Muslim sports fighters Halal/Haraam Ratio

Muslim sports fighters Halal/Haraam Ratio

by | Nov 18, 2020 | Current Affairs, Miscellaneous | 0 comments

Muslim sports fighters Halal/Haraam Ratio: Good Character, Bad Sports, And The Conundrum of Muslim Representation

By Zainab bint Younus

The Muslim Ummah has spent the last several years celebrating the rise and success of MMA fighter Khabib Normagomedov, a Muslim Daghestanti fighter who emerged to become an undisputed victor. On the day of his 29th victory, he also announced his retirement from MMA, referencing a promise that he made to his mother.

Muslims went wild in their praises, showering him with adoration, expressing their admiration of his obedience to his mother, his public demonstrations of sajdah ash-shukr after every match, his humility and remembrance of Allah, and his lowering of the gaze around inappropriately dressed women at public events. Undoubtedly, these are all praiseworthy behaviours and characteristics that should be encouraged in all Muslims, especially Muslim men.

However, there has been a near-deafening silence on the underlying problematic foundations of the entire phenomenon of Khabib Nurmagomedov and his popularity amongst Muslim men. To begin with, his entire career as an MMA fighter is considered sinful and prohibited according to the Shari’ah. It is well-known that the Messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

وَعَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ ‏- رضى الله عنه ‏- قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اَللَّهِ ‏- صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏-{ إِذَا قَاتَلَ أَحَدُكُمْ, فَلْيَتَجَنَّبِ اَلْوَجْهَ } مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ.‏ 1‏ .‏

‏1 ‏- صحيح.‏ رواه البخاري (2559)‏، ومسلم (2612)‏ واللفظ لمسلم، ولتمام تخريج

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“When any one of you fights, let him avoid (striking) the face.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, al-Fath, 5/215).

Scholars have agreed that any sports which involve striking of the face, and in addition, those which involve several physical harm and injury to its participants, are haraam. As per the hadith, and established legal maxim, “laa darar wa laa diraar” (There is no harming of others nor reciprocation of harm), this prohibition extends to sports such as boxing, MMA, American football, and any other sport where the athletes deliberately and regularly inflict and receive physical injury.

On The Ropes

This is not a matter to be taken lightly. Indeed, it is disturbing and unfortunate that this fact has been minimized to such an extent that many Muslims – including and especially the Muslim men who are such avid fans of these sports – are not even aware of this prohibition. Perhaps most alarming is that many of those who are considered scholars, imams, shuyookh, and leaders in the Muslim community, who are aware of this prohibition, have neglected to mention these rulings even as they publicly praise those such as Muhammad Ali or Khabib Nurmagomedov for their prowess in these arenas, and hold them to be role models to follow. When even religious authorities are publicly cheering on such athletes and celebrating their victories, how can the average layman be expected to know that these sports are detested by the Shari’ah? It is a grave shortcoming that so many religious teachers and leaders have failed their fellow Muslims on a matter that has been extremely public and popularized.

It is also necessary for Muslims to consider that the way that professional boxing, wrestling, MMA, and similar prohibited sports are conducted is a far cry from the casual (and permissible) fighting-for-sport that existed at the time of RasulAllah ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Today, the sports industry boasts billions upon billions of dollars spent in promotional material and events that involve no small amount of music, alcohol, vulgarity, and nearly-naked women being used solely to titillate the male gaze; sponsors of teams and athletes include beer companies.

Glutton For Punishment

Male and female ‘awrah alike is revealed, openly and blatantly, normalized as part of the sports environment. Concern over the male ‘awrah being revealed cannot be overstated when we have an Islamic tradition that emphasizes modesty for believers, male and female. The greatest of all human beings, the Messenger of Allah, was described as “… more modest than a virgin in seclusion”

(Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 5751, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2320). The Prophet Musa (‘alayhissalaam) was known to be so modest that he kept his body covered at all times (Sahih Tirmidhi); the Companion ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Affaan (radhiAllahu ‘anhu) was described as having such modesty that the Messenger of Allah himself said, “Should I not be shy of the one whom the angels are shy of?” (Sahih Muslim 2401)

Related to modesty is the reminder to Muslim women who have been watching his matches (or any other entertainment) to lower their gazes. Bluntly speaking, it does not behoove a believing woman to be enjoying the sight of half-naked men (especially the very fit, athletic, and often attractive type) to be grappling away at each other. Muslim women are certainly not immune to the fitnah caused by the flaunting of undressed men all over social media feeds and through other entertainment.

The warnings regarding zina of the eyes apply to Muslim women just as they do to men; the Qur’an has already said:

{And tell the believing women to lower their gazes and guard their private parts…} (Qur’an 24:31)

It is unfortunate that this has been forgotten about to such an extent that even scholars have neglected to address this particular issue.

Rolling With The Representation Punches

While Khabib himself has been praised for his lowering of the gaze around inappropriately dressed women at events that he is present at, we should be cognizant of the fact that neither he nor any other Muslim man (or woman) should be putting themselves in the position of being at such events to begin with. The truth of the matter is that his presence at these events was a necessary part of his career; his income, derived from this haraam sport and this haraam environment, can bluntly be considered haraam rizq, and no different in legal ruling than those who make money from liquor stores or running brothels. That Muslims have been blithely ignoring the serious spiritual ramifications of this raises the question of just how seriously we take the issue of blessed rizq in the first place.

It is clear that many Muslim men, and in particular the religiously observant, find in Khabib a type of Muslim representation that they crave: someone who is publicly and unapologetically Muslim, who has demonstrated impressive physical skills and capability (perhaps they’re living through him vicariously?), who has displayed exemplary conduct outside the ring, who has constantly held fast to publicly and unashamedly remembering Allah and speaking of Islam.

In and of itself, this is admirable. The Muslim Ummah has had a dearth of heroic contemporary role models, and no one can be faulted for feeling love for someone who seems to embody such laudable character and conduct. However, we cannot simply stop there. It is necessary for us to ask ourselves the question of what kind of Muslim representation is the kind of Muslim representation worth having – and how, and where, that representation takes place.

When Muslim women have entered the public space, providing “representation” in the form of a muhajjabah in Playboy magazine, a hijab wearing model in a beauty pageant and the modeling industry, a hijabi in Olympic sports, and plenty of non-hijabis in many other areas, there has been a great deal of valid, legitimate criticism regarding the concept of “Muslim representation” and what it entails. Amongst conservative Muslims, there is a shared belief that “representation” at the cost of upholding the halal and turning away from the haraam is not representation worth having. Indeed, such “representation” comes with a significant amount of damage to the collective social and spiritual health of the Ummah: there is normalization of platforms that are antithetical to Islamic values, of dressing and conduct that go against our Shari’ah, and encouraging younger generations to engage in those behaviours and to pursue those types of careers.

Why, then, are we not holding our Muslim brothers to the same standard? No matter how inspiring Khabib’s conduct is, no matter how admirable his public representation of his Muslim identity, his career and all that comes with it cannot be considered permissible, acceptable, or encouraged in Islam. Unfortunately, we have had many Muslim men encouraging one another to watch his matches, to the extent of arranging watch parties in the masjid! (Someone, please, answer me truly: how would RasulAllah consider the enthusiastic watching of a haraam sport in the House of Allah?)

Blow-By Blow: Izzah of the Ummah?

Furthermore, the excuses made for Khabib’s career choice are, frankly, flimsy – he has not brought ‘izzah to this Ummah in any tangible way other than making Muslim men feel good about themselves (I mean, hey, I get it, but sorry, this ain’t it); he is not “intimidating the kuffaar” (let’s be real: the kuffaar at the UFC are making more money off of him than you could ever dream of having in a lifetime); his victories in the ring are not a victory for this Ummah (please, go ask the oppressed Muslims in Burma, Somalia, Yemen, East Turkestan, Palestine, Kashmir, and elsewhere how much of a victory his matches have been for their well-being). Indeed, questions have risen regarding his public appearances with Vladimir Putin and his possible political allegiances with Russia, which has a long history of brutalizing Muslims in their surrounding regions.

At the end of the day, Khabib Nurmagomedov is a paid athlete, whose millions of dollars come from a prohibited sport, in an industry that reeks of filth from beginning to end. He is our Muslim brother, and what should be celebrated is that he has finally chosen to leave the industry. What we should not have done, nor continue to do, is to hold his career as an MMA fighter to be exemplary for Muslims in any way, shape or form. We should pray for his guidance as a Muslim, his forgiveness for his previous sins, and remind our Muslim brothers – no matter how emotionally swayed they may be – that true ‘izzah comes not from participating in prohibited sports or careers (despite how successful one may be at it!), but from obeying the Law of Allah and His Messenger and abstaining from transgressing the boundaries laid by the Shari’ah.

This article was reviewed by a scholar for religious content.

Further resources on rulings:

Zainab bint Younus is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women’s issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da’wah.

A boxer is asking about the ruling on boxing


Allah has given me the gift of being a good boxer and I am confident that I can become world champion in the next few years. I have had a successful amateur boxing career and am about to start a professional boxing career. I have recently come into deen and would like you to inform me whether I am allowed to do professional boxing or not. While boxing I feel that I could do a lot of good for Islam and help Muslims by both speaking about Islam (in order to encourage in particular the youth to go on the right path (islam) and giving money to charity etc. It is my intention eventually to perform Jihad of the body one day and that my years of training as a boxer would eventually serve for this purpose.

Please could you give me evidence in support of your fatwah.

( P.s. I would not be competing against Muslim brothers only against non-Muslims).


Praise be to Allah.

We praise Allaah for guiding the brother who asked this question, and we ask Allaah to make him steadfast in his religion. And we praise Him for giving you physical strength, in which there is a great deal of good for you and for the Muslims in sha Allaah, because the Muslims strengthen and support one another.

Physical strength is a blessing from Allaah and a gift from Him which He bestows upon whomsoever He will and withholds from whomsoever He will.

The Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) preferred a strong believer to a weak one; this includes both strength of faith and physical strength.

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allaah than the weak believer, although both are good. Strive to do that which will benefit you and seek the help of Allaah. Do not feel helpless and if anything befalls you, do not say ‘If only I had done such and such.’ Rather say, ‘Qadar Allaah wa ma sha’a kaan (The decree of Allaah and whatever He wills happens).’ For (the words) ‘If only’ open the door to the Shaytaan.”

Narrated by Muslim, 2664

It is very good for the believer to engage in permissible sports so that he will be physically strong and will preserve his health, which will help him to do acts of worship and strive in jihad for the sake of Allaah.

The Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) praised good health and even regarded it as more important than money.

It was narrated from Mu’aadh ibn ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Khubayb from his father that his paternal uncle said: “We were sitting in a gathering when the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came, with traces of water on his head. One of us said, ‘We see that you appear to be in high spirits today.’ He said, ‘Yes, praise be to Allaah.’ Then the people spoke about riches. He said, ‘There is nothing wrong with riches for one who fears Allaah, but good health is better for one who fears Allaah than riches, and being in good spirits is a blessing.’”

Narrated by Ibn Maajah, 2141; Ahmad, 22076. This hadeeth was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh Ibn Maajah, no. 1741

The Muslim’s aim in playing sports should be to strengthen himself to do acts of worship and to support the religion of Allaah, to defend His sacred limits and to protect the honour of the Muslims.

If that is not the case, then at the very least he should aim to earn himself a living in this world, protect himself from enemies or use his physical strength to earn a living, so that it will be a means of him eating from what he earns with his own hands.

It was narrated from al-Miqdaam (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “No man eats better food than the one who earns it with his own hands. The Prophet of Allaah Dawood (peace be upon him) used to eat from what he earned with his own hands.

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1966.

It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “For one of you to chop wood and carry it on his back is better for him than asking (begging) from anyone who will either give him something or refuse to give him anything.”

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1968; Muslim, 1042

This is with regard to permissible kinds of sports. But from what we see nowadays, most sports have gone beyond that and are no longer permissible; they have become haraam, especially boxing which is the worst of sports, for the following reasons:

1 – It involves attacking the face, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If any one of you has a fight with his brother, let him avoid the face.”

(al-Bukhaari, 2560; Muslim, 2612). This game is based on hitting the face of one’s opponent with the strongest blow the boxer can muster.

2 – It is a waste of time. Allaah has bestowed many blessings upon the Muslim, and He will question him about them on the Day of Resurrection. But people think little of these blessings and waste many of them such as good health and free time. One of the things that Allaah will question the Muslim about on the Day when he meet Him will be his youth and what he did with it, and his life and how he spent it. What will this man say who spent his youth and his life training to fight people and wrestle with them and box with them in order to gain a title or win a prize?

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said:

If a person should not waste his money on things that are of no benefit, it is even more important that he not waste his time, because time is more precious than money, and because the fact that the young and the not-so-young waste their time on these sorts of games that are of no benefit to them is something that is very unfortunate and regrettable.

Fataawa Islamiyyah, 4/435

3 – It is a harmful sport which can lead to irreparable damage, and Allaah has forbidden us to harm our bodies, which He has commanded us to preserve and protect.

It was narrated from ‘Ubaadah ibn al-Saamit that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) decreed that there should be no harm or reciprocating of harm. Narrated by Ibn Maajah, 2340; Ahmad, 21714; this hadeeth was classed as saheeh by Imam Ahmad and al-Haakim, and as hasan by Ibn al-Salaah.

See Khalaasat al-Badr al-Muneer, by Ibn al-Mulaqqin, 2/438

Because of your practising this sport, you know that there are many boxers have been permanently injured, especially with damage to the brain and nerves.

4 – It involves wasting money and wasting people’s time with something that is of no benefit. Instead of being wasted on this useless entertainment, that money could have been spent on charitable causes. How many millions are wasted that could have been spent on feeding the hungry, building a mosque, opening a school or other good works?

5 – These sports – including boxing – have become an excuse for tribalism and nationalism. Sport, as it exists nowadays, has divided people and made people love or hate one another on the basis of the victory or defeat of a team.

6 – It involves uncovering the ‘awrah, even if you do not do that, your opponent will. The man’s ‘awrah is from the navel to the knee, as was narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).

Similarly, it involves uncovering of the spectators’ ‘awrahs, both men and women. This is something that you cannot ward off or even denounce them for it.

You say in your question that you will not fight Muslims, but will the people who organize the matches allow you that? I don’t think so, and you know better than we do.


These fights are not held for the sake of religion, and they are not based on that. When people watch a fight, they do not think that this is a fight between Islam and kufr.

Moreover, when you fight, you will be fighting in the name of the country where you live, or which has given you its nationality; they will not allow you to fight in the name of Islam.

And even if your opponent is a kaafir, he may from among the people with whom there is peace (ahl al-silm), not those who are in a state of war with the Muslims (ahl al-harb), so what right do you have to raise your hand against a man who is at peace with us?

In conclusion, this sport if one of the haraam games that cause more harm than good.


With regard to your saying that you intend to go for jihad one day.

These are beautiful words, even if boxing is haraam. You can strengthen your body by doing other sports that are not haraam.

Please see question no. 10427

Ruling on Boxing

And Allaah knows best.


My local mosque is thinking about setting up boxing classes. I wanted to know whether this is permissibile. The reason being that is there not a hadith of the Prophet (SAW) where he sees two men wrestling/ sparring and he tells them to avoid the face for we have been created in the likeness of Adam (AS)? According to this, is it mub’ah to practice boxing with another brother and hit one another in the face?


Praise be to Allah.

The Islamic sharee’ah permits all things that are beneficial to the body and do not harm it, and it forbids all things that may cause damage or harm to the body. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Your body has rights over you.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, Kitaab al-Sawm, 1839)

If sports are free from things which are forbidden in sharee’ah, then practising those sports is beneficial. Boxing is an ancient sport that was practised by the Greeks.

Boxing is the worst kind of sport, and probably it does not even deserve to be called a sport, despite the fact that western nations, in particular – where boxing is widespread at a professional level – call it “the noble sport” and a form of self-defence. They forget, or overlook, the fact that the main aim of boxing is to harm one’s opponent and throw him to the ground, preferably with the “decisive blow” (or “knock-out”), as they call it, which is the highest level of victory in boxing.

“Many voices have been raised in the parliaments of many countries demanding a ban on professional boxing, in view of the harm that has been caused to many boxers. Sweden has succeeded in imposing such a ban, whilst many other nations have failed to do so, despite the many injuries, and even deaths, caused to many professional boxers as a direct result of this violent sport.

The fact of the matter is that the deaths of so many boxers is the reason for many voices calling for an end to this sport, or at least the imposition of strict rules to limit its violence.” (From Huna London magazine, issue # 413, March 1983).

Dr. Roger Whirty, the spokesman of the British Medical Council in Wales, spoke of the aims of the Council’s campaign against boxing: “We want to show everyone that boxing is an extremely dangerous sport, not only because of the increasing number of fatalities, but also because of the disabilities which affect many more times that number. In order to achieve that, we are trying to put pressure on various official bodies to condemn this sport, and not to consider it to be a sport at all. I reiterate once again that the danger of this sport lies in the harm caused to hundreds of boxers as a result of the disabilities that they suffer.

The number of boxers who have died as a result of injuries sustained in boxing between 1945 and 1983 is three hundred and fifty.” (From Huna London magazine, issue # 413, March 1983).

The Islamic attitude towards this sport:

The principles of Islam are completely opposed to the idea of the ummah accepting this dangerous deviation as a moral or intellectual trend which would permit such violent fights between members of the ummah or of the human race as a whole.

Among these principles we may list the following:

1.Harm. We have already mentioned the harm and danger to human life involved in this sport, and the testimony of western specialists who are motivated by their humanitarian feelings to fight and strive to eliminate boxing from the international sporting lexicon.

2.Violating the sanctity of the face. Boxing is based on allowing punches to the face of one’s opponent using the maximum force that one possesses. Blows to the face earn more points than blows to any other part of the body. This clearly goes against the teaching of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as narrated by Abu Hurayrah: “When any one of you fights, let him avoid (striking) the face.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 5/215).

Al-Haafiz said: “This prohibition also includes all those who are struck for the purpose of hadd or ta’zeer punishments or discipline. According to the hadeeth narrated by Abu Bakrah and others, which was recorded by Abu Dawood and others, about the woman who had committed adultery, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded that she should be stoned to death, and said, ‘Stone her, but avoid the face.’ (Narrated by Abu Dawood, 4/152). If that is the command in the case of one who is being punished and is going to die anyway, then the rule is even more applicable in cases of lesser severity.” See al-Fath, 5/216

Al-Nawawi said: “The scholars said: it is forbidden to strike the face because it is soft and all of a person’s beauty and most of his senses are located there. If the face is hit, there is the fear that all or some of them may be destroyed or disfigured. Any defect in the face is a terrible thing because it is so prominent and obvious, and usually the person who is hit in the face will not be spared some disfigurement.” (al-Fath, 5/216).

In al-Fath, he says concerning the specific prohibition narrated in the hadeeth:

“Al-Nawawi did not discuss the details of this prohibition. It is clear that it is haraam, and this is supported by the hadeeth of Suwayd ibn Maqran al-Sahaabi, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saw a man slap a slave (or a boy) in the face, and he said, “Do you not know that the face is inviolate?” (Muslim, 3/1280.

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