Many of us Muslims who are not in the limelight with fanfare and glory at the foot of our lives are practising Muslims due to the predicament, we find ourselves in. It means we are “practising” the faith due to the avenues of sin, the rebellion of the laws of Allah and vice are already tight shut for us. Even if we tried to approach the doors of temptation, temptation itself turn away from us. This can be due to several reasons of which being unknown virtually to everyone and having no ability to lead a lavish lifestyle financially are a few of them. This is why as the door to Dunya: evil, vice, and the temptation to illegal sexual relations, drugs, alcohol, late-night after-parties are closed to us, we have worn the clothes of piety and assumed the garb of the righteous men and women.
However, the illusion we have deceived ourselves with becomes all too clear at the first sign of an open door to haram; the invitation by the woman of our dreams, having a pint at the local pub is a no-brainer of what we’ll choose. Essentially we are where we are because of Allah’s special blessings of keeping doors to evil closed for us, not by our own doing but by the fadl of Allah. Had it been left to us to avoid the evils of society we would jump at the first sight and fall into the arms of the woman of Dunya; not considering for one moment where our actions might lead to or how we will face Allah on the day of judgement. In other words, we are “practising” Muslims because of circumstance, not really by choice. As it is seen in our personal lives as soon as an opportunity comes of doing the wrong act over the right we easily choose the former.
This is where practising Muslim athletes come into the picture. Imagine you have all the money in the world at your fingertips, all the women you can have, the fame, name, invites to parties, late-night rendezvous with limitless high-end drug kingpins, a jet-set lifestyle you can see how it’ll be easy for what I call “Muslims of circumstance” to throw away their values and principles and jump headfirst into a wild party-loving hard-drinking lifestyle and be the playboy who has no morals, shame or dignity. Now imagine someone who has all the above options open yet willfully shuts the doors to evil temptations and vice all the time must be a strong-willed person dedicated to his faith. You would think only a real high-level friend of Allah, an awliyah Allah can do this. Something, not every man can do or does given the chance. This is why whenever I hear of Muslim athletes showing their principles and values on the global stage and not crumbling to the pressures of global stardom and all the trappings which come with it, in my eyes it sets them apart from any “pious” person you can think of. These athletes are so far above the rest of us it’s like blinking at the distant star on a clear night sky.
Brenden Rogers, the Leicester city football club manager sung the praise of Wesley Fofana for “he’s a young player in the middle of Ramadan so hasn’t eaten. It’s remarkable to think of his performance at the weekend. To still perform to that level was incredible. He finds that strength to train and play. He’s a special talent and a big player for us.”
Wesley could have easily decided to leave his values and adopt one of “freedom” of “living life to the full” and not fasted or even attempted to bother but Wesley is among a select group of shining Muslim athletes who have chosen a way over all the other limitless options available to them; this is way is the way of a true believer, to practise the faith despite having the world in between your fingers. It demonstrates how far above the parapet they are compared to circumstantial “practising” Muslims like us. The other notable Muslim stars who manage to keep themselves grounded despite the tremendous pull to “live life to the full”, are Sadio Mane and Muhammad Salah of Liverpool Football club, Khabib Numegamedov the global MMA undefeated superstar, Moeen Ali of England and former Warwickshire cricketer. They are not perfect sinless Muslims but given the odds of the stardom at their feet and being able to hold their ground in Islamic principles is admirable to say the very least, something which many people cannot do or even try to.
The same thing cannot be said about Muslim athletes from Muslim nations, although they too face mounting pressures of stardom in their home countries nonetheless it is still a Muslim country even in the most lose the sense of the word. This means there will still be Islamic societal values and traditions which people still are aware of even if they may not practice properly. For example the sound of the call to prayer, adhan can be heard, majority of the population are Muslims which means on public and societal level discussions and Muslim tradition and cultures are on display daily. On the other hand what Muslim athletes face while living and working in predominantly “western” countries is a sharp difference to culture, tradition and values of a practising Muslim I.e the animalistic decadence of binge drinking, all-night partying, clubbing, one night stand traditions which take place in every western country during the weekends like clockwork is not openly done in Muslim nations. This is why for me Muslim athletes who practise their faith whilst being at the top of global stardom will always be superior to the armchair loving average “practising” Muslim by a long stretch. Muslim athletes who show a strong sense of dedication to their faith win praises from non-Muslim fans as well as the below shows:
In the end, our piety is only truly shown when faced with adversity, temptations and sin; which route do we take? Is it jump right in or as Wesley, Salah, Sadio, Moeen etc consistently shown, be a strong believer in the face of shaytanic opportunities.