By Aneerah Ali, MMNS
Hakeem Olajuwon Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
On Monday April 7, 2008, my son came to me, bursting with excitement and beaming with happiness. He announced with great pride that Hakeem Olajuwon had been accepted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. This 12-year-old child who is literally obsessed with basketball and spends as much time outside of school as possible involved in either playing, watching or learning more about this sport was so elevated with this news, and with good reason.
In this country, in these times when Islam and being Muslim has been so misunderstood and misrepresented, and in many instances demoralized, it is such a proud moment for all Muslims, and especially Muslims in the United States. Hakeem Olajuwon is not just a great basketball player, he is much more than that. He embodied and lived the Islamic faith for all to see, and openly. During Ramadan he would fast even if there was a game, and he would play in the basketball game while fasting.
Hakeem Olajuwon was not always so devout; early in his career he was often belligerent and would get into heated disputes with officials and other players. But in 1991 he changed as he became more spiritual and turned his attention more to his religion.
On March 9, 1991, he altered his name to the proper Arabic spelling, saying, â€œIâ€™m not changing the spelling of my name, Iâ€™m correcting it.â€ He later recalled, â€œI studied the Qur`an every day. At home, at the mosque…I would read it in airplanes, before games and after them. I was soaking up the faith and learning new meanings each time I turned a page. I didnâ€™t dabble in the faith, I gave myself over to it.â€ Olajuwon was still recognized as one of the leagueâ€™s elite centers despite his strict observance of Ramadan (e.g., abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours for about a month), which occurred during virtually every season of his career. Olajuwon was noted as sometimes playing better during the month, and in 1995 he was named NBA Player of the Month in February, even though Ramadan began on 1 February of that year. He also gained recognition for his sportsmanship and his charitable pursuits. In 1994, after receiving his MVP award, he spoke at the ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) Convention. He is a hero to many Muslim youth throughout the United States. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakeem_Olajuwon)
Amongst his NBA recordsand titles are: 2 times NBA champion (1994, â€˜95), 2 times NBA Finals MVP (1994, â€˜95), NBA MVP (1994), 2 time Defensive Player of Year (1993, â€˜94), 6 time All-NBA First Team (1987, â€˜88, â€˜89, â€˜93, â€˜94, â€˜97), 3 time All-NBA Second Team (â€˜86, â€˜90, â€˜96), 3 time All-NBA Third Team (1991, â€˜95, â€˜99), 5 time All-Defensive First Team (â€˜87, â€˜88, â€˜90, â€˜93, â€˜94),12 time All-Star, Olympic gold medalist (1996)
It is such a wonderful moment for Muslims in the United States and especially for our children that this great American athlete is someone who embodies and has displayed so much for them to look up to as a role model, as a great athlete and a great Muslim.