13 Best Muslim Athletes Of All Time

This article was last updated by on

13 Best Muslim Athletes Of All Time! Let’s introduce you to some of the best Muslim athletes. Many famous boxers, NBA players, and soccer players are Muslim. However, while some of these athletes are born Muslims, few converted to the faith later in their lives.

Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, with 1.9 billion followers. It makes up 24.9% of the world’s population. Hence, some of the best athletes in the world come from Islam.

Some of the best Muslim athletes
Some of the best Muslim athletes

These athletes have made their name in the history of their respective sports. Despite this fact, even many fans are unknown of the religion they practice. There have been many NBA players who fasted during the NBA season during the Ramadan period.

Almost every player on this list openly practices their religion. However, few athletes are non-practicing Muslims due to circumstances.

So, without further ado, let’s look at the best Muslim athletes.

The list has been prepared with the help of trusted sources around the internet like SportsBrowser, Sportzbusiness, etc.

Let us take a quick look at the table below before diving into the intricate details of the list.

13 Best Muslim Athletes Of All Time

Player Name Sport
13. Rasheed Wallace Basketball
12. Marat Safin Tennis
11. Franck Ribery Soccer
10. Shahid Afridi Cricket
9. Naseem Hamed Boxing
8. Bernard Hopkins Boxing
7. Imran Khan Cricket
6. Hakeem Olajuwon Basketball
5. Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal Basketball
4. Zinedine Zidane Soccer
3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Basketball
2. Mike Tyson Boxing
1. Muhammad Ali Boxing

13. Rasheed Wallace

We will start our best Muslim athletes list with a former professional NBA player, Rasheed Abdul Wallace. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 17, 1974, and is 49 years old as of 2024.

Wallace played 16 seasons in the NBA after Washington Bullets (now Washington Wizards) drafted him. He was the fourth pick in the 1995 NBA draft. Before being drafted, he played college basketball at the University of North Carolina.

Wallace was one of the few Muslim players in the NBA during his time. After making a debut for the Bullets, he played for teams like Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks, and Detroit Pistons.

Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Wallace Playing (Source: BVM Sports)

Likewise, Rasheed also played for the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks before retiring. After retiring, Wallace then became a coach.

Some of his career highlight wins of Wallace include NBA champion, four times NBA All-Star, and NBA All-Rookie Second Team.

After transitioning to a coaching career, Wallace worked as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons and as a head coach for Jordan High School.

In 2021, Rasheed worked as an assistant coach at Memphis, led by head coach Peny Hardaway.

Wallace stopped serving an in-person role but finished the season working remotely on January 13, 2022.

As per some sources, on 13 February 2023, he sent words for the Kansas City Chiefs, his favorite childhood team, after the Super Bowl LVII win, stating that the winners would win anyway.

12. Marat Safin

Marat Safin is a former world No. 1 tennis player from Russia. He was born Marat Mubinovich Safin on January 27, 1980, and is a former politician. He is 44 years old as of 2024.

In the 2008 “USA Today” interview, Safin identified himself as a Muslim. He stated that he is Russian but 100% Muslim. Aside from Russian, he is fluent in English and Spanish speaking. However, he does not speak his native tongue, Tatar.

From an early age, Safin was exposed to Tennis. His parents are former tennis players and coaches, while his sister Dinara Safina is also a former world No.1 professional tennis player. 

Marat Safin
Marat Safin (Source: Twitter)

In the 2000 U.S. Open, Safin won his first Grand Slam after defeating Pete Sampras in the final. Similarly, in 2005, he won the Australian Open after defeating Lleyton Hewitt in the final.

Likewise, he contributed to the victory of Russia in the Davis Cup in 2002 and 2006. Safin was the first Russian male tennis player to reach the Wimbledon semifinals in 2008. However, he lost the game to Roger Federer.

Safin was ranked the world No. 61 at his retirement in 2009. He is also the first Russian tennis player to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2016.

He voluntarily resigned from the position on May 25, 2017, which he joined in December 2011 as a member of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party, representing Nizhny Novgorod.

11. Franck Ribéry

The next athlete on our list is a former professional soccer player from France, Franck Ribéry. 41 year-old Ribéry is considered a fast and tricky player with excellent dribbling skills. He was a captain for Serie A club Salernitana.

Bayern signed Ribéry for the then club-record fee of $2.69 million (€25 million) in 2007. Ribéry won nine Bundesliga titles, six DFB-Pokal, one UEFA Champions League, and one FIFA Club World Cup with Bayern.

Franck Ribéry
Franck Ribéry (Source: talkSPORT)

Ribéry learned about Islam from his Muslim friend, Malik. His friend Malik introduced him to the Quran and the Prophet. Ribéry then converted to Islam upon marrying his wife at the height of his athletic career.

He announced his conversion and changed his name to Bilal. The major European clubs provided Ribéry with halal meals and unique rooms for prayer, seeing his eagerness for his religion.

Ribéry has represented France’s national soccer team 81 times on international platforms. He is a three-time winner of the French Player of the Year and the German Footballer of the Year awards.

Ribery played only 23 league games due to recurring injuries. In the following 2022-23, he played 36 minutes in a game against Roma as he regularly struggled with a recurring knee injury, which led to rumors regarding his possible immediate retirement.

He retired after he terminated his contract with Salernitana on October 20, 2022.

As of 2023, he is in charge as a technical collaborator of the Italian Serie A club Salernitana, which was also his final club as a player.

10. Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi is a former professional cricketer from Pakistan. He was among the most popular and destructive cricketers and ranked fifth as ODI’s wicket-taker. He captained Galle Gladiators in the Lanka Premier League.

Afridi started his cricket journey at a young age. Before being drafted to the Pakistan senior national team in 1994-95, he played for the U-19 championship circuit. After being selected, Shahid made his ODI debut in 1996.

There are several records Afridi has made in his career. For example, he is a world record holder for the fastest ODI century in 37 deliveries. Similarly, he also holds the record for having the most sixes in the history of ODI cricket.

Shahid Afridi
Shahid Afridi (Source: Instagram)

In the 2009 T20 World Cup Final, Shahid was named the player of the match. He led the Pakistan cricket team as a captain from 2009 to 2011. Afridi was captain of the national team for all game formats in 2010.

After the 2015 Cricket World Cup, Afridi announced his retirement from ODI cricket. However, he is still active in other formats of the game. He is also one of the most charitable athletes.

Along with having a charity foundation under his name, Afridi also teamed up with UNICEF to promote an anti-polio campaign in his country. He was nominated among the top 20 most charitable athletes of 2015.

The cricket player played his last game for Quetta Gladiators in the 2022 PSL, which he withdrew mid-season due to back problems.

Afridi has worked with Jammu Janbaz as a mentor for the 2022 KPL while he again joined Mardan Warriors for the inaugural season of the Pakistan Junior League in June.

T10 league, called the Mega Stars League, was launched by Afridi in 2022. He was named the interim chief selector of the Pakistani cricket team by the newly appointed PCB Chairman, Najam Sethi, on 24 December 2022.

9. Naseem Hamed

Next on our list is a former professional boxer, Naseem Hamed. Born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Hamed started boxing professionally at flyweight in 1992. He was ranked the best British featherweight of all time by BoxRec.

Hamed won the European bantamweight title at the age of 20. He then won the WBC International super bantamweight title in 1994. The former boxer held multiple featherweight world championships from 1992 to 2002.

Fans of Hamid called him Prince Naseem and Naz. Dan Rafael of ESPN once even wrote him to be one of the biggest stars in the sport who would sell out arenas before his opponent was even named.

Aside from his unconventional boxing skills, Hamed is also known for his spectacular ring entrances. Hamed would make his entrance sometimes on a flying carpet, a lift, or a palanquin. He re-enacted the video of Michael Jackson’s thriller and wore a Halloween mask.

Naseem Hamed
Naseem Hamed (Source: The Ring Magazine)

Hamed’s ring antics did not end there; he was known for his front somersault over-the-top rope into the ring. Similarly, his hard-hitting southpaw boxing style and formidable one-punch knockout power were also iconic.

Being a proud Muslim, Hamed frequently recited the Takbir aloud before his fights.

In 2015, Hamed was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In addition, he was ranked as the 19th greatest European pound-for-pound boxer of all time by BoxRec as of 2020.

BoxRec ranked Hamed as the 35th greatest European pound-for-pound boxer in May 2022 and the 17th greatest British fighter.

In 2023, a film titled “Giant,” will be produced based on the true story of Nazeem Hamed, popularly known as Prince Nazeem, which Mena Massoud will play.

8. Bernard Hopkins

Bernard Hopkins was born Bernard Humphrey Hopkins Jr. He is a former professional boxer and is one of the most successful boxers of the past three decades.

Hopkins had a rough childhood. By age 13, Hopkins committed the crime and was sentenced to 18 years in Graterford Prison for nine felonies when he was 17.

In 1988, Hopkins was released from prison after serving almost five years. While in prison, he discovered his passion for boxing, so he decided to use boxing to escape his life of crime. It was at the same time Hopkins converted to Islam.

Bernard Hopkins
Bernard Hopkins (Source: eBay)

Immediately after being released from prison, he joined professional boxing. Hopkins made his debut in 1988 but lost the game to Clinton Mitchell. His first world championship came in 1995 when he won the IBF middleweight title.

Hopkins is nicknamed “The Executioner” and later “The Alien” for his great defense and mastery of boxing fundamentals. He held multiple world championships in two weight classes during his professional career.

Hopkins was one of the greatest boxers of the modern era. His professional career span started in 1988 and ended in 2016.

Hopkins became a minority partner with Golden Boy Promotions, with which he remains post-career.

On January 30, 2023, he complimented Gervonta Davis for putting his career first and leaving Floyd Mayweather.

7. Imran Khan

Next, we have the former Prime Minister and former cricket player of Pakistan on our list. He is 71 year-old Imran Khan. Born Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, he was an international cricketer and the Pakistan national cricket team captain.

Khan’s ancestry belongs to the Pashtun ethnicity and the Niazi tribe. Therefore, he is a born Muslim. In the 1971 Test series against England, he started his international cricket journey but made his first-class cricket debut at 16.

Imran Khan
Imran Khan (Source: The New York Times)

During his professional cricket career, Khan served as a national cricket team captain between 1982 and 1992. Under his captaincy, the Pakistan national team won the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Pakistan’s first and only victory in the competition.

Khan is one of cricket’s greatest ever all-rounders and had a record of 3,807 runs and took 362 wickets in Test cricket before retiring. This influential public figure retired from international cricket after the 1987 Cricket World Cup.

After retiring from the cricket world, Khan then entered the political platform. During his cricket career, Khan was offered political positions a few times. However, he is generally described as a nationalist and a populist.

Khan founded a political party in 1996 and then ran for the seat of National Assembly Pakistan in the 1997 Pakistani general election.

In 2010, Imran Khan became the International Cricket Council’s Hall of Famer.

Khan’s highest score was 102, not out with the best ODI bowling was 6 wickets for 14 runs, a record for the best bowling figures by any bowler in an ODI inning.

Khan was the first Prime Minister to be removed from office through a no-confidence motion in April 2022 amid a constitutional crisis.

In November, he also survived an assassination attempt during a political rally in Wazirabad, Punjab.

6. Hakeem Olajuwon

Hakeem Olajuwon is a former Nigerian-American professional basketball player. Nicknamed “the Dream,” 61 year-old Olajuwon is widely considered to be one of the greatest centers and greatest basketball players of all time.

Olajuwon started playing cricket at age 15 after entering a local tournament at the Muslim Teachers College in Lagos, Nigeria. He immediately picked up the game and emigrated from Nigeria to play basketball at the University of Houston.

Houston Rockets drafted Olajuwon as the first overall selection of the 1984 NBA draft. He was an undisciplined player who got into minor fights during his initial years.

Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon (Source: DAR.com)

However, Olajuwon started getting spiritual and became a more devout Muslim later. As a result, he is one of the elite Muslim players of the league who has a strict observance of Ramadan. 

After debuting with Houston, Olajuwon also played for the Toronto Raptors. His career highlight awards include two-time NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, and NBA Most Valuable Player.

Similarly, his awards also include twelve times NBA All-Star, six times All-NBA First Team, three times All-NBA Third Team, etc. In 1996, Olajuwon became a member of the United States team that won the Olympic gold medal.

Olajuwon is among one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. In addition, he became the Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer in 2008.

The NBA named its Defensive Player of the Year award to the Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy in 2022.

As of 2023, his net worth is estimated to be $300 million.

5. Shaquille O’Neal

Many may not know, but one of the greatest former basketball players, Shaquille O’Neal, follows Islamism. More famously known as Shaq, he was born Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal on March 6, 1972, in Newark, New Jersey.

O’Neal’s first and middle names- Shaquille and Rashaun, translate to “little one” and “warrior” in Arabic. He has stated his intention to participate in the sacred Muslim right of passage known as Hajj. Muslims travel to the holy city of Mecca for this sacred right.

From high school, Shaq started playing basketball. The Orlando Magic drafted him as the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. Given his 2.15 height, O’Neal’s height gave him an advantage in the game.

In 1992-93, Shaq won the Rookie of the Year award. He quickly proved himself to be one of the best centers in the league. During the 1995 NBA game, he led his team to the finals.

Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O’Neal (Source: Fadeaway World)

After starting his NBA career with Orlando, Shaq played for other NBA teams like Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, and Phoenix Suns. Similarly, he also played for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.

Some of the notable career highlights O’Neal include four-time NBA champion, three-time NBA finals MVP, and NBA Most Valuable Player. Likewise, he was also NBA All-Star, eight times All-NBA First Team, three times NBA All-Star Game MVP, etc.

O’Neal retired from his professional playing career in 2011. He became the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer in 2016 and was elected to the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2017.

Recent Updates

After his retirement, he became a sports analyst on the television program Inside the NBA.

O’Neal signed a long-term contract extension with Warner Bros. Discovery Sports to continue as a host on Inside the NBA in October 2022.

He was one of the high-profile athletes and celebrities and was a paid spokesperson for FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange in 2021.

His stake in the company was wiped out, as well as that of its customer, after FTX filed for bankruptcy in November 2022.

He had minor ownership of the Sacramento Kings from 2013 to 2022. O’Neal works as the general manager of Kings Guard of the NBA 2K League as of 2023.

During special onboard ceremonies on 14 February, the former NBA player symbolically renewed thousands of couples’ vows while sailing on the carnival cruise line voyages.

O’Neal shared his view on LeBron James, who became one of the highest scorers in the history of the NBA with 38,388th points on 07 February. He felt professional jealousy, but he continued by stating everybody would love to be great.

4. Zinedine Zidane

52 year-old Zinedine Zidane is a former French professional soccer player. Zinedine is one of the former greatest players and one of the world’s most successful coaches.

Zidane is a Muslim of Algerian Kabyle descent. He describes himself as a “non-practicing Muslim.” But this does not stop him from praying before his game.

Zidane is an introverted icon and does not open up more about his religious beliefs. It may also result from racial politics that insulted his racial origins in the past. He also received death threats before the match against Algeria in 2004.

Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane (Source: Wall Street Journal)

In an interview with Esquire magazine, Zidane stated, “I have an affinity with the Arabic world. I have it in my blood via my parents. I’m very proud of being French, but also very proud of having these roots and this diversity.”

After retiring from his professional playing career, Zidane transitioned into a coaching career. He was appointed as a special adviser to Real Madrid’s first team in 2010 and was with the Real Madrid club but resigned in 2021.

Zidane was named one of the greatest living players by the FIFA 100 in 2004. He is one of the eight players who have won the World Cup, the Champions League, and the Ballon dÓr.

Zinedine Zidane was the ambassador for Qatar’s successful bid to stage the 2022 World Cup, which they won to host World Cup 2022.

3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Our number 3 of the famous Muslim athletes is the former professional basketball player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. in New York.

In the summer of 1968, Alcindor converted to Islam while at UCLA. He took the Arabic name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar which translates to “noble one, servant of Almighty.” He studied the Quran; from then, his beliefs were clarified, and his faith was renewed.

Kareem played basketball in his high school and college career, and after college, the Milwaukee Bucks drafted him as the first pick in the 1969 NBA Draft. Jabbar won the NBA Rookie of the Year and NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1970.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Source: Yakima Town Hall)

In his professional career, he also played for the Los Angeles Lakers. His notable career highlight awards include six times NBA champion, two-time NBA Finals MVP, six times NBA Most Valuable Player, etc.

After retiring from his playing career, Kareem transitioned to a coaching career. He was an assistant coach for Alchesay HS, Los Angeles Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers. Likewise, he was the head coach for the Oklahoma Strom.

Even after retirement, he remains the all-time leader in the points scored, field goals made, and career wins. In 1995, he became the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer.

He was ranked No.3 (first in his position) in ESPN’s NBA 75th Anniversary Team list and No.3 (behind Jordan and James) by The Athletic.

As of 2023, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s net worth is estimated to be $25 million.

Kareem praised LeBron James after he scored 38,390 points, surpassing Kareem 40 years record on 7 February, and became the lone all-time scoring leader in NBA history.

2. Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson is considered one of the greatest heavyweight boxers in boxing history. Born as “Michael Gerard Tyson,” he was nicknamed “Iron Mike” or “Kid Dynamite” and later “The Baddest Man on the Planet.”

Tyson had a rough childhood. He spent his childhood in neighborhoods with a high crime rate. He was arrested 38 times by the time he was 13, for which he was sent to the Tryon School for Boys.

At a juvenile detention center, Bobby Stewart discovered Tyson’s boxing ability. Tyson proved Stewart accurate, and in the 1981 and 1982 Junior Olympic Games, he won two gold medals.

Although he was born a Christian, he converted to Islam later, like his idol, Muhammad Ali. It has been speculated that he converted to Muslim while in prison.

It has been reported that his Muslim name is Malik Abdul Aziz though some reports suggest a different name, Malik Shabazz.

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson (Source: Parade)

Tyson is well-known for his ferocious and intimidating boxing style. Although his public image has been marred with controversies, he has been regarded as the most ferocious fighter to step into a professional ring by Sky Sports.

Likewise, Tyson was the first heavyweight boxer to win the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles. Moreover, he is the only heavyweight boxer to unify these titles in succession.

ESPN ranked Tyson as number 1 on the list of “The Hardest Hitters in Heavyweight History.” In addition, Mike is the International Boxing Hall of Famer and the World Boxing Hall of Famer.

Danny Williams is an active fighter at 49, almost 25 years after his most infamous victory against Mike Tyson. WBN spoke to Danny about the chances of facing Mike again which he replied with an offer on 5 February 2023.

1. Muhammad Ali

We have come to the end of our list of famous Muslim athletes. On number 1, we have non-other than the legend of boxing, Muhammad Ali. He is one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century.

Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky. The athlete made his amateur boxing debut in 1954 and 1960. His professional debut game was against Tunney Hunsaker.

An article with a cartoon message that Christianity was forced on slaves by the white establishment caught Ali’s eyes. During that period, racism was all over America. And the cartoon made him realize that he hadn’t chosen Christianity.

In 1961, Clay converted his religion to Islam. His conversion to Islam defined his career and legacy in many ways. After winning the heavyweight championship, he announced his conversion and made a personal declaration of independence.

After the years followed, Ali continued exploring Islam. He was an icon for American Muslims.

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali (Source: HBO)

Ali fought in several historic matches. However, the most significant event was the Fight of the century against George Foreman in The Rumble in the Jungle. Ali won two Grammy nominations for his accomplished spoken word artist.

Death

Ali was also an actor and a writer. He released two autobiographies. After retiring from boxing, Ali became a philanthropist and an activist.

Sadly, this legendary and iconic figure of the 20th century died at 74 on June 3, 2016.

Antoine Fuqua released a documentary in 2019 named What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali.

In 2023, Jake Paul was compared to boxing legend Muhammad Ali while he prepared for the Saudi Arabia showdown with Tommy Fury.

Since boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Jake Paul has been the best promoter in combat sports, as per Professional Fighters League founder Donn Davis.

Conclusion

These are some of the most famous Muslim athletes of all time. While most were born Muslim, some converted to one later in life.

Nevertheless, these athletes are proud of their ancestry and their religion. Do you happen to know any other famous athletes who are Muslims? Let us know!

Boby Rai
Boby Raihttps://playersbio.com/

Boby Rai

Boby Rai is a dedicated writer who specializes in capturing the essence of sporting excellence through his unique lens. As the creative mind behind numerous sports-centric projects, he brings a fresh perspective to the world of athletics, blending insightful commentary with captivating narratives.

Expertise:

Sports Journalism Feature Writing

Highlights

  • Boby's writing transcends conventional boundaries, offering readers a glimpse into the lesser-known stories.
  • His feature articles provide a deep dive into the human side of sports, exploring the emotions, challenges, and aspirations.

Experience

Armed with a passion for sports and a gift for storytelling, Boby has honed his craft through years of immersive experiences in the field. With a keen eye for detail and an unwavering commitment to authenticity, he continues to inspire and inform readers through his thought-provoking work.

Related articles

Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share article

Latest News