Inspirational Women in Sports

by Farida Haji

Muslim women.

Bold, creative, courageous, dynamic, teachers, doctors, mothers, caregivers, artists, journalists… The list is endless.

We share a list of 5 fascinating women in the world of sports who have and are creating ripples across the community and the rest of the world. Muslim women athletes have achieved success in a variety of sports. Some have also gone to win Olympic medals and many have gone through an intense journey to pursue their passion.

1. Hassiba Boulmerka

Known as the Constantine Gazelle, Algerian Olympic medalist Hassiba Boulmerka received death threats and was tainted as an anti-Muslim for running at races in shorts. Things had gotten so bad that she had to cut ties with her family to train for her races. Yet she went on to secure the first-ever gold medal for the 1500m at the World Championships in 1991 and again in Barcelona Olympics in 1992. She is hailed as one of the greatest athletes of Algeria.

2. Ghada Shouaa

Syria has only had one Olympic gold medal to its name. It was brought home by an Arab Muslim woman, Ghada Shouaa during the Games in Atlanta in 1996. Her story is heartbreaking, which saw her being taken to court by Syrian authorities and eventually prompted her to leave the country. In those years her funding was stopped and she was strained financially to a level that she had to withdraw from sports.

3. Ibtihaj Muhammad

Why is Ibtihaj Muhammad an influential figure for African-American Muslims? In 2016, she was the first American hijabi fencer to compete at the Olympics and win a medal!

She is a 5-time Senior World medalist and World Champion and a sports ambassador with the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls through Sport Initiative. In 2017 the first hijabi Barbie was modeled after Ibtihaj as part of Barbie’s “Shero” line of dolls.

4. Aya Medany

Egyptian Aya Medany, a modern pentathlete and fencer, she was the youngest competitor at the 2004 Beijing Olympics. She won her first-ever gold medal at the Youth World Championship in 2002. Despite over 20 international medals to her credit, her journey as a Muslim athlete was difficult and she retired from sports in 2012. Aya is now part of the IOC Athletes’ Commission and hopes to represent the concerns of female Muslim athletes worldwide.

5. Khadijah Safari

London-based Khadijah Safari wasn’t born a Muslim. She doesn’t have medals to boast or showcase. Yet, her story is inspiring. She converted to Islam at the age of 27. She quit her job as a graphic designer to pursue a black belt in Muay Thai. This mother of four started training other Muslim and non-Muslim women in Muay Thai. Her aim is to help women in the community feel empowered and fearless. She believes that sports reflect everything we do in life.

Are You Inspired?

Our life takes us through obstacles. But sailing through obstacles is the way.

Life was difficult for some of these women, but they forged ahead, against the odds, stood their ground, and made it. They succeed in their goals with faith and courage.

May Allah accept all our tidings and deeds. May we be inspired by these incredible women and also strive to be masters of our chosen fields!