Dr. Bilal A Bhat , Intizar Ahmad
Man is body and soul. Our bodies are like our vehicles and our souls are the drivers. For performing worships properly, it is necessary to be physically fit. Islam emphasizes strongly on a healthy life. A true believer should not be a weak person. He or she must be strong, both physically and spiritually. Regarding physical fitness, the Prophet (SAW) said: “A strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer” (Muslim). Sometimes it is seen that we want to get up for Fajr prayer but our body does not cooperate in getting out of bed, because we do not take good care of our bodies, hence the body grows weak. We change the engine oil of our car regularly and service it but we are not regular in our physical exercises. The Prophet (SWA) said, “Our bodies have rights upon us, our eyes have rights upon us, so give everyone his due right”. The Prophet (SWA) used to sleep after Isha prayers ( Inb Majah). How many of us get a good sleep? How many of us eat at fix timings? The Prophet (SWA) said: “The worst pot a human being fills is his stomach”.( Ahmad, Musnad, Vol. 4, Hadith No.132.) It is because we fill it with things that are not good for our health or we stuff it to more than its capacity. We need to reflect upon two things: Firstly, we need to eat that food that is not only Halal, rather which is good for our health as well. We should reflect on why Allah the Almighty mentions honey in the holy Qur’an, “…in it there is healing for the people.”(Qur’an, 16: 69) In addition, why did Allah the Almighty swear by the fig and by the olive? (Qur’an, 95: 1) Why did Allah the Almighty host Maryam (the mother of Prophet Isa) with fresh dates? (Qur’an, 19: 25-26) Why did Allah the Almighty host the military mission of Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah with a huge whale from the red sea?( Bukhari). We need to look at the benefits of eating honey, both medically and scientifically. We need to look at the benefits of figs and olives, both medically and scientifically. Similarly we need to look at the benefits of eating fish, both medically and scientifically. Secondly, the amount of food we eat should be kept near the minimum requirement sufficient to keep us alive. Stuffing our stomachs more than their capacity makes us obese, and obesity is not a sign of health as some people think, rather it is a welcoming arm for all types of disease. It was condemned by the holy Prophet (SAW).
The holy Prophet (SAW) and his companions were not fat. Rather they were very active. An interesting story is mentioned in the books of Seeran that a companion of the holy Prophet called Salamah bin al-Akwa’ used to compete with a horse in running and every time the match ended in a draw. Once some people from the tribe of Ghatfan attacked Madina and swiftly drove away with them the camels belonging to the holy Prophet. Salamah bin al-Akwa’ was approached by the shepherd of the holy Prophet who gave him the news. Salamah shouted thrice for help then ran after the horsemen and started throwing arrows on them. By the time they started aiming and throwing arrows towards him, he had already ran to another hilltop and threw arrows on them. He changed his places so fast that the enemy thought that they are several people. They just left the Prophet’s camels and ran for their lives. (Musnad, Vol. 4, p. 48) In another Hadith the Prophet (SAW) said, “The best century is my century, then the one after it, then the one after it. Then there will appear men who will swear before they talk and you will see that obesity is apparent in them.” (Bukhar) It is also narrated that a physician came to Madina and started living there. After almost six months of his stay there, during which not a single patient came to see him, he came to the holy Prophet and complained that he was sitting idle and had no business. The Prophet (SAW) said to him, “We are a people who do not eat until when we get very hungry and when we eat we do not stuff our stomachs.”( Minhaj al-Muslim, Riyadh: Darussalam, p. 210) At another occasion he said, “Only few morsels that may keep the backbone of a human being straight is enough for him, but if you refuse then one third is for solid food, one third for liquids and one third for breathing air.”( Ibn Majah). The problem at present is that the people have different opinions about the importance of physical fitness. Some think that obesity is the sign of being healthy. Some think that playing football, cricket, hockey or any other game, should be discouraged as it is against the serious attitude towards life that our religion calls for. Others keep an entirely opposite opinion and go for all kinds of foods and games without any rules and regulations. Still there is a third group that holds the opinion that Islam is a comprehensive religion. It is a complete way of life. It has left no aspect of our life, whether it is social, cultural, psychological or related to our entertainment, without guidance. Hence we need to reflect upon the guidance Islam has provided us regarding the physical fitness.
We need to research and come up with the best opinion that is close to the spirit of Islam and derived from the life style of the holy Prophet, i.e. Seerat e Tayyibah. It is believed by all the Muslims of the world that Islam has solution for each and every problem that we face in our life. We read in the holy Qur’an: “O believers! Enter perfectly in Islam (by obeying all the rules and regulations of the Islamic religion) and follow not the footsteps of Shaytan. Verily he is to you a plain enemy.”( Qur’an, 2:208) It means that Islam has provided us with guidance in each and every aspect of our life. The personality of the holy Prophet was so complete and perfect that he did not leave any aspect of our life, small or big without explaining it to the companions. His life was the practical demonstration of the holy Qur’an. Once, Ayesha the wife of the Prophet was asked about the manners of the holy Prophet. She replied, ‘Don’t you read the Qur’an? His manners were the holy Qur’an itself.”( Muslim) While Allah the Almighty told us about him saying: “Verily, in the life of the Messenger of Allah you have a role model to follow.” (Qur’an, 33:21) Now the question is whether Islam gives us any guidance regarding the physical fitness. Do we find anything about it in the holy Qur’an or in the Seerat of our beloved Prophet? We will try to look into the Qur’an first than the Sunnah. In the holy Qur’an Allah the Almighty says about Talut: “Verily Allah has chosen him above you and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature.”( Qur’an, 2:247) About Musa it is said in the holy Qur’an: “One of the two women said, O my father! Hire him, verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.” (Qur’an, 28: 26) About the angel Jibreel, Allah the Almighty has said: “Owner of power and high rank with Allah, the Lord of the Throne.”( Qur’an, 81: 20) Regarding the Seerah of the holy Prophet, we have many Ahadith that talk about the significance of physical fitness for a Muslim. Some of the important Ahadith are quoted here. The Prophet (SAW) emphasized a lot on the importance of sports. He used to arrange competitions for various sports. For example the following competitions could be seen in the books Horse Race Competitions. The Prophet (SAW) used to arrange competitions for horse racing. Abdullah bin Umar says that the Prophet (SAW) held a horse race competition among the trained horses and set two targets between Hafna and Thaniyyat alWada’. The distance between these two targets was seven miles. Then he held another competition between the untrained horses and set a target for them between Thaniyyat al-Wada’ and Masjid bani Zuraiq, which was a distance of one mile approximately. Abdullah bin Umar was among the competitors.” There were Wrestling competition and holy Prophet (SAW) used to hold wrestling competitions between the young companions to know who is fit for participation in Jihad, particularly when he refused to take someone on account of his young age he would insist to let him wrestle with the one he had allowed to participate. (Ibn Hisham, al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 2, p. 66) The Prophet (SAW) himself wrestled with Rukana who was a famous wrestler of the Arabs. The Prophet (SAW) talked to him about Islam. He said if I am certain that you are the Messenger of Allah I will believe in you. Then he said, I am a wrestler and if you are a Prophet then fight with me. The Prophet accepted his challenge to fight with him and knocked him down thrice. Shooting competition is also among those sports that were highly encouraged by the Prophet (SAW).
The Prophet (SAW) said while explaining the statement of Allah in Sura al-Anfal: “And make ready against them all you can of power” (Holy Qur’an, 8:60) That the power in this verse means shooting. He said it thrice. ( Muslim) The Prophet (SAW) was so keen to see his companions excel in the art of shooting that he himself used to supervise their shootings of arrows to encourage them. Anas bin Malik says that Abu Talha was good at shooting, so the holy Prophet used to watch him and then check the accuracy of his targets. (Bukhari) Once the Prophet (SAW) was so amazed by the shooting of Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas that he said to him in excitement, “Shoot, may my parents be ransom for you”. (Bukhari, al-Jihad, Chapter of Shiels, Vol. 6, Hadith No. 2905) There are many incidents in the Seerah that show us how much Allah’s Messenger loved this sport of shooting. It is narrated that once he passed by two groups who were shooting, he said to them, “Shoot O sons of Isma’il, surely your father was a great shooter. Shoot and I am with this group. Hearing this other group stopped shooting. The Prophet asked them why they stopped. They said, O Prophet of Allah! How can we shoot while you are with them? He said, Shoot, I am with both groups.”( Bukhari, Hadith No. 2899) The Prophet (SAW) gave good news of entering Paradise for those who make arrows and those who shoot them.
The Prophet (SAW) encouraged his companions to learn how to swim. He also ordered his companions to teach their children how to swim. Ata bin Abi Rabah narrates that the Prophet (SAW) used to hold swimming competitions for the young companions.( Nasaee, Sunan al-Kubra, Vol.5, p.302) It is also narrated that the Prophet himself used to swim in a pool that was in the garden of his maternal uncles from Banu Najjar, when he was young. The Views of the Scholars of Islam Regarding Physical Education Imam Ghazali (450 – 505 AH): It is necessary that the children should be allowed to go out for play that contains light physical exercises, after they come back from schools. If the child is made to study all the time, his mental and physical abilities will be affected and he will try to run away from the school.( Ghazali, Ihya Uloom ud Din, Vol. 3, p 73) Ibn Miskawaih (320 – 421 AH): It is one of the rights of child that he should be allowed to involve in those physical exercises that are not very difficult or tiring for him. As physical exercises keep him healthy, make him active and increase his mental capabilities, make him energetic and pious. Ibn al-Jawzi (510 – 597 AH): A parent or a teacher has to train his/her student over cleanliness, purity, manners, generosity and Haya from an early age so that the student maybe raised on these good qualities. He/she should not be allowed to stuff his stomach with food rather he should be balanced in his eating and sleeping habits. It will be helpful for him in practicing his religion. He should also be treated with physical exercises like walking. Ibn e Sina (328 – 370AH): Ibn e Sina has organized the whole day of a child in a systematic and practical manner. He emphasizes a lot on the role of physical education in the life of children starting from very early age. He also emphasizes on the importance of taking bath daily, keeping the body clean and developing the habit of eating on fix times. He says that it all should be followed strictly until the age of six then the child should be sent to school so that he may start learning the basic skills of reading, writing, recitation of the Qur’an and its memorization and then he should be gradually trained to attend the school on a regular basis. Ibn Jama’ah (639 – 733AH): It is useful for the heart, brain and eye sight of the students to go to some park and play there for some time without wasting time. It is also recommended that the child should walk and do some physical exercises as they will help him to remain active. Abul Faraj Isfahani (284 – 356AH): He advises the parents and the teachers to pay attention on the psychological education of the children while educating them. He warns the students from studying continuously without breaking for rest or physical exercise. He says that the continuous struggle of the students in their studies will lead them to failure. Ibn Sahnoon (202 – 256AH): He emphasizes on the importance of weekly holiday (Fridays) and religious holy days, like the two Eids when schools are closed so that the students may take rest and get involved in some extracurricular activities, keeping in mind that these holidays should not be so long to procrastinate the students. Ibn al-Qayyim (691 – 751 AH): Imam ibn al-Qayyim says that it is necessary to know the abilities of the child, and then let him do what he really likes. If we do that, the child will excel in that field otherwise he will fail. If the child is intelligent and has good memory then we should know that he can be good in education and excel in it. But if we see him not fit for education, rather his orientation is towards some sports like horse riding, shooting or javelin throwing, we should happily accept that he was not made for education and we should open heartedly encourage him to learn and excel in that sport. If he excels in horse riding or any other sport, he will still be bringing good name to the Muslims.
In Islam there are some rules which we have to follow in every activity. Islam did not leave any aspect of our life, but that there is guidance either in the holy Qur’an or in the Seerah of the holy Prophet (SAW). It is important in every activity we have to work under the guidance of Islam. Only sports which will not deviate us from our religion should be followed. A Muslim must cover his private parts while doing his physical exercises and avoid unnecessary mixing of males and females. It is concluded that the physical fitness is highly encouraged in the Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Moreover the scholars of Islam throughout the Islamic history have written excellent books on this topic. In the present time it is noticed that the education on this important aspect of our life is not given its due right. We have sports channels on TV and also in print media we have special issues for sports, but we are lacking the Islamic education regarding the physical fitness. We need specialized books on this topic that could be taught to our athletes and be included in their courses. We need books on this topic for the general public awareness. Few national and international conferences on this topic will surely help to educate our masses regarding this duty which we have neglected for so long. May Allah guide us all towards true path (Ameen!)
(The authors regularly write on Islamic topics exclusively for “Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own).