The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) and his Companions are reported to have engaged in various forms of physical exercises, many of which are today played as specialised sports. These include racing horses, archery, swimming, wrestling and foot races among others. They participated in these for physical fitness and war readiness.
Polo, the sport played on horseback, is regarded as the world’s oldest team sport. Muslims played an instrumental role in taking this game from Persia, where it was first played 600 years before Islam, to Muslim lands and from there to Europe and the West.
Polo was taken up as a training method for the elite cavalry of Central Asian rulers. These matches could resemble a battle with up to 100 men to a side. It was adopted as a noble pastime by Kings, Emperors, Shahs, Sultans, Khans and Caliphs of the Muslim Persians, Arabs, Mughals and Mongols and became known as ‘the game of kings’. Muslim Mughals, the leaders of India, took the game from Persia to the east and, by the 16th century, the Emperor Babur established it in India. In the 16th century, a polo ground was built at Ispahan in Persia (Iran) by Shah Abbas. British officers re-invented the game in 1862 after seeing it in Muslim India. The sport was introduced into England in 1869, and 7 years later to the USA. From there it spread to the rest of the world.
Polo continues to represent the pinnacle of sport. Another gift of Muslims to the world.