In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Sport is full of benefits, not only physical and social ones, but also essential and psychological consequences.
2- Men and women are in need of sport and exercise in order to maintain physical fitness and to be in a more balanced emotional state.
3- Basically, Islam does not go against sport, rather it encourages it. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) advised his followers to engage in many forms of sport, which are even today considered of the best form of exercise.
4- However, Islam sets down rules and conditions that govern man’s acts, in order to keep him on the Straight Path.
5- Islam lays down rules that create balance between a Muslim woman’s right to practice sport and the necessity of preserving her dignity and honor.
6- Islam sets certain restrictions in order to safeguard Muslim women against immoralities and indecency and to preserve their chastity while preserving their right in practicing sports.
Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, the late deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research states:
The requirements to be met for a Muslim woman to practice sport relate, at all scales, to her duty to cover the awrah (parts of the body that are not supposed to be exposed to others; vis-à-vis women, her awrah is from the navel to the knee; as for men, it is all of her body except the hands, feet, and face).
Thus, if there is a sport that woman can practice while adhering to this requirement, then it is permissible for her so long as all other religious requirements are fulfilled.
In addition, there should be no kind of photographing or televising that may broadcast these scenes.
Shedding more light on this issue, Dr. `Ali Muhyy Ed-Deen Al-Qara Daghi, head of the Department of Principles Jurisprudence (Usul Al-Fiqh) at the Faculty of Shari`ah, Qatar Univ., adds:
It is an undeniable fact that women’s practicing sport is, in principle, Islamically accepted. However, there are many conditions that are to be met in this respect. They are as follows:
1- Women must not adorn themselves for the purpose of being seen by men.
2- They must not unveil any of their private parts that Islam orders them to cover.
3- They must not intermingle with men in any way that brings them physically close together.
It is reported that when the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) had a race with Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) he made sure that men were on the front and Aishah in the back. This has two significance; first the permissibility of woman’s practicing sport, and second the legal requirements that are to be met in this respect.
Thereby, in the light of the above-mentioned facts, it’s clear that women’s practicing sport is governed with restrictions relating to Islamic observances that must be followed.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.