“And if you attempt to count the blessings of Allah you will never enumerate them” (Quran, 16:18)
We are all tried and tested with some type of loss of ability or deficit in some faculty or another. For some, however, it is more apparent than for others. For some of us our disability is one of the soul, for others it is in rational or analytic powers, and for others it is just a downright lack of capacity to be sensitive. Then there are those among us with physical disabilities; a bit more difficult to discreetly conceal than the rest of us.
When we encounter disability in society we realize there is a message being communicated to us. How priceless is good health and soundness of faculties? That “crown on the head of the healthy only seen by the infirm”. Gratefulness, and the realization that we don’t have to deal with all our challenges with this particular physical challenge along with it, gives way to the obligation of zakat, giving to others less fortunate of the gifts of time, skills, abilities, good health and so on that one might be enjoying in surplus. We often forget how fortunate we really are.
But I would like to take this a step further because it’s not just about me. People with disability or special needs were not placed on Earth solely for me to attain heights of sainthood in the mirror of my magnanimous mind. They are only playing bit parts in that film and I’ll recognize them in the credits. But what I propose is that special needs people and the family members that work with them are some of the greatest possessors of spiritual gnosis in our world.
They are perceptive of subtleties in Allah’s creation that escape us all. And I am sure there is no blessing that Allah has on offer that they take for granted. This is a spiritual accomplishment that I don’t believe very many of us can boast of. And I will bet that the oft missed and frequently overlooked commodity of kindness never goes unappreciated.
The blessings that they have lost has caused them to identify alternative faculties, which may have previously gone equally as unnoticed. They have accentuated the value of these, content to make the best with the circumstances made available to them. They have honed these alternative faculties to such an enhanced degree that they are able to perceive still more subtleties in the language of life that are lost on us.
These accidental dervishes are often paragons of intimacy with the Divine Decree. I have been told that acceptance of the disability is the key to the successful negotiation of a functional future, making peace with one’s circumstances. Through this acceptance of circumstances these people are in harmony with the Divine Decree and at peace with their place in the cosmos. They have an intimacy with the wisdom of predestination and this is a type of liberation that most people will never attain.
From this launch pad of acceptance, people who are physically challenged go on to do some of the most extraordinary feats of accomplishment.
They continue to achieve things that are nothing less than tributes to the potential of the human will (what the gnostic calls iradah) when it has resolved itself (azimah) to obtain success (falah). They send a message to us all: “Don’t be weak, don’t be dysfunctional, don’t be handicapped in your mind or your heart”.
Now that I’ve finished this little speech to myself, perhaps next week I’ll write something to everyone else out there.
*Published in the UAE's THE NATIONAL on April 25. Jihad Hashim Brown is director of research at the Tabah Foundation. He delivers the Friday sermon at the Maryam bint Sultan Mosque in Abu Dhabi.