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“Iron Mike,” a Generous Heart

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“Is it time for prayer?”

This simple, sincere inquiry of Mike Tyson, the former boxing heavyweight champion, are the words that came to mind last April when I saw a photo of “Iron Mike” dressed in Iḥrām.  Others may think of the strong-built former boxer as intimidating, cruel, or any other unpalatable adjective they’ve borrowed from the media or formed in their minds based on the small glimpses of him the television has given over the years.

But I have a different perspective…

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Growing up, I was never a boxing fan.  As a matter of fact, the sport scared me, and still does.  But like so many other American Muslims, I was thoroughly proud of Muhammad Ali, who stormed the world with his “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” slogan.  Of course, Muhammad Ali was before my time, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t on the edge of my seat when my father told stories of his triumphs, particularly his insistence on being called Muhammad Ali instead of Cassius Clay, and his refusal to fight in the Vietnam War, his famous words being that the Vietnamese “never called me nigger.”

The stories were made all the more notable knowing that my father knew Muhammad Ali personally.  Having the opportunity to learn about the off-camera personalities of the likes of Muhammad Ali ingrained in my mind the human side of celebrities.  From young, I understood the difference between the media-manufactured image of a person and the “real” person.  This wasn’t due only to my father having worked with certain celebrities:  my family itself lived that reality.

I imagine that my father, who was born “Clark Moore,” always knew the human side of fame.  I remember him telling me and my siblings the sad story of how his first cousin Davey Moore lost his life in 1963 shortly after a fight against Sugar Ramos.   The loss was so tragic and shocking that it even got the attention of the famous singer Bob Dylan who wrote the song “Who Killed Davey Moore?”

But for me, the story was deeper than Bob Dylan and the controversy of who was at fault. In fact, at that time my father shared the story, I had no idea who Bob Dylan was, or in fact, who Davey Moore had been to boxing fans. All I could think was, How sad, how terribly sad… My heart ached for my father, whose own father had helped train Davey Moore, and I wondered how their family had handled the loss, and if the tragedy could have been prevented somehow…

When Mike Tyson hit the news in 1991 due to an incident at an Indianapolis hotel that occurred between him and the beauty contestant Desiree Washington, I had no idea his conviction of sexual assault the following year would make him cross paths with my family.  At the time, my father, who was a prominent community activist and a middle school biology teacher in Indianapolis, was doing da‘wah work at the prison where Tyson would be held.

I remember my father expressing that perhaps Allāh had a plan for Tyson through placing him where my father could teach him about Islam.  I heard these words as I was serving my parents a tray of food, the television screen flickering images of a hand-cuffed, convicted Mike Tyson on his way to prison.  At the time, I thought little of my father’s words. But they did make me think.

When my father began seeing Mike Tyson at the prison, he shared with our family some advice he had given Tyson after he accepted Islam:  Know that although you’re in prison, it is the world outside these iron bars that is the real prison.  It is sometimes easier to practice Islam in the confinement of a jail than in a world filled with so many distractions and temptations that threaten to shackle us in the very world that we are seeking refuge from through Islam.

These words stuck with me because they were so profoundly true.  I thought of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) and how he became who he was only because his soul was given freedom in the confines of a prison.  I reflected too on how the world, in reality, is a prison for all believers.  As the Prophet, ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “This world is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the disbeliever” (Muslim).

Although the world around me rushed to condemn Mike Tyson for his alleged crime, my heart held back because I really didn’t know what happened that day in 1991, and I still don’t.  Honestly, the details of what really happened have never troubled me; the whole scenario just reinforced for me the importance of a society following the guidelines that the Creator has prescribed for us.

But Mike Tyson’s tarnished image did not end with the controversy surrounding what happened between him and the beauty contestant.  His image suffered severely thereafter due to events wholly disconnected from his 1992 conviction.  Still, my heart held back from judging him harshly.

Whenever people would make derogatory jokes about him and his sins, I thought of the advice my father gave us once…

“Never think you’re above any sin, no matter how heinous that sin may be.  Because the only thing that separates you from that sin is the mercy of Allāh.  In fact, it is when you feel the safest from a sin that you are most likely to fall into it, because you haven’t given yourself any protection against it.”

So when there’d be bursts of laughter around me about something or the other Mike Tyson had said or done, I’d grow quiet and reflective.  I thought of Malcolm X and Davey Moore and Muhammad Ali.  Who really knew these men?  Who really knew their struggles?  I certainly didn’t.

I wondered how people would view me had a television camera or microphone been in front of me whenever I made some of my most regretful mistakes…

During my late teen years, I was often home when Mike Tyson called my father from prison.  Whenever my father wasn’t home, my siblings and I would take a message.  I remember answering the phone once when I was home on break from college, and Mike Tyson was on the other end.  I’d had a particularly trying year and was spending the time home engaged in self-reflection.  I’m not sure if my heavy heart showed in my voice while I was taking the routine message, but for whatever reason, this time, Tyson asked if I was doing okay.  I told him I was, and he proceeded to give me some advice about being patient through the struggles of life.  I don’t remember his exact words, but I remember that they lifted my spirits.  It also touched me that he had taken the time to share his own experiences with me in hopes of making me feel better.  When I hung up, I reflected on my struggles as compared to his, and I realized that things weren’t so bad.  If he could see the bright side of things from the confines of a prison, what about me in the comfort of my home surrounded by my family?

That chance phone call was only the first of my many glimpses into the generous side of Tyson…

I last saw Mike Tyson when my family was invited to visit his home several years ago.  I remember seeing him deeply engaged in a conversation with my father and his friends, and I saw that, in addition to generosity, Allāh had blessed him with a sharp analytical mind, mashaAllāh.

I remember, too, that in the middle of one of these deep discussions about world issues and Islam, he turned to my father and said, “Is it time for prayer?”

My father, immediately reminded that it indeed was, stopped talking and stood to prepare for ṣalāh, saying, “Yes, it is.”

I, along with my mother and sisters, lined up behind my father, Mike Tyson, and a few other brothers; and we stood shoulder-to-shoulder asking Allāh to guide us on the Straight Path…

This is the last image I have of Mike Tyson — bowing in prayer.

When I saw Mike Tyson in the news a year ago and learned that he was performing Umrah and visiting the Prophet’s masjid, I was moved and felt extremely happy for him. I recalled his uplifting words to me when I was feeling down so many years ago.  I recalled his generosity thereafter.  And I recalled the question he’d asked last time I saw him.

Is it time for prayer?

As I saw the media images of him in Iḥrām, my eyes filled with tears, as I remembered the kindness and struggles of my brother in Islam.  And I raised my hands in supplication, asking Allāh to forgive him, have mercy on him, and keep him firm.

And I thought, Yes, it is time for prayer.

For us all.

May Allāh put love and mercy in our hearts toward one another, and may we find contentment and joy in Prayer.  And may He take our souls in a state that is pleasing to Him.

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost.  To learn more about the author, visit themuslimauthor.com or join her Facebook page.

Republished and revised by permission of Al-Walaa Publications.  All Rights Reserved.

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Daughter of American converts to Islam, Umm Zakiyyah, also known by her birth name Ruby Moore and her "Muslim" name Baiyinah Siddeeq, is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than twenty-five books, including novels, short stories, and self-help. Her books are used in high schools and universities in the United States and worldwide, and her work has been translated into multiple languages. Her work has earned praise from writers, professors, and filmmakers. Her novel His Other Wife is now a short film. Umm Zakiyyah has traveled the world training both first-time authors and published writers in story writing. Her clients include journalists, professional athletes, educators, and entertainers. Dr. Robert D. Crane, advisor to former US President Nixon, said of Umm Zakiyyah, “…no amount of training can bring a person without superb, natural talent to captivate the reader as she does and exert a permanent intellectual and emotional impact.” Professor K. Bryant of Howard University said of If I Should Speak, “The novel belongs to…a genre worthy of scholarly study.” Umm Zakiyyah has a BA degree in Elementary Education, an MA in English Language Learning, and Cambridge’s CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). She has more than fifteen years experience teaching writing in the United States and abroad and has worked as a consultant for Macmillan Education. Umm Zakiyyah studied Arabic, Qur’an, Islamic sciences, ‘aqeedah, and tafseer in America, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia for more than fifteen years. She currently teaches tajweed (rules of reciting Qur’an) and tafseer. In 2020, Umm Zakiyyah started the UZ Heart & Soul Care community in which she shares lessons she learned on her emotional and spiritual healing journey at uzhearthub.com Follow her online: Website: uzauthor.com Instagram: @uzauthor Twitter: @uzauthor YouTube: uzreflections

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Yahya Ibrahim

    October 21, 2011 at 12:15 AM

    Bismillah,

    I remember watching the release of Mike Tyson from Prison and the kufi he wore on his head.
    It made me feel awesome as a teenager beginning my journey of Islam and sacred knowledge.

    Te beauty of Islam is that it levels us all to one platform. No superiority except in Piety, which can only be assessed by Allah and your results delivered on the Day of Recompense.

    Ya Allah strength Islam with Mike and strengthen Mike with Islam.

    yahya Ibrahim

    http://www.facebook.com/yahya.adel.ibrahim

  2. Arif Kabir

    October 21, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Beautifully written, Masha’Allah TabarakAllah. May Allah keep Mike and allow of us on the Straight Path, ameen.

  3. Wael Abdelgawad

    October 21, 2011 at 2:12 AM

    Nice story, jazaki Allah khayr. But I wonder if your willingness to see Tyson’s gentler and kinder side is not due, in part, to his celebrity. If he were just some anonymous incarcerated brother, accused of the same crimes as Tyson, would you be so willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and so touched by hearing him ask if it was time for prayer?

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      October 21, 2011 at 5:42 AM

      BarakAllaahufeeka, Wael.

      You make an excellent point. I wish I knew the answer to that. But the truth is that our hearts are one of the most unknown parts of us though they are the center of our life, so to speak. In general though, I think humans have a natural tendency toward admiring those who are “celebrities” more than the common people, and we tend to make excuses more readily for them and even except them from our general prejudices. And Allah knows best.

      However, the positive side of this bias, I believe, is that through our natural admiration for “celebrities” we can then examine our thoughts and prejudices about common people who are similar to those whom we admire. Through this honest self-examination, we can work to purify our hearts and give all our brothers and sisters the benefit of doubt they deserve, bi’idhnillaah.

      And my prayer is that I, as well as my brothers and sisters in Islam, continue striving to be better in this regard. And Allah’s help is sought.

      May Allah continue to guide us and forgive us our mistakes and sins.

      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

      • Wael Abdelgawad

        October 22, 2011 at 1:29 AM

        “our hearts are one of the most unknown parts of us though they are the center of our life, so to speak.”

        Very true. I appreciate your honest and introspective reply. Ameen to your dua’.

    • Amad

      October 21, 2011 at 12:36 PM

      salam
      But i think we do have to give people due weight for their “worldly” position. One Muslim Mike Tyson can indeed have a larger effect on dawah than another average person. We remember from the Prophet (S)’s sunnah that he made special dua for the acceptance of Islam by the Quraysh’s most powerful like Omar RD.

      • Umm Zakiyyah

        October 21, 2011 at 2:14 PM

        Wa Salaams, Amad.

        Very good point, maashaAllah. Sometimes in our desire to be “equal” to everyone, we forget to be “just.” It is certainly true that the benefit of one celebrity accepting Islam is much greater (for da’wah) than a common person with his “same background.”

        Thanks for the reminder. Verily, the reminder benefits the believer.

        Umm Zakiyyah
        themuslimauthor.com

  4. Abu Fatima

    October 21, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    Did you see “Iron Mike” drinking alcohol openly and allowing others to insult Islam on the Comedy Central roast of Charlie Sheen recently? Mike has a substance abuse problem that his public displays of prayer and spirituality alone can not treat (perhaps the Gulf “sheikhs” who lavish him with money and gifts are encouraging his public displays of religiousity). He needs medical help and he has chosen to keep company around him that abuses him and leads him down the wrong path. May Allah guide us all.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      October 22, 2011 at 7:26 AM

      Abu Fatima,

      No, I didn’t see this alhamdulillaah. By writing this it was not my intention to absolve my brother in Islam of any faults he has (and this is not even possible coming from a fellow human being). I intended only to give another perspective of my brother in Islam, a positive one, and the only one I know from experience.

      But you are incorrect in stating that “Mike has a substance abuse problem that his public displays of prayer and spirituality alone can not treat.” Allah states otherwise, as does the Sunnah. Our belief in Allah (our spirituality) and our prayer (public and private) can wipe out all our sins, for Allah promises mercy and forgiveness to those who believe so long as they do not commit shirk. I’m saddened that this basic Islamic lesson is lost on you, for it is the foundation of our religion. But I imagine that you are speaking from the only perspective that matters to most of us: the judgment of humans as opposed to that of Allah.

      May Allah help us.

      Being Muslim does not make us sin-free. It gives us the opportunity to be forgiven for the sins we will inevitably commit.

      I pray your words and implications about the sheikhs (as well as Mike Tyson) are based on firsthand knowledge of both their actions and intentions. If not, you have added an open, public sin to your own record. For it is not only the sin of alcohol and bad company that puts people into the Hell Fire; it is also (and likely more so) the sins of the tongue.

      “Indeed a servant may say a word for which Allah’s displeasure is gained and he does not realize it. Allah will put him into Hell Fire due to it.” (Bukhari)

      I hope you have spoken truthfully and justly, for your words will be with you on the Last Day.

      May Allah forgive us and make us guard our tongues.

      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

      • Anonymous

        October 22, 2011 at 10:42 PM

        Surah Tawbah
        “If you ask them (about this), they declare: “We were only talking idly and joking.” Say: “Was it at Allâh (swt), and His Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations) and His Messenger (SAW) that you were mocking?” (65) Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after you had believed. If We pardon some of you, We will punish others amongst you because they were Mujrimûn (disbelievers, polytheists, sinners, criminals). (66)”

        • Umm Zakiyyah

          October 22, 2011 at 11:15 PM

          Anonymous, thanks for sharing the verse revealed regarding the seriousness of making fun of Islam. This is the ayaah that came to my mind when I read Abu Fatima’s comment about some people making fun of Islam. However, I personally did not address this for two reasons:

          1. Abu Fatima’s comment stated that Mike Tyson was “allowing others to insult Islam.” Therefore, this ayah would be directly related to those involved in the mocking, not those present while the verses were being mocked (though in Islam we should remove ourselves from such gatherings).
          2. Mentioning this ayah in this context could lead readers to conclude that we are suggesting that Mike Tyson is a disbeliever.

          But jazaakAllaahukhairan for sharing. It’s definitely important that we begin to educate Muslims on the seriousness of joking about religion. Unfortunately, many people do not know the Islamic guidelines on this.

          May Allah increase us in beneficial knowledge.

          Thanks for taking time to comment.

          Umm Zakiyyah
          themuslimauthor.com

          • Siahus

            April 24, 2012 at 8:21 PM

             Mike was ENABLING others to mock Islam – in my eyes that is an accomplice in the act

  5. Leo

    October 22, 2011 at 4:32 AM

    I wish every Muslim (and non-Muslim) well and try to see the good in people. However I think Tyson has brought this “media image” upon himself. The image we have of him in the uk is one of a talented feared boxer, who turned into an animal and then went a little bit crazy and is now a laughing stock. But he doesn’t help himself with his tattoo and his tv appearances. He doesn’t project the image of a muslim or sound character when he makes a cameo appearance on movies such as hangover 2 ( admittedly I don’t project that image by watching such things). I recently watched him on a comedy central roast he sounded and looked like a lunatic. This just reinforced his image.
    I’m not trying to put down a brother but if he is reading this (wouldn’t it be great if he was a mm follower?) then I ask for his forgiveness and ask him to see this as advice. I would advise he get that tattoo lazered off, keep the company of Muslims (primarily) and be selective on his onscreen appearances.
    Has he considered using his boxing skills and knowledge? I think it would be great he used those skills to do some community work by setting up a training camp. If he wanted to be on tv then why not make a boxing show like what Stallone did with The Contender. Boxing is the thing he is respected for, he should be using this to do good and restore his image. If that’s what he wants. Well that’s my two cents (or pennies as we say here in the uk!)

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      October 22, 2011 at 7:38 AM

      Leo,

      Have Muslims brought their negative “media image” upon themselves? If so, how so? If not, how not?

      Also, what does it mean to “bring an image upon yourself”? Does it mean that I commit sin in front of others? Does it mean that I choose all the negative images that are filmed about me while personally requesting that the media ignore my positive ones?

      I certainly do not approve of many of the things Mike Tyson has done, and I am not here to absolve him of anything that Allah has written of his actions (public or private). But I do think these questions are worth reflecting on.

      I too hope he is reading MM and that my blog post serves as an encouragement to him, bi’idhnillaah, to hold on to his faith and know that Allah is Merciful and Forgiving, even as many people are not– including many of his very own brothers and sisters in Islam.

      Please keep your brother in Islam your prayers.

      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

      • Leo

        October 23, 2011 at 5:51 AM

        Assalamu alaikum umm zakiyyah.

        I am a little confused by your questions regarding Muslims bringing a negative media image upon themselves. Are these questions unrelated to my comment as I don’t recall referring to other Muslims? Your first question is unfair. It is a closed question where youve established Muslims having a negative media image. I see our media image as being mixed. some Muslims who the media or their viewers see as representing Islam gives the rest of the Muslims a negative image. Eg when we see some Muslims in the Arab world burning US flags, in the uk when some Muslims disrupt a memorial service for British troops etc. Conversely when those brothers died in the uk protecting their community following the recent riots projected a positive image.
        You have also misquoted me : “bring an image upon yourself”. It is not something I’ve typed nor is it something I understand as a statement. I think you may have misinterpreted my comments.
        I try to conceal the sins of a brother and never made mention of his sins (with the exception of his tattoo, how was I suppose to conceal that- it’s on his face!) But seriously, he could get that tattoo removed, we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but it’s human nature. If you look and act crazy, we’re gonna think you are.
        I gave suggestions on how he could improve his image too. If he doesn’t want negative images to be portrayed by the media the don’t give them any! Only give positive ones!
        I wasn’t trying to judge the brother but gave my honest views and provide solutions. I have my own demons I’m wrestling or should that be boxing?

        • Umm Zakiyyah

          October 23, 2011 at 7:33 AM

          Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh, Leo

          Your response made my point better than I could have myself, maashaAllah, particularly “If he doesn’t want negative images to be portrayed by the media the don’t give them any! Only give positive ones!”

          That’s all I’ll say in direct response to your words, as sometimes we answer our own questions, as you did here, barakAllaahufeek.

          But I will make this added point for the benefit of other readers: My blog post itself can be viewed as a “media image” of Mike Tyson. Therefore, anything of opposition or disagreement to what I’ve said of my brother in Islam reflects not the actual “media image” (or real image) of Mike; rather, it reflects what those making the comments would like his media or real image to be.

          Thus, it is worth reflecting on this: Why then can’t this positive image stand on its own?

          The answer is simple: Because we do not want it to.

          And in this case of negativity portrayed of him, it is not the media at fault, nor is it Mike Tyson: The fault is in our own hearts and souls.

          May Allah endow us with beneficial knowledge and wisdom. And may He purify our hearts and heal our sight so that we are merciful in our view of others and just in our speech about them.

          Umm Zakiyyah
          themuslimauthor.com

          • Leo

            October 23, 2011 at 9:54 AM

            Could this be cognitive dissonance, a term I’ve heard across these pages?

  6. Umm Zakiyyah

    October 22, 2011 at 11:34 PM

    MY, thanks for reading and taking time to comment.

    I’m not sure if you are Muslim or not (I cannot tell from your comment), but your comment reveals some misunderstandings that should be addressed:

    In Islam, we believe that all humans sin, as our Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “All of the children of Adam sin, and the best of those who sin are those who constantly repent.”

    Therefore, even if everything the media or other people say of a Muslim is correct, so long as this Muslim remains within the fold of Islam, there is hope for mercy and forgiveness for him or her. In Islam, we are encouraged to speak good of our fellow Muslims, make excuses for them, and pray for their forgiveness even as we openly acknowledge their sins and mistakes if they were committed in public.

    Also, anyone who has at least the proper belief in the Creator is considered a “good man” (or good person) on some level (though our deeds definitely do affect the amount of good within us). Therefore, my calling Mike generous and the implication that he is a “good man” is not in anyway at odds with what others think of him based on the sins that he has actually committed.

    Being generous or “good” and being prone to sin are not mutually exclusive in Islam. Thus, there is no disagreement between me and others regarding what has been negatively (and truthfully) portrayed of Mike Tyson (or any other person in a similar situation).

    My intention is only to share something positive despite the negative.

    Again, thanks for reading and commenting.

    Umm Zakiyyah
    themuslimauthor

  7. Yahya Ibrahim

    October 22, 2011 at 11:58 PM

    Bismillah,

    If I may make a request of the readers to reread the article:

    http://muslimmatters.org/2011/03/14/yahya-ibrahim-un-dawah-obscuring-the-truth-with-a-repulsive-attitude/

    Its better to Pull rather than push.

    Pull your brother in.

    Allah grant us all guidance that leads to success through devotion and action.

    yahya
    http://www.facebook.com/yahya.adel.ibrahim

  8. Ismail Kamdar

    October 23, 2011 at 5:56 AM

    Mashaa Allah, beautiful article ukhti.

    Sad to see some of the negative comments from readers.

    A friendly reminder of Allah’s words, “Oh you who believe, stay away from thinking bad of others, because sometimes bad thoughts are a sin, and do not look for faults in each other or backbite each other. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of your dead brother? No, you would hate it so fear Allah, Indeed Allah is the Acceptor of repentance, Most Merciful,” (Surah Hujarat 49:12)

    It is prohibited to expose the sins of others, talk bad about them and judge them for their sins.

    Another reminder, the prophet Jesus (AS) is reported to have said, “Do not look at the sins of others as if you are Lords, look at your own sins as you are a slave,”

    Furthermore, once some Sahabah condemned an alcoholic and the prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “Leave him, because he loves Allah and His messenger,” (Saheeh Bukhari)

    I hope these narrations suffice at helping us to control our tongues and hearts and leave judgement to Allah.

  9. Servant of the Most Merciful

    October 23, 2011 at 8:32 PM

    Asalaamalaikum. I know this is a long hadith but I truly hope you read the entire thing. It totally changed my outlook on judging others and how vast the Mercy of Allah(swt) truly is. SubhanAllah.

    On the authority of Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (PBUH), who said:

    The believers will gather together on the Day of Resurrection and will say: Should we not ask [someone] to intercede for us with our Lord? So they will come to Adam and will say: You are the Father of mankind; Allah created you with His hand He made His angels bow down to you and He taught you the names of everything, so intercede for us with you Lord so that He may give us relief from this place where we are. And he will say: I am not in a position [to do that] – and he will mention his wrongdoing and will feel ashamed and will say: Go to Noah, for he is the first messenger that Allah sent to the inhabitants of the earth.

    So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that] – and he will mention his having requested something of his Lord about which he had no [proper] knowledge (Quran Chapter 11 Verses 45-46), and he will feel ashamed and will say: Go to the Friend of the Merciful (Abraham).

    So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that]. Go to Moses, a servant to whom Allah talked and to whom He gave the Torah. So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that] – and he will mention the talking of a life other than for a life (Quran Chapter 28 Verses 15-16), and he will feel ashamed in the sight of his Lord and will say: Go to Jesus, Allah’s servant and messenger, Allah’s word and spirit.

    So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that]. Go to Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), a servant to whom Allah has forgiven all his wrongdoing, past and future.

    So they will come to me and I shall set forth to ask permission to come to my Lord, and permission will be given, and when I shall see my Lord I shall prostrate myself. He will leave me thus for such time as it pleases Him, and then it will be said [to me]: Raise your head. Ask and it will be granted. Speak and it will be heard. Intercede and your intercession will be accepted. So I shall raise my head and praise Him with a form of praise that He will teach me. Then I shall intercede and HE will set me a limit [as to the number of people], so I shall admit them into Paradise.

    Then I shall return to Him, and when I shall see my Lord [I shall bow down] as before. Then I shall intercede and He will set me a limit [as to the number of people]. So I shall admit them into Paradise. Then I shall return for a third time, then a fourth, and I shall say: There remains in Hell-fire only those whom the Quran has confined and who must be there for eternity. There shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing a barley-corn; then there shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing a grain of wheat; then there shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing an atom.

    It was related by al-Bukhari (also by Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah).

  10. Lance

    October 24, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    Wasnt Mike Tyson supporting American troops? How does this go down with Muslims? I have also heard him on video how he wants to send his kids to Church. Mike tyson definitely cannot be a Muslim. I think he is sympathetic to the Muslim cause, thats all.

  11. Apricot

    October 25, 2011 at 12:25 AM

    As-salamu Alaykum,
    I find it odd to see this article appearing during a month in which MuslimMatters is focusing on domestic violence. Although I don’t doubt that Mike Tyson has a gentle side, his name is widely associated with physical and emotional abuse against women. If you, the author, are not sure about the truth of the allegations, is it really wise to praise such a public figure based on a few interactions you and your family experienced? To me, this is not fair to the victims of his abuse, especially if they are truthful.

    What I would find more beneficial is an actual interview with Mike Tyson asking him about these allegations and how he has (or hasn’t) changed in light of his new faith. If I were him, I would be seeking to show others how my faith has reformed my behavior and led me to understand my wrongdoings. If nothing else, it would be nice to hear his side in a Muslim-to-Muslim context instead of the Barbara Walters style interview.

    Since your family has connections with Mike Tyson, perhaps you can arrange such an interview as it is clear from reading the comments that people have major reservations about his past and hesitate to see him as a role model. You make your own valid points in the comments (and thanks for making me reflect), but I fear the message being taken away from this article is that money and fame somehow excuse bad behavior. Imagine that one of the wealthy Gulf royals had the same history, and I don’t think you would find many people making the same excuses.

    Your larger point is not lost on me, but again, with MuslimMatters focusing on domestic violence this month, I think that the topic really needs more depth. If Mike Tyson has reformed his ways due to Islam, then it would be great to see him as a spokesman against domestic violence in the Muslim community. He has a role to play in that arena, and I would really like to see him step up to the plate.

    • Umm Zakiyyah

      October 25, 2011 at 4:37 AM

      Wa’alaiku mus salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

      “I find it odd to see this article appearing during a month in which MuslimMatters is focusing on domestic violence. Although I don’t doubt that Mike Tyson has a gentle side, his name is widely associated with physical and emotional abuse against women.”

      Why would this be odd? Even if we assume that the allegations against him are correct (I personally cannot speak on this topic and I pray Allah protects me from speaking without knowledge and I ask His forgiveness where I have ever fallen short in this area): From my studies on domestic abuse, rooting out this violence is at the very least two-fold: Helping and healing the victim, and helping and healing the oppressor, for certainly nothing but a sickness in the heart and mind could account for this sort of oppression. Thus, why wouldn’t an article that is written in hopes encouraging a troubled young man to turn to Allah and keep firm in prayer not be welcomed, especially during this time (even if we ignore the fact that my article was not written in connection to this month).

      I do appreciate your concern; however, it’s worth reflecting on the fact that the first step to any of us healing our diseases of the heart is turning sincerely to Allah. And as our brother Yahya Ibrahim pointed out above: If we wish to help him (and others), we need to pull him in (to the folds of proper practice of Islam) vs. push him away. And through my speaking well of him when so many are speaking evil and criticism (even if based on truth) I hope to take single step in that direction.

      “If you, the author, are not sure about the truth of the allegations, is it really wise to praise such a public figure based on a few interactions you and your family experienced? To me, this is not fair to the victims of his abuse, especially if they are truthful.”

      To be very honest with you, I have no idea if any choice I’ve made (or will make) in life is “really wise” except those choices that involve direct fulfillment of acts of worship such as praying, fasting, giving sadaqah, etc. Other than fulfilling the clearly obligatory and recommended (and staying away from the clearly haraam and disliked), I can only pray that any choice I’ve made is “really wise.” In non-clear matters, I simply strive to do as we’re commanded: Seek advice on the matter and make du’aa and Istikhaarah. Beyond that, I have faith that Allah’s vast mercy and forgiveness will wipe out any faulty choice I make in my desire to do right.

      In any case, from my perspective, and only Allah knows if my perspective is correct, I did what I should do based on what I know: I publicly reached out to my struggling brother in the hopes that in my openly and publicly seeing something good (despite his wrongs) it would encourage him to be better and never give up.

      As for my blog post speaking well of him being “unfair to his victims,” I’m quite confused as to the foundation of your perspective in Islam. If you study the history of Islam, you will find the Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, speaking good to (and well of) some of the worst enemies of Islam in hopes that they would be guided to the Truth and use that strength for the service of Allah. And in Islamic history, these oppressors would make Mike Tyson and others like him look like “angels.” Not only did Muslims suffer physical abuse and persecution from them, they also died (in droves) at their hands.

      So, was the Prophet’s kind speech, focusing on their good traits, while openly praising and making du’aa for them, “unfair to the victims”?

      This is something to reflect on

      “I fear the message being taken away from this article is that money and fame somehow excuse bad behavior.”

      We all have fears, and alhamdulillaah, quite often that is only what they are: just fears. As for me, I have more faith in my brothers and sisters than that. Even if any of my words were written in a way that unwittingly gave this message (and for that I ask Allah’s forgiveness), the combination of the emaan and intelligence of my brothers and sisters would allow the “the message” of this piece to be much more meaningful and Islamic than that (despite my faults as a writer).

      “What I would find more beneficial is an actual interview with Mike Tyson asking him about these allegations and how he has (or hasn’t) changed in light of his new faith….If nothing else, it would be nice to hear his side in a Muslim-to-Muslim context instead of the Barbara Walters style interview.”

      I think a lot of people would find this beneficial… to satisfy their own suspicions, dislike, and troubled hearts, as is the popular course of action in the media (hence the popularity of tabloids, gossip columns, and talk shows). But can you tell where such a precedent exists in the Sunnah, where any person with a troubled past and bad image is asked to sit in front of a large public audience (not in a court of law or as part of a formal investigation by a judge or ruler) opposite the Prophet, the Companions, or other Muslims being questioned (or “interviewed”) about a bad reputation or negative allegations against them?

      As the Prophet, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, taught us: We will follow the ways of those before us, step by step, until if they were to crawl into the hole a lizard, we would follow.

      And I ask Allah to forgive and protect us, for nearly all of us fall short in this area.

      “If I were him, I would be seeking to show others how my faith has reformed my behavior and led me to understand my wrongdoings.”

      If you were him, you would be him, and your being him would change nothing about what Allah has written in the Preserved Tablet long before any of us walked the earth.

      Perhaps you mean, “if I made those same mistakes…” If this is what you mean, then here I advise you to keep silent. For you (or anyone of us) have not the slightest idea what you would do if even the tiniest of events was changed in your Book of Deeds. It is likely that if you (or I or anyone else) made these same mistakes, we could be in a much worse situation than we perceive Mike Tyson to be (in the eyes of truth and in the eyes of people).

      So let us not ascribe righteousness to ourselves, as Allah cautions in the Qur’an. This caution involves speaking about what has occurred in our lives; how much more the caution when speaking about what has not occurred?

      May Allah guide us and forgive us.

      “You make your own valid points in the comments (and thanks for making me reflect)…”

      Alhamdulillaah. Then let us stop here and benefit from what good Allah has brought out of this, and let us continue to reflect on our own souls and make du’aa for everyone else’s.

      Please keep your brother in Islam (and all of the ummah) in your prayers

      Umm Zakiyyah
      themuslimauthor.com

  12. Abdulmujeeb

    October 25, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    Salamalykum Umm Zakiyya, thanks for showing an unknown side of IRON MIKE. Hope You’re doing fine in KSA. Love your articles on SAUDIlife. I have been trying to contact you though. I do not know if you have gotten the soft copy of the book BECOMING A STRANGER: AS I AM. The book was written by some Nigerian Muslim youths. It is a collection of true life stories of Muslim youths in Nigeria. Please do reply.
    P.S. soon, we’ll all be HOME(inshallah)

  13. Mikailhasan

    April 24, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    I am REALLY beginning to like your writing. You have the heart for it.

  14. Hiba

    July 11, 2012 at 1:55 AM

    I don’t know how to express my gratitude to you because your writing really helped me reflect on my own faith that had been wavering for the last few weeks. Maybe I have surrounded myself with too much despair and faithlessness lately; it just depressed me knowing that most of the people who converted from Islam were clerics and scholars. However, now I have a much different perspective on them; I was stupid for even thinking that these men are superior because of the amount of knowledge they possessed. If they knew any better, they would have protected themselves and their faith. I know it is a little late for me to finally get to read this marvelous piece of yours, but like you said maybe God wanted me to read this now so I can protect my faith. Reading this about Mike Tyson clears up so many things; in all honesty, the people that you mention who just laugh at everything he does and says, I was perhaps one of them. I am glad I finally read your article, and I am about to read everything you have written. May Allah bless you.

  15. hassina

    March 25, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    MashaAllah u r a brilliant writer
    but above u r a good muslim that fears
    Allah Ta’ala n his hell fire . Love u sister.

  16. Imran Khan

    March 16, 2015 at 8:17 PM

    Alhamdulillah, a really good article. I hope you don’t mind, but I have added a link to this article on my blog:
    https://blogofthebeardedone.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/quotes-and-links-including-an-article-about-mike-tyson-and-islam/

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