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 Muslim scholar or support groups regarding Muslim children with autism?
Answer: 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 Muslim 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:
To the question of your daughter, the simple answer is that there is no Shari’ah position on autism as the condition was completely unknown to the scholars who researched and wrote the classical legal manuals.
However, both the Qur’an 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 that 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 by the age of 10 it becomes a habit.
In fact, the repetitive motions of the prayer might even be soothing for your daughter. A lot of children on the autism spectrum experience challenges with sensory overload, and the prayer might have a calming effect.
Furthermore, there is shifa’, or healing, in Allah’s words, so your daughter should both learn the Qur’an and hear it being recited.
May Allah Ta’ala grant ease and patience, and facilitate all good for your daughter.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani