Hakeem Olajuwon A Ramadan Interview
One of the NBA's all-time greats, Hakeem Olajuwon talks about the gift of Ramadan and finding peace in Islam.
In fact, he says, “If you do it for the reward, you get punished. If you get the opportunity to take a brother back to his hotel, that’s a huge reward, because you’ve done a good deed.”
Olajuwon says he likes to talk about faith with his teammates, particularly devout Christians. Some of them, he says, “respond very well” to his polite--but persistent--efforts to convert them.
He says, for example, that when Christians talk about being “saved,” they are describing a reliance on Jesus as “truth.” But according to the Qur’an, he says, only Allah represents truth. And people who don’t trust in Allah, he says, are living in what the Qur’an describes as “the house of a spider.”
His conversations have led to some interesting exchanges. Once, a Christian teammate teased him for not eating pork. Olajuwon shot back: “If you followed your book, you would know you can’t eat it either.” (The Book of Leviticus proscribes eating pork, but that religious law is widely ignored by Christians.)
Another time, he got into an impassioned discussion of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity with a teammate. First, Olajuwon says, his colleague said that Muslims “just don’t understand the Trinity.” But eventually, Olajuwon wore the man down to the point that he gave in, saying, “Nobody cares about it anyway.” Olajuwon lets out a deep chuckle at the memory.
“If Christians follow the true teachings of Jesus, they come to Islam,” he says. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet--just like other prophets, such as Moses, Abraham, and Muhammad—who taught that people should submit solely to God, seek justice, and show compassion for each other.
Ever the evangelist, he is meanwhile anxious to spread Islam’s truths to other Muslims.
"In the United States, I have an opportunity to interact with Muslims from different parts of the world," he says. "People bring new ideas from their own culture and background and try to introduce them as part of Islam." But usually, he says, when they actually study the Qur'an, they learn otherwise.
"Here, the information is more accessible" than in most Muslim countries, he says, because American Muslims tend to place a premium on understanding their faith rather than merely practicing a brand of cultural Islam from the Old Country.