Roger Clemens and the Meaning of Life

medium_clemens1219.jpgWe hasten unto them with good things (in this worldly life so that they will have no share of good things in the Hereafter)? Nay, but they perceive not. (23:56)

And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone). (51:56)

While people around the world are starving, dying, and fighting wars – Americans are concerned with an issue far greater than that. It is an issue that trumps the war in Iraq, the imminent economic recession, the presidential elections, and even the end of the Hollywood Writer’s strike. Did Roger Clemens take steroids or not? That is the multi-million dollar question for our society. This is no exaggeration. Even Congress has nothing better to do than open up its own investigation into this issue and have the athletes and trainers testify about it.

Before we get to Roger Clemens, we should step back and look at this issue in its appropriate context. For many Americans, sports – and to a larger extent the entertainment industry – is their way of life. To put it another way, sports and entertainment is their deen. Anyone who has ever closely followed sports will understand the analogy. Family ties revolve around sports. Quality family time for many people starts and stops at throwing the ball around with your son, attending your kids games, watching sports with the family, and then reminiscing on all of that in old age. Sports commentators, and many fans are the equivalent of sports trivia huffadh. I often marvel at the fact people memorize the career statistics, college, career path, personal biographies, and game plays of so many athletes. I know so many Muslims who have the rosters of entire teams memorized. They know the history of their favorite team better than any event of the seerah. Muslims know more hoopsology then they know Quran. The culture in this country is even one of sports. How many people watch the Super Bowl despite having no interest in the game? It is a big cultural – way of life – event for people. Order some pizza, wings, grab some beer, and sit down and watch the big game. They feel like something is missing if they do not do this. Sports is, quite possibly, the only thing that rivals religious and political terrorism! Have you ever seen anyone get so passionate about anything else? Fans murdering players, rioting, fighting – isn’t it fanaticism?

Outside of sports, the entertainment industry in general is the same. The way of life here is to be constantly connected to entertainment 24/7. You can now have movies, music, and internet at your fingertips everywhere you go. Many people go for broke financially setting up their home theater systems and building up their DVD collections. Have you ever seen people who literally idolize celebrities? You have to have seen them on TV, crying and gasping for breath when they meet their favorite singer. It’s their way of life, it’s what is focused on. Anyone who’s ever seen (in passing of course) American Idol knows this is the fact. People dedicate their lives to this fleeting dream.

With that in mind, we can see why the Roger Clemens story is so big. He was idolized for many years by millions and millions of fans. He was their role model. He’s the guy that people would pretend to be while playing baseball in the schoolyard. Think of it this way: How would you react if someone told you Salahuddin al-Ayoobi was not really a Muslim, and he was cheating people, or something of that nature (audhubillah, may Allah(swt) have mercy on him and grant him Jannah!)? That’s how the people are reacting to Roger Clemens. If, in fact, he was a cheater and used steroids, it is as if all those years of adoration were for naught. All the money spent going to the games, the time spent watching him on TV, following his career, buying his jersey, defending his honor when people backbite him at sports bars – all of that striving and struggling gone to waste because he was a cheat. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.

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One reason for the adoration of people like him that has gone unmentioned though is that people like this represent the epitome of success that people aspire to achieve. So why should accusations of a few injections here and there bother him? Does he really have trouble sleeping at night with his mega-millions sitting in the bank? He is literally in the position to buy whatever he pleases. It’s safe to say, that whatever he wants here, he can probably afford to get. Any kind of house, any kind of car, any kind of business investments, clothes, jewelry, and even women. He has millions of fans. He is a legend in his sport. Wait, a legend? I think we have hit the nail on the head.

A clearly miffed Clemens opened Wednesday’s testimony by saying he resented the accusations that have forever tainted his legacy, which includes a record seven Cy Young Awards.

“No matter what we discuss here today, I am never going to have my name restored, but I’ve got to try and set the record straight,” Clemens said with his chief accuser sitting at the same table. (CNN )

Let’s take a look at some statements by Roger Clemens before proceeding (full text),

I would like to tell you a little bit about myself. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My stepfather died when I was a young boy. I was raised by a hardworking mother and grandmother who took care of and provided for six children. My mother was a wonderful woman who sacrificed her own needs for the needs of her children. My mother worked several jobs to make sure that I always had new sporting equipment, even though she often went without new clothes. My mother insisted that I attend college, despite that fact that professional baseball teams approached me after high school. ….

I have not gotten to where I am today by accident. My hard work and dedication were instrumental to me achieving many career goals. The awards, accomplishments, and milestones I have achieved during my career have been fully documented by the media and I will not repeat them here. ….

Here’s what it boils down to. Everything he has will not give him happiness. The fact that he may now be remembered as a cheater with a tainted legacy is enough for him to consider his life ruined. What of all that wealth that everyone else wants? What of all that happiness that everyone else thinks he has?

The respect and adoration of other people has become one of the false illusions they chase. Without emaan, to “feel the love” is the only thing that can nourish their soul. Why are people so concerned with the legacy they leave behind? Why do they want to be “remembered” after they die? To have done something recognized by people as good, and be respected by them, is the only true life fulfillment they can hope to achieve.

Say, “O Allah , Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent. (3:26)

The crux of the matter here is that society has elevated the status of these people to such an extent, that these lifestyles have become people’s religion. Everyone wants to be like these celebrities and they think this will give them happiness in this life. The believer should see what is happening here and take a lesson from it. We should see straight away that people who actually have achieved the height of dunya success are not happy. Look at Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, look at almost any of the vast majority of celebrities who have drug problems, who are depressed, and who are in need of serious psychological therapy. They have absolutely no contentment in their lives despite amassing the heights of worldly possessions and respect of the masses.

“But whosoever turns away from My Reminder (i.e. neither believes in this Quran nor acts on its orders, etc.) verily, for him is a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection.” (20:124)

SubhanAllah. Read that ayah again, and recall the ayah from the beginning of the article:

We hasten unto them with good things (in this worldly life so that they will have no share of good things in the Hereafter)? Nay, but they perceive not. (23:56)

We see this example all around us. People who have the ‘good’ worldly things running to them and still living a life of hardship. Why then, do we aspire for these same things?

In the Heavenly Hues class with Shaykh Yaser Birjas, he gave an excellent example tying this back to sports. The ancient Romans used to subject their prisoners of war to gladiatorial matches in the Colosseum. Now, we have sporting events featuring prisoners of fame.

The ultimate lesson from this lies in what our response is. Allah (swt) has made these things signs around us. We can turn away from the remembrance of Allah, and chase these same dreams. We can work for wealth, fame, and “worldly success” while seeking reward in this life, and seeking the respect of others. We can waste our time, our intellects, and our passion by becoming Entertainment Alims. Or we can choose to see these things for what they are, a fleeting enjoyment that does not give any satisfaction to the soul. We can take a lesson from the example of those who did amass insane amounts of worldly possessions, and not let ourselves be ruled by those desires. We can see the ultimate end and lack of contentment they have, and work for that which we know will give us true happiness in this life and the next. Or we can choose not to, and wander through life aimlessly, captive to delusions of self-grandeur, eventually ending up mired in misery and depression.

*Please note the intent here is not to say all sports/entertainment are bad or anything of that sort, the obvious intent here is regarding those who take it to extremes.

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19 responses to “Roger Clemens and the Meaning of Life”

  1. Umm Reem says:

    MashaAllah, very nice!

    “And the life of this world is nothing but play and amusement. But far better is the house in the Hereafter for those who are Al­Muttaqûn. Will you not then understand?” (6:32)

  2. Asim says:

    Bismillah ArRahman ArRaheem

    This article reminds me of the following talk by a young sheikh in Chicago:

    http://www.sacredlearning.org/audio/general/2006/wait_5mins.mp3

    Muslims can avoid much of this cultural garbage by deciding, once and for all, to not keep a television set in the house. This decision, though it may cause extreme withdrawal symptoms in the short run, will cure them from all this attachment to what is essentially Laghw.

    If, as a side effect, they lose out on the few beneficial and music-and-zina-of-the-eyes-free stuff that the TV brings, that is a pill well worth swallowing.

    (While physical exercise and sports itself is not totally Laghw, since the human body benefits immensely from sports, watching others run around on a TV screen is as Laghw as it gets, IMHO)

  3. Abu Omar says:

    Jazak ullah khayr ibn Abee Omar. You hit the ball out of the park, if you’ll pardon the pun.

  4. khawla says:

    very good post!!!

    It is really mind boggling too, when Muslim girls fight for their “rights” to play soccer with hijabs on while donning tight pants, stumping, screaming and braying away like donkeys!!!

  5. Asad Shaikh says:

    Great post…I haven’t seen many articles addressing sports. Entertainment is usually the staple topic when addressing worldly figures…Great job ibn abee omar

  6. Anonymous says:

    I thnk it makes more sense to encourage muslim youth to play sports rather than turn them away.. you don’t really seem to be in touch with the youth..

  7. ibnabeeomar says:

    anonymous – hence the disclaimer at the end of the article :)

    jazakumallahu khayr to everyone for the comments

  8. kd says:

    Good points…temporary amusement is really a bummer…

    I don’t think ibnabooomar is trying to discourage the youth from participating in sports, but like he said in the disclaimer at the end, he is talking about those people who take sports more seriously than they do their deen, and that is a problem.

    Also…
    “It is really mind boggling too, when Muslim girls fight for their “rights” to play soccer with hijabs on while donning tight pants, stumping, screaming and braying away like donkeys!!!”

    I use to be a soccer player and I don’t ever recall braying away like a donkey…

    Again, sports aren’t a bad thing, if placed in your life in the right place.

  9. Dawud Israel says:

    “How would you react if someone told you Salahuddin al-Ayoobi was not really a Muslim, and he was cheating people, or something of that nature (audhubillah, may Allah(swt) have mercy on him and grant him Jannah!)? ”

    You should see the reaction people have when I tell them that Salahuddin was a Sufi.

    Subhana Allah, man…the arrogance some people have at this mere thought…as if their entire Islam has come crashing down…subhana Allah.

  10. MR says:

    Deen first, then sports.

    That’s the way it should be.

  11. ibnabeeomar says:

    thank you mr. sportshalaqah.com ;)

  12. Malik says:

    To quote Aristotle, a pre-Islamic philosopher of great wisdom, “Everything in moderation”. If you meditate on these words you’ll realize moderation should be the rule to every aspect of a person’s life. Playing sports and enjoying others playing them moderately is better than abstaining completely which is better than becoming completely obsessed. Eating a moderate amount of food or a bit of wine is better than abstaining completely which is better than becoming a glutton or a drunk. And, of couse, a moderate amount of spirituality is better than none which is better than letting the worship of your god, gods, world spirit, animal spirit, or ancestors dictate every moment of your life.

  13. Nice article, you’ve materialized my thoughts in the past few days while listening to all the banter on ESPN radio during my morning commute to school.

  14. Eating a moderate amount of food or a bit of wine is better than abstaining completely which is better than becoming a glutton or a drunk. And, of couse, a moderate amount of spirituality is better than none which is better than letting the worship of your god, gods, world spirit, animal spirit, or ancestors dictate every moment of your life.

    The above is batil.

  15. Charles says:

    It would have been better to speak to Americans who love certain issues within entertainment and not start the article suggesting that Americans are far more concerned with Roger Clemens’ steroid abuse. By not stating that ‘some’ are overly concerned with this paints a picture of all Americans being sports fanatics. There is a disclaimer which states “intent here is regarding those who take it to extremes”. Are some Americans the only group of people attracted to sports figures or entertainment figures? I think not. And as Muslims we didn’t go all out to chastize the youth who played and replayed Zidane’s heading on Youtube and iphones. As a Muslim and as an American I see drug abuse as a problem in all societies, whether is on TV or on your block, a sports figure or otherwise. We are gravely mistaken to think sports in America consitutes deen. The author apparently believes in polarization.

  16. BrotherD says:

    I think the author is correct that for many here in the US and really all over the world, sports is their Deen. I’ve of heard of people in Mexico, for example, that save their whole lives to be able to attend a soccer World Cup in a foreign country. To hear them describe it, it’s as if that event is their Hajj.

    This phenomenon is not limited to sports, nor is it limited to a nationality or religion. I don’t think we here in the US are guilty of this more than others, but we do generate much of the entertainment that is consumed by us and the rest of the world (music,movies, etc.).

  17. Malik says:

    Ahmed,

    How is moderation batil? Even though I am no longer a Muslim I always appreciated that one Muslim value was moderation.

    I thought all the Avrahamic faiths shared at least that.

  18. inexplicabletimelessness says:

    “The above is batil.”

    Agreed.

    It’s a logical fallacy to believe that everything in life should be done in moderation. Sure, that would apply to many things. But how about killing someone? Or abusing drugs? Or cheating on exams? How about something most severe: Shirk, associating partners with your Creator? None of these things should be done in moderation.

    Relating it back to the original post (which mashallah is very good and hits home excellent points, no pun intended :) ) some people, from “Western” or “non-Western cultures” sometimes take things to extremes when adoring celebrities or players in different sports. They have turned it into their Deen or way of life when really, submission to Allah is the purpose of life for Muslims. Each and every act we do and every second we breathe, we hope that we are submitting to Allah by making our intentions sincere.

  19. Musa Maguire says:

    There is a certain ambiguity in how the word “deen” is used in this article. But given the overall message and context, I think it’s clear that the author wasn’t making takfeer on anyone who likes sports. It’s perhaps a more poetic, metaphorical use of the word.

    For many Muslims, excessive sports fanaticism may be a vice, but for many people (here and around the world) who don’t really believe in anything, sports are often their primary focus. Of course, sports are often tied up with nationalism, which is another “deen,” or class, which can also have deen-like qualities.

    In the end, I don’t think we have to nit pick about the choice of words.

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