Before actually getting down to it, I should mention my drive to write this article and the circumstances under which I received these insights. I grew up in the Philadelphia area and thus became quite an avid Eagles fan. I have remained so until this day. But it was only recently, after a visit to a preseason game, that I fully realized the dangers of football. Indeed most of these dangers can be extrapolated to other sports and entertainment media, but I will focus on football.
So, anyway, I received four free tickets to a preseason Redskins game, a team I had been taught to hate. I decided to take my wife, my daughter, my brother-in-law, and a close friend, all Muslims. I thought, spiritually, it'll be safe. After all, I am with Muslims. But what I did not realize was that going with my wife and my daughter, the blinders were lifted from my eyes, my ears, and more importantly, my heart. The smell of urine and stale beer. The loud music. The violent themes played on the widescreen. The drunken men shouting obscenities at the essentially naked cheerleaders. And the general loss of a sense of time.
Sure we broke to go pray, even calling the adhaan in the crowded passageway near the exit gate, but I still felt dirty. I still felt ashamed. That I subjected my pure and devout wife and child to these things. And if such an environment were not appropriate for them, then it was not appropriate for me either. Nor for my friend or brother-in-law. What scared me though, was that it was awareness of my wife and my daughter that made me see things as they are, not awareness of Allah Subhannahu Wa Ta'aala. This experience prompted me to examine the role of football in bringing about the Dajjalic Order and destroying the religious order. What follows are my opinions. Take them or leave them.
The Question of Violence:
A few years ago there was a big controversy surrounding a report that the number of visits to the ER for domestic violence increased on Super Bowl Sunday. I have included articles below which argue both for and against this report, but this is not the point. Numerous people have cited the link between violence and football. It is quite obviously a violent sport. But is the violence of a sport a problem at all? Young boys have played violent sports centuries before the invention of the television, or even the development of football itself. This, in my mind is not a problem.
Instead, the problem of violence and football lies not so much in the realm of the individual, but rather in the collective. In particular, violence on the international level. The language of football and the language of war are quite interlinked. In fact, CNNs account of the Gulf War was laden with football analogies. And so too, with the US attack on Afghanistan. Not only are the same terms used for both, but also the same emotions and fervor. And slowly, but surely, the lines between war and entertainment are becoming indistinguishable.
Sometimes this high energy state is used for political objectives. It was surely no accident that the strikes against Afghanistan were announced to the nation ten minutes before kickoff on Sunday (12:50pm). This caused a delay in some of the games to allow the crowds time to watch the President's speech. Many were reported to start chanting "U-S-A U-S-A!!" And when George W. Bush was at ground zero addressing the firefighters, his speech writers tapped into that same emotion.
On the individual level, there is an encouragement of regionalism. So that growing up a Redskins fan or an Eagles fan translates into an absolute hatred for the Dallas Cowboys, such that even the image of the blue and gray star may evoke a rude comment or a dirty look toward a stranger. In a most remarkable display of just how territorial football can be, Coach Billick of the Baltimore Ravens told his players to "mark the field like dogs" before their game against the Miami Dolphins.This regionalism is what is tapped into when using football terminology in war, to spark nationalism, a sense of "us".
Cecilia O'Leary, Associate Professor at California State University was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, "for a long time now, there has been a decline in our civic culture. As public culture is diminished, sports have taken on a larger role. They provide a space where people can come together to understand themselves, where they can identify themselves as being a part of a country, which is really an act of the imagination. When we watch the Super Bowl on television, we are able to imagine ourselves being a part of something greater than ourselves."
Now nationalism deserves its own comment here. Allah Subhannahu Wa Ta'aala created us. He gave us our skin color, he decreed us to be born in certain countries to certain parents with certain ethnic and cultural backgrounds. These are all things that we do not choose for ourselves. As such, we will not be asked about them on the Day of Judgement. Allah will not ask you which country you were born in. He will not hold you accountable for the color of your skin, nor for your language. So, if He will not separate us based on country of origin, then why are we separating ourselves based on this?
When asked about lewd music, the grandson of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with them) replied, "On the Day of Judgement, Allah will separate Truth & falsehood. On which side do you think He will put lewd music?" (from Zaid Shakir's reading of Imam al-Muhasibi's Risala al-Mustarshideen)
Super Bowl 36 logo utilizing the US map & flag.
Were we to ask a similar rhetorical question of nationalism, we would undoubtedly realize that nationalism is from falsehood. And those who encourage it, are calling to falsehood. For those who feel that nationalism is a good thing, I refer you to Mawdudi's article on nationalism. For those too young to remember when, in 1985, former actor and sportscaster, President Ronald Reagan flipped the coin to start the Super Bowl; and for those who deny the link between football, politics, nationalism, and war, let us examine some quotes:
"Today's a day where we return to football and everything else America stands for." (NFL Gameday, September 23, 2001 - the first day back to football after September 11th)
"They can't stop us from moving forward. And they can't stop us from playing football" (NY Mayor Guilliani)
The Super Bowl pregame and halftime entertainment, too, illustrates the link between nationalism and football. The Pregame show was dubbed "A Tribute to America". At halftime Mariah Carey, half naked, sang the national anthem (incidentally, the only national anthem in the world to be a song about war). Mary J. Blige sang America the Beautiful with the firefighters from New York, and football "greats", Roger Staubach and Jim Brown, read the Declaration of Independence.
Indeed, the very logo of the NFL has been cited for its patriotic and nationalistic implications.
It is no accident that those colors (red,white, and blue) unite to form the NFL's corporate shield. Long ago, pro football replaced baseball as the national pastime, and the Super bowl became the pre-eminent sporting championship on this continent. Throughout its history, overt patriotic displays have become a ritualistic part of the festivities. (Davis, Michael, "The Patriots Bowl: United we sit, Watching a football game that's become an American ritual", Washington Post 2-3-02)
In one of his many post-September 11th emotionally-charged, intellectually-depleted, and propaganda-laden speeches, Preseident George W. Bush was praised on one newscast for having drawn in "a Super Bowl-sized audience". And a connection in the other direction...
"He's like a rogue general deep in enemy territory." (Sports Talk 980 The Sports Reporters on Coach Marty Schottenheimer of the Washington Redskins at their worst point in the 2001-2002 season)
With a use of double-entendre, the Baltimore Ravens ran a newspaper ad during the playoffs which clearly linked their "fight" to return to the Super Bowl and the military action in Afghanistan. As both, the playoffs and the war were going on at the same time, the Ravens' insignia rested with the United States' logo, or flag.
"We'll Keep Fighting" (full page ad by the Baltimore Ravens depicting the Ravens insignia on a US Flag in The Baltimore Sun, Friday, January 11, 2002)And around that same time period, a billboard appeared on I-95 as one enters the city of Baltimore, stating "That was a Jurassic Park sucker punch! Let's Go! Do it!" It was accompanied by statements imploring Americans to be united in the attack on Afghanistan and wherever else the so-called "War on Terror" would lead.
The Capitalist Globalization Agenda:
In addition to indoctrinating us with a sense of nationalism, football brings the movement for corporate globalization to a context that the average person is able to understand. And in a subtle way, makes corporate activity seem natural and normal. When the likes of Nike and Reebok move overseas in an attempt to find cheap labor, little-if-any taxes, skimpy environmental regulations, and to obtain an influence on local politics, this activity is likened to individual football team owners moving to another city.
When NFL owners like Art Modell, Al Davis, Georgia Frontiere, and others move their teams from one city to another in return for tax breaks, subsidized or free playing facilities, and a whole package of other inducements, they aren't acting any differently than American corporations that move factories to states or other countries that offer low wages, low taxes, or other economic come-ons. The only difference is that football owners do not bother with spin control. (Watson, Cary, "Peanuts, Popcorn, and Anti-Capitalism", Z Magazine, April 2002, page 11)
This is particularly interesting, because the language that fans use to express discontent when their team skips town could easily be labelled "communist" or "anti-American" in any other context. Were they to say the very same things about corporate conglomerates rather than football teams, they would be "unAmerican", perhaps even "fundamentalists" or "terrorists".
So, much of the above analysis pertains to the collective. Now, for the individual.
Word origins are often quite telling. In Arabic, in particular in an Islamic context, there are two terms which denote the "world". One is 'alameen which is derived from the root "to know" or "to come to know". Dunya, however, at its very root implies "something which distracts".
So, quite clearly, football must be considered from the dunya. But what is it that it distracts us from? The answer is that it distracts us from the very reason we were created, that is, to worship Allah. Allah says,
And I (Allah) created not the jinn and men except that they should worship Me (Alone). Holy Qur'an 51:53
One of the great scholars of the past, Imam al-Harith al-Muhasibi wrote in his treatise entitled Risala al-Mustarshideen (Message to Those who Seek Guidance), "Beware of places of heedlessness." To discuss heedlessness, one must first consider that which is to be heeded - namely, the Message of the Prophets (peace be pon all of them).
Whether in the stadium or on the television, the stimuli one is inundated with are difficult to sift through. The half-naked women dancing on the screen with camera angles intentionally upward to exaggerate their features. Beer commercials laden with crude humor and sexually illicit themes. Sportscasters analyses. Et Cetera. Each one chopping away at a different portion of our soul, numbing our hearts and minds to things considered apalling and blasphemous a few short decades ago. The stimuli are too many and move too fast to offer any time for one to muster desire to "heed". And if one doesn't distract us, BANG!, here's another stimulus.
And not only does fostering heedlessness dismantle one's observance of any prophetic tradition, but football and entertainment actively attempt to replace it.
"They haven't started giving people the day off on Monday yet," says University of Missouri professor Jeffrey Pasley, "but in some respects, Super Bowl Sunday seems like it's more of a national holiday than a lot of those days that are actual holidays"
"Football is the common currency for American males... & it's passed down from father to son." (David Hill-CEO of Fox Sports)
"We have an incredibly, incredibly popular sport. It's kind of like church on Sundays for America to watch NFL football." (Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie on postponing football after 9-11)
"He came from heaven and he brought us to heaven. We were waiting for the right man and the right man came -- Jon Gruden."(Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer on his coach, Jon Gruden, after winning the Super Bowl in 2003)
When the leaders of Rome declared, "Give them bread and give them sport," the implied message was that when people are fed and distracted/entertained, they do not question authority. They do not resist. They do not speak up. Indeed, they do not even think. On December 13, 2001, George W. Bush thanked the World Series Champions, the Arizona Diamondbacks, for "giving our nation something to think about other than war." After all, if they think about the war that their taxes are paying for, perhaps they would question how a nation where very few have running water could have orchestrated an attack on the other side of the world. Or perhaps they might simply reflect on what really happened.
Then there's our general sense of time. Football requires of its adherents to persistently live in the "now".
"There's always next year. But then again, here, in the wide world of sports, we only live for today." (ESPN Radio, Mike & Mike in the Morning, November 5, 2001)Every game is the biggest. Every game includes discussions of momentum, confidence, etc, and that each of these could be turned around in this game. Now is the time. Furthermore, losing our sense of time distracts us from our other duties, be they spending time with family, praying, studying, working on projects, visiting the sick, etc. In short, football strips us of time and of purpose - both of which we will be questioned about on the Last Day.
Zina of the Eyes & Ears:
Allah Subhannahu Wa Ta'aala has commanded us to lower our gaze, to restrain our glances.
Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty, that will make for greater purity for them...Say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty...O you who believe! Turn you all together towards Allah that you may attain success (Holy Qur'an 24:30-31)Football, and the entertainment industry in general, have commanded us to do quite the opposite. We are not only encouraged, but we are conditioned to keep watching for commercials that corporations have been developing all year for this one event. Most often, they have sexual themes and inappropriate humor. And not only are they shown during the game, but they are even commented on the following day on many news programs. We are conditioned to keep watching for those upward camera angle shots on the cheerleaders, as well.
Do we think that this has no effect on us because we are adults?! Corporations invest billions in advertising - research, buying air time, etc. Do we think they would do such a thing if it did not work?! The more we see those cheerleaders and the more we hear those jokes, the more we are manipulated. Our concepts of beauty, our preferences for commercial goods, our sexual desires, etc...all directed and controlled. The only viable competition that could be offered from other networks, to draw commercial watchers from the Super Bowl half-time show was the "game show" Fear Factor. Only this time, it featured Playboy Playmates. That a game show with porn "models" was the only viable option for viewers should be alarming to all of us.
The more that we become predictable, the more money there is to be made from us. And, the closer we come to nakedness, the more extreme modesty begins to seem. The hijab, becomes outdated and odd. And this draws the entire prophetic tradition into question.
Our minds are being marinated. Our inclinations are being steered. And our humanity is slowly being stripped from us. Our world is becoming one big virtual experience, where the lines between entertainment and war are becoming blurred, and both are merely experiences we have on the couch between meals. This is by design. This is the "sport" portion of that Roman recipe for remote controlling the masses.
I will conclude with something I saw on multiple billboards...It said, "Without sports, who would we follow?" That about sums it up. Who would we follow?!! How about following the prophets? (May peace be upon all of the prophets)
Allah knows best
Related Links: articles & links for and against my claims
Related Links: Audio
Web Author: Abu Aasiya