The Islamic Garden
Professional British Boxer
Anthony Small (now known as Abdul Haqq) is 26 years old and accepted Islam three years ago. His Dad always told him that if you are going to do something, you should do your best. These words guided and helped him to become a professional boxer in his early twenties.
Growing up in
He did not know any Muslims while he was growing up and the first he heard about Islam was when 9/11 happened. He remembers, “At that time, there were a lot of terrorists jokes going around and a friend of mine became a Muslim and gave me a book about Tawheed. I was impressed by the idea that if the Qu’ran was from any other than God, it would have mistakes but there were none.” He adds, “I really wanted to become a Muslim when I understood all this. I was determined to change my life for the better.”
How Islam Changes People
He found that even Muslims who were not really practicing Islam tended to be a little more pious than the others, and that they could be convinced to change their ways. Small observes, “They might commit sins and so on, but they will not be as bad as the others.” Small mentioned one example of a man who was convicted of a violent crime but accepted Islam in prison and now he is working as a delivery driver, is completely honest and even stops working to pray.
Not Good at Football…
Small started boxing when he was thirteen years old. He remembers, “We were just a group of lads playing around. To be honest, I was no good at football so I started boxing and I used to go to the gym after school twice a week. I’d put the gloves on and train, then come home exhausted and happy.” No one recognized that Small had talent. He did not have a lot of encouragement from his family to succeed at boxing but he was ambitious. He recalls, “I wanted to go to the gym all the time, even if my parents didn’t want me to. I did things at my own pace.”
Amateur Boxer at Fifteen
Small had his first amateur fight at the age of fifteen and lost. He actually lost his first three fights. However, he persevered and later had an average of sixty-three fights and forty wins. “I was very determined to succeed,” recalls Small. Now he is a professional boxer and notes that since becoming a Muslim and being a boxer, people respect him. He adds with a smile, “No one wants to upset me!”
His life changed when he accepted Islam and his family thought Islam was full of rules and restraints. They wanted him to go back to church. However, he had left home at the age of sixteen and was independent. He continued to tell his family about Islam but his parents insisted that because they were Christians, he should be one too. Small believes that people should not just follow their forefathers and traditions blindly, without thinking. “The best way to teach Islam is by example,” says Small, “and that is what I try to do with my family and the sports people I mix with.”
Boxing and Self Discipline
Being a boxer, practicing Islam was easy for Small because he is used to being disciplined. “When Islam is presented to boxers, we just accept it. I think the difference with boxers is that with team sports you can always blame someone else for failure, but with a boxer you know when it gets hard and you come through, that God is there– you have a spiritual connection. You might be surprised but a lot of boxers are religious,” says Small. Praying was also easy for Small. He says that the secret behind being a good boxer is being dedicated and he sees the same pattern with being a good Muslim. He says, “When I became a Muslim I started praying five times a day and I embraced all the basic duties of Islam. I always want to do things right.”
Praying Before a Fight
It is Small’s habit to pray two rakats before every fight and in recent years he has only lost once. He says, “In the boxing world, people generally respect Muslims. People see and hear things about Muslims on TV, but when then they meet a Muslim who is trying to practice Islam, it is a completely different picture. People begin to understand that what they hear on TV is not necessarily true.” People come up to Small and his trainer, who is also a Muslim, and ask questions about Islam. Small recalls, “Someone came to my trainer and he was obviously nervous to ask about Islam. But my trainer is cool and the man relaxed. I always find that the best way to spread Islam is to act like a Muslim!”
Small also fasts during Ramadan even if he has a fight during the daytime. He remembers, “Last Ramadan I had a fight during the day time and people were telling me to break my fast. They even tried to give me Islamic justifications but I was determined.” Small won the fight and in record time!
Must to Angry to Fight?
Small remarks, “As a boxer, I do not have to make myself angry before a fight. Some boxers hit themselves in the face to get mad, but I am relaxed. Boxing is more than just fighting, it is an art. You must be able to think and evaluate your opponent. If you get angry, you are not thinking. You watch the guy in front of you, find his weakness then break him down.” After a fight the opponents may not become friends but they shake hands and respect each other. This is an important part of any sport. He says, “In a fight, it is your body against his, your training against his, and your mind against his.”
He finds that people respect a fighter because he can get into the ring without any gang behind him, without any weapons and fight.
Youth and Sport
Small encourages young people to get into boxing because it is a good form of discipline. He recently set up a gym in Lewisham and it is complete with a boxing ring and lots of machinery. “The youth should definitely be involved in some kind of athletics, martial arts and sport,” he says.
Violence Among Youth
“It is not just the Muslim youth who have become violent, it is all youth. I think this happens because music, computer games, and movies are filled with violence. At the same time often both parents have to work so there is no one to raise the children. Then the streets, TV, and videos raise them and they put what they see into action on the streets,” says Small. He really believes it is better to keep young people away from this and get them doing other things.
Youth and Parents
Small observes that parents should not give their children everything they want. “A man bought his young daughter a quad bike that was supposed to be for teenagers. She had asked for it and the father felt he had to get it for her. Unfortunately, the girl was killed. Now that made me think. If he had not bought it for her, she would have stomped and carried on but she would have still been alive. In later years, she would have realized that her father had been right. So my message to the youth is to respect your parents’ decisions and trust them because they love you.” He adds, “It’s not good for us that we get everything we want. It’s better to struggle a bit and work for what we want.”
The Best Role Model?
Small says, “Don’t take me as a role model! I follow the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the Companions! Don’t just emulate singers and actors. There was no one wiser, more courageous or kinder than the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions! The others just sing about it and talk about it, but these people actually did it!”
(This article was first published on www.islamonline.net)