Looking after children with learning difficulties
Islam teaches us to treat everyone in the way we would want to be treated, regardless of a person’s health, wellbeing, disability or difficulty. We read in the Qur’an about Abdullah bin Ummi Maktum (RA), who was blind:
“The Prophet frowned and turned away Because there came to him the blind man, [interrupting]. But what would make you perceive, [O Muhammad], that perhaps he might be purified Or be reminded and the remembrance would benefit him? As for he who thinks himself without need, To him you give attention. And not upon you [is any blame] if he will not be purified. But as for he who came to you striving [for knowledge] While he fears [Allah], From him you are distracted. No! Indeed, these verses are a reminder; So whoever wills may remember it. [It is recorded] in honoured sheets, Exalted and purified, [Carried] by the hands of messenger-angels, Noble and dutiful.” (Qur’an 80:1-16)
We learn from this how detrimental it is for us to even think of discriminating against those among us who may have any kind of disability or difficulty. Many other companions (RA) also had disabilities, such as Amr ibn Al-Jamuh (RA), who had a serious limp. During the Prophet (SAW)’s time, none of the companions (RA) who had disabilities were discriminated against by their acquaintances or the wider community.
An ongoing problem we see is that parents of children with any kind of learning difficulty face various struggles. Many parents avoid becoming involved in gatherings with family or friends, in order to protect their children from the naïve and discriminatory attitudes in the community. Parents then worry about the future and happiness of their children.
The unacceptable attitudes can be very detrimental for those affected by it. It causes much struggle for the parents and children, preventing them further from realising that there are in fact ways of adapting life to suit various learning difficulties, whether in education, careers, leisure activities, and so on.
In Islam, we learn that parents are hugely rewarded for the sacrifices and struggles they endure when looking after their children. Therefore, a parent who faces further struggles as a result of their child having a learning difficulty, will undoubtedly receive a much greater reward from Allah. Indeed, Allah is Al-Adl (The Just). We also read in a hadith that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:
“No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Bukhari)
Consequently, if there are parents who face discriminatory behaviour, we know that Allah will remove some of their sins due to the distress they endured. Indeed, Allah is Al-Baseer (The All-Seeing).
It is to the benefit of us all, whether we have a learning difficulty or not, to be aware that there are many people with difficulties who have excelled above those with no difficulties. Many children and adults with learning difficulties have achieved much higher than their counterparts who had no difficulties, in areas of business, careers, education, and many others.
Our brothers and sisters who have any kind of difficulty or disability are indeed a part of our own test in this world in terms of how we behave with people, as discrimination is not what Islam teaches us.
We all have a responsibility to support each other, whether we are in a position of leadership or not, as raising awareness will push us closer to unity and success. Working together to be more informed and inclusive will help us to take the vital steps required for combating discrimination and creating equal opportunities for all.
May Allah give patience and strength to any parents who have had to face unacceptable behaviour in the community as a result of their child’s learning difficulty. Allah sees everything, and we are all undeniably held accountable to Him for our actions. May Allah bless every child or adult who may have a learning difficulty, and may He grant them the highest rank in Paradise, as they certainly have been blessed with more innocence than a person without those difficulties. Aameen. Indeed, Allah is Al-Hafeez (The Guardian).