By Ali Maki
It seems today that many Muslims are struggling to integrate western culture with Islamic culture. For the most part, what is acceptable by modern culture and Islam are completely different, and trying to manage this fact is an issue for many. One example is sports, which some consider as a waste of time due to the fact that time can be spent on more important activities in life. However, watching and playing sports are very important parts of society and Islamic culture – so much so that even Hadiths encourage participating in sports because of the healthy benefits. Benefits could include improved health and improved parent-child relations.
Obesity has skyrocketed within our community amongst the youth and elderly. The age of processed food and drink containing high fructose corn syrup has been immensely attributed to this rise. Yet completely preventing ourselves from consuming these foods may be a bit extreme since we have a natural need for such foods. The age of inactivity amongst youth has become an alarming trend. Youth would prefer to play video games or watch television regardless of the weather outdoors. Countering this behavior starts at a young age. Many communities have after-school programs such as soccer, basketball and football for kids as young as five years old. Children are known to be affected by events early in their lives and as a result are easy to be “programmed”. Involving children in athletic programs from a young age could very well result in healthier lifestyles in the future.Whether it is picking up a sport as a hobby or working out, staying active is an important way of managing stress. Physical activity is a known to increase the body’s production of neurotransmitter endorphins, which are considered the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Physical activity is also known to counter the symptoms of mild depression and anxiety.Social issues such a pre-marital sex, substance abuse and a host of other issues have also arisen in our communities. On an individual level, enrolling children and teens in after-school programs can be a way of keeping children away from the wrong crowds that may influence them into partaking in un-Islamic actions. On a communal level, participating in sports is an effective way of grooming children into becoming better individuals Islamically, and organizers in some Muslim communities have had success with such programs. Catering to the high interest in sports amongst youth coupled with the thirst for knowledge from short Islamic lectures has resulted in excellent mentoring sessions for young Muslims. These programs allow youth to participate in physical activity and build themselves as individuals over time, with the aid of mentors who can relate to young Muslims and who have dealt with the temptations of today’s society.A lot of talk about social issues in our communities revolves around the actions of the youth, but what seems to be neglected is the sense of disconnect between parents and children, and that impacts the actions of the youth. There is a big cultural gap between the older generation from the East and the younger generation from the West, resulting in less “bonding time” between parents and their children. It’s important for future parents to take this issue into consideration when raising a child. Since a teen’s friends are the ones they can mostly relate to, they end up following the actions of their friends even if it involves partaking in un-Islamic actions. Having a similar hobby such as playing a sport or watching a game can prove critical in the upbringing of a child. When a child and parent have bonding time due to a common hobby, a friendship is established which would allow the parent to also serve as a friend who the child can talk to.Sports and activities should play an important role in our Islamic societies. The benefits of sports can lead to a healthier Islamic society on a social level and a healthier lifestyle for individuals.
By Ali Maki