The oppressed minority

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

We thank and praise Allah SWT, Who has honoured humankind as the best of all creation and has given us responsibilities befitting such an honour, We bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship except Allah.

We bear witness that our Prophet Muhammad saws is the true Messenger of Allah, who, as Allah’s vicegerent on earth, strove so selflessly to remove human suffering and generally improve the state of humanity. 0 Allah, shower Your choicest blessings on him, his friends and relatives, all those who actively strove to remove discrimination against and oppression of the weak by the Jahiliyyah and to restore the rights given to them by Allah SWT.

Brothers and Sisters in Islam

Al-hamdulillah, praise is to Allah! In most of our communities we have very active organisations working selflessly to uplift the state of the ummah. In many instances it is virtually impossible to attend to every individual in need of help — this would be financially and organisationally impossible. What they and all Muslim jamaa’ahs hope to achieve is an awareness that touches the heart and soul of every Muslim: an awareness that moves us to become involved in the service of our less fortunate brothers and sisters; an awareness that will inspire us to ask Allah SWT in our’ du’aahs “0 Allah, grant us an ever-wakeful conscience”, a conscience that helps us to fulfil our obligations as Muslims; a conscience that reminds us that we are Allah’s vicegerents and trustees on earth, and a conscience that prevents us from doing anything that is contrary to the teachings of Islam. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:

“O mankindl We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may KNOW each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he (who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well-acquainted (with all things).” (Q.49:13)

In this ayah Allah SWT informs us that we have been created close to each other so that we may Know each other. Not merely to gain information about each other, but to understand and care for the needs of each other, and then Allah reminds us that the best of us are those who have the best conduct. On this ayah, one writer comments; ‘ In this way Allah…draws attention to this universal bond which should foster mutual sympathy, respect, collaboration and solidarity among all members of the large yet single human family.” To become aware is to know and to care. Let me repeat: to become aware is to know and to care.

Do we Know, that, among us are an insecure and oppressed minority who are denied basic human rights to move around freely and safely, to earn a living without feeling patronised, even to have free access to a masjid? Yes, my friends, our aged parents, those who are physically challenged, the blind, deaf and mentally challenged, live in constant fear for their personal safety. We only have to read our papers to realise the cold ruthlessness of people who exploit and even physically abuse them. They live in fear of being rejected by their able-bodied brothers and sisters. You and I know that to reject. a person is to say: “You are not fit to be a part of us, to be a humanbeing!” Let us not forget our own experiences under the colonialism or the Apartheid system in South Africa?

They live in fear of inconveniencing others. They have needs which they cannot fulfil by themselves. The weak old man is at this moment sitting at home longing to be at the masjid and attend jumu’ah as he had done in his younger days. He cannot walk unaided to the gate let alone the masjid. But he is so considerate and does not wish to inconvenience his family or neighbours. The blind brother would rather sit in his dark world than dare to ask someone for help. Being alone, they are afraid even of themselves. Let us imagine the dangers facing the epileptic who suddenly gets an attack while crossing a busy road? His or her fears and anxieties reflect the inconsideration, the lack of support of the community and the inhumanity of the authorities.

This absence of feeling is certainly not the way of our Prophet Muhammad saws. Caring for the weak was his constant reminder to his Companions. How beautifully S. Abu Bakr R.A. expressed his determination to help the weak when he said: “0 you people, by Allah, there shall be no stronger person with me than a weak person until I restore him to his right, nor shall there be a weaker person with me than a powerful one, until I extract the right of others from him.”

Our Nabi Muhammad saws’s whole mission is characterised by his consideration for the wellbeing of all people. Allah SWT makes this purpose very clear in the verse of the Holy Qur’an:

“We sent you not, but as a Mercy for all creatures.” (21:107)

This divine mercy flows through the Shariah and becomes part of our being here on this earth. Rasûlullâh saws describes this bond and love for each other as follows:

“The likeness of the believers in their mutual empathy and cordiality is like the human body in that when a part of it complains (of some pain) all the other parts share its misfortune, suffering, fever and sleeplessness.”

We share the pain and anguish of the mother whose child suffers from cerebral palsy, and who cannot find a place for him in the special school. We share the frustration of the paraplegic in the wheelchair who cannot find a public toilet, spacious enough for his needs. We share the disappointment of the partially deaf person who struggles to follow the Imâm in his salâh in the absence of adequate sound, or the partially blind who tries in vain to read even a few gurûf of the Qur’ân in the absence of adequate lighting. If we share their discomfort, then we are already on our way to helping them. Our first step towards helping them is to realise that they have needs and rights given to them by Allah SWT. Let us consider the Revelation of the Surah -‘Abasa or “He Frowned”. One day when our Nabi saws was deeply engaged in trying to explain the Holy Qur’ân to a few leaders of the Quraish (who were not Muslim), a blind man, ‘Abdullah ibn Umm—i-Maktoom interrupted him. ‘Abdullah, who was also very poor, wanted to learn the Qur’ân. The Prophet saws had to choose between enlightening the group of leaders or this poor blind man whose feelings would be hurt if refused or rejected him. Allah SWT advised the Prophet through this Revelation:

“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

1. The Prophet frowned and turned away,

2. Because there came to him the blind man (interrupting).

3. But what could tell you but that perchance

he might grow (in spiritual understanding)?-

4. Or that he might receive admonition, and the teaching might profit him?

5. As to one who regards himself as self-sufficient,

6. to him do you attend;

7. though it is no blame to you if he grows not (in spiritual understanding).

8. But as to him who came to you striving earnestly,

9. and with fear in his heart,

10. of him were you unmindful.

11. By no means should it be so! For it is indeed a Message of instruction:

12. therefore let whoso will, keep it in remembrance.”(Q. 80 : 1—12)

This Universal Message should be made the preamble to the oppressed minority’s fight for liberation: Liberation from their fears, liberation from being labelled handicapped citizens. This Message should inspire them to know that Allah is fully on their side and that their needs are, in fact, rights that they do not request but demand, and fearlessly proclaim their Bill of Rights. This Message demands that we remove from ourselves personal prejudices and accept them as equals. Allah SWT removes the myth which people so often believe that a person with a physical disability also has a mental disability, when Allah says:

“Or that he might receive admonition, and the teaching might profit him.”

This same blind man lived to become the Governor of Madina! We may well ask: How many of our own brothers and sisters denied the right to participate as equals in public life, may not perhaps become our leaders, our ‘Abdullah ibn Umm-i-Maktoom ?

Sometimes, our failure to respond to their plight is not due to our lack of feeling for them, but rather our ignorance of how we can help them. Let us not forget the stirling work done by the numerous organisations all over the world. Let those of us who are not so well-informed, get to know those who are disabled/challeged — by visiting institutions for the blind, homes for paraplegics, special schools, hospitals, old age homes and so on and let us strive to create conditions for them in our own institutions that will not let them feel uncomfortable or “different”. Let us help them bring pressure to bear on local authorities to provide adequate facilities on public transport and public amenities; let us encourage the big businesses to help finance medical and social projects to improve their quality of life; let us appeal to employers to employ those who are adequately qualified for certain jobs. Above all, let us help without making them feel helpless, let us give without humiliating them, let us love by letting them feel our warm sincerity.

Our Prophet Muhammad saws said:

“When a man loves his brother, let him inform him that he loves him.” (Abu Daud, Tirmithi)

Ameen! Aqeemus salaah!