What African-American Muslims Can Learn From Khabib Nurmagomedov


One incident in the biography of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, describes an incident that happened when the Prophet (pbuh) was about fifty years old. He was walking when encountered a famous wrestler in Mecca named Rukana. Rukana was Qurayshi and hated the Prophet (pbuh) for preaching Islam. When Muhammad (pbuh) saw him Rukana said: “Why don’t we wrestle and then we’ll talk.”

The Prophet (pbuh) agrees. They start to fight and in the match the Prophet (pbuh) picks up Rukana and slams him. Rukana is shocked because he’s never been beaten before. So the Prophet (pbuh) says: “Let’s go again.” Again, the Prophet (pbuh) slams him. Rukana is more shocked because now it’s happened twice. The Prophet (pbuh) says: “Again?” So, they wrestle a third time and the Prophet (pbuh) picks Rukana up and slams him.

Dumbfounded, Rukana says: “You have to understand I’ve never been beaten before. No one has ever slammed me on the ground before; I don’t understand what’s going on.” The Prophet (pbuh) then says “Do you want me to show you share with you something even more miraculous? There is no god but Allah and I am his Messenger.” Rukana would accept Islam. (mentioned in: Abu Dawud (4/341), At-Tirmidhi (4/247), Imam Al-Bukhari’s At-Taareekhul-Kabeer (1/82,221), Al-Haakim in Al- Mustadrak (3/452))

Martial arts have always been a part of the Black Muslim tradition. Malcolm X once said, “I frankly believe every Negro in America should learn Karate and Judo.” In his autobiography, Malcolm X  said that when he was asked “why is your Fruit of Islam being trained in Judo and Karate. He commented, “An image of black men learning anything suggesting self-defense seemed to terrify the white man. I’d turn their question around: Why does Judo or Karate suddenly get so ominous because black men study it? Across America, the Boy Scouts, the YMCA, even the YWCA, the CYP, PAL-they all teach Judo! It’s all right, it’s fine-until black men teach it!’

Today, African American Muslims need to continue helping our people learn the martial arts.  In order to do this, we can learn a lot from our Muslim brothers in Dagestan.  Khabib Nurmagomedov, born September 20, 1988, is a Muslim mixed martial artist from Dagestan. Dagestan is an eastern European country in the Caucasus region. It was part of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Isam has been a major religion in this region since the 8th century during the caliphate of Umar ibn Khattah (ra). The Dagestani Muslims have a reputation for being fierce
fighters and unapologetically Muslim. In the short time he’s been in the U.S. Khabib has achieved an unparalleled level of success in the UFC. He is a master of Sambo and a Black Belt in Judo.  When discussing the domination of Muslim Dagestani fighters in MMA, Khabib Nurmagomedov has noted that wrestling is part of the culture. Kids from very young wrestle and at family events, kids wrestle. This shows how the Sunnah of wrestling has been incorporated into the culture.

Many commentators have noted that Khabib’s domination in the UFC was tied to his devotion to Islam. This obvious link between faith and fighting has caused many to comment on the discipline that Khabib and the
members in his circle exhibit. Podcaster and UFC commentator Joe Rogan states about Khabib and the fighting camp he established in Dagestan: “There’s something to whatever Khabib is doing that is not just technique. “”It’s not just that they have great technique. It’s not just that they are tough guys. They have this devout ideology that they live their lives by. They are so devout in their religious beliefs. They have so much confidence.”

Internet sensation and former kickboxing champion Andrew Tate said: “And this Khabib guy, I knew Khabib was gonna win. Khabib is a strict Muslim. I believe in the power of Allah. Train, Allah. Train, Allah. Train, Allah. There’s nothing else to his life. Do you want to go spend millions of dollars? No. You want to go to the club? No. Train and Allah. That’s it. How the f*** you gonna beat that guy? He’s the best.”Renzo Gracie, a prominent member of the Gracie clan that founded Gracie JiuJitsu, stated that it was unlikely that Khabib could be defeated by a current Gracie Jiujutsu practioner: “I’ve never seen anyone train like him. His a very strong religious Muslim. He doesn't drink. He prayers everyday on time…He loves fighting and trains hard.”

To be competitive in the world of mixed martial arts he needed to be able to do more than wrestle. He recruited Javier Mendez, a non-Muslim, kicking boxing specialist who improved his striking skills. Mendez would state
about Khabib:
“These guys are Muslim through and through 100%. They are the most loyal and most respectful fighters I have ever met in my entire life. Khabib has been with me for ten years and not one time has he ever disrespected. It’s the greatest feelings to have these guys treat you with that much respect.”

He echoed Rogan who said “The Islamic fighters out of Dagastan, they are some of the most dominant fighters and some of the most religious fighters. .. .”

At Khabib’s fighting camp in Dagastan, Islamic values are woven into it. Belal Mohammed who participated in the fight camp of Khabib states that they all train together and stop their training for the daily prayers and continue the training. He describes a moment when an individual from Khabib’s camp shared a video from a t.v show that featured a woman in a bikini and Khabib reprimanded him informing him that they needed to be held to a higher
standard. A stunned Joe Rogan stated,” They cant  even look at girls in bikinis and videos?” and Belal Mohammed stated no. Joe Rogan states,” The guys out of Khabib’s camp.. All they care about is family, religion and training. They aren’t partying. They aren’t chasing girls. They don’t drink. They are the most dominant fighters.”

The Sunnah of wrestling is something we as African American Muslims must begin to instill within our culture.   We must studying the grappling arts of Judo and its derivatives such as Brazilian Jiujutsu.  Now we do not all need to be UFC fighters, but our culture and community would be greatly strengthened by the study and training of martial arts.

There are five benefits to training in open hand combat: One, physical fitness. Conditioning and being in shape are a plus. Two, mental fitness. Becoming physically stronger enhances mental strength. Sparring, rolling, and
competing trains the mind in how to deal with stress and anxiety.

Third, the obvious—self- defense. You must be able to protect yourself and your loved ones. Four, it instills confidence. A result of being physically fit and capable of defending yourself is the willingness to confront
challenges with the belief that you’ll prevail. You will carry yourself in a such a way that commands respect even from your adversaries. Our posture will improve, we will stop sagging our pants as this is a liability in a fight or flight scenario. Five, is mutual respect in the black community.

Anyone who has spent time in a dojo or a fight gym can attest to the mutual respect between all present. Even though they would spar intensely they would shake hands and hug. Knowing that the man we run into can fight and is willing to defend his life, his family, and his honor will cause us to take each other more seriously. Gender relations will improve asmore black men become dependable protectors and fearless warriors. Fifth, is discipline.
Discipline is doing what you should even when you don’t feel like it.

Training when tired is one of the best gifts you can give yourself because it will pay off when you least expect. Muhammad Ali once said: “I hated every minute of training, but I said dont quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” Discipline is the bridge between dreams and reality. It is an investment in yourself. Sixth, martial arts provide a philosophical component to combat. A trained fighter isn’t feral animal.

They are disciplined with their emotions. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “The strong man is not the one who can overpower others (in wrestling); rather, the strong man is the one who controls himself when he gets angry.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 6114, Book 78, hadith 141). The fraternity of a gym or dojo encourages self-restraint.
Training in the martial arts teaches you to focus on technique which distracts you from
becoming overrun by emotions.


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