Is it acceptable for Muslims to play sports?
Yes. Allah prohibits that which is harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual health of individuals and to overall health of society. Because many Islamic scholars believe music is forbidden, there has been some debate over the permissibility of sports among Muslims.
After all, the same idol-worship that often occurs from fans toward musicians and entertainers also happens with athletes. Some of the harmful behaviors glorified in music are also glorified (and practiced) in the sports world. And in the same way that becoming wrapped up in music is distracting to what should be one’s purpose of submitting to the will of Allah, many sports fans become so obsessive that it distracts their focus and brings out the worst in them.
However, Allah wants us to have sound bodies, as well as sound minds and sound morals. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The strong (active) believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both.” The Prophet himself participated in swimming, archery, running and horseback riding, and was said to have encouraged parents to involve their children in these sports.
There is also a famous story in which Muhammad (pbuh) encountered Rukaana, a renowned strongman and wrestling champion in Mecca. After the smaller Muhammad took Rukaana down multiple times in a row, the champ converted to Islam.
Being physically fit and active enhances the body’s immune system and protects it from diseases. From daily prayers to fasting during Ramadan to the actions performed during Hajj, a Muslim who is in shape is better equipped to perform the duties of Islam.
As in every activity in life, Muslims who play sports (and are sports fans) should conduct themselves respectfully and in a manner that pleases Allah. That means showboating, cheating and unnecessary roughness are discouraged. Humility and modesty should be a trait of all Muslims, and it’s no different for Muslims when competing in sports. As the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Almighty Allah has decreed that nothing shall have a permanent glory,” which means every situation has its ups and downs, and no condition is permanent.”
Are Muslim women allowed to play sports?
Yes. Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them), competed against her husband in footraces. She said, “I competed with the Messenger of Allah (in running) and overtook him. Later, when I had put on some weight, I once again competed with him, but this time he overtook me and said: ‘We’re even now.’”
Islam does not allow co-ed participation in some sports and does not allow men to watch women compete in certain sports, in order to close doors to seduction, temptation and corruption.