Islamic Studies

Muslim sprinter wins Olympic sprint dressed head to toe in hijab

Sprinters have long been squeezing their muscular frames into the most eye-wateringly skimpy, tight and revealing costumes imaginable.

But one female athlete at this year’s Olympics is bucking the trend for bulging lycra and naked torsos.

In 2004, Bahrain’s Ruqaya Al Ghasara, a devout Muslim, was the first athlete to ever take part in an Olympics wearing a hijab.

Today, Al Ghasara won her heat of the women’s 200m sprint at the Bird’s Nest stadium – despite being clothed head to foot.

Al Ghasara finished first followed by France’s Muriel Hurtis-Houairi and Sri Lanka’s Susanthika Jayasinghe.

Admittedly, Al Ghasara ‘s hijab is a rather sportier version of the traditional dress.

Clinging to her body as she powers down the track the hijab completely covers her head, arms and legs.

Known as a Hijood – or hijab combined with a sports hood – the costume was specially designed for Al Ghasara by an Australian sports clothing company.

It allows Muslim athletes to compete while still adhering to the strict modesty required of their faith.

Al Ghasara, who was the Bahrain flag-bearer at last week’s opening ceremony, jas said the Hijood has improved her performance.

‘It’s great to finally have a high performance outfit that allows me to combine my need for modesty with a design made from breathable, moisture-controlled fabric,” she said.

‘It’s definitely helped me to improve my times being able to wear something so comfortable and I’m sure it will help me to give my best performance at Beijing.

‘I hope that my wearing the hijood sports top will inspire other women to see that modesty or religious beliefs don’t have to be a barrier to participating in competitive sports.’

In 2004 Al Ghasara defied objections from fundamentalists in her village to take part in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, running in the 100 metres.

And in 2006 she won the women’s 200m final at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, making her the first Bahraini-born athlete to win a major international athletics gold medal.

About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • salam,
    this amazed me. when i was in middle school and highschool i played bball and soft ball, as well as cross country for a semester in college. It was one of the hardest things to 1) play while being a hijabi and having people watch your every more and 2) play with a ton of layers of clothing on. She made me want to get back into cross country. mashaAllah.

  • Does “hijab” mean only outward coverings ? What about its inner dimension ?
    Are Muslim women really allowed to play games in front of the non-Mahram males ?

  • Our goal should be only doing what ALLAH subhanahu wa-taalla told us that he likes , from the Quran and Sunnah , not what we think he likes.
    There is a reason why women pray behind men . It is not proper for a muslim woman to do SOUJOOD In a place like this , May ALLAH , Subhanahu wa talla teaches and helps do what pleases him.

  • Since when has wearing figure hugging lycra become ‘hijab, head -to-toe’? We can still see the sisters body shape which does not fulfil the criteria for hijab. We should really be careful as to what we term ‘hijab’.

  • Exactly, women prayed behind the men in the Prophet’s (saw) mosque, so if you came late, which I am sure people did in those times as well, or left early while people were still praying their sunnah, they probably saw women making sujood. In a masjid in our area the women can pray behind the men in the main prayer area when its not busy. So you inevitably see sisters praying, and yes, making sujood.

  • Brother JV, note that the Prophet’s mosque did not have walls or doors at the time , so people came in and left from the side or the front entrance, as for the mosque in your area , i am sure that the brothers will lower the Gaze when passing by the sisters area . How can we compare this to 2 million non muslems eyes looking at this muslem sister . Let us remember the hadeeth that asks every muslim man [ Do you like this for your sister , wife , or daughter ] you will fined the right answer. Gazak ALLAH khair

  • the real question I think is “do tight (but covering) clothes fall under hijab?”. sometimes sisters go into beaches w/ hijab on thinking its ok as well……

  • Guys,

    I don’t think anyone is trying to claim that her dress is an ideal Islamic dress. The point is, as Imam Suhaib said, she’s trying to fuse her identity with an Islamic articulation. She had the courage to wear a hijab (along with full clothing) in front of millions of people and she made a statement saying, “I am a Muslim!.” If you read the comments on the other post on this blog of her picture, you will see how many sisters felt empowered by her courage. If she can wear a hijab in front of millions of people, the sisters felt like they can wear a hijab to work and school without being afraid. So instead of us trying to ostracize her and bringing out the ‘Haram Police’, we need to welcome people like her into the community and allow them to express themselves and guide them gently if they’re doing something un-Islamic.

    Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction… (al-Qur’an 16:125)

  • Young muslem girls should learn what is right for them to do as muslims , and what is not proper to do , mixed messages , like [ do wrong , and then we teach you what is right later, will not build a strong muslim identity .

  • It allows Muslim athletes to compete while still adhering to the strict modesty required of their faith.

    This quote from the article kind of bothers me.

    And I don’t think anyone is ostracizing anyone else, I just think opinions are being shared. There’s no doubt in my mind that a sister like this has noble intentions, and iA she’ll be rewarded.

    But we can’t mistake noble intentions for acceptable actions. I’m not as much concerned about the sujood as I am by the “fusion” of identities. I’m not saying women shouldn’t compete in sport, but a distinction needs to be made between what’s right and what’s progress towards right (which is relative, of course).

    It’s the same issue with Muslim bands/music.

  • That being said, Zubair is right in saying that no matter the spiritual state of anyone (not that we know, anyways), a person should be welcomed and invited whether they wear short sleeves or niqaabs, smoke or use miswaak, because the only way we can better ourselves is together. Through community insha Allah.

  • I think from a fiqh angle the base ruling of Hijaab is to cover the awrah where the skin cannot be seen. The condition of being loose (which is from ijtihad) is seen as perfecting the purpose of Hijaab therefore we could say mustahabb or highly recommended. It’s like the issue of zawajal-misyaar. The strongest opinion amongst our scholars is that it is a valid marriage contract. That being said it isn’t seen as a contract whicH fulfills the full meaning of marriage since the husband isn’t always with his wife and/or doesn’t provide for her financially and they may purposefully try not to have kids. But according to all schools of thought that whoever married under these conditions has a valid contract.

    So lets not say that this sister is not a muhajjabah or that she is rebellious for what she is doing. You should have seen the many “Muslim” runners who were basically in panties and a bra ouT there. Lets look at this for what it is in the scope of it’s own reality. We can’t judge the millions of spectators with our high standards of “awrah” and “Haya”. The fact is as an American I can say that there is a very low chance that almost no one was attracted to this sister because of her “revealing” clothes. On the contrary, people saw a Muslim woman who looks akward, but is clearly proud of her identity. Believe it or not, that is what we need in our Ummah. At a masjid picknick it would be strange and possibly offensive for the old school imigrants to see a race among girls dressed like this, but would it be so bad? Lets lighten up a little.

  • Br Abu Majeed, Can you direct me towards any book/text where hijab is discussed in the manner you have? I never knew that the asl was covering skin and being loose was from ijtihad i thought both were covered by nass.

    JazzakAllahu Khayr for the info though



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