|Muhammad Ali (Right)|
3 Times World Heavyweight Boxing Champion
The other day I performed my ablution and hurriedly walked a little distance to enter the mosque in our area, with the intention of praying Asr salaat. I had to content myself with standing in the 5th row, because I had allowed some worldly interest and of course my Qaarin to distract me from promptly responding to the adhan after he had called to prayer. The iqamat had already been said and everybody was adjusting his position to form a clean, neat, straight row. As I raised my hands looking straight at the qiblah to say my takbir after the imam, I could not believe my eyes as something or should I say someone attracted my attention.
Right there in the first row, I saw a famous international football star. Though I was in the local mosque in our neighborhood, yet there he was standing upright in front of his Lord, Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta’alah (SWT) in total submission and devotion. And what more, he was ahead of me in arriving to the congregational prayer. Shame enveloped me at first. My inner voice, looking for the slightest excuse to distract my Khushu’ (concentration) from the salaat quickly seized the opportunity and whisked me away into my ocean of thoughts.
My mind’s voices (I have 2 of such voices in me, always at loggerhead with each other. One always getting unnecessarily excited and wanting me to do things in a hurry, discouraging me, unless it is towards evil, highly pessimistic, irrational, stupid, bad and so on. The other is foresighted, calm, composed, patient, wise, careful and calculated in his utterances) immediately commenced their usual exchange;
“Is it possible that he’s the one? No, it can’t be!”
“So who does he know around the neighborhood, could it be the mosque owner? Or maybe he has some relatives in one of the houses on the street”
“Surely he cannot be passing by and heard the adhan being called and just stopped to pray”
“It’s possible you know. With Allah, all things are possible. Probably he has reverted”
“No way! And the prompt response to adhan, even among devout Muslims, not many do that”
“I guess you are right, for it is a rare gift bestowed by Ar-Rahman upon some of His slaves. Maybe he came with a friend, another football star from this part of the county, perhaps?”
“But, look man! Look closely at who you are talking about! Do you think he’ll be here with a friend? If you say he is here to see a babe, a beautiful chic, that is a probably studying or living abroad, but happens to be the daughter of one of the rich guys living in the vicinity, I might agree with you. But look again; he is the current FIFA World Footballer of the Year!”
“That is not what is amazing me…” the good inner voice sounding hopeful concluded “I never thought he is among the ones who bows down in total submission to Allaah, The Lord of the worlds. He looks so so humble”
“Allahu Akbar!” suddenly I heard the imam say, bringing me back to reality and the prayer we were observing. I raised my hands to my ear level and softly repeated after the imam, Allahu Akbar and bowed down in Ruku’, then started whispering softly my supplications of that position. Subhana rabbiyal adhim wa bi hamdihi…(3 times). As I stared at the ground, the toes of the man standing next to me looked so clean compared to mine, that for a moment I could not help but admire them, wishing I had taken the trouble to cut my toe nails as I had earlier intended. “May be when we conclude the prayer and I get back home” I said to myself.
Allahu Akbar! Again the gentle voice of the man leading us in salaat recalled me from my straying. As I stood up from the bowing position, the back of the iconic football star came into focus again, “Subhannallah! Could this be real or am I dreaming? Is it really him?” I asked myself again as I fell down on my face to perform the sajdah in unison with the rest of the congregation. Subhana rabbiyal A’alah wa bi hamdihi… I could hear the worshipper to my right softly praising his Lord as he supplicated some more with some other beautiful and eloquent words befitting only Allaah. Allahu Akbar, I heard myself saying from far off. We were now in the prostration position, so I struggled to remain focused, keep my mind off all worldly things as this is the most important part of my salaat, for Allah was now closest to me, mind, body and soul while I am in this position of my prayer. Thus, I kept reminding myself not to entertain any more thoughts outside my God. Fortunately, with the Help of Allaah, I managed to shut out all other attractions, so as to experience His presence in my heart. Mmmhm, sweet delicious delight, peace, tranquility which lasted for a brief moment… Oh how I love that feeling, always. We sat back up and then repeated that motion of the forehead touching the floor and it gave me a rush, a recharge, a high! “O how especially beautiful you are, O Allah” I thought to myself, celebrating that bliss.
With another “God Is the Greatest!”, we stood up and I silently commenced reading again the Seven Oft-repeated verses of the Qur’anic recitation with the melodious voice of my mind, after the imam’s, though he was reading silently too. I raised my eyes to look ahead as I did before and the name of that famous footballer immediately came into focus again, ready to engage my thoughts and so resume its distinctive distraction of my prayer, but then I recalled one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad, Peace be Upon Him, that while in prayer do not raise your eyes up, looking ahead or around, but look to the ground, particularly at the point where your forehead would rest in the prostration position and immediately I complied. Behold! I was instantly rescued from the diversion and remained in focus for the rest of the salaat.
After the prayer was concluded with the tashahud and salaam, the congregation started to disperse one by one. It was then that I saw the football hero was no more that some young man in the area who happened to be wearing a fan jersey with the name and position number of the famous footballer. Who was it? It does not really matter, does it? Ok! It was this…em…em French guy, that prolific goal scorer…oh what’s that his name again? He plays for that English club Arsenal. Gosh, his name kept flashing into my mind and just when I was about to grab it, it slipped away. Now you see how the Devil works. When I was in salaat, he kept the name ringing in my head with every tic of the clock, but now that I am not in prayer he sees no benefit in reminding me of the name of the footballer in question. Should it still matter? No! But come to think of it, why not frustrate him, I mean the frustrated and the accursed that he is. I’ll try to remember……em….Yes! The footballer’s name is “Thierry Henry!” So, Mr. Distracting Whisperer, go eat your heart out!
By the way, Thierry is not the only one I have seen praying in several mosques, scattered among the congregations at various times, in different towns and cities across the world. I have seen many equally famous names all bowing down in prostration to Allaah during the five (5) daily prayers. In actual fact, I have seen in some instances two or three of them in different rows of a single congregational salaat. I have seen Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Michael Jackson, Zidane, Eto’o, J.J Okocha, Tupac, 50 Cent, Kanu, Ballack, Owen, Kanoute, Diouf, Messi, Weah, Abedi, Drogba etc. I have also seen presidents of countries of the world on one or two occasions at one time or another do the same thing. Powerful people like Nelson Mandela, Bush Jr. Obasanjo, Putin, Castro, Chavez and so on.
In the past I use to see Maradona, Pele, Platini, Michael Jordan, Shaquille Oneal, Olajuwon, Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson and many more. So long as a person or a star was popular enough to have his name and or photo on a t-shirt or in the media, I use to see them bowing down in total submission to Allaah, in salaat. So it has been, so it will always be. Interesting to note is the fact that some of these persons have actually been witnessed to have embraced Islam and did bow down to Allaah in humility and self humbleness before they died. Several others, male and female are accepting and practicing the Din, just like many more will return to the true creed, before they exit this world in shaa Allaah.
This singular act of worship i.e. As-Salaat, is essentially that which differentiates the Muslim from the Non-Muslim, so said to his Ummah, the last Prophet and Messenger of God (Muhammad SAWS) to mankind. Now, as we all know, only Muslims bow down to Allaah in prayers. So in essence, these names, each is a Muslim in its spirit, even though in their physical fame and fortunes, the persons think otherwise. Thus their names bow down to Allaah and there is nothing any of them can do about it. For me, the only thing that makes such famous names bow down to Allaah is the realization by those names of ALLAAH’s Supremacy over and above all things, their owners inclusive, even if the personalities are too proud to submit to His Glorious Majesty.
So, as powerful as leaders are, as talented and skillful as football and sport stars are, as famous as some personalities are, as iconic as certain statesmen are, as legendary as inventors are, as idolized as music and film stars are, as rich as business tycoons are, as historic as Discovers are, they all know that their’s is just an illusion, and to Allaah belongs the sovereignty and master keys of all that they have become and to Him is their final return.
©® 2008 Tijjani Muhammad Musa
Revised 2012 All Rights Reserved