Sarah Hourani is not your stereotypical personal trainer. She is a powerful, passionate and proud hijab (headscarf) wearing Muslim sportswoman.

muslim female coach crossfit powerlifting

Exercising and eating healthy for Muslim women is not about how they look, it’s a form of worship, as a sign of respect for their bodies.

Sarah is passionate about empowering her members at the female only gym, Fiit Zone, with strength, health and mental wellbeing, and encourages them to come to her classes for just a chat, even if they’re not up for exercise.

“In Islam, taking care of our bodies is very important. We pray five times a day which imitates yoga and meditation – this is our time out,” she said.

“From a young age we are taught that our bodies have rights and we must take care of them in the best possible manner.”

Any women struggling with body image issues in fitness could take some inspiration from this lady and the growing number of others like her.

In her culture, Mrs Hourani said they are encouraged to stay active and look after their bodies, with walking, swimming, horse riding and archery the preferred form of exercise.

With a passion for sport and fitness, she also loves powerlifting and CrossFit and playing basketball with her daughters.

“In Islam, taking care of our bodies is very important. We pray five times a day which imitates yoga and meditation – this is our time out,” she said.

“From a young age we are taught that our bodies have rights and we must take care of them in the best possible manner.”

 

The hijab

Why is that woman covering her fit body and beautiful hair? Wearing a hijab or head scarf is an expression of a Muslim woman’s devotion to her faith.

It’s a tradition that usually only their immediate family and husband see them without it at home, however, in a women’s only gym like Fernwood Fitness, they are often removed too.

Last year Nike released a sports Hijab, which delighted Muslim sportswomen and fitness enthusiasts around the world.

Mrs Hourani, 37, has worn her hijab since the age of 16, which she says has never been an obstacle to her fitness and sport.

“To me, wearing a hijab means I’m guarding my modesty and respecting my body out of deep devotion to my faith,” she said.

“I wear loose-fitting clothing that isn’t see-through or made of mesh material; I also wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants and cover my hair.”

Mrs Hourani felt proud when Nike, one of the biggest sporting companies in the world, advertised a hijab wearing woman and she couldn’t wait to get one of her own.

“When the Nike hijab was introduced, I started to notice so many more international athletic Hijabies I had not noticed before, I feel it will bring more Mulsim women to the forefront of the sporting world” she said.

Mrs Hourani’s eight-year-old daughter Ayah wears her hijab when attending their Mosque, however does not wear it all the time.

“It is my choice to wear one or not, it doesn’t mean I don’t have faith or respect,” Miss Hourani said.

nike pro hijab

Nike Pro Hijab

 

Ramadan – the month of intermittent fasting

The month of Ramadan is one of the biggest cultural festival for Muslims, Mrs Hourani describes it as being like intermittent fasting, with more spiritual involvement.

Ramadan 2021, in held from April 12 to May 12th, participants fast from about 5.30am until 5.30pm – dawn to dusk. In each day they do good deeds for people called fasting deeds.

Mrs Hourani said she had to prepare herself for exercise and work, without food during the day.

“It is more than just fasting from food and water from sunrise to sunset, we must refrain from smoking, obscenity and any negative behaviour,” she said.

“It is a time of forgiveness and giving charity. We feel for those who live a life of hunger and feel thankful for what we have. It is eye opening to witness the capacity of the human mind to control ourselves.”

During Ramadan Mrs Hourani says she must be mindful not to train too intensely while fasting and not to binge after fasting.

“In Ramadan we tend to break fast with family and friends. You find yourself surrounded by delicious cuisine, and if you are not careful you can eat more than your entire days calories in one sitting. I do find this a struggle and have to practice mindful eating,” she said.

 

More mum’s choosing a career in fitness

In her early career, Mrs Hourani worked in the sports department at a primary school. After she had her forth baby, needing more flexibility, she decided to become a personal trainer.

“I honestly pictured myself as a just a mother who was trying her best daily to simply stay fit and healthy,” she said.

Mrs Hourani always had a passion for health and fitness, but she found being a mum had its own unique challenges to maintaining a balanced healthy lifestyle.

Although Mrs Hourani felt she was not your typical personal trainer, she didn’t let that stop her from getting into the industry. She knew being able to relate to so many women and gaining the skills and experience to help them was more important than body image.

“After completing my course, I was lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to work at Fernwood Fitness, training women,” she said.

 

More diversity in sport and fitness

Muslim women have participated in sport since the beginning of Islam in the 7th century.

Modern Muslim women have achieved many accolades in sports from basketball and volleyball to fencing and tennis.

In 2016, fourteen Muslim women won medals at the Olympics. Despite the under-representation in the media, many Muslim women are becoming athletes and personal trainers, leading the pack in women’s empowerment, health and education.

Mrs Hourani said having more diversity as a whole in the fitness industry was inspiring and encouraged more people to become active.

“More diversity with personal trainers is important, it helps more women believe that they can do it too,” she said.

“It puts a more genuine and honest outlook to health and fitness, compared to your stereotypical fitness image, which is mostly unrealistic”.

“I feel that Muslim women are embracing sport and fitness now more than ever and I’m so inspired by this.”

female muslim tennis

Diet culture in Islam

While Ramadan is a month of cultural fasting, for the rest of the year, Muslims are taught to eat well balanced, meaningful diets filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes and moderate amounts of meat. Ramadan is not about weight or body image, and women who are menstruating, pregnant, breastfeeding or anyone who is unwell is exempt from fasting if they need to.

“In Islam we have guidelines on how to stay fit and healthy, we are advised to not to eat too much and encouraged to eat food of substance,” Mrs Hourani said.

“Prophet Muhammad said, ‘The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few morsels to keep him alive.

If he must fill it, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink, and one-third for air.’”

“One of the most important aspects of eating that our Prophet emphasized was eating the correct proportion of food and not overloading the stomach,”

“The Prophet used to eat a mostly vegetarian diet including dates, vegetables, fruits, olives and nuts for a source of strength, he occasionally ate lamb.”

“In Islam we are advised to consume meat moderately, as eating excessive meat is not healthy for your stomach.”

While these guidelines are in place, Mrs Hourani admitted that most people, regardless of faith, were guilty of over-indulging at times.

 

Inspirational Muslims to follow:

Sarah Hourani  – FiitZone

Amina Khan, PHD student, and Health Psychologist

Amal Elbaba – Body_Sculpt_sisters