When I was in high school, I took it as my personal duty to inform and educate whomever possible about what it is like to be a handicap youth. I have a visible disability which requires me to use crutches and braces.
There was a lot of discrimination in my school towards the mentally disabled, and since they couldn't speak and I could, it went without saying that I had to make sure that anyone who would look at these special needs students the wrong way would have to go by me.
Teachers used to call me at least once a year to speak to their classes on how to deal with those that might be different.
I did this for two-and-a-half years before I turned to Islam. When I did, things drastically changed in my approach and outlook.
Islam helped me make peace with my disability
Before Islam, I used to tell people of my experiences as a disabled, sometimes having to give some painful details so people would get the point.
Even though my approach was significantly positive, it still had a bitter tone. I had been through some very rough times as a child.
But as I was embraced with the peace of knowing that my disability was something special from my Lord, I couldn't get the same point across anymore.
After a while, it just started becoming something I could no longer do, for I had found my peace and reconciliation with my situation. My battle was finally over.
The Quran and Sunnah accommodate all kinds of Muslims
By reading the Quran, and the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), one finds that the manner of the Prophet was to offer ease to those that weren't in ordinary situations.
When one reads about the time when Islam was spreading in Mecca and Madinah,one finds that the first followers were the poor, the weak, the orphaned and the disabled. This should not be taken to mean that Islam was laid upon a poor foundation. Instead, it meant that it offered those who didn't have anything, something more to look forward to with Allah.
The superficial didn't matter, because all that Allah asked of them was a pure and clean heart.
When I came across all of this, every ill feeling or dreading moment dealing with my disability was put to rest. For Allah has laid this task upon me to try me, and my fellow believers wouldn't make a trial more difficult.
All that was within me was resolved, but it was the without that surprised me.
The reality check: little accommodation of disabled Muslims
Going to mosques, meetings, camps, and conferences I became saddened discovering that there was no special effort made in the community to accommodate to the needs of the disabled.
There were no chairs in the mosques or attempts to have places with elevators or wheelchairs at conferences. I suddenly felt the difference between the Muslim community and the non-Muslim one.
Even though the non-Muslim community (or society as a whole) is filled with strangers, I still have the right to ask that my needs be looked after.
In the Muslim community on the other hand, even though everyone knows one another, I become shy of asking, for it seems no one really wants to make the effort to make Islam accessible to all.
Though I don't need much accommodating myself, I was and am still worried about those that can't communicate their needs, and so are turned away from Islam.
In our religion there is a special place for every sort of individual, so why can't Muslims have the same in their hearts and agendas?
At times I realize with great pain that maybe my battle is not over, and I still have to tell everyone how to treat those who are faced with similar circumstances as myself.
You see, I'm not disappointed that I have to inform people of how to make others more comfortable. Rather, I'm disappointed because as Muslims it is a collective responsibility to offer comfort for those who seek Islam.