Known as Dr. ’Ali, The Fitness Doctor, Muslimah ’Ali Najee-ullah is an author, science teacher and fitness coach who says her mission is to inspire Muslim women to challenge stereotypes by sports participation. Dr.’Ali has personally run three marathons and 14 half-marathons, and last year led a 12-woman, all-Muslim team in a 200-mile nonstop race called a Ragnar Relay. In this interview with HuffPost, the fitness guru talks about Muslim representation, the spirituality of running, and the careful balance of sports attire and modesty.
Here are some highlights:
— “I think things are getting better as far as people seeing Muslims as American people. We’re American, we do things like everyone else, we are born here and raised here. So it’s that hope that awareness is growing.”
— “A lot of the attire for sports is somewhat skimpy, and with most of us choosing to dress modestly, it does not fit in with our modesty requirements. I think because of that from a young age, it’s harder to get into [sports] when you’re older, especially when you have children…. I think apparel and attire are definitely expanding to allow for not just Muslims, but other women who dress modestly.”
— “Not seeing anyone who looks like you, you might be like, “Oh, I don’t know about this.” But once you see someone out there running who is still maintaining modesty and is Muslim, it’s like, ‘Oh, she can do this, I can do it too.'”
— “I like the freedom [of running]… I like to run early in the morning, I think that’s kind of a special time, before it gets busy and it’s still a little quiet. As a mother of three, as a wife, as a teacher, just having a little me time gives me calm and ultimately energy throughout the day. It’s also my time to have conversations with God, things like that.”