It goes without saying that Islam sanctions anything that is pure and beneficial for man. It encourages a Muslim to be strong and to seek the means of strength. In his Hadith, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) preferred a strong Muslim to a weak one. Islam places great importance on sports in training the Muslims and making their bodies healthy and sound. However, a Muslim is required to keep his belief pure and correct. In his practice of any kind of sport or training, he must keep away from any beliefs or practices that are in direct contradiction with the pristine doctrines or beliefs of Islam.

Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “As Muslims we are encouraged to develop our body, mind and soul by using all the legitimate and beneficial methods available to us. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “A believer who is strong is superior to a believer who is weak.” Martial arts and exercises are efficient methods of achieving balance and harmony between body and mind; they also help us develop self-esteem and discipline which are valuable assets for successful living. Having said this, however, I must point out that while learning such martial arts such as aikido, karate, etc., we must be careful not to get carried away or let ourselves get brainwashed into the occult, mystical or metaphysical doctrines or system of beliefs and practices they are often associated, or closely allied, with.

As Muslims we are permitted to learn or practice such martial arts only if they can be detached from such a baggage. So it is your duty to check with the instructor whether you are obliged to subscribe to any such belief systems or doctrines in order to be trained in this art or not. If you must do so, then they are in direct contradiction with the pristine doctrines or beliefs of Islam as enshrined in the authentic sources of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. It is important for us to know that most of the eastern metaphysical or mystical systems are based on a pantheistic world view that equates the world with God or God with the world, while the Islamic world view is based on a clear distinction between the two realms. Hence, a Muslim can never subscribe to such world views or practices rooted in them.

Allah describes Himself in the Qur’an as “He is Allah, the One, Allah, the eternally Besought! He has not begotten, nor been begotten, and equal to Him there is none.” (Al-Ikhlas: 1-4) So if you are obliged to subscribe to such a world view in order to learn or master such a discipline, then you are not allowed to join it. If, however, that is not the case, and you are allowed to detach the physical aspects of the training from the body of beliefs or practices contrary to those of Islam, then you are allowed to learn it.

In order to stay clear of such questionable beliefs or practices, keep in mind the following points:

1. You are not allowed to use such arts except for purposes of legitimate self-defense.

2. You must never be remiss or slack in observing your obligatory Islamic duties such as Prayer, fasting, etc.

3. You should consistently pray to Allah to make your heart firm and steadfast on the right path, and never let you swerve from it.

4. Furthermore, try to make dhikr (remembrance of Allah) your constant companion in order to receive divine grace and enjoy tranquility and peace of mind.