The Handicapped Sign


The nearest parking spot. It always looked so appealing, so tempting. But then again, it also always was clearly marked with the “Handicapped Only” sign, along with all of the nearby alluring spots. Not that I ever put much thought into that. It just meant we couldn’t park there.

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at

But one day, all of that changed. There, while looking through my car window into the oppressive August heat, I experienced an epiphany.

It was a sweltering afternoon when my mother left us kids in the car, right next to those desirable, full “closest parking spots”. Bored, I stared out of the window into the blazing white outside. I noticed two women approaching a gold-coloured van parked in the front. A tall white-haired woman pushed a crippled young lady in her wheelchair, lugged a baby carrier, and gripped several grocery bags. Despite the short distance, the exhausted elderly woman stopped for a moment between her car and the sidewalk. She had the first parking spot, I thought to myself with a twinge of jealousy. Why would she ever stop?

Feeling odd, I moved forward towards the window to see what had caused her to stop. I watched as the elderly woman opened the car door and made way for a ramp which rolled out of the car to accommodate the crippled young lady in the wheelchair. Whilst the young lady slowly maneuvered herself into the car, the older woman quickly seated the infant in a car seat. To my amazement, the older woman then seated herself in an adjacent passenger seat while the crippled young woman fit her wheelchair in front of the wheel and slowly began reversing the car out of the parking spot.

I slumped back in my seat in humility. For so long I had thoughtlessly begrudged those troubled people the convenience of a mere few steps…

And then it struck me. I did indeed have this unfortunate habit of being jealous of those who actually deserved my pity. However, wasn’t it worse that I envied the short-lived comfort of the spiritually-crippled far more often?

That sting my heart felt when seeing a girl in a fluttery summer dress (haraam, the sign in my head simpered) while I walked in somber colors. That time I bit my lip when I realized everyone else was passing with flying marks by cheating (haraam, the sign taunted) while I was failing miserably due to my honesty. That set face when I hurried past a music classroom where the choir practiced (haraam, the sign jeered). That day when I would have given anything to go to that concert (haraam, the sign-in-my-head yawned) but went home instead. That night when nothing but the perfect makeup (haraam, the sign smirked) on a certain acquaintance’s face kept me from sleeping peacefully. That moment when my fist clenched tightly because someone pointedly mentioned how much fun the party (haraam, the sign mocked) had been the day before.

Foolish me. I had been reading the handicapped signs in my head wrong. “Disabled Morality” one read. “Disabled Modesty,” another said. “Disabled Conscience”, claimed a third. The fourth – the scariest – proclaimed “Disabled Submission”. Submission to God. A Conscience. Morality. Modesty. The lack of these is what I had been envying. And what I should have pitied. For a few days’ pleasure, I looked with green eyes at the eternally bereft, the crippled, and the disabled. They were so near the destinations they so ardently sought. Yet, they were so far. Far from what the true destination ought to have been. The destination that I am and will always be willing to walk the distance for, Insha’Allah.

Never again did I wish for the first parking spot.


Taken from

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at

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  1. Assalamu alaikum,

    To the author of this article, please be respectful to people with disabilities when writing. The language you use to describe disability can be offensive and hurtful. As a person with a disability, every time I read the word “cripple” in your article I cringe. “cripple” is to disability as “nigger”is to blacks. As an author, the onus is on you to keep abreast with language that empower people.

    Please use the term “disability,” and take the following terms out of your vocabulary when talking about or talking to people with disabilities. Don’t use the terms “handicapped,” “differently-abled,” “cripple,” “crippled,” “victim,” “retarded,” “stricken,” “poor,” “unfortunate,” or “special needs.”

    I hope that the editorial committee of monitor their articles to ensure that they adhere to respectful and inclusive language in their articles. My intention is to provide feedback. Jazzak Allahu khairan.

    Rafia Haniff-Cleofas,
    Founder, ERDCO Ethno Racial People with Disabilities Coalition of Ontario
    Founding member and Board member, CAMD -Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities
    Founding member, CARD, Canadian Alliance of Race and Disability

  2. A beautiful article dear anonymous author, and please do not be put-off by the politically-correct terminology obsessions of others who can’t see past their comprehensive checklist of banned words, and presumably can’t see the dark road where banning ordinary words leads. Thank you for the inspirational insight into recognising the wider nature of disability. I have my disabilities, (we all do, and singling out a few that entitles to use a particular parking space is abject discrimination of another sort). I don’t care what they’re called, I only care about how to acknowledge and deal with them.


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