Non-Muslim Swimming Trainer for Muslim Girls: OK?

07 November, 2018
Q Dear scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. I live in the UK and we have booked private swimming sessions for Muslim women only. Every sister has to cover her awrah (parts of the body which should not be exposed in front of others). In order to run the pool, we are legally obliged to have a life guard. At the moment, the life guard is a non-Muslim woman who is also a swimming instructor for women and children. She wears longer shorts (still above her knees) and a T-shirt. We are trying to train a few sisters so that we do not have to employ the non-Muslim. Is it haram (unlawful) to have her among us? Is it acceptable to send children (under the age of puberty) to public swimming lessons with other children and non-Muslim instructors? This is the only opportunity they have to learn how to swim and to develop this skill.


Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

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- Your community’s efforts to provide this opportunity to women is commendable, for it is a collective duty for Muslims to learn to swim.

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2- Some scholars allow Muslim women to remove their hijab in front of non-Muslim women of good character, so you can take lessons with this life guard until some of the Muslim sisters are qualified in this area.

In response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:

According to some scholars, it is allowed for Muslim women to take off hijab before other Muslim women as well as reputable non-Muslim women.

So if this woman is a woman of character and integrity, you are allowed to treat her like anyone else and you can swim in her presence.

You are allowed to send your children to public swimming lessons if they are under the age of puberty after having taken reasonable safeguards, such as sending them with proper attire for swimming and making sure there is no chance for girls and boys to be isolated.

If we have our own alternative ways of teaching swimming, then we must definitely avoid sending them to such public lessons.

It is my firm opinion that Muslim communities in the UK and North America have no excuse for not organizing their own swimming programs without the need to have recourse to non-Muslim instructors.

Remember skills such as swimming are considered as collective duty; therefore it is high time for Muslims to train their own people as instructors.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.