Muslim Youth Yearn for Halal Sports

By Suleiman Mbatiah
Journalist- Nairobi, Kenya

Kenya modified
Halal Sports Houses in Kenya
Sports Houses in Kenya

The sun heats up and shadows of tall buildings that were environing the main streets now recedes. A human gridlock erupts, and every person is battling to have a safe stepping ground.

The roads are torn with water-filled craters, and a heady odor from smoky garbage competes for space with scents of heavy perfumes.

Nevertheless, faithful Muslims head for the Adhan (call to prayer) of Dhur (noon prayer). Life must go on here despite the many odds.

For more than two decades now, Estleigh, commonly referred to as "Little Mogadishu," has become home to thousands of Somalis fleeing terror and anarchy since the collapse of Siad Barre's central government.

Despite Eastleigh being a "heaven" to a number of Somalis and other immigrants living there, life has not been easy for them anyway.

"Most of us lack vetting documents from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and have found it hard to secure clerical jobs here. The police often hold swoops, netting thousands of youths," said Ali.

With proliferating unemployment, Kenya has strict refugee laws that do not allow them to work legally.

Luckily, Ali's long-time friend Abdi Hussein, 22, has secured him what he calls a job.

"A friend of mine intervened when he saw the desperate moments I was undergoing hear and offered me a job for loading a Miraa (khat) for export," Hussein told OnIslam.net.

This is just a job he attends up to only after midday, when Miraa (khat) arrives from Meru, a rural zone in the Eastern part of Kenya.


On a typical day, Hussein and Ali always remain indoors, where they play games in a computer they have recently added funds to buy. They uploaded a variety of games and often load new ones when they hit the market.

"Youths here are computer savvy, especially on online social sites and games," says Ali. "When every new game hits the market, the word will go round, and we all scramble for it."

A short walk from their rented room at Eastleigh's 8th Street is a group of youths who have put up a pool table by the roadside.

"I must visit this area after my classes. It's like I'm addicted to pool games. My friends are, too," Juma, 16, told OnIslam.net.

He added that he has always faced the wrath of his teacher and father for putting much of him on games. Most of other youths there are dropouts.

"Most of the boys you see there never attend prayers. They're much tied to these games. It's gambling, and it's evil," an attendant at Waayaha Cusub band shop opposite the "evil zone" told OnIslam.net on anonymity grounds.


Islam and Sports/Games

For the many Muslim youths in the Eastleigh estate in Kenya who have engaged in a number of games, much is desired to be explained on the halal and haram sports.

Islam permits the Muslim to practice sports and games as long as such sports are beneficial for the person's physical fitness and in accordance with Islamic teachings.

"Most of these games are played in questionable areas with all sorts of people. Some are drug addicts, while others are thugs camouflaging as sports lovers," Hassan Mohammed, 56, told OnIslam.net.

He added that a neighbor's son has recently been arrested by a police patrol, after a battle ensued when he lost to his rival in one of the games.

"Be it pool table or play station, as long as gambling is involved, the game is haram," Suleiman Rashid, a Madarasa (Islamic classes) teacher explained.

In a hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commands Muslims saying, "Teach your children swimming, archery, and horseback riding."

"I agree Muslim youths here are drifting from the Qur'anic teachings on sports. A breed of liberal Muslims have emerged branding the prescribed games as medieval and are opting for a more generational ones," adds Rashid.

He said that people have become entrepreneurs and are taking advantage of the desperate situations most Muslim refugees and immigrants are in at the estate by introducing a variety of un-vetted games.

A number of youths in Eastleigh and the South C estate from whom OnIslam.net sought their stand on the halal and haram games said that a more modern definition of gambling in Islam needs to be set to remove the ambiguity.

"Everything today is competition, luck, and wishful thinking to earn a living. However, one must follow the ways prescribed by Allah," sister Asha Maina, a convert in the South C estate, said.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised his followers to engage in many forms of sport, which even today are considered of the best form of exercise.

According to Sheikh Kutty, a lecturer and scholar at the Islamic Institute, Toronto, in an Internet post on sports and games, games are rated halal or haram by way of weighing their benefits and disadvantages.

"Even if one fails to participate, language and scenery can be haram," stated Rashid.

Halal Sports/Games Outlets

Old men with red-dyed beards chatting and sipping expensive coffees are common scenes in every street within the Eastleigh estate.

Women seat beside jerry cans of camel milk, waiting for customers. School children in Kanzus and hijabs clutching pocket-sized Qur'an copies also "litter" the busy, murky Eastleigh streets.

"We are a forgotten lot. What can we do?" asks Ali.

He told OnIslam.net that there is hardly any halal sports house in the Eastleigh estate. The only one available at Second Avenue 10th Street is congested, and one may waste hours before getting a chance.

Hussein added, "They only offer pool table and accommodate even non-Muslims. I find it hard to mingle with them. They (non-Muslims) at times decline to offer us the chance to play, compounding the problem."

A visit by OnIslam.net to the only casino in Eastleigh at 10th Street found out that people at the estate engage in haram sports activities.

"They well know the gambling games are highly prohibited in Islam, but some do call friends to their homes and play games such a cards, which are more of gambling than amusement," a source at the casino confided to OnIslam.net on anonymity grounds.

Away from the daily chaotic life in Eastleigh, at the South C estate, Maina told OnIslam.net that the estate now has a big number of Muslims and boosts of the number of mosques and other Islamic institutions but has no halal sports house.

She pointed out, "Most people here are businessmen and businesswomen, and they usually drive to the city for work. From there, I think they end up in gyms later in the day, thus there's no need for sports."


Kenya's Vice President, Kalonzo Musyoka, told reporters that a draft National Lottery Bill is being prepared to establish a National Lottery in the country.

He said, "We believe the National Lottery would have greater appeal, since it would fund a variety of good causes such as sports and recreation, health and education, arts, culture and heritage, reconstruction, and development."

Betting Control and Licensing Board (BLCB), a government body charged with licensing and controlling betting and gaming premises and the activities carried therein, informed OnIslam.net that it has never received any application tagged as halal sports.

"We all wish we had a number of halal sports houses here. It'll be fun," Ali concluded.

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