One of the most obvious lessons that can be learned from sports is the importance of teamwork to achieve a goal. The teams that go on to win championships are not usually the most talented, but work well together and complement each others strengths and weaknesses. They may have a leader, but all the players have to work together, many times putting aside their egos for the greater good.
Sports and athletics are a large part of nearly every culture and region. Whether it is basketball, soccer, cricket, or even kabbadi, sports are prevalent all over the globe. This is also true among Muslims. It is not common to go to a gathering at the Masjid and not hear people talk about sports in one way or another. They are a fact of life and have many fans and followers, men and women alike. While most sports talk can be written off as worldly and a waste of time, many lessons can be learned from athletics which we can apply to ourselves. As our Imams (peace be upon them all) have said, there is a lesson in everything we see. Lessons can also be derived from sports if we know where to look. These lessons can also show us the best way to battle against Shaitan and be of service to our Living Imam (may Allah hasten his reappearance).
One of the most obvious lessons that can be learned from sports is the importance of teamwork to achieve a goal. The teams that go on to win championships are not usually the most talented, but work well together and complement each others strengths and weaknesses. They may have a leader, but all the players have to work together, many times putting aside their egos for the greater good. This example can be applied to nearly every group structure in life. Be it a single family or a large community, all members need to work together to achieve a common goal. This can also be applied to the occultation of our Twelfth Imam. Imam Madhi is our leader, and his reappearance is guaranteed, but it has not happened yet because we have not proven ourselves to be capable members of his community. If we all work together to improve ourselves and yearn to help our Imam in whatever way we can, God-willing we will be able to serve him.
Another lesson that is related to the previous one is that sports help us realize that everyone has a role. Great teams have that awesome all-around skilled player like Michael Jordan, but they also have players that are known as role players. These players can’t do everything well and usually don’t end up on the highlight reel, but they can do one thing and they can do it well. These types of personalities are the best complements to their leaders because they can be counted on in their field of specialty time after time. The Chicago Bulls could not have won all those titles without Jordan, but they also probably could not have won them without the contributions of their role players. This fact teaches us that while we may not be good at everything or always make the headlines, we should practice what we do best in order to serve humanity in the best way possible. Our Living Imam will need specialists in all fields so we should try to perfect what we do in order to serve Islam and be the best team players we can be.
A final lesson we can learn from observing athletics is the importance of perseverance. Perseverance is an important quality for everyone to have in life, and in today’s society following sports is a good way to witness it. It is a trait possessed by all of our noble Prophets and Imams (peace and blessings be upon them all) and is a key virtue to have in order to lead a successful life. During the course of a season or even a single game, a team will experience victories along with disappointments. Even those teams who finish with a perfect record have faced some form of adversity, either internal or from another team. They key point to be taken away from this idea is that in life we will have struggles and triumphs. No one’s journey is perfectly smooth and there are going to be obstacles to overcome if greatness is to be achieved. This is a mantra followed by all great sports teams and can be seen in their play on the field. Teams that understand this will never let a missed shot or a bad game get them down. They will always give it their best even if the situation looks its bleakest. All that matters to them is the victory at the end of the season, so the ups and downs don’t bother them too much.
This idea of persevering until the end is a great lesson we can learn from sports and one which we can apply in our struggle against ourselves and Shaitan. Just like a boxer might get knocked down a few times or a team might have a bad quarter, in the same way we may fail in a test given to us by Allah by giving in to the temptations and whispers of Shaitan. But we should not let this get us into a feeling of hopelessness. Just like the boxer will quickly go over his mistakes so he doesn’t make them again, we should re-evaluate ourselves and our mistakes so we don’t repeat them and are able to conquer our nafs and Shaitan. What is important is that we are continuously striving to get closer to Allah. If we do this, He has guaranteed our victory, in this life and the next.
Allah says in the Quran, “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain, and you hope from Allah what they do not hope; and Allah is Knowing, Wise.” (4:104) This verse speaks about perseverance and always aiming for victory in the face of any odds, be it against the enemy within or against the visible enemy. This is one of the many lessons that can be taken from the world of sports which we can apply in our lives. So next time we are watching the next big game, let us take what lessons we can, and apply it to better ourselves and our community.