Celebrity News

Sonny Bill Williams makes pilgrimage to holy Islamic site

The All Black described visiting Islam's second holiest site as "amazing."

All Black superstar Sonny Bill Williams has travelled to Saudi Arabia to make a pilgrimage to the Al-Masjid an-Nabawī mosque in Medina. It is the second holiest site in Islam behind the Great Mosque of Mecca.

The 32-year-old was raised as a Christian but famously converted to Islam in 2008. He credits his faith with turning his life around, shaking off his bad-boy reputation. He is now a devoted husband to wife Alana, whom he married in 2013 after a whirlwind romance, and father to two girls, three-year-old Imaan and one-year-old Aisha.

“When I’m most happy is when I’m doing my prayers,'” Williams told the Daily Mail. “How can you not spare 25 minutes of your day to give thanks? I look at where I came from and feel blessed.”

“I still feel like the same person but converting has given me contentment and happiness that I don’t know how to explain.”

Sonny Bill’s public devotion to his faith hasn’t been without controversy. At the start of the 2017 Super Rugby season he came under fire for taping over sponsor BNZ’s logo on his Blues playing jersey.

As a Muslim, the lending of money contravened his faith. He launched a “conscientious objection” and explained his stance in a statement released by the Rugby Union.

Williams wears a special Blues jersey with a Plunket logo after he conscientiously objected to the BNZ bank branding.

“My objection to wearing clothing that markets banks, alcohol and gambling companies is central to my religious beliefs and it is important to me to have been granted this exemption.

“As I learn more and develop a deeper understanding of my faith, I am no longer comfortable doing things I used to do. So while a logo on a jersey might seem like a small thing to some people, it is important to me that I do the right thing with regards to my faith and hope that people respect that.”

A compromise was reached between New Zealand Rugby, the Blues, Investec (the competition sponsor) and BNZ and Williams was permitted to wear a special jersey promoting Plunket instead.

Get your favourite magazines home delivered!  

Subscribe and save up to 38% on a magazine subscription.

Related stories