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  • Ainin Sofiya from ELEVEN

Bulls-Eye Mastery and the Light of Life

A glimpse into the philosophy surrounding Life, Faith, and Purpose as a practitioner of Archery and a Servant of Allah

 

Katniss Everdeen, Merida, Hawkeye and Kate Bishop - When you hear the word “archery”, these names are probably the first ones that come to mind. Frankly speaking, these names might even be the only names that we know!


But beyond the bounds of TV, literature, and cinema, there exists a profound legacy of archery deeply rooted in reality and spirituality. While Katniss Everdeen and Hawkeye may have captured our eyes with their impressive feats, there is another world of archery – a world where the vibrant hum of the bowstring carries echoes of a Sunnah Sport and the pursuit of excellence is done in the name of Allah and with the guidance of our faith. 


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عَنْ عَطَاءِ بْنِ أَبِي رَبَاحٍ، قَالَ: رَأَيْتُ جَابِرَ بْنَ عَبْدِ اللهِ وَجَابِرَ بْنَ عُمَيْرٍ الْأَنْصَارِيَّ يَرْتَمِيَانِ فَمَلَّ أَحَدُهُمَا فَجَلَسَ، فَقَالَ لَهُ الْآخَرُ: كَسِلْتَ، سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ: كُلُّ شَيْءٍ لَيْسَ مِنْ ذِكْرِ اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فَهُوَ لَهُوٌ أَوْ سَهْوٌ إِلَّا أَرْبَعَ خِصَالٍ: مَشْيُ الرَّجُلِ بَيْنَ الْغَرَضَيْنِ، وَتَأْدِيبُهُ فَرَسَهُ، ومُلَاعَبَةُ أَهْلِهِ، وَتَعَلُّمُ السِّبَاحَةِ


The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘Everything (that) is not from the remembrance of Allah (Mighty and Majestic is He) is (either) idle entertainment or oversight, except for four: walking between the two targets (archery), training one’s horse, entertaining one’s family and learning to swim.’ (Cited in Imam al-Tabarani’s al-Mo’jam al-Kabir, 1785).


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In the Hadith above, the Prophet SAW encourages four specific activities that are exempt from being classified as “idle entertainment” – the four being archery, horseback riding, swimming, and spending time with one’s family. It’s no surprise that in most Madrasahs in Singapore, you will find that archery remains as a common co-curricular activity – a sport revered and beloved by the Prophet SAW. 


Co-founder of club Simply Archery (est. 2010), Ali Bin Awang – commonly known as Coach Ali – is a master at embodying archery in the spirit of Islam. He is well-known amongst archers within the Madrasah scene for his tenacity and commitment towards guiding young Muslim archers. Beginning his pursuit of the sport in 2008, he found his calling and progressed rapidly. Starting as a rookie at age 51, he soon attained his certification as a coach within the following 2 years - talk about dedication! 


Pictured: Coach Ali has been teaching archery since 2010

Through his lens, we navigate the sport of the bow and arrow – not merely as instruments of entertainment, but as vehicles of connection to a Sunnah that carries the grace of timeless wisdom about life, faith, and purpose in Islam (a guiding light, if you will). “[At] the time, I was crazy about archery,” he said. “I [used to] shoot seven days a week, from 9am to 9pm every day.”


With his dedication, Coach Ali rose through the ranks rapidly and by his fourth year in the game, he received his position as a National Judge. In 2013, he started coaching in a couple of Singapore’s Madrasahs, starting with Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah (MAI) and expanding to Madrasah Al-Junied, Madrasah Wak Tanjong, and Madrasah Al-Irsyad (Primary). Throughout his coaching journey, he has left his students with valuable lessons about faith, health, and life. 


In fact, archery prodigy and two-time NISAC champion Zayna Hashim, met Coach Ali in 2014 when she was a mere Secondary 1 student in MAI. She, too, quickly rose through the ranks under his mentorship and became MAI’s very first five-time gold medalist at sixteen-years-old in tournaments such as the National Inter-School Archery Competition (NISAC) and the Madrasah School Games (MSG). Despite having graduated since, she continues to learn and grow under his tutelage as an archer and assistant instructor under his club, Simply Archery.


Pictured: Zayna, a two-time NISAC champion, attending archery sessions at Wisma Geylang Serai after a long hiatus

When asked about why she has stuck with Coach Ali even after graduating from MAI, she said: 


“One thing that I really like about Coach is that he doesn’t emphasize much about equipment. He emphasizes more on the mind and our own attitudes. In [Madrasah Al] Arabiah, we didn’t have the best equipment but he still made it work and made us champions. I’ll never forget the lifelong lessons he’s taught us,” 


In teaching the ins and outs of archery and its alignment with the faith, Coach Ali often uses the acronym “ASKME” – which stands for Attitude, Skill, Knowledge, Mental Acuity, and Endurance. 


This is his secret to success:


Attitude – Islam emphasizes the significance of a positive and humble attitude. Similarly, as an archer, one must approach the practice with sincerity, gratitude, and willingness to learn. In both roles as an archer and a muslim, attitude comes first in enhancing one’s performance and personal growth. 


Skill – In developing skill in archery, one must learn and master techniques and precision in releasing the arrow from the bowstring. Similarly, Islam encourages the development of skill as a means of contributing to the society to the best of one’s ability. An archer hones their skills through consistent practice, reflecting the Islamic concept of "ihsan," or excellence, in all endeavors.


Knowledge – In archery, both as a mentor and a mentee, one must constantly learn and gain knowledge, not just about the sport but about oneself as an individual. For example, Coach Ali mentioned that he constantly learns from his students as well, gaining knowledge about different bodily capabilities and the varying ways in which he must tailor his mentorship to each student’s circumstances. In Islam, we are encouraged to seek and gain more knowledge about the world, ourselves, and each other. The archer, like the seeker of knowledge in Islam, is encouraged to explore the intricacies of their craft, fostering a deeper connection with the art and science of archery.


Mental Acuity – The mental aspect of archery involves focus, concentration, and discipline. Archery trains these mental aspects, especially with its emphasis on focus. Coach Ali stresses the importance of focus as opposed to aim, claiming that it is more important to put focus on one area rather than worrying about something you are aiming for. 


Endurance – Endurance is the capacity to withstand challenges and persist in the pursuit of one’s goals. Archery is a sport that demands the physical and mental endurance to withstand aches and bruises from the bowstring. In Islam, endurance, or "sabr," is considered a virtue that helps individuals navigate life's trials. The archer's ability to endure physical strain and mental pressure aligns with the Islamic belief in the strength derived from patient perseverance.


With these five important aspects, Coach Ali trains his students to be the best of the best. Simply Archery continues to grow and spread their philosophy and knowledge within the art of archery and life as a Muslim archer. 


“You can try aiming for the bullseye as much as possible, but without focus, concentration, and discipline, your arrow will continue to land off-target. The archer's ability to maintain composure in the face of challenges mirrors the importance of a tranquil mind in Islam,”

 

Simply Archery

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