Sports and exercise have always been a great way of connecting people while improving the wellbeing of those who engage in it.
Sports, the Community and Our Children
Sports and exercise have always been a great way of connecting people while improving the wellbeing of those who engage in it. When the dimension of community is added, particularly a Muslim community, the effects on the individual, and the community as a whole, can be quite profound. Children who are then raised in a community that actively engages in sport and exercise can therefore benefit greatly from the environment that it creates, forming close bonds with their peers, learning important life lessons and building their character as they experience the highs and lows that sports and exercise have to offer.
To explore this further, My Muslim Family asked a number of you in the various communities that you are part of, about sport in the Muslim community, how families involve their children, and their learnings from their experiences. The insights were thought-provoking as always. Enjoy!
Are you part of a local Muslim Community or Islamic Centre?
We first had to determine how many people within the My Muslim Family community were part of a Muslim community or Islamic Centre. It was encouraging to find that over 85% of those that participated in the survey were part of one. That’s 6 in every 7! Let’s find that 7th person and welcome them in with open arms!
Do you or your spouse participate in a sport with/without the community?
We also found that the majority of those who responded participated in a sport as part of a wider community. This is quite encouraging as it demonstrates the preference of people to participate in groups, but also more importantly, has the benefit of bonding with others in the community beyond the walls of the mosque/Islamic centre, creating friendships and building networks whilst keeping fit.
Does your child/children get involved with sports within your local Muslim Community or Islamic Centre? If so, which sports?
The majority of responses indicated that parents endeavour to involve their children in sports, with involvement varying from the individual-performance based sports such as swimming, badminton and cycling to the more group-based sports like football and volleyball. My favourite response was the following:
“My daughter is 18 months old and so hasn’t taken part in any sports. However, she still has been to tournaments that have been hosted by my local community and has therefore met people from around the world and been exposed to amazing hospitality from complete strangers, all of which is a by-product of the sports at the community”
It is fantastic to learn that children as young as 18-months are being exposed to such environments as it allows them to experience the feel of community from a very young age, which has a profound effect on their social well-being.
What encouraged you to get them involved in sports within your local Muslim Community?
This question brought out a few common themes such as parents being encouraged by identifying the need to bond and form close relations with other members of the community, which would be fulfilled via involving their children in sports within the community. The opportunity to create a sense of belonging amongst one another was also another common factor that attracted parents.
The response that stood out for me was that parents identified community sports environment as one that provided a lot of opportunities for their children to learn about important Islamic values such as practising good Akhlaq, caring for one another, building discipline within and taking responsibility and accountability for their actions. These practical lessons can go a long way in helping shape our children’s characters.
What impact (positive, negative, both) has being part of an active sports community within your local Muslim community had on your child? (For example, being part of the mosque’s football team has allowed my son/daughter to work on his/her Akhlaq on the pitch.)
A lot of the responses focused on building bonds with people that shared Islamic values and strengthening those friendships. For those that had children that were unable to participate in sports within their community, they still found that the nuggets of advice they were provided within an informal setting benefited them in a profound way.
Do you think sports have a role to play in the spiritual development of your child/children?
All the responses were in the positive, with some finding that being part of a Muslim team is deeply impactful. There was anecdotal evidence shared, such as when one parent witnessed their child’s cricket team stop a cricket match when it was time for prayer and praying together as a team, or when another parent’s child practised honesty and justice while on the football pitch to the detriment of their own team. These lived experiences have a lasting impact on a person’s journey to Allah (swt).
We received another brilliant perspective in a response that highlighted that as a parent, playing sports has helped improve their mental health, which in turn impacted their spiritual development and interaction with their child. As our children are mirrors of ourselves, what benefits us ultimately benefits them.
What advice would you give to parents who are considering signing their children up to sports activities?
All the responses involved encouraging those who are considering getting their children involved in sports to just do it!
Others provided some valuable advice such as:
“Get them involved, both within and outside your community”.
“Know who your children’s friends are. Also allow your children to be themselves. Let them play the sports they enjoy and not the sports you enjoy or enjoyed when you were younger. Furthermore, they don’t have to be the best at it. If they don’t want to play the sport competitively, then that’s okay. They can play the sport for fun, let your children take the lead.”
“Ensure that they keep attending even if they are not 100% satisfied with their performance, so that the activities continue and improve.”
Alhamdulillah for the opportunities we are provided with to get involved in sport and more importantly, for the communities that Allah has provided us the ability to set up! Let us welcome those who are seeking such communities and cannot seem to find them, and encourage our communities to create more initiatives and opportunities. These will strengthen our bonds and provide valuable lessons which, hopefully, will bring us closer to our Creator!