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Disability in the Qur'an: The Islamic alternative to defining, viewing and relating to disability

Maysaa S. Bazna, Columbia University
Co-author(s): Tarek A. Hatab, P.E., Madnet Corporation

Full paper (pdf)


The purpose of this study is to seek a first-hand understanding of the Islamic position and attitude towards dis/ability by examining the original sources of Islamic teaching - the Qur'an and the life example of the Prophet Muhammad as preserved in his sayings and teachings (Hadith). We search the Qur'an for references to such words as blind, mute, deaf, lame, weak, orphan, destitute/needy, and wayfarer. We attempt to understand the intent of these terms by examining the root of the Arabic terms and investigating their possible synonyms; cross-referencing the Qur'anic verses containing the same terms; and confirming the meaning with the Hadith (Abdu & Rida, 2002; Asad, 1980, 1999, 2000; Lang, 1997).

Our findings show that the Qur'an, in its treatment of each of these terms, defines a particular condition, exposes the prevailing attitude towards people with the condition, and then issues guidance, exhortations, and commands on attitudes and actions. Two distinct groups of 'disadvantage' seem to take shape. The first group represents individuals with physical conditions, which the Qur'an treats as morally neutral. The second group is composed of those who are facing socially constructed obstacles, and it is to this group that the Qur'an reserves its most strenuous calls for action. We argue that the Islamic approach is pertinent to the current practices, views, and perceptions with regard to people with dis/abilities.

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