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Just another Muslim: Hakeem Olajuwon

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    Just another Muslim: Hakeem Olajuwon

    It may seem like it should, but this doesn't belong in the Khail Khilari section Feeling disappointed and frustrated with the equating of Muslims as terrorists, wanted to bring up this interview. Although Olajuwon is of course very much in the public eye as a basketball player, there are literally millions of other "invisible" Muslims like him all around the world whose stories we will never hear, whose struggles towards becoming closer to Islam are no less worthy.
    The interview is old and very long, but perhaps an interesting read for those who may believe that all us Muslims can't survive without an AK/47 in our lives. There are a number of Muslims today who try to honestly live their lives according to Islam; judging an entire religion based upon the actions of a minority is erroneous.

    "A different kind of superstar" - Brad Darrach and Jimmie Briggs
    Time LIFE magazine http://www.lifemag.com/Life/essay/hakeem/hakeem01.html

    Something strange was happening in Houston. In June 1994, led by star center Hakeem Olajuwon, the Rockets had outfought the New York Knicks and won their first NBA championship as Texas roared approval. Now, 10 months later, the same fans were frustrated and troubled. Halfway through the 1994-95 season, Hakeem had turned into a foot-dragging, can't-make-a-basket case, and without his indomitable spirit the champs were staggering. What had gone wrong?

    The answer was alien to pro sports as we know it. Placing his religious obligations as a Muslim before his sacred duty to the team, Hakeem had been fasting from daybreak to sundown during the holy month of Ramadan-and getting weaker every day. Many Rocket boosters begged him to desist. But in his calm, stubborn way, not meaning to offend anybody but not about to back off from his beliefs, Hakeem kept right on fasting. Soon he had starved himself into an iron deficiency and a thyroid condition, and had to be benched for two weeks.

    As the regular season ended and the Utah Jazz pushed the Rockets to the brink in a wild-card series, fans despaired. It seemed that Hakeem's spiritual quest had undermined his team's crusade for a second title. But then the big man went to work, scoring 40 points and then 33 as Houston won the final two games. The Jazz was silenced, yet a week later the Rockets were in an even deeper hole, down three games to one against Charles Barkley and the cocky Phoenix Suns. Incredibly, Hakeem blew Phoenix off the court as the Rockets swept the next three games. In their four-games-to-two win over the San Antonio Spurs, the Rockets once more turned to their main man, who thoroughly dominated David Robinson, the league's Most Valuable Player. "Solve Hakeem?" said Robinson. "You don't solve Hakeem." Finally, in the championship series, rising from strength to strength, Hakeem and his sizzling Rockets humbled Shaquille O'Neal and the precocious Orlando Magic, four games to none.

    The big man had begotten a miracle - a masterpiece of power, finesse and versatility. Analysts called it the finest individual performance in NBA history and reverently ranked him with the game's greatest centers: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But as the last whistle blew and the Rockets built a haystack of high fives in midcourt, where was Hakeem? Off by himself, sitting quietly on the bench, head bowed, offering thanks to Allah.

    Hakeem doesn't try to be different. He just is different. Everything about him seems larger than life. He stands almost seven feet tall, a redwood that walks like a man. His energy is huge too; you can feel it humming in there. And when you look into his large, clear, wide-apart eyes, a big being looks back at you. He's a gentle and friendly man but very strong, very sure at the center. This is no swaggering young muscle millionaire who takes the money and runs amok. He knows who he is and where he is going. He speaks directly, never trying to be cool or cute, staying real. "I did not come to America to be accepted," he says, "to compromise my values." Those values, so strongly held, often set him at odds with the expectations of the marketplace.

    But Hakeem's conscience will not let him endorse a product he considers harmful. "How can a poor working mother with three boys buy Nikes or Reeboks that cost $120?" he asks. "She can't. So kids steal these shoes from stores and from other kids. Sometimes they kill for them." He worked with Spalding to develop his namesake shoe, which sells for $35. "A worthy effort," says Alvin Poussaint, the Harvard professor and social commentator. "Sports figures see marketing sneakers as a job. That Olajuwon accepts a larger responsibility is commendable."

    The third of six children, Hakeem acquired his basic values from his parents, middle-class Muslims who owned a cement business in Lagos, Nigeria. "They taught us to be honest, work hard, respect our elders, believe in ourselves," he says. But he was born stubborn. "When I wanted something," he says, "I tormented my mother until I got it." At school he was a troublemaker: bored in class, mad about soccer, ready to fight when he was teased for being tall and skinny. "But my parents knew I had a good soul," he says. Though devout, they never urged religion on their children. "Yet I remember hearing the call to prayer and feeling my heart beat faster."

    Hakeem was 17, attending a British-style boarding school near Lagos, when he first touched a basketball; it's a measure of the man's rare ability to grow and change that even though he started playing so very late, he would make it to the top of the NBA.

    In 1986 he moved in with his college sweetheart, Lita Spencer, and in 1988 they had a baby girl named Abisola. But life somehow felt unreal. Restless, he wrangled with management, earning a reputation as a malcontent. "I had a life," he says, "but something was missing. I remembered being truly happy as a child in Nigeria and wanted to get back to that. Three years ago I found a mosque in Houston. When I heard the call to prayer I got goose bumps. And I knew, this is what's been missing."

    Invited by the Imam of the mosque, Hakeem began attending seminars on the Koran. When he speaks of the sessions, his eyes light up and he smiles like a happy child. "These are beautiful hours," he says. "Just a few people coming together to study the Word of God. I love being there even more than I love playing basketball." To Hakeem, Islam is a kindly faith. "Terrorism is not Islam," he says. "Bombing is not Islam. Racism is not Islam. The Nation of Islam is not Islam. In true Islam, what these people believe is called ignorance. Islam is about character - honesty, sincerity, righteousness. Islam is light. Before, I lived in darkness, in spiritual ignorance. Now everything is bright with light."

    Though Islam has transformed Hakeem, change has at times been painful. He lost Lita. "I wanted her to become Muslim," he says. "But she is Christian and felt she could not leave her religion." But Lita agreed that Abisola, who lives with her mother in L.A., would be brought up as a Muslim. "She has already memorized seven chapters of the Koran," Hakeem says proudly.

    Faith in Allah has also changed Hakeem's approach to basketball. By 1990, he says, the game had become just a job. "Now, it's an act of worship. My talent comes from Allah. It's my duty to develop it." Last year he perfected his fadeaway jumper. "This year," he confides mischievously, "I'm going to play like a guard, a little man. Fake. Change direction, get the big man off balance. Pull up for jumpers. I'll have so many options. I'm taking my game to a new level."

    He says that, with luck, he's got five or six more years in the NBA, but at 32 he's planning for the future. "I would like to work for Islam, to help people see it as a blessing, not a threat."

    Marriage is high among Hakeem's priorities. His bride will probably be Muslim (Hakeem quotes the Koran: "To avoid conflict in the home"). She will dress discreetly ("the way some women display themselves is disgraceful"). But she will not be subject to her husband's will. "That's a misunderstanding," he says. "The Koran says men and women are equal. A husband has rights over his wife, a wife has rights over her husband. The husband is the head of the house, the wife is the heart of the house. Put them together, you have a beautiful family." With a smile, he adds, "Insha'allah!" God willing.

    #2

    subhan allah...
    very hi nice-te-beautifil article...
    thanx 4 sharing kaki...
    God bless u all...

    DerVaisH

    ------------------
    muhabatein theen kabhi apne dermian kitni...
    bicha gaye hai anna hum mein doorian kitni...
    abhi to toota hai dil hi teri judai mein...
    girein gi hum pe abhi aur bijlian kitni...

    Comment


      #3
      Hakeem! One of my favorite players, indeed a good story! liked it!

      tnx for sharing!

      Comment


        #4
        There are great people following all types of religions and spiritual systems. So how does that make Islam any superior like some claim is the answer im looking for? does it create more great individuals per capita than other faiths?

        I believe the basic nature of man is good, so that shouldnt be surprising.

        When man uses his heart/mind to meditate instead of propaganda or somebody's elses words: then all is usually cool.


        BTW, that story is old. Hakeem got married a couple of years ago, to a 17 year old, when he was 33.


        [This message has been edited by i-n-i (edited August 30, 2001).]

        Comment


          #5
          Thank you, I-n-i, but the fact that the article is old is stated in the introduction of my post. Although Dalia was 18 when she married, I suggest not worrying about another couple's age-difference. I find it rather sad that, of all the things mentioned in the article about Olajuwon's character and his dedication to Islam, the only thing picked upon was the age-difference.

          As you may already be aware, there was a substantial age-difference between Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his first wife as well - which did not affect their love and commitment towards each other.

          So how does that make Islam any superior like some claim is the answer im looking for?
          Don't the followers of every religion believe that their faith is superior ? Everyone thinks that what (s)he believes in is the "best"; I'm afraid I don't understand this tendency to single out Muslims.

          [This message has been edited by Nadia_H (edited August 30, 2001).]

          Comment


            #6
            Thanks for posting this Nadia....it was well worth the time that I invested reading it. Inspirational too.

            And don't worry about folks like i-n-i, they will always manage to see the darker side of things, even when none exists. Have pity on them and pray that they become happier human beings.

            Comment


              #7
              YESSSS!!! Hakeem is a Toronto Raptor now and I can't wait for the season to start!

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by i-n-i:
                There are great people following all types of religions and spiritual systems. So how does that make Islam any superior like some claim is the answer im looking for? does it create more great individuals per capita than other faiths?

                ......

                [This message has been edited by i-n-i (edited August 30, 2001).]
                Try to read entire post in future. She said in his beginning comments the purpose of this thread.

                ------------------
                We oughta be Changez like, don't we?

                Comment


                  #9

                  Don't the followers of every religion believe that their faith is superior ? Everyone thinks that what (s)he believes in is the "best"; I'm afraid I don't understand this tendency to single out Muslims.
                  difference between other faiths and Islam (or Christianity) is that they think their faiths are best for themselves, whereas Islam (or Christianity) think they are best themselves AND for everyone else.

                  that's the root of the conflict.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Changez_like:
                    Try to read entire post in future. She said in his beginning comments the purpose of this thread.

                    i read the entire thing quickly, forgive me, but as i understood it the purpose of thread was to say that islam can create decent individuals, and most muslims are, here's an famous example.

                    my counter-point to that was simply a so what?

                    i think you need to stop being so sensitive about everything i write. but that's just my opinion. bye



                    [This message has been edited by i-n-i (edited August 30, 2001).]

                    Comment


                      #11
                      You give me one example where Hinduism produced any sort of chivalrous, well bred, and studious individuals regarding your so-called phoney faith. Instead, you had a very cultured upshot on other communities by exhibiting your “Gay Watches” (Thousand of naked people with no deference at all) around the world and trying to endorse your religion for other people as superlative example!!!


                      How did you like my opinion Mr. i-n-i ??

                      Plz don’t put Ghandi as an example!!!!!!!!!!!

                      That will be so mind-numbing!!!

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by i-n-i:
                        i read the entire thing quickly, forgive me, but as i understood it the purpose of thread was to say that islam can create decent individuals, and most muslims are, here's an famous example.
                        i think you need to stop being so sensitive about everything i write. but that's just my opinion. bye[This message has been edited by i-n-i (edited August 30, 2001).]

                        i'n'i

                        You being a new comer ,ppl.are breaking you in about what is expected.You had no positive additional contribution to make .You could have just read & gone home,

                        What was your point in wasting time & mega bytes for NOTHING!!

                        If you want to criticize muslim-islam-pakistan write an article we will contribute positively then

                        Cerain things you wont be interested in special in religion ,choose what you like .There are mashallah 10--12 forums ,whats your excuse fioor being here then
                        See you later when you are house broken



                        ------------------


                        barque(bijli) yoon akadti hai apne karname pe ke
                        jaise phir naya hum aashiyaan bana nahi sakte

                        Comment


                          #13
                          is'nt he comming to Toronto Raptors ??

                          YEA BABY!!

                          ------------------
                          To do in life is to appreciate it. To live life is to lose it. I dont know what I am saying so I will stop saying it.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Thanks for posting this Nadia....it was well worth the time that I invested reading it. Inspirational too.
                            aw thank you so much for the supportive words, greatly appreciated Muzna. It is reassuring to know that a few including yourself read the entire article and found it worth the time.

                            difference between other faiths and Islam (or Christianity) is that they think their faiths are best for themselves, whereas Islam (or Christianity) think they are best themselves AND for everyone else.
                            that's the root of the conflict.


                            I-n-i, I doubt either of us is willing to budge from our respective positions. For my part, I know I can be pretty stubborn
                            While I will say that I respect your right to your opinions (which I honestly do), do try to look past the stereotypes and don't be afraid to pick up a Quran and study it to see what it actually states. I hope you become acquainted at some time in your life with a Muslim individual who can show you a less hostile side to Islam... in much the same way that my Hindu friends have taught me to appreciate and not degrade their religion. Most of us are scared of whatever seems "different" and thus we immediately mislabel it rather than trying to comprehend it. But as that saying goes, In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              why would you assume im hindu?

                              i am anything but.

                              Comment

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