24 March 2019 / 16. Rajab 1440

Posted by assistantwebmaster on January 15, 2014


Sports. Tournaments. Exercise. Terms that have become very common in the modern age, especially in the West.

Undoubtedly sports and physical activity occupies an important position in the lives of many people, and billions of pounds is spent around the world in the promotion and staging of associated sporting activities. At the same time, emphasis is placed on exercise for the health and well-being of the human body, and that those who practice physical activity reduce the risk of developing certain conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Islamic teachings point to the importance of sports and physical activity in general. Ayat of the Quran, together with narrations from the ma’someen (as) highlight the need to ensure the body is kept healthy and strong, thereby honouring this creation of Allah (swt), which ultimately belongs to Him. On this note, the Prophet of Islam, Mohammed (saws) is narrated to have said:

‘Surely Allah (swt) loves a man who is strong.’ (Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol 64/p.184)

Likewise the establishment of the right of the body is made clear. He (saws) says:

‘Allah (swt) has rights over you, and your body has rights over you (too)’. (Bihar Al-Anwar, Vol 70/p.128)

In the supplication of the Ahlulbayt (swt) we find the encouragement to supplicate to The Almighty in asking for a healthy body. An example is found in the famous Dua Abu Hamza Thumali, whereby Imam Sajjad (as) states:

‘O Allah grant me health physically, and strength in my body’

At the same time, taking part in sporting activities was something the Prophet and his pure family also pointed towards. The Holy Prophet mentions in a reported hadith:

‘The right of the child over his father is that he is taught writing, swimming and archery’ (Nahj Al-Fasaha, Hadith 1394)

Of course our ulema mention that the sports mentioned in this hadith and others are not conclusive. In other words, they were very much practised at that time and needed to develop other skill sets. Other sports that do not violate the Sharia law are also permissible.

Yet at the same time the religion points to the importance of not making this an obsession or a matter whereby excessive time is used. This is both in reference to the time occupied in playing and watching sports. The term ‘lahw’ or distraction is used several times in the Quran to denote the danger of any activity distracting the human being from the ultimate purpose of existence; seeking the pleasure of The Almighty (swt) through worship.

‘O you who have faith! Do not let your possessions and children distract you from the remembrance of Allah, and whoever does that—it is they who are the losers.’ (63:9)

The idea that our time belongs to us and that we are free to do what we want freely is problematic, since we will all be held accountable for every minute of our existence here in this world.

Instead we are told to observe moderation, whilst ensuring that what we watch or do is fully in line with the Islamic code of practice. This includes the danger of watching sporting activities of the opposite gender with lust, or playing sport with non-mahrems. Both are forbidden in Islamic Law.

Yet at the same time, another form of exercise is highly recommended. In Nahjul Balagha, Imam Ali (as) mentions this in the following tradition:

‘It is indeed my soul, that I exercise it through taqwa’

The spiritual exercise is deemed an essential activity for any human being in the battle against the temptations of the self and the shaitan. This is because the soul is compared to an animal that is wild and needs to be tamed or domesticated. This is important, since the goal is not to kill the soul but to be in control of it, like how a rider becomes in control of a horse and directs it where they like. Imam Ali (as) points to an important tool in achievement of spiritual exercise, and that is God Consciousness. Keeping a strong bond and relationship with the Creator is vital in flexing our muscles, all be it that of the soul. Without His abundant Mercy and continuous Grace, the soul becomes weak and gives in to whims and desires.

This feature was evident in the lives of the ma’someen (as), and one that inspired our ulema to follow suit.

We ask Allah (swt) to grant us the tawfeeq to develop a plan to exercise our soul, through relying on Him and knowing that He is the All Observant, All Hearing.



Sheikh Mohammed Al-Hilli


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