Were there any handicapped companions during the time when the Prophet (PBUH) lived? How did the Prophet (pbuh) treat them?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There were disabled Companions when the Prophet (pbuh) lived. The Prophet (pbuh) is the first person who practiced positive discrimination for handicapped people. The Prophet joked around with them and showed special compassion and care to them. We will shed light on a part of the life of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Companions that is not known very much.

As it is known, the believers who lived in the era of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who saw the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and who talked to him are called Companions. Many of us were brought up by listening to their stories and accepting their lifestyles as a model. There is a group among the Companions who became the closest people to Allah spiritually thanks to the spiritual blessing they received from the Prophet (pbuh); we do not know much about this group: the difference of those Companions from the others was that they were orthopedically and visually handicapped.

The Prophet (pbuh) complimented the handicapped people and treated them food; he joked around with them, made things easy for them to join social life and provided them with opportunities that would enable them to have professions and to work. For instance, he gave Abdullah bin Umm Maktum the duty of calling adhan and administration. He appointed Muadh bin Jabal, who limped, as the governor of Yemen.

The Prophet (pbuh) saved the handicapped people, who did not have any social status in the community and who were despised, with his compassion.

For instance, it is interesting that the Prophet (pbuh) offered a Companion called Zahir, who had some bodily defects and hence felt uneasy in the community and preferred to live in the desert, to pick some plants and to sell them together in the market of Madinah. The Prophet (pbuh) helped Zahir to sell what he picked and complimented him by saying to the people around, “Zahir is our desert; we are his city.”

Abdullah bin Masud, who was among the handicapped Companions, who was very short and had very thin legs, went to the Kaaba where the Qurayshi polytheists had gathered and recited the Quran there despite his weak body. He was tortured by the polytheists but he did the same thing again after he recovered despite warnings.

When Imran bin Husayn, who lived in bed for thirty years due to a chronical disease until he died, was asked by his friend, “How do you put up with those pains?”, he said, “Whichever Allah wants for me from health and illness is what I also want. I have been in peace like that for thirty years.” Thanks to this patience, Imran reached such a spiritual rank that he started to hear the glorifications of the angels. The angels conveyed him greetings every day to console him.

When the Companion called Zahir, who preferred to live in the desert due to his bodily defects was waiting for the Prophet (pbuh) in the market of Madinah, the Prophet (pbuh) approached him slowly and closed the eyes of Zahir with his hands. The Muslims who had never seen the Prophet (pbuh) to act so intimately toward anyone up to that time watched this interesting scene. The Prophet made use of this opportunity and shouted, “I have a slave. I am selling him. Who wants to buy him?” Zahir said, “O Messenger of Allah! Who will buy a worthless slave?” Then, the Prophet (pbuh) ended this joke and spoke loudly and seriously to make the people around hear:

“O Zahir! I swear by Allah that you are priceless in the eye of Allah and His Messenger. Therefore, we love you.”

Lady Nasiba was a Companion who served as a nurse during the Battle of Uhud. However, when she saw that the Prophet (pbuh) was in a difficult state, she tried to protect him though she was a woman and received several wounds when she fought against the polytheists. After she returned to Madinah, it took her wounds to heal for a year; the Prophet (pbuh) often visited her, complimented her and prayed for her.

Lady Nasiba took part in the Battle of Yamama actively despite her old age during the caliphate of Hz. Abu Bakr. She received twelve wounds and lost one of her arms in the battle. When the army returned to Madinah, Hz. Abu Bakr visited this heroic woman and allocated a salary to her from the Treasury.

Abdullah bin Umm Maktum was visually impaired. The Prophet (pbuh) sent this blind Companion, who was among the first believers in Makkah, to Madinah to teach people the Quran there. Bara bin Aiz of Madinah states the following regarding the issue:

"The first people who migrated to Madinah were Mus‘ab bin Umayr and Ibn Umm Maktum. They taught people the Quran in Madinah." (Bukhari, Manaqibul-Ansar, 46)

Ibn Umm Maktum, who was the muezzin of the Prophet (pbuh) together with Bilal al-Habashi (Ibn Sa‘d, IV, 207), asked permission from the Prophet (pbuh) to perform prayers at home since his house was far away from the mosque and there was nobody to take him to the mosque.

The Messenger of Allah said,

“Do you hear the call of adhan when it is called?” he said,

 "Yes."

The Prophet (pbuh) said,

“Then, answer the call and come to the congregation.” (Muslim, Masajid, 255; Abu Dawud, Salah, 46)

This hadith emphasizes how important prayer in congregation is but it is particularly remarkable that the Prophet (pbuh) does not isolate a blind person from the community and encourages him to join the congregation.

In addition, when the Prophet (pbuh) left Madinah due to various reasons, he appointed Ibn Umm Maktum as his proxy to lead the prayer in congregation. It is reported that this duty was given to him thirteen times. (Ibnul-Athir, Usdul-Ghaba, IV, 264)

To sum up, the Prophet (pbuh) did not regard the handicapped people as a poor group that was destined to be inert. He gave them advice to solve their problems, gave them duties in accordance with their states and consoled them with good news giving them happiness in both the world and the hereafter. (see Prof Dr Ali Seyyar, Yıldızlar Engel Tanımaz-Bedensel Özürlü Sahâbilerin Hayatı)

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