Riaz Seedat is paving ways by volunteering and supporting his local community to help the vulnerable regain independence in their lives.
Can you briefly tell us about your health conditions / special needs and explain how they affect your daily life?
I have Noonan syndrome which is a bit like Down syndrome. If someone has Down syndrome you can tell they have it, whereas with Noonan syndrome you can’t tell they have it unless you know about it.
I have a heart disease called Tetrology of Fallots which means that I have four things wrong with my heart. Alhamdulliah they have been repaired when I was young and I go for regular cardiac checkups at the Liverpool Heart Hospital.
I am also deaf Alhamdulliah, I wear hearing aids and I manage to hear speak, lip read and also communicate in BSL (British Sign Language). I also have a speech impediment which makes me stammer / stutter a little, but not all the time (only when I get nervous or start a sentence).
How have your disabilities/special needs empowered you?
I don’t like it when people feel sorry for me because I have a disability / special needs. My disability / special needs have empowered me to help people who are more vulnerable than me. I want to inspire other people who have a disability / special needs to never lose hope in the mercy of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala).
I currently volunteer at a place called Purple Patch which is in Blackburn at the Bangor Community Centre opposite Masjid Anisul Islam. Purple Patch is a place that looks afters young adults who are more vulnerable than me who have special needs, disabilities and learning difficulties.
Purple Patch are passionate about championing the rights of all disabled people. As a voluntary support worker who also has special needs, I love working with the service users at Purple Patch because they inspire me and we strive to give them a bit of independence. At Purple Patch we do different kinds of activities with the service users. I love going in to work and seeing all the young adults smile and who are all willing to learn.
Has your disability hindered you in achieving your dreams and life goals?
Yes it has. My disability has made it a bit difficult for me. InshaAllah I pray that one day I find a partner and get married. This is one of my biggest dreams and I make dua that Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala)
bless me with a wife and InshaAllah that I have my own family InshaAllah. I want to drive as well when the time is right InshaAllah.
What stigmas and barriers do individuals with disabilities face in the Muslim community?
I think the main barrier that some Muslims face is not being able to attend Islamic madressahs. I have never attended a madressah before and this upsets me as I would love to be taught at one. The ustadh (Islamic Teachers) at madressahs need to be taught and trained in teaching young Muslim adults with disabilities / special needs. Birds Of Paradise Tuyoorul Jannah is a madressah I know of which is tailored for people who have a disabilities special needs or learning difficulties, where they teach the service users basic Islamic knowledge.
How does the community that you live in react towards you?
Has your religion and faith in Allah (SWT) helped you through the difficulties and daily challenges, if so, how?
Alhamdulliah All Praises are due to Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala. I don’t know where I would be in life without Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala, the Sunnah, the teaching of Sayydina Hadhrat Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhis Salaam and the Quran.
Alhamdulliah my religion has helped in all aspects of life. We are all working to attain that massive goal – which is to have a place in Jannah Firdous where we will be for eternity.
What advice would you give to your fellow Muslims with disabilities who are struggling with the daily challenges of living with a disability?
My advice to fellow Muslim brothers and sisters who have a disability / special needs is to never lose hope in the mercy of Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala. With hardship comes ease – this is also mentioned in the Quran In Surah Al Inshirah which is the 94th Surah of the Quran. Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala mentions in the Quran, where there is hardship comes ease InshaAllah. With His mercy we will all be in Jannah Firdous in the company of Sayydina Hadhrat Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi wa Salim.
I am so lucky and thankful to have my parents, my siblings, my entire family, the teams at Purple Patch, Benefit Mankind and the Disabled Muslim Matrimony service. May Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala bless us all and reward us all. I pray that we will all be in Jannah Firdous ameen.