Answered by Shaykha Zaynab Ansari
My 5 year old daughter has recently been diagnosed with autism. I want to know what is their status is in the sacred law. Are they classified as mentally sane?
Have any studies been undertaken by Muslimautis scholar or support groups regarding Muslim children with autism?
In the Name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
Thank you for your question.
To my knowledge, no Muslim scholar or organization has undertaken a study of Muslim children on the autism spectrum.
However, there are two excellent resources for Muslims with disabilities and their families and loved ones: MUHSEN (Muslims Understanding & Helping Special Education Needs), founded by Shaykh Omar Suleiman, and EnabledMuslim, directed by Sr. Maggie Siddiqi.
I would also encourage you to keep the following references & resources handy:
The simple answer to your daughter’s question is that there is no Sharia position on autism as the condition was completely unknown to the scholars who researched and wrote the classical legal manuals.
However, both the Quran and Sunna refer to categories of people dealing with what we would today term “disability,” i.e., blindness, deafness, intellectual impairment–these are all conditions referenced in the sacred texts.
However, the question of whether a particular child with autism is ‘aqil (sane or, for our purposes, neurotypical) or not would have to be referred to a mufti who has training in–or advisers who have training in–child development & psychology.
I am not a mufti, but I am a mother of a child with autism, and I’ve had some exposure to traditional Islamic education.
I believe moderate to high functioning children on the autism spectrum are ‘aqil and should be expected to pray just like any other Muslim child. Consequently, I would encourage you to teach your daughter to pray at the age of 7 so that it becomes a habit by the age of 10.
The repetitive motions of the prayer might even be soothing for your daughter. Many children on the autism spectrum experience challenges with sensory overload, and prayer might have a calming effect.
Furthermore, there is shifa’, or healing, in Allah’s words, so your daughter should both learn the Quran and hear it being recited.
May Allah Most High grant ease and patience and facilitate all good for your daughter.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
[Ustadha] Zaynab Ansari
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani