Notes and Comments

A Unifying Message at the FIFA World Cup

Sarmad Naveed, Canada

An Oscar-winning actor with a globally recognised voice, and a young Qatari man with a rare spinal disorder. 

Their lives are worlds apart, yet with the simple gesture of extending their hands towards one another, they sought to convey a message that brings the world together. 

This was the scene during a part of the thirty-minute-long opening ceremony festivities in Qatar, which played host to the FIFA World Cup 2022. Although many of the news stories leading up to the grand tournament were mostly about everything but football, the stage was used to promote a message of unity. 

This message was rooted in a verse of the Holy Qur’an, which was presented, and explained to those watching around the world:

‘O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognise one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware.’[1]

In a world ever divided, with chasms deepening, this verse certainly was the correct selection to represent Islam’s teachings on global unity. Explaining the purport of this verse, the Second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) states:

‘The verse, in fact, constitutes the Magna Carta of human fraternity and equality. It has firmly laid the axe at the false and foolish notions of superiority, born of racial arrogance or national conceit. All men having been “created from a male and a female” as human beings have been declared equal in the sight of God.’

Islam, and those who truly follow its teachings, seek nothing contrary to the establishment of unity and harmony in the world. As the Second Caliph (ra) states, this verse clearly alludes to the fact that, ‘The whole human race is but one family’.[2]

It’s a Qur’anic principle which was echoed by the Holy Prophet (sa) on the occasion of the farewell pilgrimage:

‘O ye men! Your God is One and your ancestor is one. An Arab possesses no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab. A white is in no way superior to a black, nor, for that matter, a black to a white, but only to the extent to which he discharges his duty to God and man. The most honoured among you in the sight of God is the one who is most righteous.’

This year’s FIFA World Cup saw thousands of people from many different backgrounds and walks of life come together in person, and millions more around the world. Many regarded this year’s tournament as one of the most exciting and competitive in recent memory. It was certainly an historic tournament before it even started, with Qatar being the first ever Middle Eastern country to play host to the FIFA World Cup, and receiving increased scrutiny on everything from the rights of migrant workers to the ban on alcohol in stadiums. While some were apprehensive of the ban, it proved to be a positive development, as many acknowledged the fact that the absence of drinking made the venues much safer and enjoyable.

Then on the pitch, there were the story lines of both victory and heartbreak, breakout performances and devastating disappointments. In the midst of it all, there was Morocco’s magical run. Beyond the African team’s unexpected success on the pitch, they proved to be a unifying force for Arabs, and indeed much of the world as they got behind the underdog team of the tournament.

But the team did more than just wear their country’s colours: they also wore their faith on their sleeves. From the team prostrating after scoring a goal to symbolise ultimate thanks to God, to coming together and reciting al-Fatihah, the opening chapter of the Holy Qur’an before their penalty shootout in the quarter finals, they showed the world how national pride and faith can coexist.

It was this excitement and exhilaration of the World Cup that brought people from all over the world together with family, friends and even strangers, to cheer on what many regard as the greatest tournament in the world.

Sports truly does bring people together in fascinating ways, albeit momentarily.

Islam seeks to permanently bring the world together on the simple basis of humanity, so that everyone may appreciate each other’s backgrounds and heritages and learn from one another, in order to appreciate the diversity of life on this earth.

This is an Islamic principle which is not only being expressed now on the world stage but is something which the world is constantly reminded of by Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

On one occasion, whilst explaining Islam’s philosophy on equality leading to unity, the Fifth Caliph (aba) explained:

‘Islam proclaims that all people are born equal, no matter where they hail from or the colour of their skin. It teaches that no race is superior to another, nor are the people of any particular descent more gifted than others and that Allah is the Provider for all of mankind.  Whilst it is true that how far a person progresses in life is dependent upon his surroundings and his personal effort, the basic faculties granted to mankind remain the same and are not defined by geography or race.’

So, while it’s great that football brought the world together for the few weeks, humanity should bring the world together for eternity.

About the Author: Sarmad Naveed is an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who graduated from the Ahmadiyya Institute for Languages and Theology in Canada. He serves on the Editorial Board of The Review of Religions and coordinates the Facts from Fiction section. He has also appeared as a panelist and host of programmes on Muslim Television Ahmadiyya (MTA) such as ‘Ahmadiyyat: Roots to Branches.’


[1] The Holy Qur’an, 49:14.

[2] Five Volume Commentary of the Holy Qur’an, Verse 49:14.

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