The Internet “broke” last night, due to what was a spectacular game of football, regarded as the best ever World Cup Final. It wasn’t just any other World Cup this year, it was the first ever winter FIFA World Cup while European leagues had their seasons disrupted. It was also the first ever FIFA World Cup hosted in an Arab or Islamic nation.
In addition, the world’s most popular sporting spectacle was not short of controversy and criticism by the naysayers. The small oil-rich nation that is Qatar, accused of human rights abuses and corruption, hosted the tournament in just one city, Doha – also another first of its kind.
An incredible success
In the build-up to the final, the President of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, said that this year’s edition has been an “incredible success”. He said, “Matches have been played without incidents. It has been a very joyful atmosphere.” 
Infantino also added,
“The World Cup has been an incredible success on all fronts. The main one being the fans, the behaviour, the joyful atmosphere, the bringing of people together. The fans meeting the Arab world, it has been very important for the future of all of us.
“When it comes to the matches, we have seen some incredibly competitive games, some surprises, some great goals.” 
As the world winds down and comes to terms with the conclusion of the tournament, the world also reflects on what they witnessed, both on and off the pitch.
A positive for Muslims and Islam
This tournament has definitely been a positive moment for Muslims and Islam globally, for many reasons.
One of the key highlights was the extraordinary run of the Moroccan national team. Their progression to the semi-finals of the tournament was the first time an African, Arab or Muslim nation achieved the feat.
The victories against the footballing giants of Spain and Portugal brought pride and joy to Muslims worldwide, especially when they saw the Moroccan players reciting al-Fatihah, waving the Palestinian flag, making prostrations of gratitude, and showing respect and affection to their mothers.
The humility, gratitude, and faithfulness shown at a time of intense euphoria and jubilation showed a great example to Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide.
The Parable of the Good Tree and the Rotten Tree
Allah (ﷻ) sets out in His divine guidance a parable by comparing a Good Tree to a Rotten Tree. The parable drawn could not be any more relevant to us today and thus Muslims should take a moment to ponder and reflect over these beautiful words of Allah.
أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَاءِ
تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهَا ۗ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ
وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ اجْتُثَّتْ مِن فَوْقِ الْأَرْضِ مَا لَهَا مِن قَرَارٍ
“Do you not see how God makes comparisons? A good word is like a good tree whose root is firm and whose branches are high in the sky, yielding constant fruit by its Lord’s leave—God makes such comparisons for people, so that they may reflect—but an evil word is like a rotten tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, with no power to endure.” 
According to one exegesis, the “Good Tree” refers to the believer “whose root is firm”, meaning that the kalimah (testament of faith): “Lā ilāha illa Allah” (None has the right to be worshipped but Allah) is firm within the believer’s heart. The “branches are high in the sky” refer to the deeds of the believer ascending to the heavens. 
In contrast, the “Rotten Tree” describes the disbeliever which has no basis or stability. It is “uprooted”, meaning cut off from the root, “from the surface of the earth with no power to endure (stability)”, therefore existing without any stable belief or grounding. 
The Good Tree
It is important to clarify that no one individual or nation is perfect or free from defect before an attempt is made to explain why many consider Qatar a “Good Tree”.
Despite their faults, many in Qatar and its officials have represented Islam and Muslims globally. They didn’t just represent it by name and token, but also by their actions. Their firm stance against the LGBT+ lobby, journalists, and world leaders showed to the world that Qatar was and continues to be firm in its values and principles—like a Good Tree.
The fruits yielded by the Good Qatari Tree at the World Cup were many. Fans, especially female fans from the West, described the overwhelming positive experiences they had as spectators.
Ellie Molloson, an ambassador for a campaign to tackle sexism in football called HerGameToo, noted,
“I was expecting a very dangerous place for women. I didn’t think I was going to be safe here … from coming here that’s not been the case, as a travelling female fan I can say that I have felt very safe.” 
The positive fan experience extended out to both genders as the BBC reported that no arrests of British fans were made in Qatar.  The firm stance Qatar took on alcohol clearly had a great impact on atmosphere, reducing hostilities but also a wider lesson was taught by Qatar to the West about the positive effect that the absence of alcohol can create in sporting spectatorship. In contrast, across the UK, 531 footballing incidents took place during the tournament with 150 being on the evening of the England vs. France quarter-final match, racking up 115 arrests throughout the tournament.
Qatar, demonised for lack of inclusivity, silenced the critics again by leading the way on accessibility. It is regarded as the most accessible FIFA World Cup in history by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.
George Bell, an England fan, said:
“The accessibility at this World Cup is absolutely amazing. From the moment you arrive, everything is brilliant – the parking, the security, the volunteers – everyone is so helpful. Everything is very clearly signposted and the facilities are very good.” 
The Islamic hospitality was also praised by the numerous fans interviewed by reporters. The video below demonstrates how the concept of Islamic generosity and hospitality made such a huge impact to the travelling fans:
The positive behaviour, etiquette, and atmosphere of the Qataris amid the negativity of the Western press and pressures they faced, really demonstrates why they exemplified a Good Tree.
British/ Western Media: The Rotten Tree
Media outlets in unison attacked Qatar in the run-up to the World Cup on numerous issues. They attempted to tarnish and belittle the first ever FIFA World Cup hosted in the Muslim world and they were rubbing their hands in anticipation to report on the failures, the disasters, and the lack of organisation of the tournament. The juicy headlines were ready to be published until the kick-off of the first game.
Media outlets were scraping for anything negative to report. A basic monitoring of the media over the last four weeks will show very little negativity to the fan atmosphere because nothing controversial or negative really happened.
This is where the instability of the Rotten Tree is shown, the lack of principle and morals. The media had no stories to report, unless they were positive and so to maintain their relevance they were forced to change their tone overnight.
The Guardian, the very paper that made the accusation of over 6,000 deaths of migrant workers, produced a positive article on Morocco and Islam.  The BBC had no choice but to report the positive female fan experience.  The BBC also prepared a segment during half-time of the Morocco-Croatia game, viewing the positive fan environment at the tournament. Sky News, another mainstream media outlet, chose to give al-Thawadi, a World Cup ambassador, some air-time to present the successes and positive case for Qatar, something which was not done prior to the tournament. 
The instability, shifting of the goal-posts, and outright lack of divine morality demonstrates why the British media and its allies are nothing but a Rotten Tree.
Living with Divine Principles
Commentators and sporting pundits worldwide are naming this World Cup along with the final as “the best one ever”. This undoubtedly brings pride and joy to Muslims that such a greatly hosted tournament took place in not only a Muslim country, but also an Islamic society; one that does not give into Western pressures on issues such as LGBT ideology, drunkenness and other social vices, in order to feel included. The example of Qatar in this episode is like that of a Good Tree and one which all Muslims should aspire towards, with belief rooted firmly in the heart.
Muslims should also be wary of getting carried away or feeling a sense of joy when there are increased levels of positive reporting or attitudes toward Muslims and Islam in the normally hostile media landscape.
Those hostile to Islam are Rotten Trees yielding nothing but evil. Their opinions are scattered and will change according to what the prevailing trends and narratives of the day are. Understanding the nature of kufr as Allah describes it will help prevent Muslims (who may wish to seek affirmation and acceptance from disbelievers) from getting burned, scammed, or God-forbid, led astray.
Any positivity drawn from global events should always be done through our own lens: the lens of the Qur’ān. This timeless guide – not ever changing popular attitudes and tastes imposed by the powerful – is the criterion for how Muslims should measure success.
Check out our special series on the World Cup
- Sharing the teachings of the Prophet (ﷺ) at the World Cup
- Turns out that alcohol isn’t needed to attend football matches!
- Ever thought of wearing a bright orange thobe?
- When a Sikh from Hounslow crossed paths with an Englishman in Qatar
- Washroom bidets… did non-Muslim tourists figure out their use?
- A niqābi at a football match, surely not?
- Morocco reconquered Spain in 2022!
 al-Qur’ān | 18:24-26
 at-Tabari | 16:567
 at-Tabari | 16:569
Agree with the above – this was a well written article but lacks nuance. The world cup was indeed exemplary for the wealthy, who can afford flights, accommodation, time off work etc. The ~2 million South Asian and African migrant workers who built this country are not afforded the same grace or attention (or even dawah). It would have been good to read about this. The Western media’s coverage of the wc has been outrageously islamophobic, but Qatar is far from perfect. It definitely isn’t standing tall….
Let’s not paint too overly a positive picture. Their still has been issues with the wc not just only positive