Should the Khilafah Top the Olympics Medals Table?
“Their achievements in this life may be impressive, but it is their dedication to the truth that raises their rank among people.”
The London Olympics Motto is to “inspire a generation.” With the governments spending cuts keeping the young out of higher education; jobless whether they have degrees or not; lumbered with debt and unable to buy property the £8 billion spent on the games might also have the motto “in-spite of a generation.”
(and) that He may admit the men and women who believe to Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein for ever, and remove their bad deeds;- and that is, in the sight of Allah, the highest achievement (for man)
There are many achievements in the life of this world which people aspire to and worldly ambitions are a normal part of life. However the “greatest achievement” is one that is accessible to all people regardless of their status, wealth, family, connections or nationality. Our role models with regards to this start with the Messengers, the Sahaba and their righteous followers to the present day. Their achievements in this life may be impressive, but it is their dedication to the truth that raises their rank among people.
Success in Islam highlights many personal attributes such as honesty, patience, the commanding of good and forbidding evil. This being the highest attainment impacts the mentality of individuals, the community and the state. This being the objective of the individual, the state itself strives to be a vehicle for its citizens to achieve success on Qiyama. The most basic success for a future Khilafah would be for it to stand for the Word of Allah (swt) in all matters and support its citizens to worship Allah (swt) in both their spiritual and “temporal lives” comprehensively such that they might attain success in the next life. Failure in this would be a basic failure of the state.
The Olympics has long been used by nations to demonstrate their superiority over other nations and build prestige in the international community. Before the fall of the iron curtain, it was the USSR versus the USA that was the top billing with victories for either national team impacting the entire nations psyche and the pride in their nation. Further, it was seen as a demonstration to other countries of the superiority of the ideology of that nation over the other, and a symbol of its greatness.
The Chinese topped the medals table in Beijing, and this, at least to the populations of concerned nations, demonstrated a broader success being enjoyed in wider society and bolstered national pride. Sport does not necessarily form an integral part of successful nations or their ideologies, but it is something extra and can be used to excite nationalism and impress foreigners.
There is a genuine ideological difference in the approach towards sports and athletics between China and the United States. Chinese achievement in sports is centrally funded and organised. American achievement is through educational institutions and a massive privately funded infrastructure of training facilities. The commercialisation of sports in the US has allowed the private sector to profit from sporting achievement and therefore American sporting success sits primarily upon private investment rather than the state. There is no bigger sporting stage worldwide than the Olympics and success points back to the infrastructure and ideals that led to that success.
Al-Tabarani narrated that the Messenger (saw) said “You should (practice target) shooting, for it is the best of your entertainment (Lahwikum).” Allah SWT warned people of Lahw and La’ib (amusement and play) frequently in the Qur’an. Imam Al-Shaatabi explained how we should understand such actions when he said “Lahw, entertatinment and vacancy from any work is Mubah (permissible), if it does not involve a forbidden matter, or occupy one from an obligated matter. But he is blameworthy, and the scholars did not agree with it (they did not like it), rather they would hate to see a man who was not busy with either improving his livelihood or improving his Hereafter; for he had wasted a period of time which was not used to gain any good for this world, nor for the afterlife.” In origin participation in sports is permissible with the conditions mentioned. With todays sedentary lifestyles the health benefits may raise its personal importance. However it has never been considered to be a methodology for Dawah.
Wouldn’t it be better to build that prestige by establishing a state that worships none but Allah; treats with kindness the elderly, children, orphans and those in need; speaks fairly in domestic and international affairs; upholds prayer and practices charity supporting the poor and destitute in this world.
And (remember) when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel, (saying): Worship none save Allah (only), and be good to parents and to kndred and to orphans and the needy, and speak kindly to mankind; and be constant in prayer and spend in charity. Yet, except a few you turned away. (TMQ 2:83)
The inspiration for the population of the state is their imaan in the next life. The satisfaction they have in their state would be for its pursuing the elevated ideals that Islam obliges and succeeding in them, regardless of the land on which they were born which is an arbitrary irrelevancy.
That the powerful states of this world use such events to “inspire,” display national pride and prestige is testament to the lack of inspiration inherent to their thoughts over and above money and an emotional attachment to the land of their birth. As Muslims, we should try to raise the level of thought and the values that would lead to are values that benefit the individual and society as a whole.