ISLAM AND DISABILITY: PERSPECTIVES IN THEOLOGY AND JURISPRUDENCE – Book Sample
United Nations Organization: Global Interest in People with Disabilities
According to the latest reports of the United Nations Organization, people with disabilities are the world’s largest minority. The y are 650 million people representing about 10% of the global population on earth.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this figure is increasing through population growth, medical advances and the ageing process. In countries with life expectancies over 70 years, individuals spend on average about 8 years, or rr.5% of their life span, living with disabilities.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) stated that 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries.1 The UN Special Rapporteur declared in 2000, “In all countries, in all types of living conditions, the consequences of disability interfere in the lives of disabled persons to a degree which is not at all accepted.” Robinson , Mary (1998), p. I.
These facts have been one of the decisive factors that spurred an increasing international interest in improving the conditions of people with disabilities.
As the main body representing countries all over the world, the activities of the United Nations Organization reflects this international interest. On December 20, 1971, the UN General Assembly proclaimed the Declaration on the Rights of the Mentally Retarded Persons calling for national and international action to ensure that this declaration will be used as a common basis and frame of reference for the protection of the rights of those people.3
This was followed by the Declaration on the Rights of the Disabled People proclaimed by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1975.4 After almost one year, precisely on December 16, 1976, the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution no. 31/ 123 by which it proclaimed the year 1981 the International Year of Disabled Persons. s
The period 1983-1992 was declared by the UN as the decade of people with disabilities.6 On December 20, 1993, the Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 48/ 96. Ibid The l atest development in this regard was the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted on December 13, 2006 by the United Nations. T
he Optional Protocol of this convention was opened for signature by all states at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on March 30, 2007 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and O ptiona l Protocol (2007)..
This increasing concern for disability-related issues and the rights of people with disabilities has also evoked interest in the position of religion as part of
people’s cultures vis-a-vis the phenomenon of disability. Many of the UN documents on people with disabilities made reference to this dimension, especially the Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities on which the 12th rule was dedicated to religion.9 In this framework, religious studies on people with disabilities gained an increasing interest. Before delving into Islam in particular, some remarks on religious studies in general are in order.
Religion and Disabilities
There is a multi-dimensional relation between disability and religion. Broadly speaking religion plays an important role in the lives of millions of people worldwide. Eighty percent of the world’s population identify as adherents of one of the major or minor world religious traditionsSelway, D e bo rah & Adrian F. Ashman (1998), p. 429, quoting from Bernste in, E., D. Calhoun, et al (eds.) (1995). Like others in societies around the world, people with disabilities have been directly or indirectly influenced by religion throughout history.11 Both physical and mental healings have been an integral part of religion throughout the history of humanity.12 Despite such a relation between religion and disability, literature on the impact of religious beliefs or practises on people with disabilities, however, was sparsely distributed across the fields of studies in health, ageing and disability.13
Since the publication of Osler’s article in the British Medical Journal of 1910/ 4 studies of religion and health have continued steadily over the decades/ S Of all studies in the area of religion and health, there were only few studies on religion, religious activities, prayer and health in the population of persons with disabilities and especially intellectual disabilityIbid; Merrick, Joa v, Mohammed Morad & Udi Levy (2001), p. II 5. Since the 1950s, a number of investigators have examined the role of religion in the lives of parents and caregivers of people with disabilities. The y have provided consistent evidence that religious orientation plays an important role as a coping strategy in the lives of those people. Selway, D e bo rah & Adrian F. Ashman (1998), p. 433. As for examples of such studies, see Zuk, G.H. (1959), pp. 139-147; Zuk, G. H. et al … Continue reading In her The Psychology of Disab jjitySee Vash, C.L. (1981), pp. 18 & 19. For an in vestigation of early reviews on religion and mental health in particular, see Hofmann, Hans (1961), … Continue reading C.L. Vash was one of the few writers who referred to spirituality in relation to disability. She noted that specific religious beliefs may or may not be helpful in defining disability positively. For example, a belief that disability was a form of divine punishment did not aid indi viduals, whereas a belief that disability was a part of God’s purpose (or interpreted in ano ther way to imbu e the experience with meaning and purpose) could prove helpful.19 Another study dealt specifically with people with disabilities and the effect of religion on their health and well-b eing.20 In 1999, a Dutch study entitled Zorg in Kleur (Care in Colour) handled the issue of people with mental disabilities of Surinamese and Antillean origins living in the Netherland s. The main aim of this study was to give information on the cultural backgrounds of those people counting belief as one of the cultural aspects. Focusing on belief as an imp ortant cultural aspect, the third chapter of this stud y gave an ove rall simpl e inform ation on Christianity, Hindui sm, Islam, Brua and Winti and the standp oint of these beliefs towards mental disability.21
Spirituality appeared lately with increasing frequency in the research literature, and a paradigm involving mind-body-spirit interaction is emerging. The relationship of spirituality to disability and illness is at the centre of a growing body of knowledge.22 However, observers still opine that much work remains to be done in understandin g the religious and spiritual dimensions of disability and rehabilitation. Specifically, more research is needed that examines not only the association of religious and spiritual involvement but also the ways people deploy their religion or spirituality to cope with the challenges of disability and rehabilitation.2 3 More specific techniques from the religious counselling literature may also prove useful to those unfamiliar with these techniques Wor thington, E.L. et al (1996), pp. 448-487; Kilpatrick, S. et al (1999), p. 400.
Another form of response to the dire need of more concern to the issue of religion and disability was holding a numb er of congresses for the promotion of this issue. For instanc e, a series of conferences entitled, “That All May Worship: An In terfaith Welcome for People with Disabilities” have been organised by the National O rganisation on Disability (NOD) sinc e 1992 See http:/ / www.sacredplaces.org (accessed July 15, 2007). In the same year, the American Associatio n on Mental Retardation (AAMR) drafted the … Continue reading. The conferences brou ght together people of every faith to identify and remove physical and spiritual barriers, and to promote dialogue between people with disabilities and religious leaders.26 In May 1995, a conference entitled, “The Role of Spirituality and Religiousness in Rehabilitation and the li ves of Persons with Disabilities” was conducted in Bethesda, Maryland, United States.2 7
This meeting brought together academic researchers from a diverse range of disciplines together with clergy and people with disabilities who were researchers, clergy or advocates . The goals of the meeting were to review the work in the field, provide an opportunity for dialogue among a variety of disciplines, attain a greater conceptual clarity of the different dimensions involved and develop a research agenda.28 The conference came up with a numb er of recommendations among which were the encouragement of collaboration among persons from a variety of faiths and cultural groups and also the adoption of a vigo rous approach to access a broad range of literat ure relevant to the spirituality and religiousness of people with disabilities. Such reviews should examine the content, implicit methodological assump tions and limitations to knowledge contain ed in this literatur e.29 In the same trend, the In ternational Association for the Scientific Study of In tellectual Di sabilities (IASSID) held a conference in 20 00 whose theme was ” From Theory to Practic e”3° focusing on the importance of spirituality and religion in supports and services for people with intellectual disabilities. The aim was to have a series of in ternational vo ices that could represent practitioners and researchers from majo r faith traditions and different parts of the world.31 P apers presented in this conference were published by Journal o f R eligion, Disabili ty & H eal th
(IRD H), vol. 5, no. 2/3 and simultaneously in a separate book.32
No teworthy in this regard is that a numb er of modern studies focused on studying people with disabilities within the perspective of one specific religion. Concerning Judaism for instance, Tzvi Marx33 submitted his doctoral th esis in 1993 to Utrecht University, the Netherland s on Halakh a & H an dicap: J ewi sh Law an d E thics on Disabili ty.34 A reedited and abridged form of this thesis was published in 200 2 under the title Disabili ty in J ewi sh Law.35 In 1998, Judith Z.
AbramsShe is the founder and director of Maqom, a School for Adult Talmud Study, 1995-present. For more informa tion on her curricu lum vitae, see http:/ / … Continue reading brought out her Judaism and Disabilit y: Portrayals in Ancient Texts from the Tanach through the Bavli 37 Christianity witnessed also a number of crucial studies studying the status of people with disabilities within Christian perspectives. I hereby submit my d ee p thanks especially to N ancy Eiesland an associate Professor of Sociology of Religio n, Candler School of Theology, E mron … Continue reading In 1990 Simon Timo thy Horne submitted his doctoral thesis to the University of Birmingham on Injury and Blessing· A Challenge to Current Readings of B1blical Discourse concerning Im pairmen t.39 One of the important writers in this field was Nancy Eiesland, an associate professor of sociology of religion, Candler School of Theology, who also spoke out of her own experience with a congenital disability. In 1994, she published The Disabled God· Toward a L1beratory Th eolog y of Disabili ty.4° Four years later, the same author co-edited Human Disability and the Service of God· Reassessing Religious Practice.41 Lately in 2002, Jennie Weiss Block, the non-disabled person who has been an active advocate for two decades in the disability rights movement,42 published her normative study The Copious Hosting· A Theology of Access for People with Disabilitie s.43
As member states of the UN, Islamic countries were involved in many of the activities promoting interest in people with disabilities such as the Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities endorsed by the UN in 199344 and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities adopted by the UN in 2006. The list of signatories included a number of Islamic countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Sudan and Yeme n. For a full list of the … Continue reading Islamic countries’ interest in this front-page issue was also crystallized in a big number of conferences some of which were organized in cooperation with UN or WHO. For instance, the year 1981 witnessed the Kuwait Regional Conference on the Disabled held in April and issued the Arab Declaration on Work with the Disabled 46
Some of these conferences focused on the importance of studying the viewpoint of Islam concerning disability-related issues. For instance, during the period September 29-October 2, 1997, the tenth Juristic Medical Symposium entitled Al-Mushiiwara al-buldiiniyya l;zawl tashriat al- il;zl;za al-nafsiyya bimii .i dhii/Jk al-shari’a al-isliimiyya (Regional Conference on Legislations of Psychological Health in Different Religious Codes of Law including the Islamic Law) was held in Kuwait. This symposium was organised by the Islamic Organisation for Medical Sciences in cooperation with the World Health Organisation, East Mediterranean Regional Office (WHO, EMRO). Eleven papers submitted to this symposium tackled the topic of disability from an
Islamic perspective.47 A parallel conference was held during the period October 23-26, 2000 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The conference was organised by the Disabled Children’s Association and Prince Salman Center for Disability Research. In this conference, more than 200 papers were submitted. The conference adopted important resolutions among which was the encouragement of research on perspectives within Islam on people with disabilities.48 The last example to mention in this respect is the international conference entitled “Rehabilitation of the Disabled and Care for the Elderly in the Islamic World: Strategies for the 21st Century.” This conference was held by the Islamic World Council on Disability and Rehabilitation during the period
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References / Footnotes
|⇧01||Robinson , Mary (1998), p. I.|
|⇧03||Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and O ptiona l Protocol (2007).|
|⇧04||Selway, D e bo rah & Adrian F. Ashman (1998), p. 429, quoting from Bernste in, E., D. Calhoun, et al (eds.) (1995|
|⇧05||Ibid; Merrick, Joa v, Mohammed Morad & Udi Levy (2001), p. II 5|
|⇧06||Selway, D e bo rah & Adrian F. Ashman (1998), p. 433. As for examples of such studies, see Zuk, G.H. (1959), pp. 139-147; Zuk, G. H. et al (1961), pp. 525-540 . Zuk, G.H. (1962), pp. 405- 408; Gangy, R. et al (1977), pp. 15-21. Schmitt, R. (1978), pp. 80-87|
|⇧07||See Vash, C.L. (1981), pp. 18 & 19. For an in vestigation of early reviews on religion and mental health in particular, see Hofmann, Hans (1961), esp . pp. 273-329; Schumaker, J. F. (1992), esp . II- 18; Koening, H.G . (1992), pp. 177-188; Issa, Ih san al- (2000), esp . pp. 4-6. As for religion and psychology in general the situation is much better. From the turn of the century until the present day pastors, professors, psychiatrists, psychologists, social scientists and others have produced a formidable literatur e explorin g the relationship between religion and psychology, see Stokes|
|⇧08||Wor thington, E.L. et al (1996), pp. 448-487; Kilpatrick, S. et al (1999), p. 400|
|⇧09||See http:/ / www.sacredplaces.org (accessed July 15, 2007). In the same year, the American Associatio n on Mental Retardation (AAMR) drafted the revised definition of mental re tardatio n which was the first termination and classification system in developme ntal disabilities to include the impor tance of spirit ual suppor ts. See Gaventra, William C. (2001), pp. 29 & 30-32|
|⇧10||She is the founder and director of Maqom, a School for Adult Talmud Study, 1995-present. For more informa tion on her curricu lum vitae, see http:/ / www.maqom.com/ cv.pdf|
37 The author produced other publications some of which are some how related to this topic, see for instance, Abrams, Judith (1990); Abrams, Judith & David L. Freeman (1999); Abrams, Judith (2003). For a complete list of all Abram’s published books and articles, see
http:/ / www.cu.edu / Colemanln stitut e/ archives/ webfile_ year_1996_Present.pdf
|⇧11|| I hereby submit my d ee p thanks especially to N ancy Eiesland an associate Professor of Sociology of Religio n, Candler School of Theology, E mron University and Miss Jacqueline Kool, the Dutch theologian for their fruitful help. For those interested in further publications on the issue of disability in Christianity, for books see Bishop, M.E., (ed.), (1995); Go vig, S. (1989); Kutz-Me llem, Sharon (1998); Clare, Eli, (1999); Pailin, D., (1992); Fontaine, C. (1995); Okhuijsen,|
G. and C. van Opzeeland, (1992); Wilke, H.H., (1980). As for articles, see Blair, W.D., (2003), pp. 69-80; Byzek, J., (2001), pp. 29-48; Creamer, D. (2003), pp. 57-68; Selway, D eborah & Adrian F. Ashman, (1998), pp. 429-439; Treloar, L L., (2002), pp. 594-603; Ka ye J. & SJ(. Raghavan,
(2002), pp. 231-242; Meakes, E., et al (2002), pp. 37-46; Sorensen, Marshall E. et al. (2003), pp. 57-76.
|⇧12||The list of signatories included a number of Islamic countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Sudan and Yeme n. For a full list of the signatory states and regional int egration organizations, see http:/ / www.un.org / esa / socdev/ enable/ conven tionsign.htm (accessed on May 13, 2005).|