadith) was found such nickname to distinguish the same name narrators. For example, the nickname al-A’raj (the Hobble) for Abdurahman bin Hurmuz and al-A’masy (the Shortsighted) for Sulayman ibn Mihran al-Asady al-Kahily. [1] Nevertheless, principally Islam strictly prohibits calling others with bad name that may hurt especially if it is intended to humiliate. This prohibition is explicitly found in QS. al-Hujurat / 49: 11-12 

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.  O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Accepting of repentance and Merciful” (QS. Al Hujurat 11-12). 

The aforesaid verses contain several points those are the prohibition to denounce other person or other group because it means denounce themselves, prohibition to call other person with a bad name or bad title, prohibition to prejudice to others,  prohibition to seek out somebody’s fault and imperfection, prohibition to gossip and that gossiping is like eating his brother’s flesh who has died.  According to Quraish Shihab, this verse prohibits mentioning somebody’s imperfection with the purpose to laugh at him or her, either trough verbal by word or certain action (behavior). [2] The disable people are vulnerable to experience those treatments which are prohibited in the verse above such as a prejudice that they are disabled, reproach, hurt calling, rumor, and the other bad treatments. 

Rasulullah gave a good example on how to treat disable person well, for example by providing a special place beside him for the companions who have hearing disturbance in order to be able to hear clearly. This attitude for instance was given to Tsabit bin Qais bin Syammas and Al-Wahidi (died. 468 H) said that it was mentioned in the narration why the aforesaid verse was revealed. Thabit bin Qais bin Syammas due to his poor hearing was given lenience to sit on the side of the prophet. One day the companions gathered in a forum which was rather crowded. Thabit came late and asked to give a way to approach the prophet by saying “move a little, move a little! Then the man said, “indeed, you have got the seat.” Thabit sat down with angry face, and said to him, “Who are you?” He said, “I am Fulan.” Thabit said, “You are the son of Fulanah.” Then Thabit mentioned the name of this man’s mother that in the Time of Ignorance (Jahiliyah) became the way to denounce. The man suddenly closed his eyes and bowed his head in shame. That is why the verse 11 of the Surah al-Hujurat was revealed. [3] On one side this narration showed the prophet’s special behavior to Thabit ibn Qays, but on the other side also showed that humiliating someone else is prohibited whether to disable man or to the others.  

In Surah Abasa / 80: 1-10, even Rasulullah was reminded by Allah just because he frowned at Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum who was blind and could not see the prophet’s surly face, as follows: 

(1) The Prophet frowned and turned away (2) Because there came to him the blind man, [interrupting] (3) But what would make you perceive, [O Muhammad], that perhaps he might be purified (4) Or be reminded and the remembrance would benefit him? (5) As for he who thinks himself without need, (6) To him you give attention (7) And not upon you [is any blame] if he will not be purified (8) But as for he who came to you striving [for knowledge] (9) While he fears [Allah] (10) From him you are distracted (11) No! Indeed, these verses are a reminder (12) So whoever wills may remember it.

Ibn Kathir in his book of exegesis (Tafsir) explained the occasion of revelation of the aforesaid verses (Surah Abasa). One day Rasulullah held a meeting with the prominent people of Quraysh who were expected to convert to Islam so that they would give a big influence on the propagation of Islam. When he (the Prophet) was busy explaining Islam to them, Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum was coming. This blind companion of Rasullah interrupted with some questions and demanded to answer immediately, while the prophet had no many times with them. So the prophet frowned, turned away from him and faced those prominent people of Quraysh. Then the aforementioned verses were revealed as a warning. [4]

The incident showed that there was a preaching opportunity to the important people and if it was successful it would have a big impact. But simultaneously, Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum also could not see the prophet so that he did not understand in what conditions he met Rasulullah at that time, so it was understandable. Rasulullh saw did not rebuke or even offend his companion’s attitude. He just frowned and actually was not seen by Abdullah ibn Ummi Maktum. Nevertheless, Allah swt still rebuked the prophet’s attitude that underestimated someone else because he was less important than the other person.

A Piety as the Parameter

Every human being have a tendency to respond other people based on their social status. Sex, ethnicity, and nation are the main factors for determining human’s social status in which these three factors have strong physical characteristics and similarly for those who have disabilities. The man status or the society with certain physical characteristics will be despised, while the others are honored. In fact, none chooses sexual identity, ethnicity, and nation. Likewise, none wants to be born or undergo this life as disabled man. Therefore, looking someone down because of their sex, ethnicity, nation, and disabled condition is not fair. 

In Surah Al-Hujurat / 49: 13 Allah swt confirms that the person’s physical condition that becomes paramater of social status is not important at all because Allah swt appraises the quality of his servants based on righteousness.

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted (QS. Al Hujurat : 13) 

According to ath-Tabari (224-310 H) the noblest man in the sight of Allah is man who most commits to the command of Allah and avoids from his prohibition, not the person who has the most luxurious home or who has  the biggest number of family members [5] Meanwhile Wahbah az-Zuhaili said that this verse was revealed dealing with Bilal’s humiliation when he called for prayer (azan) in the Ka’bah because he was a black slave. After this verse was revealed, the prophet warned everybody not to behave arrogant because of his lineage (nasab) and wealth, and not to humiliate the poor.[6] 

Piety simply can be understood as maintaining a good relationship with Allah swt (faith) that is intertwined with good behavior (righteous deeds) among human beings and the universe. Faith is in the heart and not measurable but it manifests in behavioral that surely can be seen so that it is measurable. God not only commands to worship well, but also to commit a good deed among his creatures. Therefore, someone who prays diligently, fasts completely, even pilgrimage in many times but likes to humiliate others, makes a business by destroying nature is man whose faith is questionable.   

Somebody’s disability situation will not reduce his quality as a servant of Allah as long as he still makes effort to be a good servant of God and among his creatures. There are many people with disabilities in this world whose works have great benefits. For example, the world musician, Beethoven, who lose his hearing and the physicist, Stephen Hawking, whose physic almost in special condition. In the muslim world, we also know the figure who become the reference of Islamic thought such as Taha Hussein from Egypt and Mahmoud Ayub from Lebanon. Both of them have visual disturbances. Allah swt does not look at someone’s physical shape but the heart and behavior, as mentioned in the following hadith: 

إنالله : عن أبي هريرة ،قال : قالرسولاللهصلىاللهعليهوسلم لاينظرإلىصوركموأموالكم،ولكنينظرإلىقلوبكموأعمالكم

It means :

“From Abi Hurairah narrated; Rasulullah saw said: “indeed, Allah does not look at your physical shape and your properties, but He looks at your heart and your deeds” (HR. Muslims). [7]

So we can conclude that in Islam the human’s dignity is not determined by something physical, but his piety which is reflected through the heart and good behavior. The righteous disabled man, kind, and his behavior gives a benefit to the others is nobler in the sight of Allah than anyone who is not righteous which is reflected from the badness of his heart and behavior. Wallahu A’lam! Allah knows best !{} 

*The lecture of PTIQ Jakarta


[1]Jamaluddin Abil Hajjaj Yusuf al-Mazzi, Tahdzibul Kamal Fi Asmair Rijal (Beirut: Dar al- Fikr, 1994), c. 11, p. 409 dan c. 8, p.10.

[2]M. Quraish Shihab,M. Quraish Shihab, Tafsir al-Mishbah (Jakarta: Lentera Hati, 2002), c.13, p. 251

[3]Abu al-Hasan Ali bin Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Ali al-Wahidi, Asbabu Nuzul al-Qur’an, c.1, p. 140.

[4]Abu al-Fida Ismail bin Amr bin Katsir al-Qurasyi ad-Dimsyiqi, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Adhim ( Dar Thayyibah li an-Nasyri wa at-Tauzi’, 1999), c. 8, p. 319.

[5]Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir bin Yazid bin Katsir ath-Thabari, Jami’ al-Bayan in Ta’wil al-Qur’an (t.p: Muassasah ar-Risalah,, c. 2, p. 312.

[6]Wahbah bin Musthafa az-Zuhaili, At-Tafsir al-Munir fi al-Qidah wa asy-Syariah wa al-Manhaj (Damaskus: Dar al-Fikr al-Muashir, 1418), c. 26, p. 250.

[7]Muslim bin al-Hajjaj Abu al-Hasan al-Qusyairi an-Naisaburi, Shahih Muslim, c.12, p. 427.

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