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How a Chicago Muslim Women's Sports League Fosters Beautiful Sisterhood & Smack Talk :)
Lifestyle
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Nov 9, 2022
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6 MIN READ
Guest Contributor
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Some of the women of the Chi-Town Muslimah Athletics from its recent baseball tournament.
Guest Contributor
guest writer
By S. Asra Husain
It started with what was a little bit of an usual question.
An acquaintance reached out to me over Facebook in the spring of 2021, noting that our husbands worked together and that we had met through a mutual good friend a few times. She lived close by, and so we made plans to get together. Upon meeting, my new friend looked at me and said, “You look athletic. Do you play sports?”
Not the usual greeting from someone I have just met, but I responded that I enjoyed playing sports but outside of running the occasional 5K, I hadn’t really played anything since law school. She told me about a group of Muslim women who play sports in a league and asked if I would want to join them in softball.
I had played softball in law school and in a rec league through my office before that. I was in, but unfortunately the season had already started and teams had formed so I had to sit the season out.
But soon, my chance would come, and it would bring something wonderful to my life that I didn’t even know was missing.
Chi-Town Muslimah Athletics began in 2018 as a drop-in sports league for Muslim women in the Chicago area led by Asma Farooq Shaikh. The group grew out of Blessed Bonds Fit (BB FiT), a group for Muslim girls in grades 6-12 to exercise and play sports. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the league had to pivot to a changing world where contact sports did not fit in with social distancing. The drop-in model was discarded in favor of tournament play requiring weekly covid testing and masking.
Now, coming out of the pandemic, the league still largely runs on a tournament model with some drop-in sport options offered. What hasn’t changed since it began is the sisterhood and community it offers to women who may not even realize they need it until they join.
The Power of Team Sports and Smack Talk
Some of the women who took part in the ball hockey tournament with Chi-Town Muslimah Athletics. (Author is on the left.) Image source for all images: S. Asra Husain
A few months after sitting out that first softball season, my first experience with the league came through playing ball hockey at a local masjid gym. I had never played hockey before, although I grew up watching the Chicago Blackhawks on television with my dad and am an avid fan.
That season of ball hockey was more hockey exposure than most of the women in the league had been used to. The first several weeks of the season involved skills training and drills as well as learning the rules of ball hockey. We started each session with the head of the league asking all the women to rate how they felt on a scale of one to ten.
Some women would rate themselves low, coming off a tough week of work, family and social obligations. Others rated themselves high, happy to be in the gym and ready to play hockey. At the end of each session the group would go around rating our feelings again and almost unanimously women would yell out, “TEN!!!” or even higher. That’s the power of team sports!
Like me, many of the women join a sport, sometimes without having much experience or background in it and grow to love the community so much that they try other sports. And while the sports change, the spirit of the league remains: A sisterhood founded on the idea that worship of Allah (S) comes in many forms, and that our bodies are an amanah given to us. We must take care of the bodies we have been given.
S. Asra Husain
Soon, teams were formed and tournament play began with two games each Sunday night. The games were quite intense despite almost everyone in the league being a novice player. During the week and between games, the banter and good-natured smack talking would take place on a dedicated WhatsApp group. These weekly games and in-between conversations ranging from who was going to win games the next week to what sport hijabs people recommended to asking how players who were injured were doing built this beautiful community around me.
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The games and practices are about more than just playing a sport and getting some exercise. It is easy to make friends and find people you have a lot in common with when you are a child. School, parents and extracurricular activities help facilitate that. As we become adults, it is a lot harder to find “your people,” the people who share the same values as you and with whom you can easily get along. Chi-town Muslimah Athletics creates this space for many women.
Finding Sisterhood Well Into Adulthood
The ladies (most of them) of Chi-Town Muslimah Athletics.
We lift each other up and help one another discover talents we had no idea we had. At the end of our recent softball season this year two teams played the championship game while most of the league players as well as friends stayed to watch the game, despite it being later in the evening. During the game I served as an umpire.
I was struck seeing one of the team’s coaches giving pointers to the batter for the opposite team, helping her adjust her stance and improve her swing and ultimately getting her on base. This shows the spirit of this league better than I can describe. Sure, there is competition. But it is in the best of spirits, and we all celebrated when the game ended and the league champs were named. Because at the end of the day, we are here to improve one another and have fun. And engage in some fun smack talk. 🙂
The sport offerings change throughout the year from hockey, to volleyball skills and pickleball, to softball and badminton and currently to volleyball tournaments. This is an effort to provide opportunities that appeal to different women’s interests. These sports are offered every year, but there is always talk of expanding options, like maybe trying flag football or softball spring training.
Like me, many of the women join a sport, sometimes without having much experience or background in it and grow to love the community so much that they try other sports. And while the sports change, the spirit of the league remains: A sisterhood founded on the idea that worship of Allah (S) comes in many forms, and that our bodies are an amanah given to us. We must take care of the bodies we have been given.
Some of the ladies of Chi-Town Muslimah Athletics mug for the camera. :)
Each game always considers prayer times, and most teams begin each game with a du’a (both praising Allah (S) and asking for a win and no injuries that week). Each game also ended with high fives and hugs between opposing teams. Each season starts with a team rally where all the teams and their players are introduced with great fanfare. And, a big celebration follows the end of the last championship game.
When the awards at the end of each season are given out to the players, there is one award, the Nusaybah award, named for Nusaybah Bint Ka’ab. This award honors the woman who has shown the spirit of sisterhood during the season. It is coveted as the greatest award that can be earned in our league, even better than the MVP (Most Valuable Player) and MIP (Most Improved Player) trophies that are handed out.
Because no matter the sport, our teams become families, and the bonds are strong because they are greater than just the sport. They are the bonds of a sisterhood of faith. There is no exaggeration when I say this league is a source of faithful joy for so many of us. I pray that wherever you are, you can also find something like this or better yet, start a league like this yourself.
For more information about the Chi-Town Muslimah Athletics, you can find them on Instagram at @Muslimahathletics or contact Asma Farooq Shaikh at chitownmuslimahathletic@gmail.com.
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