In this post guest writer Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat outlines in an open letter the humanity and compassion that the Prophet Muhammad represented.
Dear Charlie Hebdo editors and staff,
I pray that this message reaches you with open minds and receptive hearts. My name is Muhammad. I am a Muslim and a disabled. In this letter, I do not want to mock, ridicule, insult, or disdain the way you did to my Prophet because such manner can only be done by miscreant people like you. Rather I would like to enlighten you by the way of the Man you ridiculed, and that is with peace and wisdom.
I would like to take a unique approach by enlightening you about how important is the Prophet Muhammad to me and to other Muslims with disabilities around the world. I hope that by knowing some parts of who the Prophet was and how important is He to us you will begin to respect, and even, to love him.
To us, Prophet Muhammad was the initiator of disability rights prior to anybody else (including France which just initiated disability equality law in 2005). 1400 years ago, He made sure that people with different abilities were catered for and were given their rights and privileges, including the right to a normal life just like anyone else.
The Prophet changed the lives of disabled people by teaching the society that there were no stigmas or bad attitudes for those with disabilities. He emphasised that handicap itself cannot affect the individuals if they have strong faiths. He reassured those with physical difficulties that their disabilities are not punishment but it is a means for their sins to be forgiven. The Prophet said that every time a Muslim is faced with a calamity, even hurt by a simple thorn, he or she will have his or her sins forgiven.
Prophet Muhammad gave the disabled people a higher self-esteem and erased their sadness, misery, and lack of confidence. He always reminded them that “verily God does not look at your bodies nor to your faces but He looks at your heart.”
The Prophet abolished disability discrimination, which was prevalent during pre-Islamic times. He, for example, appointed one of his companions by the name of Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktoom, who was blind, as a caller for prayer and asked him to lead the city of Madinah when the Prophet had to travel outside. As far as the Prophet was concerned, Abdullah’s blindness was not an obstacle in his ability to carry out his responsibilities. Through this example, the Prophet taught the humanity that disabled people should not be looked down or belittled because even though some people have certain disabilities they might be capable of performing good actions and contributing to the community.
One of his best companions was Julaybib, who was deformed in appearance and short in height. While Julaybib was shunned by the society, the Prophet befriended him, took care of him, and raised his dignity. His love towards Julaybib was so much that the Prophet even said, “this man is from me and I am from him.” The Prophet’s humane gesture was powerful demonstration of the principle of inclusion. It was a dramatic act of advocacy, in word and action, on the part of a community leader to educate his society about the significance of accepting and accommodating others for what they are and honoring those who others may have pushed aside in community.
The Prophet also accommodated the needs of those with disabilities. As an example, for those who were not able to perform daily prayers while standing, they could perform them by sitting down, and if they were not able to do so, the Prophet allowed them to pray while laying.
While today people with disabilities are often taken as objects of amusement, mockery, and fun, the Prophet prohibited the people to mock those with disabilities. His companion Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud, who was also one of the best interpreters of the Qur’an, was a weak man with small physical structure. Once, Ibn Mas’ud climbed a tree, and some other companions laughed because Ibn Mas’ud’s legs were tiny. However, the Prophet stopped them and said: “What makes you laugh? For the legs of Ibn Mas’ud are going to be heavier on the scale on Judgment day than the mountain of Uhud.” The Prophet wanted to teach the people not to laugh or mock at one another, particularly when it comes to physical appearances. He reminded us that men and women are not defined by their disabilities, but rather by their actions and contributions to the society.
The Prophet is indeed my source of inspiration to help others with similar condition to mine. He called the people to relive others from hardship. He said that whoever removes difficulties in people’s life in this world, God will remove his or her difficulties in hereafter. He also called the entire society to follow his examples in taking care those with special needs by promising that “you are given your sustenance and victory for the virtue of those who are weak amongst you.”
Such were the Prophet’s treatments to those with disabilities. And that is why we love our Prophet very much and we would defend his honor and dignity. We do so because we know him. If your ludicrous actions were because your ignorance of Prophet Muhammad, then I would like to encourage you to learn more about him. If you did them because your hatred, then know that your hatred would lead you to nowhere but a pit of misery.
I would like to conclude this letter by making a simple request; please stop what you do. Your actions would lead to nothing but to perpetuate anger of many people and eventually lead them to carry out more violent attacks which in no one’s best interests.
Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat