I have heard it is haram to wear Nike clothing and shoes, because the company is named after a Greek idol. I was told by one brother that there’s a Hadith that narrates about a sahabi who had converted from Christianity to Islam, and still wore a cross, then Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told the sahabi to remove the cross as it was remembering Jesus (pbuh) as God. What is the truth of this claim? Is it haram? Am I sinning if wearing Nike shoes, even if only for sports, and my religion is only for Allah SWT? Also this got me thinking, there were some fake gods in our Prophet’s time for example Al Lat, Al Uzza etc. So would it be haram to wear clothing with their names on, even if no one worships them right now?
No, there is no sin in simply owning or wearing sports shoes made by a company using a brand inspired by ancient Greek mythology. Sports shoes are sports shoes and in today’s world, Nike is just one of many brands. Yes, Nike is the name of an ancient Greek god, but the overwhelming majority of people who work at Nike, along with those who are customers of Nike, and wear Nike products aren’t worshipping a Greek god.
A key difference here between the account referred to in the message you were sent, and this situation is the fact Christianity is a living religion. Greek religion largely disappeared after the introduction of Christianity, and was already in decline before that. To most people today, including most Greeks, the ancient Greek myths are fascinating stories from history, and not a living religious tradition.
Intentions are clearly important. If you are just wearing sports shoes that happen to be branded Nike, and not worshipping the Greek god, what is the problem? Keep in mind, some people like to create problems where there are none. You know your intentions. You will ultimately be the one interviewed by Allah on the Day of Reckoning. You know your intentions better than anyone, if your intentions are pure, you have nothing to worry about.
In regards to idols worshipped in the time of the Prophet, such as Al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat, the same principle applies. However, many Muslims would be more sensitive to these names as they are mentioned in the Quran and early literature of Islam. So although no, it wouldn’t mean you are committing shirk (idolatry) just because one of these names is on something you own or use, it would probably be best avoided by Muslims. That said, if lets say ‘Uzza’ became a popular brand in the Middle East, and many popular products were branded with this name, it would be senseless to avoid using them when it’s only a commercial brand, and nothing to do with anyone’s religion today.
Islam has a very practical aspect to it. Even in the time of Prophet Muhammad, he and his companions used to use items that had the images of idols on them. All they would do, is deface or remove the images and still use the items. They were very practical people, and keep in mind that these idols were actually worshipped back then. Today, if you gave someone one of these actual idols, it would be nothing more than a curiosity, an artefact in a museum, or an ornament. Very few people would actually put their faith in these statues, and certainly no Muslim would, nor would a Jew or Christian.
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Co-Director, The Association of British Muslims