Was Chiefs Player Husain Abdullah Penalized for Muslim Prayer?

Chiefs defensive player, Husain Abdullah, picks of Tom Brady’s pass!  I love it.  He then runs it back for a touchdown.  Tom Brady gets knocked down in the process.  I love that too.  Husain Abdullah slides on his knees in the end zone.  This isn’t rugby!  You don’t need to do anything like that to score a touchdown.  You don’t literally have to touch the ball down to the ground to score like you do in rugby (a sport that is way better than American football!).  But, whatever, I’m used to celebrations in the end zone.  I would assume that it’s OK to slide in the end zone, but I don’t know the rules about what constitutes a penalty for celebrating in the end zone, or if celebrations are fine on the sideline – or not acceptable at all – I just don’t know.  I don’t watch much football. I just watch the highlights that appear in my Yahoo news feed.

Here’s the big controversy, after the slide onto his knees, Husain Abdullah, goes into a prostrate position that resembles a Muslim prayer position.  And Husain is a Muslim!  So, he is praying to Allah, clearly, AND he gets PENALIZED! Christians do this all the time in NFL games – they get on a knee to pray, or they make the sign of the cross (which indicates not only the work of Jesus of Nazareth, but it is an invocation of the Triune Lord), or they point to the sky to indicate that God gets the glory.  Tim Timbow comes to mind, though he hasn’t played in the NFL in awhile.  Tebow never received a flag for excessive celebration, but Husain Abdullah, making a Muslim prayer DID receive a 15 yard penalty.

Husain Abdullah prostrates himself in the end zone in prayer to Allah after scoring a touchdown.
Husain Abdullah prostrates himself in the end zone in prayer to Allah after scoring a touchdown.

Husain said after the game that he thought the penalty was because of the slide onto his knees!  Not for the prayer!  He never spoke to the ref about it, and the ref didn’t speak to him!  The ref announced that the penalty was “for falling to the ground on his knees”!  This could mean he was flagged for the prayer, OR it could mean that he was flagged for the manner in which he fell/slid into the prayer position.

This obviously is controversial because Christians don’t get flagged for their signs of worship, thanks, and praise to the Triune Lord!  Was Husain flagged for the prayer, the prayer that was made to Allah in a clearly Muslim position of prayer?

Is this a sign of prejudice?  Is this a sign of intolerance that the Muslim gets penalized, and the Christian does not?  Or was it really a penalty for the slide?  Does the manner in which a player gets into the prayer position make a difference?  Christians haven’t slid into a kneeling position to prayer!  Though Tim Tebow likes to show off his guns in the manner in which he kneels when he WAS a player in the NFL.

The famous, or infamous, Tim Tebow prayer position during a football game.
The famous, or infamous, Tim Tebow prayer position during a football game.

Or is this a sign of ignorance?  Did the ref not know that Husain Abdullah was praying?  Did he not know the physical posture in which Muslims pray?  Was he just not accustomed to seeing Muslim players pray in the end zone, because there aren’t too many Muslims scoring touchdowns in the NFL, who are then wanting to display thanks to Allah?

Also, I’d love to know when the flag was actually thrown.  Was it thrown on the slide?  If it was, this wasn’t prejudice.  If it was thrown after… then this is still open to debate with the only true way of knowing if this was prejudice or ignorance, by asking the ref some questions.

For more questions, here are some theological questions for Christians:

Does it matter what physical position is in to pray?  Why do Christian players get on a knee to pray?  Couldn’t they just as easily pray and give thanks in the process of running of the field, since there are no set mandates on physical posture for praying exhorted in Scripture?  I know that I pray as a drive, in the midst of conversations, when I lift weights, when I go for walks, as I listen to music, or watch TV, throughout my entire day…

Why do we bow our heads and close our eyes as Christians to pray?  It’s not in the Bible saying that we must do this, is it?  And if I had to close my eyes and bow my head, and hold my hands together to pray, I wouldn’t be able to pray in all the times I listed above!

Here are some theological questions for Muslims:

Do Muslims have to be in a prostrate position to pray to Allah?  Can Muslims pray to Allah as they go about their daily activities?

Are Muslims able to pray in a direction that is not facing Mecca?  Was the end zone in which Husain prostrating himself facing Mecca?  If it wasn’t, is that a problem?  What if he scored on the other end zone later in the game, would that be conflicting at all in terms of the direction he was facing?

When Christians pray, we can pray about anything on our hearts and minds.  Scripture tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).  Is it this way for Muslims?  Can Muslims present any request to Allah?  Or are the prayers rote, repetitive prayers?

Christians can pray at all times, and in all places, and God will hear the prayer that is made in his name.  Is it this way for Muslims?  Or must the prayers be made at the five daily prayer times to be heard by Allah?  If so, was Husain’s prayer even acceptable by Allah?  Especially if it wasn’t facing Mecca?

I’d love to hear feedback to these questions!  Comment away.  Subscribe to this blog or follow me @AndyWrasman on Twitter. 

Check out my book, Contradict – They Can’t All Be True!

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Andy Wrasman

I live in Lilburn, GA, with my wife and two young kids. I am a pastor at Oak Road Lutheran Church. I've written a book called, Contradict - They Can't All Be True. Be sure to visit my other website: https://www.contradictmovement.org.

2 thoughts on “Was Chiefs Player Husain Abdullah Penalized for Muslim Prayer?

  1. Excellent questions at the end.

    Some points
    1. Muslims believe prostration is the place where we are closest to God, as it is a position that places one in the utmost humility before his Creator. Jesus shared this, as noted in Mathew 26:39, he also prayed in prostration to Allah in his most intense moments. (Jesus referred to God as “Allaaha” per his language)

    2. Muslims can pray anytime, any position, any direction while doing anything really. There is regular prayer and there is the 5 time Salat prayer. The salat prayer is formalized and requires on to face Mecca.

    3. What Hussain was doing is commonly called a sajdat ul shukr which is a simple prostration that can be done at any time one is feeling extremely thankful or in an emotional state and one feels prayer with ones hands or in their heart isn’t enough. Praying in one’s heart, with one’s hands up in air, or sajdat al shukr like Hussain doesn’t require one to face Mecca

    4. Showing God’s attributes in ones self is a form of worship in Islam. Ie serving ones mother, serving the poor and the needy and the weak, etc are all considered forms of worship.

    Hope that helps.

    1. Thanks for the answers Harris. Do you know if what you wrote is universally accepted beliefs about prayer amongst Muslims?

      Thanks so much. I knew I could get feedback from you.

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