A recent example of a popular British Muslim athlete is Mo Farah, but let’s be honest with ourselves, athletics doesn’t invoke the same type passion amongst the British public as football does.
Since his arrival at Liverpool Football Club (LFC) in June 2017, Mohamed Salah’s dazzling performances on the pitch has seen him win the much coveted Golden boot, scoring 32 times on his debut season in the highly prestigious English Premier League.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) May 13, 2018
But it’s not his goals that have fans and non-fans captivated, it’s his Islam. For those of you living under a rock, the 25 year old Egyptian national had a short stint earlier on in his career at Chelsea Football Club where he was rejected by Jose Mourinho. However, he did not succumb to his failures and was loaned out to Italian side Fiorentina. Flexing his footballing prowess in the once revered Serie A, and a permanent move was made to the rival side Roma, which culminated in him becoming the player of the season. In June 2017 LFC secured the signature of the Egyptian on a long-term contract for a fee of only £35 million.
While other players invent ever more creative ways of celebrating their goals, Salah (and other Muslims players) are leading the field in giving thanks to the One who gave them the ability to score that goal. Unlike countless Muslims in the workplace, praying to God that they won’t be caught with their foot in the bathroom sink, Salah wears his Islam on his sleeve. So much so that from labelling fellow Muslim LFC fans a ‘disgrace’ for praying to now inventing some notorious chants which are making the rounds on social media, there is no denying the impact Mo Salah has had on the fans.
“Mohamed Salah, the gift from Allah, He came from Roma to Liverpool. He’s always scoring, it’s almost boring. So please don’t take Mohamed away.”
It’s evident that Mohamed Salah relies upon prayer to gain a form of spirituality from it. In this candid interview (below) with Channel 4, Salah’s manager Jurgen Klopp describe Mohamed Salah as an ambassador. Klopp also details his star player’s rituals before the game. It seems as though before each game Salah performs the wudhu (a form of ablution which is mandatory before a Muslim prays to God but is encouraged to do it often) and may even pray two units of the Muslim prayer. Which is heartwarming for the LFC to facilitate this for Salah along with the other Muslim players (Sadio Mane and Emre Can) at the club because the other players and staff have to arrive at the dressing room earlier.
“Mo is the perfect ambassador for Egypt and the whole Arabic world.”
Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp pays tribute to Mo Salah, who has been voted PFA player of the year. pic.twitter.com/HljYM0vvzG
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) April 23, 2018
Why Do Muslims Pray?
The prostration has now become synonymous as an act of gratitude. That’s why you’ll see people, Muslim and Non-Muslim alike falling into prostration upon scoring a goal. Whether they realise it or not, this act appeals to the deepest parts of their fitrah (innate disposition). It’s in our nature to give thanks to the one that has given us life and everything we take for granted in it.
Zakah (Giving to Charity)
Another characteristic which Mo Salah adheres to as a Muslim is a concept of giving to charity. It has been reported recently the player has donated nearly half a million dollars to his home village – Nagrig, located in the North-East of Egypt, he has bought land for the purpose of building a sewage treatment plant to refine and clean water within the whole district of Gharbia. However, the Egyptians have honoured with the moniker ‘the happiness maker’ where he has given his own personal wealth to other causes such as buying hospital equipment and the renovation of schools.
Why Do Muslims Give To Charity?
The simple answer is that it is another cornerstone of the religion but by drilling into the ‘Why?’ aspect of it then one of the main underlying reasons is that the giving of charity instils care and compassion for the impoverished. One of the sayings (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, eloquently explained: “the believers are like one body in their mutual love and affection: if one limb is injured, the rest responds with sleeplessness and fever.”
With conflicting reports on whether or not the player Mohamed Salah will be fasting in the Champions League Final, it has been confirmed by the club’s physio, the striker will not be fasting on the day of the final, as well as a day or two leading up to the big game. However, Islam is a religion which gives us ease, in such cases:
˹Fast a˺ prescribed number of days. But whoever of you is ill or on a journey, then ˹let them fast˺ an equal number of days ˹after Ramaḍân˺. For those who can only fast with extreme difficulty, compensation can be made by feeding a needy person ˹for every day not fasted˺. But whoever volunteers to give more, it is better for them. And to fast is better for you, if only you knew. [The Qur’an 2:184]
Why Do Muslims Fast?
A common question which Muslims receive but do not always respond well to is “why do Muslims fast?” The fairly common reply will be “Oh, it’s so we can empathise with the poor” or “to abstain from sins” etc, which are secondary motives behind fasting. The real reason why Muslims fast is to gain God-consciousness (Taqwa) recognising that — He is the All-Knowing (Al-Alim) and the All-Seeing (Al-Basir) — and during this month this reinforces a Muslim’s safeguard to abstain from sin during the months outside of Ramadan.
Shahada (Declaration of Faith)
Mo Salah’s performance on and off the pitch has resulted in an avalanche of proposed shahadas from the loyal LFC fan base.
It’s obvious that such tweets need to be taken with a pinch of salt but the positive impact of one man doing his job to the best of his ability, thankful to God all the way is undeniable. However, if you are a Non-Muslim reading this post and interested in Islam then it is of the utmost importance that this pillar of Islam is understood in its entirety.
What is the Shahada?
This is a statement which needs to be declared in Arabic for them to become Muslim. Obviously, an individual needs to understand the statement in their native tongue, in English, it is as follows: “I testify that there is none worthy of worship other than God (Allah), and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God (Allah).” But this statement is not a ‘one and done’ phrase, Muslims recite the shahada continuously — actually, every time they pray — and it may be one of the statement Mo Salah declares when he is in prostration (sajdah) after scoring a goal.
Well, that’s four out of the five pillars of Islam which can be related in one way or another to Mohamed Salah, the last one is the Hajj (the holy pilgrimage to Makkah) an attempt at Googling ‘Mo Salah hajj’ was made but unfortunately to no avail. However, we can all learn from Mo Salah is to be the best in whatever field you’re playing in, be proud to share your Islam with others and be thankful to the one who granted you that success in the first place.
Who’s your favourite Muslim sportsman/sportswoman?
Do you use them as a talking point to engage with Non-Muslims on the subject of Islam?
Are you a Man Utd fan who has (momentarily for a ‘one-day special’ — May 26th) converted to the LFC cause!?
Leave your comments below!