Consider the case of the human who is deprived of the sense of sight. Think how grave is his bereavement. He does not see where to put his step, does not see what is in front of him, does not distinguish colours and agreeable and disagreeable sights; he does not benefit from the scholarship of books; he is unable to reflect and contemplate the wonders of Allah’s creation. He cannot take note of much of what is advantageous or harmful to him; he may not be able to avoid falling in a hole in his way, nor protect himself from a wild animal, or an enemy intent on assailing and killing him. He cannot flee if attacked, but will have to beat the mercy of his adversary. Had it not been for special care from Allah, in some was similar to that given to the newborn, he would be much more likely to perish than to survive. He is like a mass of flesh and bones, and that is why Allah promises him, if he is resigned and patient, that he will be rewarded with Paradise. It is an illustration of the immensity of the Lord’s kindness that He compensated a blind person’s vision with a mental vision, so you see that he has the sharpest intuition and insight. Another grace is that he enjoys clarity of objective, so that he is not distracted or scatter-brained. In this way he can enjoy his life, and take care of what is good for him, and is not depressed, indignant or frustrated. This I true of those born blind. As for the one who lost his sight after he had been sighted, he is like all those who have had catastrophes, who have transferred from a state of well being to one of suffering. He takes it very hard, because he is barred from what e had always enjoyed of sights, scenes, and ways of using his vision; his case is different.
Similarly, a person who is deprived of hearing misses the skill of communication and talking, and misses consequently the exchange of ideas and the pleasant experience of melodious sounds. People will be reluctant to communicate with him and will express annoyance at his presence. He will be cut off from people’s news and conversation; he is present but not really present, alive but it is like death-in-life, close by but really far.
There has been much dispute concerning who is less deprived and more normal, a blind person or a deaf-mute. There have been many supporters of both views, and both parties have cited several points. This debate, however, refers to a more basic one: Which of the two senses is more valuable, hearing or seeing? I have mentioned above details of this debate [i.e. in an earlier part of the book], and I have listed there the arguments of the different parties and their proofs, and discussed the truth about the matter. Here we may add that the loss of the sense that is more basic to integrity will be graver. We can briefly say here that for an unsighted person the loss is more serous, but his loss is less in religious matters, and his outcome will be better. For the deaf person, on the other hand, the loss is less grave in worldly matters, but he misses more in a religious sense, and his outcome is worse. His deafness will deprive him of all the preaching and admonition, and his way is blocked of useful sciences, while the way is open to tempting desires that are visible, while he does not have enough knowledge to deter him from getting involved. Therefore, his religious disadvantage is greater, while the blind man’s disadvantage in worldly maters is greater. It may be observed in this connection that there was not among the Prophet’s Companions a deaf-mute, while there were a number of unsighted companions. It is rare that Allah should test his devotees with dumbness, while he may test many with blindness. This is then the decisive statement concerning this issue: that the deaf-mute’s loss is religious, and the blind-person’s loss is worldly. It is a real blessing if one is spared both handicaps, and enjoys the use of both hearing and sight, and has them intact to the end of one’s life.
“Have We not made for him two eyes? And a tongue and two lips? And have shown him the two ways?” Qur’aan 90: 8-10