“Football is shirk (polytheism)”

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Yes, only if you have a very warped view of what polytheism is, and what offends God. This is the type of absurdity that becomes widespread when God is not part of the conversation.

So let’s bring the Most High back in: Does God eternally condemn a soul to the blazing fire for playing football according to rules? Is the Most High, Lord of all the realms and their inhabitants, deeply offended by paltry rules of a mundane sport such as football?! Does the Lord who sustains the cosmos take it offensively that you decided to give a yellow/red card for a handball or a tackle, and take it as you trying to compete with Him in His kingship?! God the Supreme is far above seeing a yellow/red card as a challenge to His divine station, or as seeking equality to Him. And any such silly representation of an ilah is certainly not Al-lah (a definite clause).

As for God’s Laws, generally speaking it is the people most ignorant of Law and legal philosophy that speak on it. On the most basic level, are the rules of games created by humans for mundane activities synonymous with laws and legal mechanisms that organise a society and seek sustained human prosperity the same? No intelligent person would say so, let alone someone informed of God’s Law. The idea is so bizarre, it’s surreal to even be having this conversation. The same goes for considering fairytales (like Harry Potter) polytheism. IF this is the level of conversation and debate that inspires a community’s attention, then that community has hit rock-bottom.

Now the main reason I’m addressing this, for those aware of the latest nonsense to command many people’s attention (if you don’t know, you don’t wanna know!) is because we seem to be re-entering the cycle of absolute nonsense that comes around every 5-7 years to animate the imagination of another generation with the baggage of the past, ensuring another cohort of young people will be entirely useless and irrelevant. Every few years we’re subjected to dumbest statements EVER, but the young who have no literacy are animated with mistruths, misrepresentations and glorified translators or uninformed actors. And yes, as it stands, it’s groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and particular factions of salafism that are the main promulgators. It’s not about individual people but the group and its ideas.

Of course, in no way do I suggest that aberrance is the sole reserve of Hizb ut-Tahrir and those factions of salafism. And of course there’s a discussion to be had about what goes for deviance and how it’s defined. But to the main point, there are many corrupting or bizarrely erroneous ideas out there and we couldn’t possibly speak to all that diverge from righteous productiveness because our lives would then be busied with stupidity and little else. So how do I decide what to comment on? I look at their social ramifications.

For example, there are many ‘liberal’ (as Muslim-speak puts it) ideas that I hold to be stoutly wrong, but I don’t comment on them because they don’t seem to cause social harm. Most people don’t take those ideas seriously and tend to interact with such ideas more as entertainment than actual expressions of God’s will. Similarly, for the few people that have irrelevant misgivings (such as miracles) that prevent them from salah and faithfulness to God through Ishmaelite monotheism, it tends to help them get over it for the greater good. Elsewhere, regular childish in-fighting between two sects also concern me very little – kids will be kids and as long they’re busying themselves with mundane foolishness, we’ll leave them to it and carry on like adults.

However, over two decades of my adult life, I’ve witnessed a few things that have had a deleterious effect on the progression of British believers, and absolutely irrelevant to their context, amongst them the concepts of khilafah and hakimiyyah. Generations of young folk have not only neglected true righteousness to debate things irrelevant to their lives and environment (and of course from a point of utmost ignorance), these things and their misrepresentation have led to murder, mayhem and the negative political situation of Muslims in the UK (and elsewhere). Certain views on khilafah and hakimiyyah inspired al-muhajirun and others which led to the murder of co-citizens, misplaced support for Taliban extremism (anti-occupation, anti-western imperialism, and support for the shari’ah need not mean unqualified support for the Taliban who were often brutal, violent, and backwards in their governing of Afghanistan), support for ISIS, and an outlook that confuses political priorities meaning nothing is ever achieved. In practical terms, nothing has proved worst (in terms of outcomes) than the misrepresentation of these two concepts. The truth is that the laity have no business thinking they get Islamic political philosophy enough to hold stout opinions on the matter, just as we have no business thinking we get medicine enough to hold any opinion on cardiology.

But is it that big a deal? Yes, as the past couple of decades have shown. Let me give a brief illustration of how the steps of simplistic reasoning goes, leading to evil:

  1. Football with “man-made” rules is polytheism
  2. Thus playing football according to those rules is polytheism, and those who play football are polytheists
  3. If a Muslim plays football he becomes a polytheist and hence an apostate.
  4. This last stage is ultimately where extremists end up: In Islamic Law death is the punishment for apostates, and so we must kill these Muslims playing in the park.

Now, as simplistic and absurd as such reasoning is, with every premise of the seemingly deductive argument flawed (and at every stage), it works for some people and it’s the way some are encouraged to commit heinous crimes. And add to such idiocy the zeal of young people, emotive arguments about the Islamic lands being ‘invaded’ with only fighting to establish a caliph helping, you have the recipe for disastrous consequences. Lives ruined and lost.

Now please do not take this as an anti-salafi tirade nor pro-sufi position, every faction has its shortcomings. Modern salafism is notoriously poor on reasoning. Usul al-fiqh is literally non-existent as a discipline in salafi study. In the west, this form of salafism capitalises on misinformation and poor educational attainment. The vast majority of salafis come from socio-economic deprived backgrounds where life outcomes are relatively low. Those who are caught up in it tend to be so due to their proximity to lower working class immigrant Muslim communities. I’m told by a friend (who’s an imam and teacher) that the individuals who assert that football is shirk (polytheism) attract a following of young people from deprived areas of London. And before anyone starts with unbridled hype, I’m not making a judgement on a social class (from which I come), but merely a sociological observation.

Now the inane reasoning on football above might be funny, but in seriousness it is satanic, inspired by the devil to corrupt the believers and the way of God’s cause (sabeelillah).

Believing parents ought to be aware of such threats to the cultivation of their children, and of course young people need to be educated appropriately. Break the cycle that seems to afflict generation after generation, in cities and towns across the country. We must create an environment where ignorance and corruptive ideas become persona non grata.

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