An estimated 2.5 billion people on mother Earth are said to be Muslim, with such strict numbers of Muslim masses alone, the world is bound to produce followers of Islam who have excelled in their sporting fields. As we’re on course for Ramadan soon, let’s give a shout out and a salute to these incredible athletes. Shughal has handpicked the 10 Greatest Muslim Sportsmen from World History!
10. Marat Safin
Merits: 421-266 career record and two Grand Slam titles
The hot-tempered Russian tennis great Marat Safin was born and raised in the guidance of Islam. Of Tatar descent, Safin was a former Top seed (number 1) who nabbed a couple Grand Slams, has the record for most broken racquets in a season (87) — yes he was hot-tempered, and is now a member of the Russian parliament. Politics after sporting glory, always works!
9. Jahangir Khan
Merits: Jahangir Khan, born on December 10, 1963, in karachi, is a former World number 1 professional Squash player from Pakistan. He’s so highly thought about in Pakistan that a tv anchor, a comedian, Moin Akhtar once said that at the immigration office on Sydney Airport, they saw his passport and said “Oh! You’re from Jahangir Khan’s country!” — instead of Pakistan. He is easily the epitome of professional squash in Pakistan and around the world. He has an incredible record of winning 555 consecutive matches, the longest winning streak for an athlete in any sports. He now serves as President World Squash Federation, since 2002.
8. Bernard Hopkins
Merits: 52-6-2 (32 KOs); former undisputed World Middleweight Champion
One of the most successful fighters in recent history almost missed out on his career after being sentenced to 18 years for an armed robbery at the age of 17. During his bid, Hopkins discovered his love of boxing and also converted to Islam. He turned pro upon his release in 1988. Since then, the Executioner has racked up over 50 wins, and became the first fighter to unify all four world middleweight titles (WBA, WBO, WBC, and The Ring). His victory over Jean Pascal in 2011 made him the oldest world champion in boxing history at 46 years old. Hopkins continues to fight today and is a sure-fire Hall-Of-Famer once he decides to hang ’em up.
7. Shaquille O’Neal
Merits: 1990 NCAA AP Player of the Year, 4x NBA Champion, 3x NBA Finals MVP, 15-time NBA All-Star, 1993 NBA Rookie of ther Year. Shaquille O’Neal, the man who revolutionized the NBA over the past 15 years, is in fact a Muslim. Raised with both a Christian influence (mom) and Muslim influence (step-dad), Shaq has never been too vocal about his religious affiliation but he has mentioned it in several interviews that he has fasted in Ramadan and done the Holy Pilgrimage called Hajj to Makkah, Saudi Arabia.
6. Mike Tyson
Merits: 50-6 (44 KOs); WBC, WBA, IBF Heavyweight Champion. The Baddest Man on the Planet converted to Islam, while serving his prison sentence for a rape conviction in 1992. Once he was released in 1995, Iron Mike returned to the ring to win the WBA and WBC heavyweight titles. Then came the Bite Fight, several arrests, venereal diseases, and a drug addiction. Tyson bounced back on the trot to become a pop culture icon and has seemingly fought off his past demons. Praise be to Islam and God Almighty!
5. Javed Miandad
Merits: Pakistan’s leading run scorer in Test history, often described as Pakistan’s Greatest Batsman Ever, Javed Miandad has also served as captain of Pakitan’s national cricket team. Widely known for his historic last ball six in Sharjah against rivals India in 1986, winning a game as big as that in certain fashion put a benchmark. Since that day, everybody wants to pull a Javed Miandad off. After ending his career, he coached Pakistan team as well as had a seat in the Pakistan Cricket Board.
4. Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Merits: 3x NCAA Champion at UCLA, All-Time Leading Scorer in NBA History, 6x NBA Champion, 6x NBA MVP, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 19x NBA All-Star. Kareem has always been great at basketball. He dominated in high school, college and the pros. He invented one of the most unguardable shots in NBA history and even named it. The “skyhook” (As shown in the picture above) helped him become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points—the closest active player is Kobe with 29,484 points. Kareem converted to Islam and decided to change his name from Lew Alcindor in 1971 as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks because it was a part of his heritage.
3. Zinedine Zidane
Merit: Zinedine Zidane, also known as Zizou, is a retired French footballer. Zidane played as an attacking midfielder for the French national team, Italian giants Juventus and of course, the greatest club of all time — Real Madrid. Zizou was named Best European Footballer in the last 50 years by UEFA, 3x FIFA Ballon D’Or winner and also lead France to victory in the 1998 World Cup. Sadly, Zizou had a tragic end to his career when he was expelled from the summit clash of the 2006 World Cup after headbutting Italy’s Marco Materazzi. Nonetheless, Zinedine Zidane is a proud Muslim and one of the greatest who ever played with a ball.
2. Imran Khan
Merits: Imran Khan played international cricket for almost over two decades in the late twentieth century and, after retiring, he started his political career in Pakistan with his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. Besides his political activism, Khan is also a prominent philanthropist, cricket commentator, Chancellor of the University of Bradford and Founding Chairman of Board of Governors of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and Cancer Research Center. Through worldwide fundraising, he started the Namal College, Mianwali in 2008. Khan was the most successful captain in the history of Pakistan cricket, leading his country to victory at the 1992 Cricket World Cup and a Muslim everybody should be proud of!
1. Muhammad Ali
Merits: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee — the hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see!” – Muhammad Ali. 1960 Light Heavyweight Olympic gold Medal, Three-time World Heavyweight Champion
Easily the most prominent Muslim sports figure of our time, Muhammad Ali captured the hearts of Americans with his word play and supreme boxing skill—until he changed his name that is. He changed it during the Civil Rights Movement and pledged allegiance to the Nation of Islam. He spoke out vehemently against the Vietnam War and was banished from boxing for three years in 1967 because of these beliefs and his refusal to joing the Army.
Ironically, some of the American public began to warm up to Ali during this time because they too opposed the war. After winning two fights when he returned to the ring, he got a title shot against Joe Frazier, but lost in a legendary match deemed The Fight Of The Century. He eventually became a champion again after being unjustly stripped of his belts back in ’67. Ali defeated every top heavyweight in the golden era of heavyweight boxing making him The Greatest.