Today, the UK celebrates National Fitness Day. We all know how important it is to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle; but occasionally little things like family, work and school – AKA life – can get in the way.
Even so, we think Fitness Day is good motivation to go that extra mile – to head to the gym, to make that spin class, to run, to swim or to even just walk instead of drive.
If you’re still not convinced, here are a few amazing Muslim sportswomen to get you in the mood to move!
Majiziya Bhanu is a 23-year-old female bodybuilder, powerlifter and arm wrestler from Kerala, India.
Earlier this month, she became the first woman to compete in a bodybuilding competition while wearing a hijab, when she took the stage during the women’s portion of the Mr Kerala event in Kochi.
Bhanu, who had already won several powerlifting and arm wrestling competitions, did not feel nervous before posing for the judges (she was wearing a full-length, form-fitting suit with her hijab): “I feel proud to wear the hijab, which is a part of my identity,” she told IANS. “It does not limit me in any way but gives me dignity and strength.”
Bhanu, a dental student, began training for powerlifting two years ago. While a few men in her local gym were initially skeptical, the intensity of her workouts put their doubts to rest.
Bhanu now hopes she can help other girls follow a similar path – once she had finished her studies: “I will pursue my dream of setting up an academy which will be a multi-disciplinary one, including martial arts, powerlifting, arm-wrestling and bodybuilding. It would give special importance to girls. I am sure I will be able to pursue my passion and wish to empower women.”
Zeina Nassar is a boxer from Berlin, Germany. The 20-year-old, whose parents are Lebanese, had to fight for her right to wear a hijab while competing. With the help of her coach, Nasser successfully challenged a rule that outlawed hijabs in the ring. Despite being crowned the 2018 German Champion, she describes the moment as her greatest achievement: “This was probably the most important triumph of my entire career,” she told Material Magazine. “Something that, even now, years later, keeps me passionate and lends me the strength I need to push through and overcome every obstacle.”
Nasser recently appeared in Nike’s latest ‘Just Do It’ campaign, alongside Colin Kaepernick.
Ibtihaj Muhammad is a saber fencer who competed for the United States in the 2016 summer Olympics in Brazil. The 32-year-old won the bronze medal as part of Team USA in the Team Sabre, making her the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.
As a hijabi, an American and an Olympian, Muhammad served as an inspiration to Muslim women across the world during the summer of 2016. Her impact was so great that Mattel even released a Barbie in a hijab, which was designed after Muhammad.
Although not technically an athlete, Jawahir Jewels’ achievements are no less impressive. About a year ago, the Telegraph newspaper called the 23-year-old “the most remarkable referee in England”.
Jewels is a Muslim woman of Somali heritage who is from north west London. Fulfilling a role rarely occupied by Muslim Somali women in hijabs – let alone women at all – Jewels says she never gets tired of the looks on players’ faces when they realise she’s going to be refereeing their game.
“I love it,” she told the Telegraph. “Sometimes I have to tell them about five times: ‘Yeah, man, I am your referee.’ And they usually go: ‘No way, when’s the proper ref coming?’”
A hijabi reffing a Sunday League match – now that really is inspirational.