NFL's Abdullah brothers, Hamza and Husain, are known as forces on the football field. But over the last year, it has been their pursuit of faith off the field that has gripped many.
Giving up lucrative contracts and risking never playing professional football again (Hamza has yet to be re-signed), these brothers from South Central Los Angeles visited mosques across the U.S. before undertaking their Islamic obligation of performing the pilgrimage, or Hajj.
Their devotion to their faith and football first made headlines in 2010 when the Abdullah brothers fasted for the thirty days of Ramadan while continuing to play games and take part in training. In a recent interview with Al Jazeera's The Stream when asked about his regimen and working with his coaches and trainers, Husain said that "during Ramadan, you are abstaining from food and drink and they start to question and look at things differently but we never asked for special treatment and we still go out and produce and some of my best games were during the month of Ramadan." Hamza added that "it is very difficult but you just have to know your body, you have to be smart."
The brothers then embarked to Mecca to take part in the "less pilgrimage" of Umrah, after which they both felt an overwhelming need to return for the Hajj. As free agents with no contract to uphold, they felt it was the ideal time to pursue that dream. Prior to their pilgrimage though, the Abdullah brothers went to thirty different mosques in the U.S. as part of the 30 for 30 Abdullah Brothers Ramadan Tour to visit and speak with the community youth. "We've blessed with this platform and we just wanted to have a positive impact on different people in different places" Husain said.
Such a risky decision may be hard for most to comprehend, but both brothers were unshaken in the choice they had made. "What we did last year, the most noticeable thing we sacrificed was the NFL…but when you sacrifice, you are doing it for a reason and when you are doing something in the name of God, it makes others things look minute," Husain states.
Though Husain left the Minnesota Vikings for this journey, he recently signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Hamza, however, left the Arizona Cardinals and has yet to be signed again, though he feels that at age 29, he still has a long career ahead.
"I know I still have a lot to give. I have played 7 years and would like to play another 7 years" he stated.
Though he is hoping for a return to the NFL, he again reverts to his faith with confidence in what lays ahead.
"If I'm done, then that's just the will of God."