A take a look at the intersection of sports activities, religion and faith
Brothers and NFL defensive backs Hamza and Husain Abdullah determined they wanted a break from soccer.
It was 2012, and the 2 males, each religious Muslims, have been about to enter free company. Husain, the youthful brother, recommended they carry out hajj, the five-day pilgrimage to Mecca and the Islamic holy websites in Saudi Arabia. That yr, hajj occurred in October — proper within the thick of soccer season. NFL gamers sometimes get solely 4 days off per 30 days through the common season, and people days can’t be grouped collectively.
The brothers determined they might take the season off. Earlier that yr, retired San Diego Chargers participant Junior Seau fatally shot himself within the chest. The legendary linebacker was not a Muslim or a teammate to both Abdullah brother, however he was their position mannequin.
“He was the NFL,” stated Hamza. “He was our hero. He gave his life for the sport of soccer.”
They have been heartbroken, they usually fearful it might occur to them.
For each males, the journey to Mecca represented an opportunity to concentrate on what mattered most to them: being good husbands, fathers, Muslims and group members. However the day off additionally put their soccer careers in danger.
Hamza by no means performed within the league once more and suffered from melancholy and suicidal ideas. Husain caught on with the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs for 3 extra seasons however suffered a number of concussions and confronted a controversial penalty for sliding into prayer after a landing.
For the brothers, it was their religion that helped them stand up to being Muslim within the NFL via Ramadan and their transition out of the league. Now it guides the best way they help their households, colleagues and surrounding group.
One brother is out of the league
When the Abdullah brothers returned house from Mecca, they set their sights on coaching and getting signed for the 2013 season.
“My religion shouldn’t be a burden. It’s an asset,” Hamza stated.
“I began understanding extra and watching movie,” added Hamza, who had performed in a reserve position for the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals. “Husain labored on a tackling fashion that helped to guard his head.”
Husain, who had performed 4 seasons in Minnesota, was picked up by the Chiefs in February 2013. Hamza was comfortable for his brother and felt optimistic that he would get a name too. However the NFL draft handed, summer time coaching camp handed and, ultimately, Hamza and his agent stopped calling one another. When the 2013 season formally began in September, he knew his NFL profession was over.
“It was painful,” stated Hamza, now 35. “I needed to mentally shift from being an lively participant to a retired participant.”
Melancholy began to set in.
“At the moment, it was robust as a result of I didn’t know why I used to be feeling so low and so down. I felt like I used to be simply beneath the whole lot. Once I first sought remedy, the therapist implored me to carry on to my religion.”
Hamza had been launched 3 times throughout his seven-season NFL profession, together with twice through the holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims quick from daybreak to nightfall.
Throughout Ramadan, he developed a routine to maintain up his energy and keep hydrated. He made positive to weigh at the least 220 kilos at the start of the month as a result of he knew he would drop pounds. As soon as Ramadan began, he would rise earlier than daybreak to eat breakfast, then begin a day that concerned follow, weight coaching, napping, studying the Quran, attending conferences after which breaking his quick after nightfall. Along with filling up on meals, he drank at the least half a gallon of water and 64 ounces of Gatorade and Pedialyte over the course of a night.
Hamza signed with the Cardinals in 2009 and stated that workforce felt extra accepting of his religion and his follow of Ramadan. He stated the trainers have been extra prepared to work with him. “They thought that [embracing my faith] made me a greater participant and consultant of the workforce.”
Arizona Cardinals’ Hamza Abdullah strains up towards the Houston Texans in the course of the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason soccer recreation Saturday, Aug. 14, 2010 in Glendale, Ariz.
AP Photograph/Rick Scuteri
In solidarity, his teammate Michael Adams would quick from meals that weren’t good for him. “It meant quite a bit to me,” Hamza stated of Adams’ help.
Hamza didn’t full his quick in 2011, his final yr within the league. Ramadan occurred within the hottest a part of the summer time, and he misplaced 12 kilos in at some point. “I prayed about it and requested that God give me the power to stroll in his path.”
Leaving the NFL would check his religion, household and friendships.
The frustration of navigating the NFL’s advantages system along with monetary woes and melancholy got here to a head on Halloween 2013. Hamza took his grievances to Twitter, posting some 50 tweets lambasting the league for points starting from misdiagnosing accidents to treating gamers like slaves. He additionally revealed he had been considering suicide.
“Each time I fall asleep, I pray that Allah takes care of my household, simply in case I don’t get up,” he tweeted. “And quietly, I’m disillusioned typically once I do get up. I’m married to a fantastic spouse, have three lovely youngsters, and my financially GOOD, but I don’t need to get up.”
He didn’t act on these ideas on the time. He tried to concentrate on constructing a brand new life, shifting his household from Arizona to Southern California to Dallas and eventually to Seattle, the place they presently reside. He did motivational talking engagements and revealed a memoir, Come Comply with Me: A Memoir. The NFL. A Transition. A Problem. A Change.
However Hamza nonetheless struggled with melancholy, and in 2017 he checked into an inpatient remedy facility in Southern California that had handled soccer gamers prior to now. That first keep lasted 30 days. He returned for 2 months over summer time 2018.
“I not needed to stay if I used to be harming or hurting the individuals I really like probably the most,” Hamza stated. “Once I felt like I couldn’t contribute anymore, I felt prefer it was over.”
Whereas within the facility, he took drugs and slit his wrists. Fortuitously, the medical director discovered him earlier than he misplaced consciousness. Hamza turned to his religion for assist.
“I requested God to forgive me for wanting to finish my life,” he stated. “God is forgiving and merciful.”
Hamza has since returned to Seattle and sees a therapist recurrently. A second ebook concerning the transition of NFL gamers into retirement is within the works.
The opposite brother returns to the sector
Husain was 27, two years youthful than his brother, once they determined to go to Mecca. He was targeted on the social and bodily sacrifices required to thrive as Muslims and professional soccer gamers. (Each males had performed in school for Washington State.)
“It’s not whether or not you possibly can or can’t, it’s simply are you prepared to take that lonely street,” stated Husain, now 33. “It’s extra of a lonely journey, since you don’t indulge due to your set of values.”
He liked the sport and obtained alongside together with his teammates and coaches on the Minnesota Vikings, for whom he performed from 2008 by means of 2011. However he suffered 4 concussions in a yr and a half. And he was round individuals who drank, smoked and gambled, actions that observant Muslims are anticipated to keep away from.
“For me, I began noticing that that is going to finish, regardless of how a lot cash I make, regardless of how a lot notoriety I get. Something I do on the soccer subject, I want to ensure I focus my consideration on what issues most and put that first,” Husain stated.
In 2014, a yr after signing with the Chiefs, Husain was doing nicely. He’d efficiently prevented head accidents, and NFL Movies and The New York Occasions had run options about his expertise fasting for Ramadan whereas coaching. A month later, he made headlines once more after intercepting New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and returning the decide to the top zone. Husain then slid right into a prayer, kissing the bottom on his knees.
Husain was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Recreation officers stated the slide into the top zone was an unlawful celebration. However critics famous that Christian gamers like Tim Tebow and Brandon Marshall have prayed after scoring with out penalty. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid commented, “If you go to Mecca, it is best to have the ability to slide wherever you need.” The NFL later stated the play shouldn’t have been penalized and that Husain wouldn’t be fined.
In 2015, Husain received a fifth concussion. His eyesight was affected, and he needed to put on glasses to learn and watch TV. He tried to remain constructive, however he additionally considered continual traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He thought concerning the fates of Seau and different NFL gamers who’d suffered from impact-related trauma. Though he stated he acquired wonderful rehabilitative care from the Chiefs, he determined that persevering with to play soccer was not well worth the dangers. In March 2016, on the age of 30, Husain retired.
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His transition out of the NFL has been clean. He earned a grasp’s diploma in dispute decision and battle administration. He began the Ashab Community, which supplies an area for Muslim athletes and artists like school basketball participant Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad to help one another. He runs an organization that helps Amazon ship packages and is creating a enterprise that gives profession teaching for athletes transitioning out of sports activities. He presently lives in Dallas together with his spouse and two youngsters.
Ask the Abdullah brothers whether or not they would play within the NFL once more if they might do it throughout and their solutions are fast and as totally different as they’re. Husain is a strong sure. Hamza is a robust no. Hamza added that he would inform Muslim gamers to attend till they retire to carry out hajj.