Marya is an inspirational disability advocate from Canada. Here is her story.
Can you briefly tell us about your condition and how it affects your daily life?
I have a physical disability and I use a wheelchair in my everyday life, I’m partially independent, but I depend on my mom for 70% of my day-to-day tasks. Since I’m dependent on someone to help me throughout the day, it can be tricky when nobody’s around at a time that I need help. I also experience high levels of fatigue and nausea that kick in at unexpected times. This severely affects my energy levels, and ability to complete school work and professional work.
How has your disability empowered you?
My disability has shown me that life can look different for everybody. I experience and perceive life in a different point of view than an able-bodied person. As a Muslim woman, I believe Allah only burdens a soul with what it can bear, and knowing Allah believes that I can get through all my hardships is what gives me strength. Throughout my toughest moments, remembering Allah is watching over me brings me the utmost comfort.
Has your disability hindered you in achieving your dreams and life goals?
Because of the lack of awareness surrounding disabilities, society has alienated me and made it tricky to accomplish my personal goals. Currently, I’m 20 years old, but when I was 16, I applied for a part-time job and got rejected explicitly because they didn’t like that I used a wheelchair as a mobility aid. Using a wheelchair is something I can’t control, and society punishes me for it. Since this experience, I have made a personal goal to continuously advocate for people with disabilities and ensure our basic rights are being fulfilled. Opportunities should not be lost just because of something we can’t control.
What stigmas and barriers do individuals with disabilities face in the Muslim community?
Although I’m quite young and not looking to get married yet, I have heard stories of Muslims with disabilities struggling to find a spouse. When asked why there was a struggle, they simply replied with “my disability was the problem”. It’s unfortunate that within our own society and cultural norms, oppressive behavior has become normalized, where it should be the complete opposite. As mentioned before, people with disabilities deserve to have an equal life experience. Within our cultures, a woman is expected to cook and clean and carry out certain duties as a wife, and if her disability creates a barrier then suddenly she’s no longer eligible to be a wife or mother.
How can we change the negative attitudes towards disabled Muslims in our communities?
Something the Muslim community lacks is the willingness to educate people on the topic of disability. Our islamic institutions, the key contributors to our community, can start by ensuring that their buildings are physically accessible. Oftentimes there are physical barriers in masjids that go unnoticed. Additionally, our institutions can provide educational resources to expand the discussion about disability and push a more positive narrative about people with disabilities.
What advice would you give to your fellow Muslims with disabilities who are struggling with the daily challenges of living with a disability?
Despite what anybody tells you, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, you are worthy and valuable of living a fulfilling life. You will have days where your disability makes life hard, and you will have days where you won’t even feel the weight on your shoulders. No matter what type of day you’re having, always remember you can get through it because Allah is with you, and he only tests you with hardships that He knows you can handle.
What is your greatest achievement thus far?
Being able to influence and start conversations about inaccessibility on a grander scheme has been an honor, I’m so humbled and thankful to anybody who consumes my content and supports my journey and helps me have a voice.
What do you think of the Disabled Muslim Matrimony service?
I believe the work you all doing is phenomenal and important. As well as the great educational resources surrounding disability that you provide will have a huge impact to our community. InshAllah in the future, I wish nothing but the best for you all!