The depth of the sports prostration

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.“

 Roll on Sir Mohamed Farah…

 

 

 

Lady Fatemah Trust – a night to remember

On Saturday I had the honour to once again take photos for the annual Lady Fatemah Trust Gala Dinner, a charity which never ceases to impress me with it’s dedication and global outreach.

Fifteen years ago visionary Amirali Karim formed the charity with the mission of eradicating poverty and suffering. The core belief of the charity is that “everyone has the right to be safe, healthy, skilled and equal, regardless of race or religion” and that using the “philosophy of empowerment it is possible to produce lasting solutions to poverty”.

Amirali Karim’s passion seems to transcend through his emotional heart felt speeches and the army of dedicated volunteers who selflessly commit their time to help organise all aspects of the charity including the highly successful annual Gala. Amirali Karim and his family are exemplars for young British Muslims aspiring to succeed and give back to society. The most remarkable aspect of the charity, aside from it’s current turnover of almost £1.3million annually is that it continues to operate on a 0% admin cost. Many of you involved in charities will know this is simply incredible and a testament of what can be achieved through well coordinated cause-driven voluntary support. 

Amirali Karim delivering the welcome speech

The list of beneficiaries seems to be endless, including cluster bomb victims in Lebanon, assistance for amputees in Tanzania, food and disaster relief for areas in Pakistan, eye clinics in Iraq and Zanzibar, clean water projects throughout rural India and orphan care programmes throughout Gaza, India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon. A particularly interesting development over the last few years has been the growth of the micro financing programme providing mechanic equipment, sewing machines, agricultural instruments and support to empower communities in poverty stricken areas.

Ijaz Hussain Bokhari's Rickshaw

The highlight of the Gala dinners are keynote speeches provided by distinguished guests of honour. Last year Dr Ang Swee Chai author of “From Beirut to Jerusalem: A Woman Surgeon With the Palestinians” captivatingly spoke of her eye witness accounts of the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 3,500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians whilst working as a nurse in the refugee camp.

Dr Abuelaish delivering his keynote speech

This year’s guest was Nobel Peace prize nominee Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish author of “I Shall Not Hate” and the first Palestinian doctor to receive a staff position at an Israeli hospital treating both Israeli and Palestinian patients. Dr Abuelaish’s life is one of tragedy, victory and sublime patience from putting up with humiliating border checks on his way to work in an Israeli hospital whilst many of his fellow Gazans would miscarry at the border. In 2008 he lost his wife Nadia to Leukaemia and in 2009 a few seconds after closing his daughters’ bedroom door an Israeli shell blasted through the wall killing 3 of his daughters and partially blinding and disabling a fourth (a far too frequent occurrence in the occupied territories). Dr Abuelaish silenced the crowd with his heart-wrenching story and his sincere faith-driven commitment to peace, his national bestseller “I Shall Not Hate” discusses his commitment to use his anger to drive positive change.

“I know that what I have lost, what was taken from me, will never come back. But as a physician and a Muslim of deep faith, I need to move forward to the light, motivated by the spirits of those I lost. I need to bring them justice… I will keep moving but I need you to join me in this long journey.”

Dr Abuelaish founded Daughters for Life in honour of his daughters, an awards scholarship scheme gifted to young women in the Middle East to be used for university tuition, health and other education programs. His talk had me emotionally frozen to the extent I struggled to lift my camera for the first time in my life. Dr Abuelaish’s standing ovation led to the second round of pledging in which donated items were auctioned including photography by Ahsan Abbas, signed sports memorabilia and unique art by Samir Malik. Samir Malik’s piece entitled “Be Like the Flower” fetched £2.5k and in my opinion was an ideal link with much of Dr Abuelaish’s philosophy. The piece was inspired by Imam Ali’s (a.s.) quote:

“Be like the flower that gives it’s fragrance even to the hand that crushes it.”

Special mention was given to late Salima Khalfan a selfless long standing volunteer of the charity who passed away in November 2011 after a twenty month battle with cancer. Salima (a distinguished dental surgeon at Guy’s Hospital, London) continued to serve the charity throughout her battle and the Salima Memorial Medical Education Project was set up in her honour. Her husband and daughter Nylah were presented with a unique memorial award in front of an emotional crowd.

In a single night the Lady Fatemah Trust managed to raise £170k to fund projects for the next year and as event organiser Riyaz Dhalla closed the event and thanked attendees he reminded us that 15 years has been just the beginning of the Lady Fatemah Trust’s mission to tackle poverty and suffering in the hardest hit areas.

It was a pleasure to be involved in the Gala Dinner and I congratulate the entire team and attendees and hope to play a part in the immense work the trust undertakes in the future.
If you’d like to see the work the Lady Fatemah Trust undertakes and donate to their noble cause visit their site at www.ladyfatemahtrust.com. For more photos check out my events page LFT Gala Dinner 2012.