Br. Omar Suleiman Speaks About People with Special Needs and their Families

Br. Omar Suleiman Speaks About People with Special Needs and their Families January 31, 2014

First I was tagged in the video. Then it was posted to my wall and sent to me via a private message from a friend. Then, every faith-based, especially Muslim-based special needs group I am a part of on Facebook posted this video posted to their respective walls. And though I’m not on Twitter hardly, I’m sure the link is being shared generously there. I’m talking about this video by Imam Omar Suleiman, director of the Islamic Learning Foundation and an instructor at Mishkah Univesity, Al Maghrib Institute and Bayyinah Institute, on loving those with disabilities:

The message Br. Omar puts forth here is beautiful. It is something I think many Muslim special needs families tell themselves , but to hear it from a scholar gives it weighted meaning. First Br. Omar starts off by saying that when he asks others what topics should be addressed in khutbas (Friday sermons) or halaqas (Islamic and Quranic study circles), topics that have never been addressed before, often he is asked to speak about those who live with disabilities or caring for someone with autism or other special needs. What does the Quran and Sunnah has to say about people living with special needs? About those who care for those with special needs? About the rewards promised to those with special needs and their caregivers? How about addressing ” some very backwards, cultural views … ”

Um, yes. Yes. Yes. How many times have I asked for this as well? If Muslim communities across the United States don’t want to listen to me, then how about listening to Br. Omar?

Br. Omar goes on to give examples of many sahabas (companions) of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) who had special needs, whether physical or mental, and how if it was in their capability to do so, they were advised to adhere to the practices of Islam, like salat, fasting and so on. One sahaba, who was physically disabled, was asked by the Prophet if he could hear the adhan (call to prayer). When he replied, yes, the Prophet told him that he then should make every effort to come to the masjid and pray.

But also, Br. Omar relates in the video of another sahaba, physically disabled, who came to fight with the Prophet and his companions in a battle, upon which the Prophet told him that there was no need for him to do so — that Allah swt had great rewards already for him. But the companion did choose to fight, wanting to die the death of a martyr.

These two stories, as Br. Omar points out, give two very beautiful examples of how Islam has an inclusive path for those with special needs — on one hand, if it is within a person with special needs to participate in the rituals of faith, then by all means he should do so. But the rewards for the life they are living, the struggles they are managing with their special needs are laid out already by Allah. Their path to Jannah (heaven) is already made easy,  Alhamdullilah.

Br. Omar also mentions how Allah swt and His angels are present with those who are sick and those with special needs. That had you taken the time to be with someone who is  ill or managing special needs (particularly one who is sick) — help them and just spend time with them — well then you would be spending time with Allah swt. He goes on to say near the end of the video (you know, the part where I think he is speaking directly to me):

“You’re getting that reward every single day. Allah swt is with that person. … Don’t you think that Allah swt sees your sacrifice? Allah swt praises the sacrifice of parents of children who don’t have autism or disabilities of any sort. What about a parent of an autistic child? And Allah knows how much sacrifice you make. Don’t you think Allah swt sees that and will reward you for that? … Or those who perhaps have someone with an even more serious disability … the pen has been lifted from them. They’re not even accountable for their actions anymore. Allah swt had given you a person of Jannah to care for. You have a person of Jannah. A person who is sinless under your care. Wouldn’t you love to care for that person? And perhaps on the day of Judgement, he can intercede on your behalf? That my mother took care of me when no one else would take care of me, even when I couldn’t offer her anything in return?”

Oh Br. Omar — say it. Keep saying what I keep whispering to myself over and over, what I need to hear from others.

But, though I am no scholar, I must say I disagree with you slightly, Br. Omar,  on one thing — “even when I couldn’t offer anything in return … ” No. And I will speak only  for myself here. Lil D has never called me “Mamma” unless prompted. He has never said “I love you” to me with words. He may never care for me in my old age as I will for him. But, what he gives me is indescribable. What he has teaches me carries more wisdom and love then any lesson I have learned from any teacher, class or school.

Let’s have more of this please. More videos, khutbas, halaqas, talks and sharing of stories focusing on special needs. Let’s be open and honest in what special needs families are going through, what we need, how we can support each other, how we can be more inclusive and loving and accepting of each other, how we can make our mosques and Sunday Schools and Islamic Schools and community events better for everyone. How we can learn to accommodate and support the spiritual, physical, emotional and practical needs of those with special needs and their families.

More. I am greedy. More, please.

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