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Harmony Among Muslims And People of Other Faiths: Historical Examples | Part 1

Suleiman Hani

Published

Part 1 | Part 2

In studying history and the phases of peace and conflict, one is quickly exposed to the common arguments about norms and exceptions. One opinion holds that peace is the norm throughout history and that war is the exception, and this position is ardently supported by peace studies programs worldwide. On the other hand, opposing opinion posits that war has been the norm throughout history and peace was the exception, using evidence of conflicts and wars that have been documented and studied.

Ultimately, as human beings we must ask ourselves if we truly want to establish harmony globally, and what obstacles, if any, are present and require clear resolutions. In order to achieve local and global harmony, one must study the circumstances and dynamics of intra- and intergroup co-existence in recorded history. As a pre-requisite and continuous condition, however, the involved parties pursuing harmony must be sincere, motivated, united, and efficient. Thus, regardless of one’s opinion about the norms and exceptions throughout history, there are striking precedents that illustrate to the modern reader how harmony was established among various ideological and political groups, and that harmony is, in fact, a documented reality and an achievable one at that. Following are four important examples from history that illustrate harmony among three religious groups: Jews, Christians, and Muslims. 

The Tribe of Banu Najrān

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During the era of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), a delegation arrived from the tribe of Banu Najrān in order to meet and ask questions of the Prophet, as his message had spread far and wide in the region. The people of Najrān, supported financially by the Byzantine ruler, sent a delegation to Madīnah, and they were received in the mosque of the Prophet ﷺ, where they prayed to the east. Many issues were raised and a variety of questions were asked over the course of several hours. When they discussed the nature of God, the Prophet ﷺ recited Sūrat al-Ikhlās (chapter 112 in the Quran) in which God says: “Say: He is Allah, the One. Allah, the Eternal, the Absolute. He begets not nor was He begotten.  And there is none comparable unto Him.”[1]

Some members of the Najrān delegation were moved by the meaning of the recitation, while others disagreed as they believed that Jesus is the begotten son of God, and himself divine. On the following day, verses related to Jesus were revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and he recited them to the Najrān delegation:

“The nature of Jesus, in the sight of God, is the same as Adam, whom He created from dust and said to him, ‘Be,’ and he was. This is the truth from your Lord. Be not, therefore, one of the doubters. Should anyone argue with you about him after what has been given to you of true knowledge, say to them, ‘Let us summon our children and your children, our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves. Let us then all pray humbly and invoke the curse of God on the liars.”[2]

Most of the Najrān delegation could not accept that Jesus was merely a mortal man and a prophet; yet,  God, Himself, challenged them with the above verses. The delegation initially agreed to meet for the challenge, but they feared the anger and curse of God, so they decided to decline. Nevertheless, the delegation requested a peace treaty and Prophet Muhammad ﷺ agreed by the following day. Based only on their short time with the Prophet, they promised to accept the terms of the peace treaty without question, as they had seen fairness and honesty in the character of the Prophet ﷺ.

The following excerpts of the peace treaty are relevant to our modern times and a reminder of pluralistic harmony and co-existence:

“Najrān has the protection of God and the pledges of Muhammad, the Prophet, to protect their lives, faith, land, property, those who are absent and those who are present, and their clan and allies. The Najrān need not change anything of their past customs. No right of theirs or their religion shall be altered. No bishop, monk or church guard shall be removed from his position.”

The treaty continues: “Whatever they have is theirs, no matter how big or small. They are not held in suspicion and they shall suffer no vengeance killing. They are not required to be mobilized and no army shall trespass on their land. If any of them requests that any right of his should be given to him, justice shall be administered among them. He who takes usury on past loans is not under my protection. No person in Najrān is answerable for an injustice committed by another…[3]

The above treaty provided autonomy with regard to political administration, cultural tradition, and religious beliefs, for not only Christians but any non-Muslim citizen living in Muslim lands. This example is just one of many, including the well-known Madīnah Charter. For centuries, many just Muslim rulers adhered to the principles and guidelines contained in the treaty when dealing with non-Muslims in local and distant lands.

The Suit of Armor

Throughout Islamic history, there have been clear-cut examples of justice being rendered in an unbiased manner in cases of a Muslim violating the rights of a non-Muslim under an Islamic authority. The issue of justice is raised here due to its significant positive impact on achieving harmony locally and globally, for any political document claiming to value justice is only brought to reality when it is tested in times of conflict. One exemplification of justice is the following incident:

A man named Ṭaʿimah stole a suit of armor from Qatādah, his neighbor. Qatādah had hidden the armor inside a sack of flour so when Ṭaʿimah took it, the flour leaked out of the sack through a hole, and flour fell from the armor, leaving a trail up to his house. Ṭaʿimah then left the armor in the care of a Jewish man named Zaid b. Samīn, who kept it in his house. When the people searched for the stolen armor, they followed the trail of flour to Ṭaʿimah’s house but did not find it there.  When confronted, he swore to them he had not taken it and knew nothing about it.  The people who were supporting Qatādah also swore that they had seen Ṭaʿimah breaking into Qatādah’s house at night, and had subsequently followed the tell-tale trail of flour, which had led them to his house.  Nevertheless, after hearing Ṭaʿimah swearing he was innocent, they left him alone and looked for further clues, finally finding a thinner trail of flour leading to the house of Zaid, and so arrested him.

The Jewish man told them that Ṭaʿimah had left the armor with him, and some Jewish witnesses confirmed his statement.  The tribe to which Ṭaʿimah belonged sent some of their men to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to present his side of the story, and asked them to defend him against the accusation.  The delegation told the Prophet, “If you do not defend our clansman, Ṭaʿimah, he will lose his reputation and be punished severely, and the Jewish man will go free.”  The Prophet ﷺ was persuaded to believe the delegation’s side of the story and was about to punish the Jewish man when God revealed the following Qur’anic verses to vindicate the Jewish man:[4]

“Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth so you may judge between the people by that which God has shown you.  And do not be an advocate for the deceitful.  And seek forgiveness of God.  Indeed, God is ever Forgiving and Merciful.  And do not argue on behalf of those who deceive themselves.  Indeed, God loves not one who is a habitually sinful deceiver.  They conceal [their evil intentions and deeds] from the people, but they cannot conceal [them] from God, and He is in their midst when they plot by night in words that He does not approve.  And God ever is encompassing of what they do.  Lo! You argue on their behalf in [this] worldly life – but who will argue with God for them on the Day of Resurrection, or who will be their defender?”[5]

The Conquest of Jerusalem

It is well established that ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, the second caliph, during the opening of Jerusalem in the year 637, issued a decree to the people of the city that they would be protected in their places of worship.  At the time, the authority presiding over Jerusalem was the renowned Patriarch Sophronius, a representative of the Byzantine government. During the battle, a countless multitude of Muslims had surrounded Jerusalem, but Sophronius refused to surrender the holy city except to ʿUmar in person.

ʿUmar, who was situated in Madīnah, heard about the condition of Sophronius, and he set out with a companion on just one donkey. By the time of their arrival, it was not easy for those who had never seen ʿUmar to distinguish him from his servant, due to his humble dress and modest character. Sophronius was greatly impressed by this and gave ʿUmar a tour of the city, which included the famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

When the time for prayer came, ʿUmar indicated that he needed to pray, and Sophronius invited him to pray inside the church. However, ʿUmar adamantly refused and he insisted that if he prayed in the church, Muslims in later times would use his behavior as an excuse to convert it into a mosque, and this would essentially deprive Christians of one of their holiest sites. ʿUmar prayed near by the famous church and the Muslims ended up building a mosque at the site fifty-five years later. The Mosque of ʿUmar stands to this day, across the road from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

After the peaceful surrender of Jerusalem, Jews, who had been banned from Jerusalem for over five centuries, were finally been given permission to worship and reside in Jerusalem with complete religious freedom. ʿUmar gave a speech that became known for centuries later and promoted an unparalleled treaty of coexistence and religious tolerance.[6] The treaty, referred to as ʿUmar’s Assurance, became a recognized standard for relations between Muslims and Christians throughout the Byzantine Empire and eventually throughout the world. It established the rights of minorities and promoted tolerance to a great degree, and the concept of forced conversion to Christianity in the Byzantine Empire was no longer a respected or sanctioned act, following the speech of ʿUmar.

Co-existence in Spain

Society under Islamic rule in Spain, referred to as Al-Andalus by the Arabs, was known for its religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Christians and Jews, along with Muslims, held high positions in the courts and in society, and they collectively shared in the wealth of Cordoba, the capital of Al-Andalus.[7] Professor Zachary Karabell stated about that era:

“Jews tended to benefit both in Spain and the Mediterranean world. In the towns and cities, Jews found themselves in unique positions as intermediaries between Muslim-dominated Spain and the rest of the world. Having suffered severe discrimination at the hands of the Visigoths, Jewish communities under the Muslims enjoyed more freedom, affluence, and social standing than any Jewish community would until the nineteenth century.”[8]

There are countless other examples of peace and harmony between various groups, politically and religiously, ethnically and racially, and these examples should continue to be highlighted, studied, and imitated in the modern context in order to achieve world peace. Ultimately, the vast majority of mankind genuinely wants to live in peace and desires that same atmosphere of harmony for humanity worldwide. The world is exhausted from the various wars and conflicts that are ongoing, and all decent people are appalled by the horrendous humanitarian crises around the world that result from the mayhem and destructive power of war and other oppressive agendas.

The Connection

The reader may wonder why the four aforementioned examples were given at the exclusion of countless historical conflicts, and the primary response is that the one seeking harmony would do well to focus on the examples of harmony and justice that can be exemplified in the modern context through various extracted lessons.

The example of Banu Najrān highlights the importance of co-existence among groups of various beliefs, a principle without which a modern society cannot function or thrive at its fullest potential. Additionally, the treaty with Banu Najrān emphasizes to the one who knows little about Islamic history that there exist numerous models of harmony from the era of inception.

As for the second example, the concept of justice is emphasized again and again in the Qur’an and serves as one of the primary principles in Islam. If a society cannot be just, then it can never attain true harmony. Justice is one of the foundational conditions of peace on earth, and those who exemplify it in their daily lives are true ambassadors of peace.

As for the third example, ʿUmar’s Assurance serves as a reminder that in reality, whether at the brink or conclusion of conflict, there is always hope for tolerance and peace without compromising society’s freedom of religion.

Finally, the fourth example serves as a reminder that a group that is marginalized and oppressed for many centuries may be protected and preserved by another – not for any personal gain but for genuine concern and compassion. The example of the migration of Jewish refugees to Muslim lands is a reminder that: a) conflict in one region may bring about much goodness in distant communities who come to the aid of those who are burdened, b) during times of conflict, refugees fleeing their homes are oftentimes overlooked and at times oppressed to a greater degree, but those of pure hearts will find an opportunity to help protect others at the expense of political affiliations, c) tolerance and co-existence established on justice is guaranteed to bring improvement to a society, and d) one must continuously look back at the humane responses in historical times of conflict and extract modern replications to incorporate into the increasing activism of pursuing peace, social justice, and true harmony.

Many researchers and commentators point to various sources of contemporary conflict as an obstacle to harmony. These include predatory capitalism, imperialistic national ambitions, ethnocentrism and systematic racism, and ideologies misinterpreted for personal or political gains. Many groups and individuals around the world tirelessly advocate for a more just and egalitarian global power structure, for the upholding of civil and human rights and international law, and for a principled assurance of social justice for all human beings. Thus, we must maintain, as individuals, families, and nations, a realistic optimism and utilize every means to achieve local and global harmony.

To be continued…

 Part Two deals with practical suggestions that can be implemented at the individual and community levels.

 

References:

[1] Qur’an 112: 1-4.

[2] Qur’an 3: 59-61.

[3] See: al-Bayhaqi, Dalā’il an-Nubuwwah; Ibn Saʿd, at-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubra.

[4] al-Wāḥidi, Asbāb an-Nuzūl, pp. 210-211.

[5] Qur’an 4: 105-109.

[6] ʿUmar’s Assurance is documented in several variations; see: al-Yaʿqūbi, Tāreekh al-Yaʿqūbi, 2/46; Eutychius of Alexandria, Row of Jewels, 2/147; Ibn al-Jawzi, Fadhā’il al-Quds, pp. 123-124.

[7] Zachary Karabell, Peace Be Upon You (New York: Knopf, 2007), p. 69.

[8] Ibid., p. 67.

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Imam Suleiman Hani is the Director of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib Institute, a research scholar for Yaqeen Institute, and a resident scholar in Michigan. At the age of 14, Suleiman completed a 10-month Qur’an memorization program and began his intensive studies under numerous scholars, earning dozens of traditional religious certifications in the process. He later earned a master’s degree from the University of Jordan’s College of Shari’ah, ranking first in his class, and a master’s degree from Harvard University, where he studied religions, philosophy, political science, and psychology. Over the past decade, he has served as an Imam and community leader in Michigan, lectured in dozens of countries, published a number of books and articles, and was featured on the largest Islamic TV stations worldwide. His recent hobbies include mixed martial arts, archery, and skydiving.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sindhi

    May 10, 2017 at 4:46 AM

    Whatever written in this article is not followed by Pakistanis from the partition day. This is evident and no one can deny.

  2. Avatar

    Tasnim

    April 9, 2018 at 4:28 PM

    Salaam! Very beneficial piece, maa shaa Allah tabarakallah. May I know if Part 2 (“…practical suggestions that can be implemented at the individual and community levels”) is already up? If so, it would be great if the team can also share here the link to it. :) Jazaakumullahu khayran.

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Podcast: Hijabi Girls in a Barbie World: The Halima Aden Edition

Zainab (AnonyMouse)

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Panel discussion with Zainab b. Younus, Hena Zuberi, her daughter, and Fousia from the Naptime is Sacred podcast to talk about Halima Aden’s Instagram posts about hijab and her modeling career.

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Podcast: Prayer is a Work in Progress | Shaykh Abdullah Ayaaz Mullanee

Zeba Khan

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Many of us have been Muslim for our entire lives, and despite praying regularly for years, can still never feel like we’re never doing it right. Why is it so hard to focus in salah? And what should someone do if they feel like they are AWFUL at it?

Join Zeba Khan as she asks Shaykh Abdullah Ayaz Mullanee, who not only struggles with his prayers too, but is also the dean of Mishkah Institute, and author of the books “A Ramadan With the Prophet ” and “The Poetic Words of Sayyiduna Ali رضي الله عنه.” To take a free short course on the meaning of Salah, visit this link.

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The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

 

 

 

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Undisputed And Undefeated: 13 Ways Khabib Nurmagomedov Inspired Us To Win With Faith

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Many fans anxiously watched UFC 254 with bated breath as Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov went head-to-head with Justin “The human highlight reel” Gaethje. The latter had just come off a spectacular TKO win against a formidable and feared fighter in the form of Tony Ferguson, beating him over 5 nerve-wracking rounds by outstriking him with a combination damaging head shots and crippling low kicks.

We all knew what both would do – Khabib would go for the takedown, and Gaethje would try to keep the fight on the feet and opt for stand-up striking – which fighter’s strategy would prevail? Alhamdulillah, it was Khabib, in a mere 2 rounds.  We weren’t in the fight, but we are all nervous and supplicating, making du’a to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) to give him another victory.

And so it was that after the win, he collapsed in the middle of the ring to cry, as this was his first fight after the loss of his father due to complications with Covid-19. He cried, and many a man cried with him, feeling his pain. Gaethje revived from his triangle choked slumber and consoled his former foe, telling Khabib his father was proud of him.

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We were all sure when “The Eagle” got on the mic, he would say he wanted to fight GSP, George St Pierre, and then retire 30-0, as he had said in previous press conferences leading up to the fight.  Instead, he surprised us all by announcing his retirement at 29-0, and I couldn’t help but marvel that not only was he turning away from a lucrative final fight, but the way in which he announced his retirement reminded us of our faith, our deen, our religion, Islam.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says in the Qur’an

“And remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believers.”

Throughout his MMA career, Khabib has proudly worn his faith on his sleeve. As he has risen to become the current pound-for-pound #1 fighter in the world and arguably the GOAT, the greatest of all time, his unwavering example as a practicing Muslim transformed him into a global phenomenon and role model for many of us by reminding us to be better worshippers, to be closer to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).

Let’s look at a few of the ways he did this:

1. Beginning with Alhamdulillah

The announcer at UFC 254 began by congratulating Khabib on a job well-done yet again by praising him, stating, “The world is in awe of your greatness once again…your thoughts on an epic championship performance, congratulations.” Khabib didn’t immediately begin talking about himself. Instead, he said:

“Alhamdulillah, SubhanAllah, God give me everything…”

After stating this, he went on to announce his retirement, his reasons for retiring, and thanked everyone who supported his professional MMA journey.

The Reminder

Alhamdulillah is literally translated into “All Praise Belongs to God”. Khabib begins by thanking Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), pointing out that his talents and abilities are a gift, a blessing from the Most High. When we have any blessing from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we must remember that whatever our own effort, our abilities, our support, and our achieved outcomes ultimately tie back to support from our Rabb, our Lord, who controls all.

Khabib pointing to Allah

It’s not from me, it’s from Him

If you’ve ever seen Khabib point at himself, shake his finger back and forth as if to say, “No” and then point up to the sky, this is a nonverbal way of him saying, don’t think all these great things you see are from me – they’re from Allah above.

2. The Prostration of Thankfulness – Sajdat al-Shukr

You may have noticed at the end of Khabib’s victory, when the announcer states that he’s the winner of the bout, he falls into a prostration known as Sajdat al-Shukr – the Prostration of Thankfulness (to Allah).

Khabib and his sons prostrating

The Reminder

Performing this is recommended when someone receives something beneficial (eg good news, wealth, etc) or if they avoided something potentially harmful (e.g. job loss, healing from a disease, etc). The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) would do this when he received good news. The believer should remember to be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as much as they can.

See also:

3. Establishing the 5 Daily Prayers

Khabib and me, don’t be jelly

Years ago (early 2018), Khabib visited my local masjid in Santa Clara, California (not far from where he was training in San Jose at the AKA gym). Many at the masjid didn’t know who he was, but we heard he was the #1 contender for the UFC Lightweight championship belt, at that time held by Tony Ferguson.

He did a Q & A with the community, and someone asked him a general question about what he would recommend for the youth.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing:

Take care of your prayers, if you come to Day of Judgment not take care of your prayers, on that day you will be smashed.

The Reminder

The second pillar of Islam that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has commanded us to follow is to pray to Him 5 times daily. Khabib was no doubt referencing the following statement of the Prophet (saw):

“The first action for which a servant of Allah will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, he will have prospered and succeeded. If they are lacking, he will have failed and lost…”

 

 

Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda notes that when the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) first began his mission of da’wah and faced devastating rejection from family and community, Allah told the Prophet to stand and pray. The reason for this is because when we are weak and suffering, the place to turn to for strength is back to Allah in prayer. There is no doubt Khabib’s strength came from his connection to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) which in turn came from his 5 daily prayers.

Praying multiple times daily, consistently, can be challenging; when it was legislated by Allah to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) kept telling him to go back and ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for a reduction, saying, “Your people will not be able to handle it.”

Khabib is a great reminder that no matter how high you climb in life and career, no matter how busy you think you are, worshipping Allah is the most important deed one can do, and this discipline is the most important habit to build.

4. Strong Wrestling Game

Some say Khabib is already 30-0 for wrestling a bear

In a sport that sees far more striking and kicking than it does wrestling, Khabib came to dominate the lightweight division of the UFC with a strong grappling style that is a combination of sambo (a Soviet martial art), judo, and wrestling. Famously, he outwrestled a bear when he was much younger.

During his fights, he doesn’t close out his bouts by pummeling his opponents and causing them damage as most strikers would. Most of his hits open up his opponents to being forced to tap out via submission. Even his last opponent, Justin Gaethje, noted that he was much happier to be choked out in a submission, as all he would get is a pleasant nap, as opposed to striking, which could have long-term health consequences.

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was not only able to wrestle, he took down the strongest wrestler in Makkah. Rukanah, the famed Makkan wrestler, challenged RasulAllah because of his hatred for the da’wah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) accepted his challenge and took him down multiple times, body slamming him again and again. It was said that after the conquest of Makkah, Rukanah accepted Islam.

5. Fighting / Training through Sickness and Injury

During the post-fight press conference with UFC President Dana White, it was revealed that Khabib had broken one of his toes 3 weeks before the fight. Prior to that, he had taken two weeks off upon arriving at Fight Island having contracted mumps, according to AKA trainer and coach Javier Mendez. Khabib is quoted as having told Mendez, “My toe may be broken, but my mind is not.” In addition to this, his father had just passed away months earlier, and this would be his first fight without his father present.

Mumps, broken toes, and the emotional turmoil of family tragedy

The Reminder

In addition, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has told us, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone…” This strength includes strength of body, mind, and spirit; not just when conditions are perfect, but when trials surround you from every conceivable direction.

6. Relationship With His Father

After defeating Justin Gaethje, Khabib went to the center of the ring and cried, and everyone cried with him. We all knew his father’s death weighed heavily on his mind and his heart, and this was his first fight without him. His father was his mentor and trainer, whom everyone could obviously see he both loved and greatly respected.

In the post-fight question and answer with Dustin Poirier, Khabib was asked, “What’s your message for your young fans out there who look up to you so much?” he responded:

“Respect your parents, be close with your parents, this is very important. Parents everything, you know, your mother, your father, and that’s it, and everything in your life is going to be good, if you’re going to listen to your parents, mother, father, be very close with them, and other things come because your parents gonna teach what to do.”

The Reminder

There isn’t enough space in this article to go over how much emphasis our faith places on respecting our parents. Allah says in the Qur’an:

Your Lord has commanded that you should worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say no word that shows impatience with them, and do not be harsh with them, but speak to them respectfully. [17:23]

7. Relationship With His Mother

Our parents ultimately want us to succeed, but also want us to maintain our well-being. Without his father’s presence, it was clear that Khabib’s mother didn’t want him continuing in the Octagon (the UFC ring). After 3 days of discussion, Khabib gave his word to her that this would be his final fight. After beating Justin Gaethje in UFC 254, Nurmagomedov announced he was retiring because he promised his mother that he would retire and that he’s a man of his word.

The Reminder

This hearkens back to a statement of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) about how much respect mothers deserve. A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, “Who is most deserving of my good company?” The Prophet said, “Your mother.” The man asked, “Then who?” He (saw) said “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet again said, “Your mother.” The man asked again, “Then who?” The Prophet finally said, “Your father.”

Khabib easily had millions more to make on a journey to hit 30-0 in his professional fighting career and decided to hang it all up to make his mother happy. This is true respect and obedience, and for that matter, the love of a mother for her son and his well-being over monetary gains.

8. Respect for Muhammad Ali

When asked about the comparisons between himself and Muhammad Ali, Khabib stated that it was an inappropriate comparison. He noted that Muhammad Ali didn’t just face challenges in the ring, but challenges outside of it due to racism, and that he was an agent of change with respect to bringing about greater civil rights for African Americans.

The Reminder

In his final sermon, Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

From the 7th century until today, our faith recognizes that people are not judged by their race, but by their actions and the intentions behind those actions. In the video above, Khabib recognized both the wrongness of racism, and the challenge it posed along the way of Muhammad Ali’s own journey, and that his contributions to social justice transcended his involvement in sport.

9. His Conduct with Other Fighters

With the exception of the fight with Conor McGregor, Khabib always dealt with his opponents with respect. He hugs them, shakes their hand, and says good things about their accomplishments and strengths both before and after fights. In a sport known for heavy trash talking and showboating to build hype, Khabib kept his cool and his manners.

Champion vs Champion, the respect is mutual

The Reminder

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

“The only reason I have been sent is to perfect good manners.”

Maintaining good character and conduct during press-conferences was Khabib’s calling card; even when trash talkers like Tony Ferguson tried to go after him, he would still recount Ferguson’s formidable stature as a fighter.

When reporters tried throwing him a softball opening to insult Ferguson’s mental health, Khabib responded that he didn’t want to talk about Tony Ferguson’s problems if he they were real; if Ferguson truly has a problem, then we should help him, as we all have problems.

10. Fighting Those Who Dishonor Faith and Family

As mentioned above, Khabib is known for being very respectful of his opponents during press conferences. He speaks well of their strengths, shakes their hands, hugs them; he even runs up to his opponent after a fight and hugs them, consoling them and wishing them well. After his win against Poirier, he traded shirts with him and donated $100k to Poirier’s charity.

Khabib vs Dana’s boy, the chicken

The exception was the infamous UFC 229 which Muslim fans watched holding years, maybe decades of pent up anger at the type of crass secular arrogance represented by Conor. We desperately wanted Khabib to maul the mouthy McGregor. The latter had gone after his family, his faith, his nationality, anything and everything to hype up the fight and try to get under the champ’s skin. Some people lose their calm, and others, well, they eat you alive.

Khabib made it clear he wasn’t having any of that. He took the fight to Conor and choked him out with a neck crank. We then learned why he was called “The Eagle” as he hopped the cage and jumped into the audience to go after other members of Conor’s team who had spoken ill of him, giving birth to “Air Khabib”.

The Reminder

When our faith and family is spoken of in an ill fashion, it’s not appropriate that we sit there and take it. Khabib never cared when it was criticism against him, but once it went to others around him, he took flight. We as Muslims should never give anybody who tries to attack and dehumanize us a chance to rest on their laurels. We should strive ourselves to take the fight back to them by whatever legal means necessary, as Khabib did, whether it is cartoons of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or political pundits and satirists who monetize hatred against Muslims.

11. Shaking Hands and Training with Women

In numerous public instances, Khabib reminded us that our faith demands we don’t shake with the opposite gender. As one of my teachers taught us, the Qur’an instructs us to “lower our gaze” when dealing with women. If we shouldn’t even look at them out of respect for Allah’s command, how can we take it to the next level and touch them?

Extended to this is even more serious physical contact like training at the gym. Cynthia Calvillo, one of Khabib’s teammates at AKA gym, said the following about Khabib and his unit:

“It’s a little bit weird because of their religion and stuff…They don’t talk to women you know. I mean we say ‘hi’ to each other but we can’t train with them. They won’t train with women…I don’t think any other woman does.

The Reminder

Our faith places stricter physical and social interaction boundaries between men and women. Keeping matters professional and respectful with the opposite gender need not include physical contact. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was said to have never touched non-mahram women. It was narrated that he said,

“It is better for you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is impermissible to you.”

For this reason, the majority of scholars prohibited physical contact between men and women with some exceptions (e.g. old age). Watching Khabib maintain this practice, even in public where it could potentially embarrass him and cause undue negative attention, gives us all inspiration to deal with this issue in the workplace better. He encourages us to strive for better tolerance and awareness of our faith rather than forcing us to conform.

12. Not Making a Display of The “Trophy” Wife

If you follow Khabib’s Instagram, you won’t find lewd pics of him and a significant other. In fact, you won’t find any pictures at all of him and his wife. Who she is is a mystery to all. In an age and a sport where many post photos with their romantic partners, Khabib again is a standout with his gheerah, his honorable protectiveness for his significant other.

Khabib and his wife

The Reminder

We are again reminded that a part of manhood is to have protective ghayrah, jealousy over one’s spouse. Ibn al-Qayyim also said, bringing in the concept of chivalry,

“The dayyuth / cuckold is the vilest of Allah’s creation, and Paradise is forbidden for him [because of his lack of ghayrah]. A man should be ‘jealous’ with regards to his wife’s honor and standing. He should defend her whenever she is slandered or spoken ill of behind her back. Actually, this is a right of every Muslim in general, but a right of the spouse specifically. He should also be jealous in not allowing other men to look at his wife or speak with her in a manner which is not appropriate.”

13. Owning His Mistakes, Looking to Be Forgiven

Finally, it should be noted there is no real scholarly disagreement on prohibiting striking the face. Recognizing this, Khabib stated when asked if “he thinks the AlMighty will be satisfied with him for taking part in haram fights for money,” he replied, “I don’t think so.”

In an interview with the LA Times, he said:

“You go to mosque because nobody’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, and we have to ask Allah to forgive us. This is very important mentally, to be clear with Allah. This is not about the UFC. There is nothing else more important to me than being clear with Allah. And being clear with Allah is the No. 1 most hard thing in life.”

The Reminder

We as human beings aren’t perfect – perfection is only for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). We all make mistakes, sometimes small, sometimes large, but in the end, He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is ready to forgive us if we’re willing to recognize our failings and ask to be forgiven.  Allah says in the Qur’an in 2:222:

“Allah loves those who always turn to Him in repentance and those who purify themselves.”

There are no sins so great that redemption is beyond any of us. Whatever Khabib’s flaws, his value as a positive change maker and faith-based role model globally outweighs his negatives.

Part of seeking forgiveness is the process, and the first part of that process is acknowledging the mistake. This means not being in denial about it or not justifying it, just owning it. As Khabib has owned his mistake publicly, there is no need for us to try and justify it either.

We can own that there are problems with MMA and the industry, in participating as well as watching and supporting. At the same time, we can do as Dr Hatem al-Hajj said about Muhammad Ali:

Concluding Thoughts

While UFC pundits will forever debate over the greatest of all time, there is in doubt that Khabib Nurmogomedov, the first Muslim UFC champion, will always be our GOAT.

I ask that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accepts the good from what Khabib has done, rewards him tremendously for the inspiration he’s given us all to better focused on the akhirah, the next life, and continues to make him a powerful sports icon who uses his platform as Muhammad Ali did to teach Islam and exemplify it in the best way for all of us to benefit and follow.

Ameen.

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