United Kingdom Mosques Revive Horseback Archery


SURRY, Britain – Following the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), Muslims and mosques in the southern British country of Surry are reviving the centuries-old sport of horseback archery at weekly sessions, which attract many young Muslims.

"Archery is one of those sports that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) specifically recommended that we do, likewise horse riding, and it also helps you to overcome certain fears as well," Coach Jehad Shamis, of organization Archery for All, told the BBC.

"British Asians and Muslims in general are not that good with animals either and it's something that we really need to overcome."

Participating in horseback archery competitions all over the world, coach Shamis now gives weekly archery lessons in a hall at the Woking's Shah Jahan Mosque.

He also oversees the students' riding lessons at local stables.

Currently, the students are learning the two skills separately before combining them next summer.

Recommended by the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him), the sport has witnessed a revival in Britain with the establishment of the British Horseback Archery Association in 2007.

During the lessons, Shamis reads out a sayings of the Holy Last Messenger (peace and blessings upon him), better known as Hadith, in which archery or horse riding is mentioned.

Students are learning the standard finger release method of archery, but also the more eastern or "Mongolian" thumb draw.

“Initially, when people learn archery we teach them with the finger release,” Shamis said.

“It's very similar to what you'll see in the Olympics. But then, with those that are wishing to do traditional archery, we do the thumb draw.

“Although there is disagreement over this, it lends itself to horseback archery because it's a little bit more efficient and easier to release.”

Mosque Role

Shah Jahan Mosque was praised for its role in encouraging young Muslims to play a sport, while observing the daily prayers at the mosque.

“More than anything else I think in our community we never had these facilities before,” Sajida Rehman, a qualified instructor, told the BBC.

“People can come and pray in the mosque but also there are other activities on offer." she said.

Ambar Rachad, 16, is one of the students who learn both skills and is pointed out as "the best" by her mostly female fellow students.

Understanding the significance of archery in Islam, Rachad managed to overcome first difficulties in the games.

“When we first started our lessons, we went back into the history of archery," says Ambar.

“Basically, it's a 'Sunnah' (a practice of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him) which is recommended.

“We've done competitions which are really fun, but every lesson is a competition because we try and beat each other.”

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.5 million.

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