Short Answer: Imam Yusuf Badat and Shaykh Ahmed Kutty… they’ve given a fatwa on yoga: if you separate the religious aspect and you just keep the spirituality and you take it as an exercise form, then … there’s no situation that yoga is Haram or it’s impermissible.
Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question. This question of whether Muslims can practice yoga is a common one, actually. It’s taboo, but why?
So, you know, when I think of yoga, I think of meditation, relaxation… is that how you would explain yoga?
That’s actually part of yoga, that’s not the whole of yoga. Let me just tell you what yoga is not.
When you think of yoga, some people imagine there’s this person sitting with like beads all around. And if a fly sits on their nose, you know, they don’t know what to do. They’re just not shoving it off, they’re just still.
That’s not exactly what yoga is. And then, like in many parts of the world, yoga is practiced as a religious ritual, but here in North America, we have moved away from that idea.
Because I learned yoga here and I became a teacher here, so I keep uncomfortable aspects of yoga—that is, aspects that are uncomfortable to monotheistic faith-based groups—so I keep those things out of yoga.
And it’s basically… yoga is a philosophy. You have to think about, you know, caring for yourself, being more focused… You have to be truthful [and] kind.
And these are the philosophies that you have to bear in mind when you do your yoga practice.
And yoga practice itself… what is it?
So basically, [there] are different types of yoga. […]
So basically, we all know that our mind wanders a lot. So you can think of it as the breath is like… the string of a kite and the mind is like a kite, so the breath has the power to control the mind.
And you do that. You use the brain juice to… control your postures and connect it with your breath. So basically, it’s a connection of mind, breaths, and postures.[…]
You have to be very focused, you have been very patient, you have to really look inside you, and maybe do some self-reflection. And then control your mind-wandering.
So, it’s really about… it obviously includes elements of exercise, but it’s also a sense of spiritual centeredness, to a certain extent.
Now, I have to ask: you talked about, you know, when you practice it here, there’s an element of targeting it to monotheistic faiths. Specifically within Islam… I have to ask because I’m sure people are wondering: is yoga permissible in Islam?
So that is the biggest question I get asked because I am a Muslim woman. And then people say, “You’re a yoga teacher! Is that something right?”
So they make it completely clear that if we remove the religious aspect of yoga, but keep the spirituality… there’s a difference between religion and the informing of spirituality.
So explain that to me a little bit. What do you mean by that?
So religion is following a particular way of life, a particular ideology. Spirituality can be different.
Spirituality can be common among all people. Things like, “Be kind, be true, don’t steal.” And these things are very common values that are part of humanity, you can say.
And you would equate this to spirituality to a certain extent.
So that’s spirituality. And religions [are] like certain ways of worshipping God… So I’ve taken that out.
And then Imam Yusuf Badat and Shaykh Ahmed Kutty… they’ve given a fatwa on yoga: if you separate the religious aspect and you just keep the spirituality and you take it as an exercise form, then … there’s no situation that yoga is Haram or it’s impermissible.
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(From Ask About Islam archives)
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