News ID: 8248
Publish Date: 11 May 2012 - 23:31
Themed “Inspire a Generation,” there is just over two months left before the 2012 Olympics kicks off in London this summer.

Naturally, when the Olympics take centre stage, the world watches on; families bundled on the couch with snacks in hand; eyes glued to the television screen, counting points, counting medals. It’s the entertainment most people wait for every four years.

But this year, it is going to be a slightly different event for Muslims, as in just over two months, the month of Ramadan also sinks in. Forget the "snacks in hand” part which can be easily eliminated - unless whatever you’re watching strolls in after iftar (breaking the fast) now that the Olympics coincides with the month of worship, what does this grand event entail for Muslims who are observant of Ramadan?

As we know it, Ramadan is the month of worship for Muslims, it’s that pinnacle of the year where we hone in into good deeds and upgrade our faith to the next level, so to speak. We try to avoid temptations and distractions, and there is something mesmorising about the month that we can recite the Quran languidly and we can stay up at night for Tarawih prayers. It’s magical.

How will the Olympics affect our worship during the month of the Fast? We could watch and follow the events moderately, without compromising our worship. We could avoid watching the television and just follow the news.

But more importantly so, how will the Olympics affect the Muslim athletes who are observing the Ramadan fast? While there are those who are deferring their fasts, some athletes feel that their performances would not be impacted by this form of worship and even see the mental determination in withdrawing from food and drink from sunrise to sunset as an advantage to their determination on the field.

But whatever it is, whether we are spectators or athletes, the Olympics shouldn’t be a distraction for ourQiyam (night prayers). It should enhance the importance of worship despite the situation that we are in. Islam requires us to be part and parcel of contemporary events and activities, as long as they do not contradict Islamic teachings and are done in moderation. In fact, Islam holds sports on a high pedestal in the faith, and there are ways that this Ramadan could carry important messages for the world, just by watching the performances of Muslim athletes.

Muslim Athletes Representing Islam

Despite the national pride and the blazing glory of the Olympics, needless to say, our Muslim brothers and sisters who are playing the field will be those athletes representing Islam. No matter which country they are from or the ethnicity they carry, Muslim athletes will always represent Islam. Remember, the head-turner - Ruqaya Al Ghasara from Bahrain – clad in her full clothed attire, including her hijab? She was a head turner for all the right reasons, making herself clear that her hijab was not a hindrance from clinching that Gold medal in the 100 metre sprint in the 2004 Olympics– her hard work led her to a string of medals that followed, including recognition in other events such as the Asian Games in Doha.

There will be other Muslims on the Olympics stage, come this July, and not only will great sportsmanship and physical performances hoard the limelight, the importance of representing Islam at every game will also be on the pedestal.

In fact, this is also true for spectators.

{What is with you runs out but what is with Allah goes on forever. Those who were steadfast will be recompensed according to the best of what they did. Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and We will recompense them according to the best of what they did.} (An-Nahl 16: 96-7)

No matter where we are, what activities we engage in, it is imperative that we are on our best behavior. Sporting events bring out the best of some athelets and the worse of some spectators. Hooliganism and fanaticism are just part of the problems that the host country faces when it comes to big games like the Olympics. And though these problems transcend nationalities and race, there is always something about being Muslims that will crop up if issues like these arise when Muslims engage in bad behavior.

This hadith reminds us of good character: Narrated Abdullah bin Amr: Allah’s Apostle neither talked in an insulting manner nor did he ever speak evil intentionally. He used to say:

'The most beloved to me amongst you is the one who has the best character and manners." (Al-Bukhari)

And this is what we should emulate throughout the 2012 Olympics, cheering sans jeering and leering, celebration sans alcohol and victory sans belittling are good ways to go to curb Islam’s name from being tarnished.

Bridging Nations and Closing the Divide

But back to the games. Besides national pride and the grand medal tally, what can the Olympics bring about for Muslims, especially when related to the month of Ramadan. In reflection, the Olympic Games is a global event that bridges the nations of the world. Even within individual countries, unity can be found through great sportsmanship and camaraderie, so sporting events always open up opportunities for us to get to know the contingent of the next country and come together in similarities and celebrate differences.

In the Quran it says: {O Mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you} (Al-Hujurat 49: 13)

The Olympics during Ramadan is a great opportunity to reenact the brotherhood of humanity.

Diversity is the will of God, and it is not for Muslims to feel superior, but humbled and to be resepctful of all of God’s creations, even those whom we disagree with in matter of faith and understanding. The Olympics is a good reminder that we originate from that one man and one woman, and thus, it, in true competitive spirit, everyone must remain respectful of each other, as we are brothers and sisters, even of different faiths. There is great reward in "getting to know each other,” as it broadens our horizons, opens our hearts, and even helps us with our dawah.

And in celebrating camaraderie during Ramadan, it plays to our service that Muslims polish our taqwa. It’s not about how many medals we win, it’s not about how much better our team is than the next team, it is not about who is faster or stronger or more determined – the underlying mission as vicegerants on Earth is to bolster ourtaqwa – our God-consciousness, as mentioned by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself in his last sermon. This shouldn’t be lost during Ramadan, and especially during Ramadan this year, when there is an opportunity to bolster our faith even with a competitively raging spirit to inspire the next generation.

Sports from an Interestingly Islamic Perspective

Sports and physical activities are mentioned repeatedly in the Hadith. Prophet Muhammad was much of a runner, and often jogged with his wife, Aisha. But amongst the sporting events that were common amongst their time, are a few that are part of worship:

"Any action without the remembrance of Allah is either a diversion or heedlessness excepting four acts: Walking from target to target [during archery practice], training a horse, playing with one's family, and learning to swim." (At-Tabarani)

Keeping fit is an integral part of faith, as long as activities and dress-code do not contradict Islamic practices. But engaging in sports of the sunnah is even better. While physical activities are a great way to de-tox and to keep physically fit, it also opens up our minds to other cultures and practices, giving us something new to learn.

Aisha said: "One day I saw the Messenger of Allah at the door of my room when the Abyssinians were playing a game in the mosque. The Messenger of Allah screened me with his cloak so that I could watch their game." It was added that 'Urwa said that 'Aisha said, "I saw the Prophet when the Abyssinians were playing with their spears. (Al-Bukhari)

Olympic Games or not, Ramadan is a special month for Muslims, and it is through constant integration that Muslims can engage in dawah through being the best of Muslims, even if there is a variation during the Month, like this grand sporting event.

Though the games may be challenging for some, they may open a host of opportunities for good deeds for others. And this may be a stepping stone to really inspire the next generation, both Muslim and non-Muslim.



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