The paper defines
physical activity and explains its physiological, health, social, and religious benefits. It then describes Islamic guidelines
for various types of physical activity such as walking, running, sitting, and standing as well as Islamic guidelines on physical
OVER-VIEW OF PHYSICAL
is any physical movement involving the musculo-skeletal system. Physical activity is a type of physical activity that is undertaken
for the specific purpose of improving fitness, promotion of health, or prevention of disease.
Being physically active
has many religious and social benefits. The physically active have the strength to undertake physical acts of ‘ibadat like salat or hajj.
They have the energy to undertake work to be economically productive and thus support themselves and their community. The
physically active are able to travel and engage in social activities such as visiting relatives, visiting the sick, and participating
in social activities. All these have social and psychological benefits that would not be achieved in the absence of physical
Physical activity while doing useful work
In the modern technological
society, physical exercise is undertaken as an end in itself with the result that most activities benefit the individual physiologically
and in health promotion but have no contribution to society. We need to change the concept of exercise to be able to accrue
maximum advantage. This can be achieved if people exercise while doing some socially beneficial work. This will be an appropriate
return to the start of human history when people were active physically in hunting, gathering, and agriculture that were direct
Legal rulings on physical activity
is mustahabb or manduub for its physiological
and health benefits. It is waajib when it is required as part of disease treatment.
It is also mustahabb as a recreation. Participative sports are preferred over spectator
sports. Males and females should be separated in sports activities. Sports involving show of cruelty, high risk for participants
or spectators, or gambling are either haram or makruuh.
Types of walking:
Bipedal walking of
humans has enabled humans build a sophisticated civilization. The Qur’an has mentioned walking in various instances:
walking on earth, mashyu ‘ala al ardh, walking in the earth, mashyu fi al ardh, walking in the markets, mashyu fi al aswaaq, and walking in homes, mashyu fi al masaakin. Allah made the roads to enable humans work in comfort. He also provided landmarks for them to know the way
and to know the direction of the road. The road is not always easy and Allah in His mercy made hajj obligatory only for those
who have the ability to travel, istitaa’at al sabiil. It is not permitted to travel in order to visit mashahid and qubuur. It is not permitted to make a specific travel to visit any mosque except the three mosques. Tourism without
any purpose is forbidden, al siyaahat fi al ardh biduun gharadh shara’e manhiyu
‘anhu. Walking may take the form of jogging, hiking, mountaineering, competitive speed running.
Purposes of walking
Humans unlike animals
should not walk and wander aimlessly. Walking can be for any of the following worthy purposes: work and employment, ‘ibadat, seeking knowledge, physical exercise for fitness, recreation or race walking, and social visits.
Walking for purposes of ‘ibadat is the most worthy purpose. The reward is
increased according to the number of steps taken to the masjid.
Etiquette of walking
The Prophet taught
the importance of walking as a physical exercise by walking around Madina on foot even when he could have ridden a horse or
a donkey. The prophet taught by example that the best manner is walking is taking quick and big steps, harwalat. The
Prophet’s walk is described as form of jogging, harwala, as he was always in a hurry. He never walked lazily. He used
to walk around Madina with his wives or his companions. He also used to walk in the open desert. He climbed mountains. One
day in Madina he climbed Mount Uhud accompanied by Abubakar, Omar, and
Othman. The mountain quaked and he calmed it saying ‘ithbut ya uhud. ‘alayka
rasul al llaah wa siddiq wa shahiidaan. The Qur’an has described several etiquettes of walking: firm steps, thubuut
al aqdaam, walking on feet, walking straight, mashyu sawiy, and walking with etiquette, mashy wa al adab. The etiquette of walking is more emphasized for a woman: walking with shyness, mashyu bi hayaa and not making audible attractive sound patterns with the feet.
Etiquette of the road, adab al tariiq
or sitting by a public highway, the following rights of the road, haqq al tariiq, must be observed: lowering the gaze,
ghadh al basar; avoiding causing any annoyance, kaff al adha, and returning greetings, radd al salaam
Etiquette of the journey:
The dua on start of a journey is ‘subhaana
alladhi sakkhara lana hadha wa ma kunna lahu muqriniin wa inna ila rabbina lamunqalibiin. Allahumma inna nas aluka fi safarina
hadha al birr wa al taqwah wa min al ‘amal ma tuhibbu wa tardha. Allahumma hawwin ‘alayina safarina hadha wa itwi’ina
bu’udahu. Allahumma anta al saahibu fi al safar wa al khaliifat fi al ahl. Allahumma inni a ‘uudhu bika min wa’athaai
al safar wa kaaabat al mandhar wa suui almunqalab fi al maal wa al ahl.
During the journey takbir is recited at high
places or when ascending a hill and tasbiih on low places. The dua at the end of the journey is ‘aaibuun taaibuun
‘aabiduun li rabbina haamiduun’.
Running is a sport.
It is undertaken for recreation or for physical fitness or for both. It can take any of the following forms: short distance
sprints at high speed, long distance marathons requiring physical endurance over a long time, or the easy-paced jogging. Foot
racing, musabaqat, is allowed when wearing leather socks, khuff, or bare footed. The prophet is reported to have engaged in foot-racing with his wife Aisha. Early in
their marriage Aisha was small and light and she used to win the race. Later in her life she put on weight and the prophet
used to win the races.
Sitting companion, jaliis:
A Muslim must be very
careful whom he chooses for a sitting companion. The compassion may be good, jaliis al khayr, or bad, jaliis al
suu. The bad companion may be a source of bad peer influence. It is recommended to seek the company of the righteous,
al qu’uud ma’a al saalihiin, and to avoid the company of the transgressors, al qu’ud ma’a
al dhaalimiin. Sitting on graves, al juluus ala al qubuur, is forbidden and visits to the cemetery should be brief.
serves the purposes of resting and relaxation. While standing muscle tension maintains an upright posture. On sitting down,
the muscles can relax. Sitting is also psychologically relaxing. The prophet recommended sitting down in a calamity, al
juluus ‘inda al musiibat
Sitting in assemblies of ibadat, majlis al ibadat wa
Sitting is a
form of ‘ibadat. A believer remembers Allah sitting down, dhikr al llaah
qu’udan. Sitting in the mosque waiting for salat has the reward of being in salat
Sitting for learning, majlis al ‘ilm
Sitting in a study
circle to study Qur’an and other religious sciences has been part of Muslim tradition for centuries. The study circles
are usually held in the mosque.
Etiquette of the assembly, adab al majlis
The prophet taught
the etiquette of sitting in an assembly. Priority of sitting is given to the first-comer. A person cannot be forced to stand
up and give his or her seat to a newcomer however is considered good manners and charity to do so. If a person goes out of
the assembly for a short interval he has the right to reclaim his or her seat. There are special rights of sitting for the
elderly, the learned, and the handicapped. Children should sit behind the adults. Women have to sit separate from men and
their manner of sitting should respect the shyness expected of a woman.
Standing is preparation
for walking. Standing helps venous return due to the action of muscle pumping.
The unique human upright posture
The human upright
posture is a bounty from Allah. Humans are able to maintain stationary equilibrium and dynamic equilibrium against forces
of gravity and other forces like the wind or the push of other humans. The upright posture is maintained by muscular stretch
reflexes to counteract the force of gravity. Several muscles have to act in unison to maintain the balance needed to stay
upright. Different muscles are involved in different ways as the person stays stationary of starts moving. The upright posture
is maintained only if the center of gravity is above the base connecting the 2 feet. If the center of gravity moves out of
this base, the balance is lost and the person falls. The only way to prevent a fall is to move forward, an action that involves
leaning forward to bring the center of gravity back to base. Maintaining an erect posture requires a sophisticated neural
coordination that is best developed in humans.
Standing and ‘ibadat
Standing is involved
in several acts of ‘ibadat. Night prayer is called qiyaam al llayl because of the prolonged standing involved. Humans stand in remembrance of Allah, qiyaam li dhikr al laah. There is standing in the 5 obligatory prayers, qiyaam al salat. During hajj there is standing at Arafat, wuquuf
Arafat, and at Muzdalifat, wuquuf muzdalifat. Care must be taken to make sure that prolonged standing in salat
does not cause postural hypotension due to venous pooling of blood in the lower extremity.
Etiquette of standing, adab al qiyaam
A Muslim can stand
up to show respect to another person, qiyaam al ihtiraam. The respect to humans in extended even to the funeral bier.
It is recommended to stand up when a funeral procession passes by, qiyaam li al janazat. It is however forbidden to
stand for any human or any object for the purpose of ‘ibadat.
term play, la’ib can be used in a positive and negative sense. Play of children
is useful for their social and physical growth. Play as in physical sports for making the body strong and healthy is positive.
Play is used in a negative way to refer to adult activities that lack a purpose. Such play is condemned, la’ib madhmuum. Earthly life can be considered play, al duniya la’ib if it lacks purpose and direction.
Sports provide a healthy
way of releasing aggression that is naturally found in humans. It also helps exercise the body to achieve optimal health.
Islam encourages physical sports for the purposes of building the body’s strength to stay healthy and be able to undertake
obligatory duties like salat. Sports
are forms of entertainment on joyous occasions like eid. From the Islamic point of view participation in sports is what is preferred. Just being a spectator although entertaining,
is less favored. Competitive sports is encouraged if it is associated with more people participating in the quest for victory.
If it is done for any other purpose then it is frowned upon. Group sports help in forging a spirit of team work.
sports becomes the only pre-occupation of an individual to the exclusion of many other beneficial activities such as ‘ibadat, it has become harmful. Many youths who are fans of various clubs and players fall into this trap.
What is needed is for the individual to participate in sports for his or her bodily benefit but in moderation.
sports becomes big business. The commercialization of sports undermines the very Islamic essence of participative sports.
Islam wants people to be participators and not spectators.
in its various forms is associated with competitive sports. Gambling is an addiction that is difficult to get out of. It is
related to many other evils such as alcohol, drugs, and crime. It is a type of social failure. The victim loses control over
his actions and his own behavior and usually ends up failing socially.
Some legal rulings
‘awrat, must be covered all the time during sports. Violent sports such as
boxing and wrestling and risky sports such as car racing may fall under the rubric of makruuh.
 Qur’an 17:37, 17:95, 31:18
 Qur’an 16:15; p558 20:53, 21:31; P 558 43:10
 Qur’an 25:64, 39:9, 52:48-49, 73:20
 Qur’an 7:98, 9:65, 21:2, 43:83, 70:42
 Qur’an 6:32, 29:64, 47:36, 57:20