Recreation and Play

A-úthú billáhi minash shaytánir rajím. Bismilláhir Rahmánir Rahím!

[Arabic du’á]

Islam is a practical religion. Islam does not float in the atmosphere of imaginary ideals. It remains with the human being on the ground of realities and day-to-day concerns. Islam does not regard people as angels but accepts them as human beings with their human shortcomings, faults and weaknesses. Human beings have their needs, their whims and desires. They are prone to forgetfulness and temptation.

Islam does not require of Muslims that they should spend all their leisure time in the mosque, that they should listen to nothing except the recitation of the Quran, that their speech should consist entirely of pious utterances or, that their silence should only be devoted to meditation.

Islam recognises that Allah has created human beings with many needs and desires, so that, as they need to eat and drink, they also need to relax, and to have recreation, amusement and enjoy them selves.

A Time for This and a Time for That

Some of the Companions of the Prophet attained great spiritual heights.

They believed that in order to remain at such a spiritual level they should always be serious, engaged in constant worship.

They tried to turn their backs on all the enjoyments of life and the good things of the world, neither playing nor relaxing but keeping their eyes and their minds fixed on the Hereafter and its concerns, away from common life and its amusements.

One of these companions was Hanzalah al-Usaidi. He said: Abu Bakr met me one day and asked, ‘How are you, Hanzalah?’ I replied, ‘Hanzalah has become a hypocrite.’ He said, ‘Subhanallah! What are you saying?’

I replied, ‘When we are with Allah’s Messenger he mentions the Fire and the Paradise until it is as if we can see them. But when we leave the Prophet’s company and go back to our wives and children or busy ourselves with our properties, we forget much.’ Abu Bakr said, ‘By Allah, I have experienced the same thing.’ He and I then went to visit the Messenger of Allah, and I said,

‘O Messenger of Allah, Hanzalah has become a hypocrite.’ He asked, ‘And how is that?’ I replied, ‘O Messenger of Allah, when we are with you, you talk about the Fire and the Paradise until it is as if we can see them. Then we go out and play with our wives and children and deal with our properties, and we forget much.

The Messenger of Allah then said: ‘By Him in Whose hand is my soul, if you were to continue at the same level at which you were when with me and in remembering Allah, the angels would shake hands with you when you are resting and when you walk about. But, O Hanzalah, there is a time (for this) and a time (for that).’ He repeated this phrase three times (Reported by Muslim).

In this hadith, the Prophet acknowledges that the Muslim should have a time for His Lord and a time for himself. The Muslim’s life should be balanced between his duties to His Lord and his duties to himself, his family and community and others. A balanced life does not mean constant seclusion in the mosque, nor denying the human need for recreation, amusement and joy.

Some Muslims seem to believe that it is sign of good faith to be grumpy and gloomy. It is not easy for them to smile and be happy. They seem to have no sense of humour at all. They may believe that a good Muslim should always be serious and stern. Such Muslims are either unaware of or maybe ignoring the saying of the Prophet: “A Time for This and a Time for That”.

There is a time for devotion and a time for relaxation. There is a time for worship and a time for fulfilling our needs and desires. There is a time for hard work and a time for rest. There is a time for contemplation and dedication and a time foe amusement.

The Humanness of the Messenger of Allah

This is the way of Rassuul Allah. His life-pattern is a perfect example for every human being. The Holy Quran says:

{You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah A beautiful pattern of conduct… } 33/21.

When he was in private he would worship his lord with such intense devotion, standing for long hours in salat, that his feet would become swollen; in matters pertaining to truth or justice he did not care about anyone’s opinion, seeking only the pleasure of Allah.

But in his living habits and dealings with people he was a human being, enjoying good things, participating in small talk, smiling and joking, yet never departing from the truth.

The Prophet liked happiness and disliked grief, he sought refuge with Allah from difficulties and troubles which result in sorrow, supplicating, “O Allah, I seek refuge in You from distress and grief” (Reported by abu-Daoud).

This is the tradition, the way and the Sunnah of the Prophet that we should keep in mind and follow.

It is reported that once an old woman came to him, saying:

“O Messenger of Allah, pray to Allah that He admits me to Paradise.” The Prophet said, “O mother of such a person, no old woman will enter paradise.” The woman was so distressed. She thought that she would not enter Paradise. The Prophet then explained to her that no old woman would enter the Paradise as an old woman, for Allah would restore her youth and admit her to Paradise as young virgin. He then recited to her the verse:

We created them of special creation, and made them virgins-pure, Beloved (by nature) Equal in age. (56: 35-37)

It is made clear in this verse that the companions for the heavenly society will be of special creation – of virginal purity, grace and beautify, inspiring and inspired by love. The question of time and age is eliminated. Thus every person among the righteous will have the Bliss of Heaven and the peace of Allah.

Relaxing the Mind

Following the Prophet’s example, his noble Companions also enjoyed humour and laughter, play and sport, which relaxed their bodies and minds and prepared them to travel on the long, hard way of striving in the cause of truth and justice. ‘Ali bin Abu Talib said:

“Minds get tired, as do bodies, so treat them with humour,” and said also “Refresh your minds from time to time, for a tired mind becomes blind.” And Abu al-Darda said: “I entertain my heart with something trivial in order to make it stronger in the service of the truth.”

Accordingly, there is no harm in the Muslim’s entertaining himself in order to relax his mind or refreshing himself with some permissible sport or play with his friends. However, the pursuit of pleasure should not become the goal of his life so that he devotes himself to it, forgetting his religious obligations. Nor should he joke about serious matters or indulge in a type of humour, which is offensive and harmful to others.

It has been appropriately said, “Season your conversation with humour in the same proportion as you season your food with salt.”

The Muslim is forbidden to joke and laugh about other people’s values and honour. Allah says:

O you who believe, let not some people laugh at others people; it may be that they are better than them … (49:11)

We may laugh with people, to share in the happiness of life. We must not laugh at people in contempt or ridicule. In many things and ways they may be better than us.

Second Khutbah

Permissible Sports

When we study the Sira of the Prophet, the history of his life, we see that there were many kinds of games and sports which the Prophet recommended to the Muslims as a source of enjoyment and recreation. Such games and sports prepare them for worship and other obligations. They require skill and determination, and also involve physical exercise and body- building activity, stamina and perseverance.

For example, The Companions of the Prophet used to race on foot and the Prophet encouraged them in this. It is reported that ‘Ali was a fast runner. The Prophet himself raced with his wife ‘Aishah in order to please her, to enjoy himself, and to set an example for his Companions. ‘Aishah said:

“I raced with the Prophet and beat him in the race. Later, when I had put on some weight, we raced again and he won. Then he said, ‘This cancels that,” referring to the previous occasion (reported by Ahmad and Abu Daoud).

The Prophet once wrestled with a man called Rukanah who was well-known for his strength, throwing him down more than once” (Reported by Abu Daoud).

From these reports concerning the Prophet SAW, jurists have deduced the permissibility of foot racing, whether it is between men against each other or between men and women who are their (muharrmmat) or wives. They have also concluded that foot racing, wrestling, and sports of this type do not compromise the dignity of scholarship, piety, or age.

The prophet was more than fifty years when he raced with ‘Aishah.

The benefits derived from sport can not be denied. Not only do they have physical and social benefits but also essential psychological consequences.

Men and women alike are in need of sport and exercise. Physical fitness is certainly encouraged, just as a balanced diet is endorsed, and harmful substances are prohibited. Exercise is also helpful to reduce stress and lead to more balanced emotional state.

However, we must keep in mind that participating in any sport is permissible in Islam under certain conditions:

  1. Involvement in any sport should not make the person negligent of his religious obligations; For a Muslim, any activity that he is engaged in should not divert or prevent him from performing and fulfilling his religious obligations. This is a broad principle and standard by which we can establish whether modern sporting interest within the Muslim community is within acceptable levels or not.
  2. The clothing should be decent and must conform to Sharia regulations;
  3. No form of gambling whatsoever should be involved in such an activity;
  4. The participating person should not become the cause of others neglecting their religious duties;
  5. There should be no intermingling of sexes.
  6. The intention is only to build the physique in preparation for strength and fitness.

[Closing Du’a]

Ameen! Aqeemus Salaah!


* Edited From the Lawful and the Prohibited in Islám, by Sheikh Qaradawi