In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.
"Anyone who obeys the Messenger has obeyed God..." (Nisaa 4:80)
A few weeks ago one of my 'tuan guru' (religious teacher) passed away. Please recite 'Al-Fatehah' for him. He was a diabetic and before his death, he had part of legs amputated but that did not stop him from giving lessons every Sunday night between 'maghrib' (dusk) and 'isyak' (late evening) prayers at a masjid near my house.
To accommodate his need, a special ramp (an inclined surface connecting different levels) was build at a side entrance of the masjid so that he could be pushed inside his wheelchair to the desk where he delivered his lessons. 'Alhamdulillah' (All praises to Allah) that was a good effort by the masjid committee members but alas the 'Tuan Guru' passed away.
Since then the ramp was left alone, I noticed no disabled person or in Malay 'orang kelainan upaya' (OKU) using it. The question is why do OKUs shy away from our masjid?
Based on what I have witnessed, I do hope that those in power and position including masjid committee members could think and do something to create more disabled-friendly masjids in our country. Frankly speaking, almost 100 percent of our masjids are not disabled-friendly or in Malay 'tidak mesra OKU'.
In 2002 when I performed my hajj 'alone', I used my 'free time' to explore the vast compound of Masjidil Haram. During 'the exploration' I found a large area where they kept wheelchairs. Perhaps there were thousands of them; being readied to be rented and used by 'hajj OKUs'.
The Great Haram Masjid is a place where the OKUs could performed their obligations in comfort even though the situation is very tight at every available space and at at anytime. OKUs could used the services of helpers to push them in wheelchairs to perform 'tawaf' (circling the Kaabah seven times) and 'sa'y' (walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa) - but of course they had to dig money from their pockets to pay the boys and their rented wheelchairs. Lifts too are OKUs friendly.
Well, based on what I had witnessed, Masjidil Haram is a disabled friendly one and regarding this aspect I would like to suggest those in power and involve in planning and building masjids in our homeland to give a thought about the needs of our OKU brothers and sisters in Islam who are eager and roaring to perform their obligations there but are stopped by our almost non-existence facilities for them.
Regarding our existing masjids, hopefully the authorities concerned would plan, renovate and build facilities to fulfill the needs of our OKUs.
In Malaysian masjids, until this day I had not come across any person in wheelchair performing their five times obligatory prayers with other congregators in mass. It is high time now our masjids' authorities find ways and means to cater the needs of the disabled.
Regarding performing their prayers; the disabled too are encouraged to go to the masjid. In a 'hadith' narrated by Muslim, it was stated that when a man asked a special permission to pray at home because he was blind, lived far away and did not have a suitable guide, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. replied: "I cannot find an excuse for you."
In building and readying facilities for OKU it is hoped that worshipers with disabilities as well as the elderly will be able to fulfill their religious obligations with greater comfort. They must be at ease from their specially designated covered parking lots, their passage to the masjid and to how they would go inside.
It would be appropriate if the parking lot is located near the main entrance where the ramp should be built. Some far sighted crusaders of OKU's rights applaud the move saying that if the ramp was hidden away at the back this could add on to the dignity of the disabled and elderly.
Other than making it ease for the OKU to go inside the main prayer room of a masjid, specially built restrooms and ablution points for both the sexes (men and women) should also be in consideration. A separate toilet for both sexes would further add to the dignity of the OKUs.
Like ordinary people, OKUs badly needed to inspire their spirits now and then and masjid is one place they could find solace and serenity especially by performing the five times daily prayers in mass. They too are eager to join the mass weekly Friday prayers. So why must be our OKUs denied the golden opportunity to be at the masjid without we providing them their basic necessities?
If OKUs could go to Madinah and Makkah which is more than 4,000 kilometers away and be able perform their prayers, hajj at other religious obligations at ease; thus 'being able to go to their 'kampung' or 'town' masjids would be like 'kacang putih'; but the problem is our masjids are not 'mesra OKU'!
After readying the said facilities for the disabled, it is high time for masjid's committee members to do their rounds in coaxing OKUs in their areas to join in all activities of the masjid including performing their five times compulsory prayers in mass there.
This aspect is very important because it would be no point in having masjids with good facilities for OKUs but they are not aware about it or kept on distancing themselves from 'the house of Allah' and Allah SWT Himself. Remember, the Prophet s.a.w. had said even the blind has no excuse not to go to the masjid for their five times daily prayers! Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir dan Batin.