Archery in the Islamic Tradition
“shoot and I am with you”
Archery is embedded deeply in the Islamic tradition. Throughout history, archery has played an integral role in Islamic society. From being used as a sports and leisure activity, a weapon for warfare, a means for hunting and gathering food, to being a form of cultural and spiritual expression.
Archery is a highly regarded skill that every Muslim is encouraged to learn and practice. It is not simply a matter of learning to hit a target, rather, Muslim archers practice a deep sense of respect and gratitude towards God the almighty through the use of their bow and arrow. After all, the humble bow and arrow, with the grace of God, provides food for the archer and their family, safety from predators and enemies as well as a means of training and gaining strength for one’s body and sharpening the mind.
The Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him was a keen archer and was quoted to have said: “The hand of man has wielded no weapon which was not excelled by the bow.” The prophet peace be upon him is reported to have owned six bows, with one of these still available to be viewed at Topkapi museum in Istanbul.
However, the presence of archery in Islamic history begins long before the time of the prophet Mohammed peace be upon him. It is believed that God sent Gabriel with a bow and two arrows to be given to prophet Adam peace be upon him, the first of mankind, to kill birds that were stealing his crops.
The area between the shooting line and the target was considered by early Muslim archers to be holy ground, with the course between the archer and his aim described as a strip of Paradise.