NFL players discuss role of Muslim faith

Hamza Abdullah and his brother, Husain, spoke about the role their Muslim faith has played in their NFL careers.
Hamza Abdullah and his brother, Husain, spoke about the role their Muslim faith has played in their NFL careers. Photo by Jacob Geiger.

National Football League players Hamza Abdullah and Husain Abdullah visited campus Tuesday to share ways in which their Muslim faith has impacted their careers.

At the lecture — which was co-sponsored by the Murgado Family Fund, the Athletics Department, the Chaplain’s Office, Calhoun College, the Intercultural Affairs Council and the Yale Muslim Students Association — the two brothers explained their decision to forgo the 2012 NFL season to perform the hajj, the obligatory Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Hamza Abdullah, who plays for the Arizona Cardinals and has been in the NFL since 2005, and Husain Abdullah, who plays for the Minnesota Vikings and has played football professionally since 2008, said that through their faith, they have learned to be humble and respect others while playing on a team.

“We’ve been covered by NBC, ESPN [and] CNN not because we’re professional football players, but because we stood for what we believed in,” Hamza Abdullah said.

Hamza Abdullah, the older of the two brothers, said brotherly love is a lesson found at the heart of Islam that he values in his own life. “You want for your brother what you want for yourself,” he said, citing a verse his mother taught him when he younger.

During his Islamic upbringing, Hamza Abdullah said, he learned to be unselfish and to celebrate the feats of others. He added that his fondest memory in the NFL was when his younger brother signed to play with the Minnesota Vikings. Husain Abdullah said while he was participating in the hajj, he most enjoyed experiencing the journey with his wife, two brothers and parents.

The brothers also discussed the misconceptions of Islam in America. Husain Abdullah said Muslims can be held responsible for the negative actions of another individual in their faith — a serious misunderstanding because an entire demographic should not take the fall for others’ transgressions.

Hamza Abdullah said that while balancing his career with his faith, he is often pressured to gamble alongside his teammates, an act that is forbidden in Islamic culture.

“I’m a competitive person, so that’s my struggle,” he said. “That’s the test I have to walk away from.”

Hamza Abdulla also said he has faced difficulty fasting for Ramadan during the football season but accomplishes it through preparation consisting of a strict diet to get enough nutrients and heightened awareness of one’s own body.

Saad Syed ’16, a member of the MSA, said he was impressed by the Abdullah brothers’ gracious attitude throughout the talk.

“It’s pretty cool that someone so successful could be so humble,” Saad said.

The brothers were raised in a Muslim household in Southern California with 10 other siblings.

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