American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, best known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics, expressed her overwhelming joy for completing one of Hajj’s top rites, stoning the devil at Mina.
She told Asharq Al-Awsat that her Hajj journey has been spiritually fulfilling, while also hailing the expansion of the dazzling Great Mosque in Makkah.
She shed light on other turning points in her life, such as former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to act as an ambassador to women empowerment both in the US and the world.
She added that she was thrilled at the chance of meeting former US President Barack Obama at the White House.
Most importantly, Muhammad said that her mother played a great part in encouraging her to take up sports, adding that becoming a fencer was an ideal choice given that she would be able to wear Islamic attire and still practice the sport.
She has won four bronze medals at world championships and was the first veiled Muslim woman to participate in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She earned a bronze medal for her country in the Team Sabre event.
Her global fame garnered her the attention of Mattel, the company that manufactures the renowned Barbie doll. The company honored Muhammad by sculpting a doll in her likeness, complete with hijab, sabre and mask.
Muhammad also recounts writing two books, the last of which dealt with psychological barriers that inhibit women, such as frustration, depression and anxiety.
Encountering these obstacles herself, Muhammad said she wanted to help others overcome them by sharing her personal experience.
She added that her fame also enabled her to set up a company four years ago to design women's clothing, especially since she herself was interested in fashion design.
On her 2018 Hajj experience, Muhammad said that it was unforgettable and that she was surprised by the grandeur and beauty of the Great Mosque in Makkah.
"I will never forget the moments that I experienced in the holy places between Makkah and Medina,” she added.
Despite feeling happy with completing most of the Hajj rituals, she said she cannot help but feel sad for having to part with the holy sites after experiencing such tranquility.
Muhammad is also a distinguished academic and was chosen as one of the most influential figures for 2017.
Born on December 4, 1985 in Maplewood, New Jersey, her father Eguyen, is a former policeman and her mother Denise, worked as a primary school teacher. Muhammad has four siblings.