Gold Medals and Religion: Why Some Athletes Do Not Wear Their Prizes

Gold Medals and Religion: Why Some Athletes Do Not Wear Their Prizes

Winning a gold medal at the Olympics or any other international sporting event is a dream come true for many athletes. However, not all of them choose to wear their medals around their necks. Some of them, especially religious Muslim men, prefer to hold their medals in their hands or put them away. What is the reason behind this practice?

According to Islamic law, Muslim men are forbidden to wear gold jewelry or ornaments, as they are considered to be a sign of vanity and extravagance. This prohibition is based on several hadiths, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, who said: “Gold and silk are allowed for the women of my ummah (community) and forbidden for its men." Another hadith states: “Do not wear silk or gold, for those who wear them in this world will not wear them in the hereafter." Therefore, many Muslim men avoid wearing gold medals out of respect for their faith and tradition.

However, this does not mean that they cannot accept or appreciate their medals. In fact, most gold medals today are not made of pure gold, but of silver plated with a thin layer of gold. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) specifies that each gold medal must contain at least 6 grams of gold and 92.5% silver. This means that technically, they are not considered as gold jewelry or ornaments according to Islamic law. Some Muslim scholars have issued fatwas, or religious rulings, that allow Muslim men to wear gold medals as long as they are not made of pure gold. Some Muslim athletes have followed this opinion and worn their medals proudly, such as Egyptian wrestler Karam Gaber and Iranian weightlifter Kianoush Rostami. In some cases, when the gold content is unknown, some athletes will accept the medal and hold it in their hands but will not place it around their necks. 

Muslims are not the only ones who have religious reasons for not wearing gold medals. Jews also have a tradition of abstaining from wearing gold on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. They fast for 25 hours from sundown to sundown, and also refrain from wearing leather shoes, perfume, makeup, and jewelry. The reason for this is to humble themselves before God and repent for their sins. One of the sins that they recall is the sin of the golden calf, when the Israelites worshiped an idol made of gold while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments. Therefore, Jews do not wear gold on Yom Kippur as a reminder of their past mistake and their need for forgiveness.

Gold medals are symbols of achievement and excellence in sports, but they are also subject to different religious interpretations and practices. Some athletes do not wear their medals because of their faith and tradition, while others do so with permission and pride. Regardless of their choice, they all deserve respect and admiration for their hard work and dedication.

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