Rights, Duties, and Dignity: Islam's Perspective on Persons with Disabilities

11:49 - December 03, 2023
News ID: 3486261
TEHRAN (IQNA) – Islam not only recognizes the rights of individuals with disabilities but also unveils a compassionate framework that honors their inherent dignity.

Islam's Perspective on Persons with Disabilities


December 3rd is globally recognized as the "International Day of Persons with Disabilities," shedding light on the rights and essential needs of individuals with disabilities. While many countries have implemented measures to enhance the social and welfare conditions of disabled individuals in recent years, there is still a considerable distance to cover before reaching the desired outcome. 

This day serves as an excellent opportunity to revisit related Islamic teachings and consider the legal and religious aspects of supporting people with disabilities within society.

How Islam supports people with disabilities 

The Quran, first and foremost, highlights the equality of human beings, noting that the only thing that makes one better than the other is piety.

"O mankind, we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify one another. Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware." (Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 13)

According to Islamic teachings, what God has given to humans as a blessing is not because of their worthiness or their ability to receive blessings, but because of God's vast mercy. Therefore, no one can claim to have merit or capacity for such blessings. This means that all human beings, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or physical status, should have all the facilities and rights that God has intended for humans. It is not fair to deprive someone of their normal and everyday rights based on their disability.

Hence, the rights of people with disabilities are recognized and respected in all aspects in the fundamental teachings of Islam. 

Read More:

An interesting point to note in Islamic teachings, which becomes clear when we examine the status and position of people with disabilities, is that while there is equality between people with and without disabilities in terms of rights, there is a difference in terms of duties. People with disabilities have lighter responsibilities than people without disabilities, and even in some duties such as "Jihad", their disability gives them exemptions.

Verse 286 of Surah Baqarah read: “God does not impose on any soul a responsibility beyond its ability.” The verse implies that rights, which are a sign of God's mercy, belong to all human beings, but duties are only for those who have the ability to perform them. Therefore, people with disabilities should not be denied their rights because of their inability to do things that people without disabilities can do. Human dignity should be maintained in any situation and condition, even if one is not able to fulfill their duties towards themselves and the society.

Photo taken from an international art exhibition of people with disabilities held in Tehran in early November 2023. (IQNA)Photo taken from an international art exhibition of people with disabilities held in Tehran in early November 2023. (IQNA)

This approach and the examples that will follow show that Islam, besides the individual believers, also assigns a full responsibility to the Islamic government to take care of the needs and interests of people with disabilities. The government should always remember the principle that what makes a person worthy of respect is not their body, but their soul.

What narrations say about persons with disabilities 

The teachings found in the narrations and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Ahl al-Bayt (AS) highlight that addressing the needs of believers is considered among the most virtuous deeds. It is emphasized that one's faith and status are not impacted by the presence or absence of a disability. Consequently, significant emphasis has been placed on the importance of assisting and providing care for individuals with disabilities.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has been quoted as saying: "Whoever helps a person with disability, he will get seventy-three good deeds. One is that his worldly and heavenly affairs will be corrected, and the rest will raise his ranks." (Al-Allama al-Hilli, Tahrir al-Ahkam, p. 164)

In a commentary attributed to Imam Hasan Askari (AS), there is a narration from Imam Ali (AS) quoting the Holy Prophet (PBUH) as saying: "If someone walks a blind man with a stick for forty steps... his reward is more than if the earth was filled with gold for him.”

Read More:

These recommendations can be seen in a more general form, in the words and actions of Ahl al-Bayt (AS). For instance, Imam Sadiq (AS) said: “If a believer can help his brother, but does not help him, God will leave him alone in this world and the hereafter.” (Bihar al-Anwar, volume 74) 

Muhammad al-Baqir (AS), the fifth Shia Imam, has been quoted as saying: “Whoever hesitates to help his Muslim brother and fulfill his needs, God will make him help someone who would commit a sin.” (Sawab ul Amal by Ibn Babawayh) 

The advice to meet the needs of the people is so important that Imam Sadiq (AS) said: "I hurry to help my enemy [also]; because I fear that he will not need my [help] and I will lose the opportunity." (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 78) Also, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: "The most beloved deeds in the sight of God are to bring joy to the heart of a believer, to feed him, and to remove his sorrow or fulfill his needs." (Usul al-Kafi, vol. 2)

How these teachings influenced the ethics of Islamic society

These teachings made the rulers of the Islamic regions pay close attention to the issue of people with disabilities in different historical periods. Imam Ali (AS), besides his usual advice about the needy and the disabled, also gave them a special share in the public treasury and provided services to them during his caliphate. He took care of their lives and livelihoods, and especially the needy disabled people were among those whom Imam Ali (AS) used to help at night.

This good tradition continued in the following centuries and even some Umayyad and Abbasid rulers did not neglect this responsibility and made it a permanent policy.

Ibn Arabi in the book Ahkam al-Qur'an (Volume 1, p. 333) reports an interesting story from the reign of Umar bin Abdul Aziz. He ordered that people with disabilities, including the blind and physically disabled, should have a special status in the public treasury and enjoy Islamic rights before and more than others. He also ordered that every blind person should have a guide paid by the public treasury and that both disabled people should have a servant.

Read More:

According to Ibn Asaker’s History of Damascus, Muslims formed communities and unions in every city to help people with disabilities in the third and fourth centuries AH. According to Ya'qubi, these communities were very active in providing food and other needs for the needy.

These were two approaches, one governmental and one popular, that aimed to respect the rights of people with disabilities and provide them with a dignified and comfortable life. An important point to note is that these were not charity acts, but Islamic obligations based on the Quran and hadiths. Muslims did not consider people with disabilities as indebted but treated them with politeness and respect.


Compiled and translated by Mohammad Ali Haqshenas