Cairo/Kuwait: Saudis and Kuwaitis have bitterly lashed out at a Kuwaiti religious figure who claimed that Liverpool football star Egyptian-born Mohammad Salah had been punished by God for failing to fast.
The player, a practicing Muslim, sustained a shoulder injury after he tangled with Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos.
The forward, who has scored 44 goals for Liverpool this season, tried to continue but shortly afterwards went down again. He was inconsolable and walked off the field in tears.
The game on Saturday coincided with the 10th day of Ramadan, the month during which Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise until sunset.
However, Mohammad Salah reportedly did not fast on that day to be in shape for the match.
Several religious scholars said that football players could avail of the licence not to fast if they felt that their health would be at risk.
They would have to fast on another day after Ramadan, the scholars said.
“God punished Mohammad Salah over his decision not to fast,” Mubarak Al Badhali told an Arabic newspaper and subsequently posted on his Twitter account.
“Although he had the right not to fast as he was travelling, he had no right to fast to play a match. We do know he is a good Muslim and that he did not fast because of the pressure, but that is no excuse as it is lack of knowledge. This injury which might bar him from playing for Egypt in the World Cup finals will serve to remind him that the whole matter is in God’s hands. You are a good and respectable man, but you have missed out on the rules of fasting.”
Adam was quick to respond to Al Badhali’s claims.
“Who do you think you are? Stop making rubbish statements. You cannot talk on behalf of God. He knows what He is doing.”
Hakim said that Al Badhali should not rush to making statements that lack foundations.
Mismar, another user, urged the scholar to do more to attract people to religion.
“Our religion is far nobler than you and other people attempt to depict. You should work on your messages so that people become more religious and are not shocked. God has allowed Muslims not to fast when they are traveling or when they believe there are hazards to their health. This is such a case.”
Patriot said that many people converted to Islam after they appreciated the significance of its values of compassion, justice and tolerance.
Al Badhali was not the only one to wade into controversy over Mohammad Salah’s injury.
In Cairo, Mohammad Jibril, a religious scholar, said that the injury was a divine punishment for his fans who traded off the Taraweeh (post-evening prayers in Ramadan) for the match.
“The fans lost on two fronts: They did not enjoy the match and they did not reap spiritual rewards after they missed the prayers,” he posted on his Twitter account.
Celebrated Egyptian TV host Wael Al Ebrashi also lashed out at Jibril.
“Jibril’s tweet is a tragedy. It is as if God had punished Egyptians by depriving them of Mohammad Salah. This is a wrong understanding of Islam,” said Al Ebrashi on private Egyptian Dream TV.
“Salah has done a bigger service to Islam than Shaikh Jibril,” added the anchor, accusing the cleric of being a sympathiser of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. “Backers of the Brotherhood do not want the Egyptian people to rally around a player or an asset.”
Salah led Egypt to the World Cup for the first time in 28 years.
In recent months, the 25-year-old professional has garnered a cult status in Egypt due to his brilliant football skills, humility and charitable deeds in the homeland.
Jibril later removed his much-maligned tweet and said it was misunderstood. “I pray to Allah that captain Mohammad Salah will recover, protect him from any harm or evil, and that he will participate with the national team in the best form,” the cleric said in a new tweet.
After his injury on Saturday, Egyptians turned to social media voicing grief over Salah’s injury and accusing Ramos of deliberately targeting him. Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi also called Salah and expressed support for him.
Salah will fly from Britain to Spain to complete treatment for the injury under Liverpool’s supervision, according to Egyptian Sports Minister Khaled Abdul Aziz.
The head of the Egyptian Football Association and the doctor of the national team are due to travel to Spain on Wednesday to check on Salah’s health.
The minister expected Salah to join the national team, known as the Pharaohs, in Cairo early next month before they leave for Russia for the World Cup games.
“Mohammad Salah is in very high morale especially after the unprecedented interest shown by Egyptians, notably President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi,” Abdul Aziz wrote on his Facebook page late Monday.
The Pharaohs will play Paraguay in their first World Cup match on June 15.
Salah had a sensational season in Liverpool, scoring 32 goals in 38 English Premier matches and winning the Player of the Year prize. Salah has netted a total of 44 goals in all competitions this season, a feat that has made him a global football legend.