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Disability – Divine Punishment or Blessing?

Sa’diyya Nesar illustrates an unfortunately common misunderstanding many Muslims have about people with disability.

Karma is the belief that the events that happen in our lives are based on how we have lived our previous lives through reincarnation. Whatever good or bad that happens to us in this lifetime is caused by the moral law of the universe. It therefore means that if we did something bad in our current or past life we would ultimately suffer in the future.



Disability, be it intellectual or physical, is a form of suffering.



By having a disability, you ultimately struggle in order to adapt to and survive everyday life. It therefore can be easily deemed as something negative as opposed to positive, especially when having a misconstrued understanding of karma. Disability can thus be viewed as a consequence of past inappropriate actions that occurred in either one’s current or previous life.



The belief of karma runs high in the East after the emergence of the three Eastern religions that are Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism, where some that are raised in the East – particularly the older generations – believe in it, despite not being followers of these religions. They may concur with the belief due to how this form of thinking is so embedded within Eastern culture, resulting in it being part of the societal norms.



They may adhere to the societal understanding of karma without knowing the detailed teachings of karma within the three religions. It is ignored that suffering can also be deemed as something positive instead of merely negative – how suffering due to karma could lead one to spiritual growth and enlightenment in spite of previously not living a righteous life.



Surprisingly, the communal concept of karma also runs high amongst some Muslims from Eastern backgrounds. They too believe that disability is usually associated with being a punishment from Allah (SWT), as opposed to a blessing. It is usually believed that those who face a disability are cursed and unfavoured by Allah (SWT). To be a parent to a ‘disabled’[1] child is often considered a result of previous sinful actions.



This communal attitude is something that I faced due to living life with physical disabilities and being born and raised in Hong Kong, while being from Pakistani descent.



Hong Kong – although an international hub – has some people who associate any form of suffering as bad luck; therefore, people with disabilities would generally be avoided or overlooked. The rise in knowledge and globalisation has, however, provided more awareness and understanding towards any form of suffering whereby eradicating any previous misconstrued beliefs.



The hardest of judgements faced were mostly from some Pakistanis within my community – a community where Muslims are in the majority but with non-Islamic cultural practices deeply rooted into their everyday lives.



I had some relatives that would easily conclude that what my family and I were facing was a divine punishment from Allah (SWT). They went so far as to believe that their levels of piety were a lot higher as my family and I were enduring what we deserved due to the “sins” of my parents.



This ignorance can harm a young child who is surrounded in such an environment because they can end up believing whatever is said. There was a time where I did wonder if I was a form of punishment from Allah (SWT). I wondered whether or not my struggle was a mark of my ultimate doom; however, with time, I came to see what Islam truly said counter to what some Muslims were saying.



The correct understanding of what Islam says helped me internally grow to where I ultimately got to see how my ‘disability’ was a blessing in disguise – not a punishment.



Below are the steps in which I realised that having to struggle or face any form of disability was not a punishment, but rather a blessing:

1. The Prophets tasted hardship
The Prophets are the most beloved to Allah (SWT) and they were touched with affliction. It therefore does not make sense to say that suffering – especially in the form of illness – is a means of punishment from Allah (SWT).




2. The understanding of life’s purpose
It is evident from the lives of the Prophets that their hardships were a means to bring them closer to Allah (SWT) and that is also our ultimate purpose, too. We aim to have deeper insight into life’s realities while learning to have the correct attitude in order to increase our ranks for the betterment of our afterlife.



“When I test my servant by taking away his two beloved [eyes], and he remains patient, I grant him Paradise.” (Bukhari)



Trials are not here to chain us down, but rather for us to learn from and grow. Prophets were sent to help us better understand what our attitude towards trials should be so that we may attain Paradise. This understanding of life’s purpose and trials helped me better see that trials are not there to bring us down – how they are not sent as a punishment – but can ultimately be a blessing, especially if we choose to learn from them and grow.

“We will surely test you through some fear, hunger and loss of money, lives, and crops. Give good news to the steadfast.”



3. The awareness of Allah’s (SWT) qualities
It is unjust to punish someone without them knowing what for or without any warning; therefore, to claim that Allah (SWT) is punishing an innocent child with a disability due to the non-specified sins of the parents alludes that the understanding that you have of Allah (SWT) is of Him being unjust.



It is not Allah’s (SWT) nature to be unjust, but rather He is Merciful and Kind. The awareness of Allah’s (SWT) qualities can thus help one understand who Allah (SWT) is and what our struggle is in relation to Him.



I additionally discovered that Allah (SWT) created the children of Adam (AS) with honour and fairness, and that if you are deprived of something, you are compensated with something else.



“We have certainly honoured the children of Adam.” (Al-Isra:70)



A person may not have the ability to see but may have heightened hearing, or a person may not have the strength to walk but may have the internal strength to comfort a soul. Allah (SWT), out of His Merciful nature, blesses one to excel in other abilities to compensate one’s inability. To have a disability is therefore a means for you to discover and uncover the blessings within your life that are just waiting to be found.



The aforementioned points show the importance of gaining knowledge and having the correct understanding of any specific religion because with understanding, you may find that what you previously thought was not true. Knowledge is a tool and means to eradicate prejudices and replace them with lessons that are gems – gems that allow you to see the world around you in a different light.



Trials are not there to destroy you, but rather to build you up and grow. Your life with disabilities is a just a means to have more blessings flourish – to grow closer to Allah (SWT), grow in understanding yourself, grow in understanding the world around you, and experience life on a whole different level, with deeper meaning and insight.




Sa’diyya Nesar lives a life with physical ‘disabilities’ and she writes articles, prose and poetry hoping to uplift souls into living a better tomorrow by helping them focus on their abilities. Read more from Sa’diyya on her blog and like her Facebook page for more writing updates: www.sadiyyanesar.tumblr.com


[1] A person is considered disabled due to dependency, but we are all in essence dependent on Allah (SWT) with different ranges of abilities and inabilities. There is no clear cut categorisation, which gives a sense of ambiguity as to what determines one to be ‘disabled.’





The Jihad of Muslims with Disabilities