Zara is 26 and has cerebral palsy. She’s also Muslim, and blogs about her experiences and every day life. Here she talks about gaining self confidence and the barriers that still exist within some communities.
As salam o alaikum / Hi guys!
I was a very premature baby and had a lack of oxygen, which resulted in me having spastic diplegia, a form cerebral palsy which affects my legs. I remember having a walker as a child, and I wore leg braces until I was about 12. I also have a little stutter.
At 15, I had surgery and they put what they call ‘disks’ in my legs which enabled me to walk independently, and I have been walking ever since.
I’m very grateful for having a loving and supportive family, which I think is why I didn’t really feel any different to anyone else until I started school. School was a bit of a nightmare, and I got bullied a lot.
I’ve always struggled with my self confidence and school definitely didn’t help. I always shied away from people I didn’t know. I used to think ‘what if they question me about my legs?’ or ‘what if they don’t understand me when I speak?’
Things got a lot better for me when I started college. No one really cared about the way I walked – people were a lot more friendly which was nice for a change. I made a good group of friends, and my confidence started improving too. I talked a lot more, and I didn’t just shy away from people like I used to. I started to feel good about myself. I realised that what other people thought of me didn’t really matter anymore. I got my qualifications in IT and Business which I was really proud of.
My confidence is definitely improving as I get older. I’ve learnt to love myself and I no longer care what other people think. My cerebral palsy has made me stronger, more determined and humble as a person and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
How disability is portrayed in Islam
As a Muslim living with disability, I want to write a little about how the prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) treated disabled people.
Greeting Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum (radi’allahu an) with respect and humility, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) designated him as the Leader of Madinah many times in his own absence. As far as the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) was concerned, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum’s blindness was not a barrier in his ability to carry out his duties.
Similarly, the case of Julaybib (radi’allahu an), another companion of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), was described as being dwarf-like in appearance. While many people in Madinah had made him an outcast, the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) instead approached a family to give their beautiful daughter as a bride for Julaybib. (Source: Sahih Muslim)
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) made people with disabilities feel welcome in society, and his behavior is an example we all should be following.
Communities should embrace disabled people
I’m really grateful to my family for everything, because without their love and support I wouldn’t be as strong as a person as I am today.
I count myself very lucky because, unfortunately, there is still a small number of disabled people who are faced with some sort of bullying and barriers from within their own Muslim communities.
I think some of our Muslim communities can lack in disability awareness – it’s just not talked about as often as it should be. One reason for this (in my personal opinion) is because we should speak out more and make our voices heard instead of just hiding away.
Do you have any similar experiences to share?