Indeed, Islam permits the Muslim to practice sports and games as long as such sports are beneficial for the person’s physical fitness. 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) commands us saying: “Teach your children swimming, archery and horseback riding.” There are many kinds of games and sports that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) recommended to Muslims as a source of enjoyment and recreation. Such sports require skill and determination, and involve physical exercise and bodybuilding activity.
However, sports and games must not involve haram activities nor the taking of substances that are harmful to the body, such as the steroids that many bodybuilders take.
Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, states the following: “Body building aims to make the body strong and sound, which is an important and desirable goal. Islam is concerned with man’s well-being in both body and soul, and it encourages all kinds of sport that will strengthen the body and maintain good health as well as provide relaxation and leisure, such as swimming, shooting, horseback riding, sword fighting and wrestling.
But when Islam accepts sports and encourages us to engage in them, it does not make them a goal in and of themselves. Rather sport is considered to be a means of protecting the sacred limits of Islam and the dignity and rights of the Muslims, in the belief that strength is one of the most important means of achieving victory and prevailing in the face of challenges and warding off the threats that face Islam.
If the purpose of sport is to prepare the body to be fit to carry out the duty of jihad so as to make the word of Allah supreme, then sport is essential. Allah Almighty says, “And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war…” (Al-Anfal :60)
The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said: “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer.” (Reported by Muslim)
If the aim is relaxation and maintaining good health, then sport is permissible. If it involves something haram, (forbidden) such as missing Prayers, uncovering any part of the `awrah (body parts that must be covered) or mixing with the opposite sex and so on, then it is haram.
Those who engage in bodybuilding uncover their `awrahs when practicing this sport, which is undoubtedly haram. The `awrah of a man extends from the navel to the knee, and it is not permissible for him to uncover it in front of anyone other than his wife. It is also not permissible for him to look at the `awrah of anyone else.
The basic principle concerning this matter is the hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in which he said: “What is between the navel and the knee is `awrah.”
If the sport is free of these haram things, then there is nothing wrong with engaging in it.
Having stated the above, I would like to stress the following two points:
1. Some of those who engage in this sport are motivated by self-admiration and love of pride and showing off before others because of their beautiful bodies and strong muscles, and other bad motives, some of which are worse than others. The believer should shun such things and seek the adornment of good attitude, humility and fairness.
2. Going to extremes in making the body look good and being concerned with that is not a good thing. What is good in this regard is that which helps the Muslim to maintain good health, to practice Islam, to engage in jihad for the sake of Allah, and to do the acts of worship which require physical strength such as Hajj.
However, doing more than that and going to extremes usually distracts the Muslim from doing things that are more important, as happens in the case of those who practice many kinds of sports nowadays, training for many hours each day.
What benefit can a Muslim gain if his body is as strong as a bull, but his heart is devoid of faith and all virtue?
Moreover, the late Saudi scholar Sheikh Ibn `Uthaymeen, adds:
“Playing sports is permissible if that does not distract one from something that is obligatory. If it distracts one from something that is obligatory, then it becomes haram, and if it becomes a person’s way of life so that it takes up most of his time, then it is a waste of time, and in this case at the very least it is makruh (reprehensible).
With regard to playing sport wearing only shorts that show the thighs or most of them, this is haram. The correct view is that young men must cover their thighs, and it is not permissible to watch players when they have their thighs uncovered in this manner.”
Finally, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, concludes:
“Games are determined to be halal (lawful) or haram by weighing and comparing all relevant benefits and disadvantages. If there are tangible benefits in a sport or game, then it is deemed to be permissible, or even recommended; if, however, there is more harm than benefit to be accrued from a sport, then such a sport may very well be considered forbidden.
Also, while comparing benefits and disadvantages, the Shari`ah lays greater emphasis on the removal of any perceived harm over any presumable benefits.
During the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), wrestling involved using physical fitness and skill to overcome an opponent Such skills were, and are, quite desirable, or even essential, for the purpose of self-defence. Also, training to fine tune or build muscles is encouraged. Wrestling falls under this category.”
In the light of the above-mentioned guidelines, it becomes clear that bodybuilding is a permissible sport that a Muslim is encouraged to practice in order to refine and build his body.