As romantic as “kissing the turf” sounds, the real meaning behind a sportsman prostrating on the ground is more beautiful
“As he crossed the line he kissed the track, then lay down for a few sit-ups…” Esther Addley, The Guardian
Over the past few weeks I’ve had to balance the completion of the month of Ramadhan, an immense spiritual occasion, with the Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place just down the road from me in Stratford. It’s been an amazing couple of weeks for anyone who loves sport and a few images remain in my mind. The most vivid one is the sight of Mo Farah (as if you needed the hyperlink!) kneeling down and placing his head on the ground after winning both the 5km and 10km races. Like most of you, I was out of my seat screaming at the television urging him on in the last two laps.
To most people, the prostration – also made famous by the likes of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse (cue dodgy paused screen images below) – could symbolise a number of things: loyalty to the crowd, club or stadium, or love for the “hallowed turf.” As romantic as that sounds, there is a deeper spiritual meaning behind the sujood, prostration, witnessed on millions of screens around the world. It’s hard to break it down and explain everything it represents, but I’ll try and explain from my limited knowledge.
Mo is a practicing Muslim and adheres to the daily ritual prayers; a combination of physical actions and verbal prayers which Muslims perform five times a day. The prayer is divided into stages, each symbolised by actions with the final of these in each cycle being the act of sujood - placing the forehead on the ground, sitting up and then repeating once more.
To explain this slightly foreign-looking act to an onlooker, it first needs to be explained that it is vital for a human to understand their significance in the universe in Islam. The head is without a doubt the pinnacle of “highness”: critical thought, reflection, intellect and reason. Our whole being initiates from cerebral functions. The ultimate act of humility is to symbolically demote this highness to lowness, or as some would put it “placing the highest of creation onto the plane of the lowest creation.” Being a humble person and fighting the negatives of pride plays an important role in Islam.
The sujood is said to also represent the belief that humans were created in part by earth (the rising from the first prostration) and that they will return to it eventually (the second prostration).
It was amazing to see that in the emotion and excitement of winning double gold, Mo immediately performed sujood as an act of humility and thanks. I was touched to hear of the great work he initiated through the Mo Farah Foundation, and to hear Mo’s words in an interview about his faith with the Independent.
“It also says in the Qur’an that you must work hard in whatever you do, so I work hard in training and that’s got a lot to do with being successful. It doesn’t just come overnight, you’ve got to train for it and believe in yourself; that’s the most important thing.”
Roll on Sir Mohamed Farah…
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