Muslim women from around the world are entering the sports arena more than ever before and rising swiftly to the top. Both budding sportswomen and recognised champions are showing us why it’s really not that frightening to get active, despite the clothing requirements (and the physical challenge!). As well as continuing to campaign for more inclusive rules among official governing bodies, these inspiring women are showing us what they’re made of.
Basketball: Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir (25)
Playing since she was four years old, the gutsy Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir holds the Massachusetts state high school scoring record of either gender. She is also the first player to compete in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in hijab during her tenure at the University of Memphis, customising her basketball outfit to suit her religious requirements.
“Living life as an athlete allowed me to be able to conform to any environment,” says Bilqis. “Sports are so universal; wherever I went I fit right in regardless of my race, ethnicity or religion.”
Weightlifting: Sara Ahmed (18) Amna Al Haddad (26) Kulsoom Abdullah (39)
Who said weightlifting was for men? You wouldn’t want to get into a tiff with these strong women, who’ve also shown that age is no object when it comes to sports.
Egyptian champion, Sara Ahmed, won a bronze medal at Rio this year lifting a combined weight of 255kg, becoming the first Arab woman to win a weightlifting medal and the first Egyptian woman to win an Olympic medal.
Amna Al Haddad, from the Emirates, became the first hijabi to compete at CrossFit Asia in 2012 and at the Arnold Weightlifting Championship in Ohio in 2013. She has since picked up several gold and silver medals at the International Weightlifting Federation Asian Interclub Championships, and has been featured in Nike’s “Inner Strength” series.
Pakistani-American weightlifter, Kulsoom Abdullah, helped open the door for women to wear clothing that adheres to religious requirements at weightlifting competitions. She is the first woman to compete at the international level while wearing hijab.
Taekwondo: Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin (18)
Competing in the -57kg category in taekwondo, Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin won a landmark bronze medal at the Rio Olympics this year, making her the first Iranian woman to win a medal.
Dubbed “The Tsunami” in her home country, she was also the first Iranian woman to win a bronze medal at the 2015 Taekwondo World Championship in May, and gold at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix shortly after.
Mountaineering: Raha Moharrak (29)
The youngest Arab and the first Saudi woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest, Raha Moharrak wanted to test her limits and challenge cultural expectations.
She began climbing in November 2011 and conquered eight mountains within one year. She has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Vinson and Mount Elbrus, among others. On 18th May 2013, she reached the top of the world.
Fencing: Ibtihaj Muhammad (30)
Last but not least, our much-loved US champion, Ibtihaj Muhammad, fenced her way to bronze in the team sabre event at Rio this year.
She said: “What I love about my experience here as a minority member of Team USA is that I’m able to encourage other youth to pursue their dreams, to not let other people dictate their journey for them.”
The participation of these women in such demanding sports has been incredible to see. Their sheer determination has allowed them to transform their lives – and become heroines for generations to come.
These inspiring women really make us want to get our sports gear on and jog ahead!