As romantic as “kissing the turf” sounds the real meaning behind a sportsman prostrating on the ground is more beautiful.
The past few weeks I’ve been trying to balance out the immense spiritual occasion of the month of Ramadhan with the Olympics taking place just down the road from me in Stratford. It’s been an amazing couple of weeks for anyone who loves sport and a few images remain in my mind. The most vivid one is the sight of Mo Farah (as if you needed the hyperlink!) kneeling down and placing his head on the ground after winning both 5 and 10km races. Like most of you I was out of my seat screaming at the TV urging him on the last two laps.
To most people the celebration made famous also by the likes of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse (cue dodgy paused screen images below) could symbolize a number of things; loyalty to the crowd, club, stadium or love of the “hallowed turf”.
“As he crossed the line he kissed the track, then lay down for a few sit-ups…” (Esther Addley in the Guardian).
As romantic as that sounds there is a deeper spiritual meaning behind the prostration (“Sujood”) witnessed on millions of screens around the world. It’s hard to break it down into the many aspects it represents but I’ll try and explain from my limited knowledge.
Mo is a practicing Muslim and adheres to the daily ritual prayers; a combination of physical actions and verbal prayers which Muslims practice 5 times a day. The prayer is divided into stages each symbolized by actions with the final of these in each cycle being the act of “Sujood” – placing the forehead on the ground, sitting up and then repeating once more.
To explain this slightly foreign looking act to an onlooker it first needs to be explained that Islam believes it is vital for a human to understand their significance in the universe. The head is without doubt the pinnacle of “highness”; critical thought, reflection, intellect, reason, our whole being initiates from cerebral functions. The ultimate act of humbleness is to symbolically demote this highness to lowness, or as some would put it “placing the highest of creation onto the plane of the lowest creation”. Being a humble person and fighting the negatives of pride plays an important role in Islam.
The Sujood is said to also represent the belief that humans were created in part by earth (the rising from the first prostration) and will return to it eventually (the second prostration).
It was amazing to see that in the emotion and excitement of winning double Gold, Mo immediately performed Sujood as an act of Humbleness and thanks. I was touched by Mo’s words in an interview about his faith with the Independent and also to hear of the great work initiated by him through the Mo Farah foundation.
”It also says in the Qur’an that you must work hard in whatever you do, so I work hard in training and that’s got a lot to do with being successful. It doesn’t just come overnight, you’ve got to train for it and believe in yourself; that’s the most important thing.“