Episode Synopsis:

Faisal’s first realisation of Sonny was actually when he was studying in Cardiff, and Sonny had come to the city to play with his team, All Blacks. That was also Faisal’s first time noticing how unapologetically Muslim such a huge sport’s personality was on a public platform. Sonny strongly and proudly waved the flag of Islam from way back then. Sonny says, the journey he’s been through, and the path he’s walked, having made mistakes as we all have, and now to be blessed by Allah with the faith he has brought him so much light. Sonny felt he was blessed with so many titles and privileges, which would be considered the picture of success from the outside looking in, but he only knew how all that quickly gave him no satisfaction. But his fitrah, which is naturally instilled in every being, echoed louder and louder until he realised the beauty of Islam.

The essence of the book he’s written is that he explains how he’s still a work in progress. The structure given to him by Islam has allowed him to take that journey towards bettering his lifestyle in all that is good. It wouldn’t be an FG episode if Faisal didn’t throw in a quote of the week, and this week’s one was “everybody knows that money can’t buy happiness but everyone wants to find out for themselves”. Sonny reiterates that it’s so important to educate ourselves and learn more about the beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The life of a Muslim should be far away from the materialistic attractions of this world. Sonny openly admits that he went through depression, but the discipline he has to reach a certain height on the field, he now applies that off the field in being a better Muslim. He identifies discipline as one of the core elements of being a Muslim. We need to take lessons from the Prophet (PBUH) with regards to patience and character.

Faisal questions Sonny about his childhood and his children. He wanted to know how Sonny creates the balance of keeping his kids content without giving them limitless access to everything. Sonny admits it’s such a struggle. He says his message when it comes to kids is to follow the Hadith of tying the camel, and leaving the rest to Allah. He feels the closer he sticks to the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH), the more authentic he can be with his approach towards his children and everyone else. The beauty of Islam, he says, is that when he’s on the path of faith, he doesn’t fear anything, but he also understands the fear of the unknown and how important it is to trust Allah.

Faisal talks about how Jonathon Ross posed a similar question to Christiano Ronaldo, about how he never had the lavish childhood but now that he has children they can grow up in a much better environment so how does he draw the balance? He answered just like Sonny did by saying he doesn’t have the answers and the only thing he can do is teach them that education is important and remind them that their dad worked very hard to get to where he is now.

Sonny’s outlook is that no matter your situation, you are going to have blessings and struggles. It’s upto you how you handle them making sure to put Islam at the forefront. Sonny says when he’s feeling his closest to Allah is when he has full control over his phone, and he believes that limitation of checking his phone is considered a great accomplishment in today’s times.

In a similar manner, Faisal shares that he once read about a scholar who wrote that when he over indulged in food, he would sin more. Because the effect of indulging in one desire led to indulging in more desires. Even though the initial indulgence of food was halal.

Faisal and Sonny both share a common factor in that they both married their wives very quickly after meeting them. Not only because they needed to get the halal chaperones out the picture but because they quickly got the realisation that it was the right thing to do.

Faisal and Sonny shuffle through some of the questions of the Game.

Faisal – Who is your biggest cheerleader?

Sonny – My wife. She’s my ride or die. But my siblings and parents are very close to me too.

Faisal – One of Allah’s names translates to ‘your protecting friend’. Name a time in your life when you have felt that in existence.

Sonny – When I first moved to Europe. When he left Sydney, breaking my contract, going to France. It was such a special time for me, despite a lot of hardships, there was a lot of ease and growth. So I would have to say then.

Faisal – Which emotions do you tend to disguise?

Sonny – My shyness and my low self esteem. More of this is revealed in his book.

Faisal – Tell me something about your father that you didn’t appreciate until you became older.

Sonny – I guess how hard he was on me and my brother from a sporting point of view in the sense that with praise always came something that we could do better on. And I always struggled with that. But when I got older I understood that was from his struggle and how he grew up. And that’s what he thought was best that if you praise your kids too much you set them up for failure. But we have a great relationship.

Faisal – Describe your ultimate cheat meal? And if French toast is not on there I’m going to get angry.

Sonny – French toast? Come on! Home made hamburgers or burgers and chips.

Faisal – Tell me an Islamic reminder you once heard that stayed with you till this day.

Sonny – With hardship comes ease. And hashtag always Alhamdulillah.

Faisal – Do you find it easy to apologise?

Sonny – Yes. I’ve always been able to lower my pride and check my ego Alhamdulillah.

Faisal – What is your favourite struggle?

Sonny – My favourite struggle is knowing when I’m off. My wife when she understands what’s wrong with me. Sometimes I can’t put my finger on it, but I know I must be praying with my limbs not the heart. It’s important to check yourself.

Faisal – When I think of Allah I feel ———?

Sonny – Scared. By no means am I perfect, I have a lot of faults. Insha Allah Allah sees the striving of the heart.

Faisal – Think about someone in your life that’s no longer here. What’s one lesson they taught you?

Sonny – My Nana. Before I was even Muslim that it doesn’t matter what skin colour you are, it matters how you are as a person. When you read the book you will understand why Islam resonated with me so much. And she set these reminders for me before I was Muslim. Doesn’t matter what colour you are Sonny. Treat people how you want to be treated.

Faisal asks Sonny, “do you have a message for the next generation of athletes who perhaps find happiness in the wrong places?” Sonny replies by saying Muslims and non Muslims should follow your heart, especially if you’re trying to be better and do good. That’s true strength. Be vulnerable to stand on your own two feet and try and do what’s right. The empowerment you get from that is beautiful. He said he wishes he had the strength to put that vulnerability hat on and determine what wasn’t right for him.