Islam, Oct - Dec 2008

Muslim Prayers At Wrigley Didn’t Work

By Junaid Afeef


An American Muslim Journal
October 05, 2008

Ricardo Pena is a Muslim and a Cubs fan. According to Saturday’s Chicago Tribune Pena was organizing a Muslim prayer for the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon in advance of the Cubs do-or-die game against the L.A. Dodgers later that evening.

Alas the prayers were not enough to bring the Cubs a win, and now the Cubs are done for the season after being swept by the Dodgers in three straight games.

It turns out that one of my friends on Facebook is a friend of Ricardo Pena. My friend posted the Chicago Tribune article on Pena’s prayer “action” and the story generated about 23 comments.

I found the Facebook comments really interesting.

One individual (hereinafter S.J.) said: “Wow, we have people dying of starvation, cancer, economic sanctions, war, poverty, and human rights violations all over the world; here we have 100 people organizing a prayer (not in a mosque, but at a sports field) for a baseball game victory. O Allah (SWT), please tell me this is a joke.”

In response to S.J.’s comment I wrote: “I think its great that these folks are organizing a prayer for the Cubs! Life is full of heartache and tragedy. Sports are a respite from these terrible things. I took the prayers as a humorous and light-hearted event. You go Br. Ricardo!”

There were several posts back and forth between S.J. and Ricardo Pena. My focus here is not so much on Pena. I think what Pena organized was great and I give him a lot of credit for being creative and thinking outside the box. I also give him credit for putting himself out there because, as we all know from the “Horry Kow/Fukudome” incident earlier this year some folks can be downright bigoted at the ballpark.

I’m more interested in S.J.’s comments. I’m going to share several of S.J.’s other comments to give a fuller perspective of S.J.’s point of view:

“I just think such “publicized” organization efforts could be used for more pressing matters, like giving a lecture/giving dawah, holding a food drive, etc. That is all. Personally, I do not think it is fair to pray for one team to win over another. Victory belongs to the most perservering. But I digress.

I did not know your intention behind this, that is between you and Allah (SWT). But in my opinion, I would rather someone put a stronger effort in asking Allah for other things, like taqwa, peace, etc instead of winning a Cubs game.

The Cubs game may be the broad premise for finding common ground with other religious groups, detracting rumors, and trying to promote Islam, but I feel that a different platform should have been used.

I am all for finding common ground. You promoted the concept of worship in Islam according to WBBM, but your primary purpose according to the silly media is that yoiu prayed for a Cubs game. Good for you for putting the name of Islam in public, but do not associate the worship with a team success.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I personally do not like sports associated with Islam. We pray in mosques and do not simply pull a publicity stunt for media attention.

Allah does not help one team win for another team. Maybe another group should organize a group prayer for the opposing team to win, just to show how much better of a grasp they have on taqwa. This will gain even more media attention. One group against another team group of worshippers of the same faith, but with opposing teams.

Sports is controversial, you are always going to have one team against another, and likewise pro and con fans. But I digress. Anyway, like the guy in the link said, morally neutral events are not the usual platform, but maybe you are onto to something here.

Maybe we should start going to bars, strip clubs, and casinos and help those patrons see how wrong their acts are by praying outside of their buildings, and organizing a prayer for the clubs to go out of business.

This will help them stop associating with sin in society and start to see the light. I apologize for my sarcasm, but I am just trying to say that people need to take a step back and realize that sometimes people can do ridiculous things for attention. You got the media’s attention, that was great, but what was the means, a baseball game.”

S.J. is wrong on so many levels.

First and foremost, he is suggesting that because there is suffering in the world, humanity is not allowed to enjoy a few moments of laughter or pleasure? Is S.J. suggesting that Muslims cannot attend sporting events?

Laughter and levity are a blessing from God. These things are a source of peace and used to rejuvenate ourselves from our stressful lives. Following sports and attending sporting events are excellent means of breaking away from work and stress.

Or is S.J. suggesting that prayers can only be done in a mosque? Muslims pray in parks, at the airport, in restaurants and on sidewalks all over America and probably throughout the world. There is nothing that confines prayers to a mosque.

The argument that it is inappropriate to pray for a sports team’s success is unnecessarily nitpicky and wrong.

The results of a sports competition are based on the performances turned in by each side. When sports fans pray for a team or an athlete’s success on the playing field they are essentially beseeching the Almighty to help them play their best. What is wrong with that?

Furthermore, Pena’s event drew great attention to Muslims through the media. it was a great public relations effort. That is great.

What S.J. seems to miss is that the media is not the intended audience. The media is a medium of communication to convey a message to the public. The “media” is not an end onto itself.

Pena’s Cubs prayer gave the public a non-political, non-controversial and light-hearted glimpse at Muslims. It sent a message that Muslims share the same interests and passions as others in the community.

This is a fact but not enough people see it. It is important for society to have a fuller and more accurate view of Muslims. The caricature-Muslim portrayed in the media grossly distorts Islam.

Pena never suggested that the Cubs prayer was in lieu of feeding the hungry, housing the homeless or protecting abused children, so to suggest that this effort is not meritorious because of the existence of other, more pressing issues is a weak argument.

More people need to get out into public life and positive things like Pena. Pena has a website called “Allah for Cubs” where he chronicles his organizing effort for the Cubs prayer.

I wish Ricardo Pena well. I appreciate his efforts.


The following information originally appeared on AllahForCubs.com.

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

UPDATE 10/3/2008 10:15 AM: WBBM Radio 720 interviewed me this morning and will air sometime today. They thought it was a great idea. Please email to let me know you’re coming!

UPDATE 10/3/2008 11:05 AM: ABC 7 News is going to interview me at Friday Prayer at the Downtown Islamic Center. Please let me know you’re coming!!!

UPDATE 10/3/2008 2:50 PM: The interview with ABC 7 went great! It will air tonight and they will cover the prayer at Wrigley Field as well. There’s a lot of buzz and people calling people but I still need email confirmations so I can update the goal thermometer. Please let me know you’re coming!!!

UPDATE 10/3/2008 3:22 PM: There will be a mention in the Chicago Tribune by columnist John Keilman about our event. I’m hearing that people are talking and are inclined to go but have not notified me yet. Please email to let me know you’re coming!!!

UPDATE 10/3/2008 6:22 PM: Here’s a link to the blurb on AM 780 radio website. Allahu Akbar! http://www.wbbm780.com/Special-Cubs-Fan-Wants-Everyone-Allah-In/3078548

UPDATE 10/3/2008 8:12 PM: Here’s a link to the blurb on the ABC 7 News Chicago website. http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?id=6430826§ion=news/local

UPDATE 10/4/2008 11:32 AM: Channel 2 News will be covering the event today. We have only 20 confirmed for attendance. I’ve heard there are more unconfirmed people that will show but I have no idea ho many. Sisters, please come out and observe the brothers praying if you can to increase our numbers. Your presence counts and we need your support. Insha’Allah I will see you all there.

UPDATE 10/4/2008 2:52 PM: Alhamdulilah! The event was a success. We did not hit the 100 Muslim goal but that’s okay. As Bob Uecker said in the movie Major League, our pitch was “juuuust a bit outside!” There were about 25 Muslims who attended so I am very happy with the turnout. The prayer was covered by WGN Channel 9, ABC Channel 7 and CBS Channel 2 news. It should air at the 6 o’clock news and maybe the 10 o’clock as well. May Allah reward all who attended. Also, there were many people who could not make it due to other obligations and being out of town but made dua for us, so may Allah reward them as well. Finally, for those who helped pass the word on to other people, may Allah reward you too. Thank you all for your participation and prayers, let’s hope our cubbies win and more importantly, let’s hope that people begin to warm up to the idea that God is the only one who can grant success, that he is the only one with power to influence the affairs of the universe and that appealing to anything other than Him is fruitless. Jazaakum’Allahu khairun…as-salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatahu.

The Chicago Cubs are on the verge of collapse. They say it’s a curse. They say it’s a disgruntled goat. They say four Cubs’ names end in “no” (Soriano, Zambrano, Cedeno, Fontenot) and therefore winning is a no-no.

They tried to bring a goat to Wrigley. They tried rubbing their lucky rabbit’s feet. They’ve probably even tried to offer Joboo a shot of rum!

As Muslims, we believe that the one and only true God is the Granter of Success. We believe that He is the only One who possesses any kind of divine power whatsoever and the only One who decides whether one is successful or not.

Therefore, I will attempt to mobilize 100 Muslims to come to Wrigley field and offer God a prayer, as Muslims, prostrating in full public view, in order to acknowledge to God that there is none worthy of worship except Him and to ask Him directly to grant our Chicago Cubs success!

They’ve tried the goat, they’ve tried rabbit’s feet, they’ve tried getting Joboo drunk and the Cubs still lose. Why not give this a try?

“GOD does not forgive idolatry, but He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up idols beside GOD, has forged a horrendous offense.” – Quran 4:48.

“It has been revealed to you, and to those before you that if you ever commit idol worship, all your works will be nullified, and you will be with the losers.” – Quran 39:65.

“As for those who discard the worship of all idols, and devote themselves totally to GOD alone, they have deserved happiness. Give good news to My servants.” – Quran 39:17.

“Those who believe, and do not pollute their belief with idol worship, have deserved the perfect security, and they are truly guided.” – Quran 6:82.