Over the past year we’ve written a couple of blogs about Sonny Bill Williams, a rugby player from New Zealand who may be the only Muslim in the professional game – and if he’s not the only one, then he’s one of very few.
Sonny Bill, who stars for the All Blacks national team and the Auckland Blues at club level, has for the past decade or so been one of the most popular and much-discussed (he’s made a few controversial rugby-related decisions in his career) players in world rugby.
But whatever people think of his performances on the pitch, few would contest his global appeal in the game. This is why we love the fact he’s so open and proud of his faith on social media, as it shows it, in all its beauty, to people who may not be very familiar with Islam.
Recently, Sonny Bill took to Instagram to document his Umrah – the non-obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca (you may remember we told you about Paul Pogba’s last year). Check out some of the photos from his Umrah.
While the pictures were greeted with a wholly positive response, some balked at the photos where he is wearing an Ihram, a simple garment that demonstrates how we are all equal before God.
As you can see, Sonny Bill’s exposed right arm is covered in a traditional Polynesian tattoo which he – along with many New Zealand rugby players – has to honour his Samoan heritage.
As many people believe that Islam forbids tattoos, some commenters were quick to condemn the Kiwi for his ink. However, they were soon drowned out by people who noted that he got them prior to converting.
On top of this, they argued that Sonny Bill’s willingness to explore his faith through Umrah should be respected even if you don’t agree with his tattoos.
In the end, his ink isn’t really the point, is it? Tattoos or none, it’s great to see a sports star moving closer to God through such a humbling, beautiful journey.
And it’s a bonus that the vast majority of social media recognised this.