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IRSYAD FATWA SERIES 247: THE RULING OF WATCHING SPORTS NOT COVERING THE AURAH

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Question:

Assalamualaikum SS Dato’ Seri Mufti. I want to ask, what is the ruling of watching sports tournament that does not cover the aurah such as soccer, badminton and hockey, where the players do not cover their aurah completely, but unlike sports that clearly does not cover their aurah such as gymnastics and swimming?

 

Answer:

Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

Allah SWT states in the Quran:

إنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولا

“Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart - about all those [one] will be questioned.”

Surah al-Isra’ (36)

Whatever we hear, see and think will be asked, and we will be held responsible for it by Allah SWT in the hereafter, from the smallest to the biggest of deed. Allah SWT also commands Muslims to guard and take care of their sight and do not expose their aurah:

قُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَغُضُّوا مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِمْ وَيَحْفَظُوا فُرُوجَهُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَزْكَىٰ لَهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا يَصْنَعُونَ ﴿٣٠﴾ وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ ۖ

“Tell the believing men to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what they do. And tell the believing women to reduce [some] of their vision and guard their private parts and not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears thereof and to wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests,”

Surah an-Nur (30-31)

From a hadith, the Prophet PBUH said to Saidina Ali RA:

يَا عَلِيُّ لاَ تُتْبِعِ النَّظْرَةَ النَّظْرَةَ فَإِنَّ لَكَ الأُولَى وَلَيْسَتْ لَكَ الآخِرَةُ

“Do not give a second look, Ali, (because) while you are not to blame for the first, you have no right to the second.”

Sunan Abi Dawud (2149)

لاَ يَنْظُرُ الرَّجُلُ إِلَى عَوْرَةِ الرَّجُلِ وَلاَ الْمَرْأَةُ إِلَى عَوْرَةِ الْمَرْأَةِ

“'A man is not to look at the 'Awrah of a man, and a woman is not to look at the 'Awrah of a woman.”

Sahih Muslim (338)

According to Imam al-Nawawi, the ruling for looking at the aurah of another ajnabi, may it be for man or woman, is prohibited according to the majority of Islamic scholars. (See Syarh Sahih Muslim, 4/30)

From Jarir ibn Abdillah RA, he asked the prophet PBUH about looking at a woman unintentionally, the Prophet PBUH said:

اصْرِفْ بَصَرَكَ

“Turn your eyes away,”

Sunan Abi Daud (2148)

The Permissibility of Watching Sports Tournament

The original ruling for watching any sports tournament is permissible. The permissibility is tsabit through a narration by Saidatina Aisyah R.Anha:

جَاءَ حَبَشٌ يَزْفِنُونَ فِي يَوْمِ عِيدٍ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ فَدَعَانِي النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَوَضَعْتُ رَأْسِي عَلَى مَنْكِبِهِ فَجَعَلْتُ أَنْظُرُ إِلَى لَعِبِهِمْ حَتَّى كُنْتُ أَنَا الَّتِي أَنْصَرِفُ عَنِ النَّظَرِ إِلَيْهِمْ

A few Ethiopian came to the mosque (Nabawi) on Eid to perform swordplay, and the Prophet PBUH asked me to watch it. I put my head on the Prophet PBUH’s shoulders and watch it until I’m tired and look away,”

Sahih Muslim (892)

There’s a hadith about a companion of the Prophet PBUH named Hanzalah, where he fears that he had become a hypocrite (munafiq), for he forgets to remember Allah when he is with his family after remembering Allah in a ceremony with the Prophet PBUH. The Prophet PBUH said:

 يَا حَنْظَلَةُ سَاعَةً وَسَاعَةً وَلَوْ كَانَتْ تَكُونُ قُلُوبُكُمْ كَمَا تَكُونُ عِنْدَ الذِّكْرِ لَصَافَحَتْكُمُ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ حَتَّى تُسَلِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الطُّرُقِ ‏"‏ 

“If your state of mind remains the same as it is in my presence and you are always busy in remembrance (of Allah), the angels will shake hands with you in your beds and in your roads; but Hanzalah, time should be devoted (to the worldly affairs) and time should be devoted (to prayer)"

Sahih Muslim (2750)

Imam al-Nawawi when commenting on this hadith states another hadith of different wording in Sahih Muslim, he explains that it is not sanctioned for us to always perform worship. That is why when Hanzalah feels worried that he has become a hypocrite for forgetting to remember Allah, the Prophet PBUH explains that there is a time for worship and there is a time for worldly matters and having fun with family members. (See Syarh Sahih Muslim, 17/66)

There is also an athar from Ibn Shihab that states:

رَوِّحُوا الْقُلُوبَ سَاعَةً وَسَاعَةً

Rest your heat, for there is a time for worldly affairs and there is a time for hereafter affairs,”

(See Ibn ‘Abdil Barr, Jami’ Bayan al-Ilm wa Fadhlihi, 1/434 and Al-Maqasid al-Hasanah fima Isytahara ‘alal Alsinah, pg. 372)

The Ruling of Watching Sports Tournament that Does Not Cover the Aurah

So far, we had set three early premises for this issue:

  1. It is obligatory to cover the aurah according to Quranic and hadith evidences as well as the opinions of majority of Islamic scholars
  2. Looking at the aurah of other people intentionally without a necessity is prohibited
  3. The original ruling of watching sports or play is permissible.

Then a question arises, what is the ruling for watching sports that does not cover the aurah such as soccer, badminton and hockey where the players do not completely cover their aurah, but unlike sports that clearly does not cover their aurah such as gymnastics and swimming? Is there any flexibility or relaxation on it, if the purpose is for light entertainment and not for sexual desires?

We state the fatwa and opinions of Islamic scholars regarding this issue:

Fatwa and Islamic Scholars’ Opinions Regarding Watching Soccer and Other Sports

  1. Fatwa Lajnah ad-Da’imah states that it is permitted if it is free from anything that is prohibited such as neglecting the prayer, exposing of aurah, promiscuity between man and woman or gambling. (See Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 15/238)
  2. Syeikh Ziyab bin Sa’ad Aali Hamdan al-Ghamidi: The ruling for soccer as a sport is prohibited without a doubt, it is a greater prohibition than alcoholic beverages and gambling. (Refer Haqiqat Kurratil Qadam, 1st edition, 2008, pg. 441)
  3. Syeikh Dr Yusuf al-Qaradhawi, President of the World Ulama Union gives a rukhsah for athletes that must follow uniform standards that do not completely cover the aurah. The rukhsah is also applicable to the viewers, however, Muslims must always strive to practise the Islamic commandments of covering the aurah. (See https://www.al-qaradawi.net/node/3867)
  4. Syeikh Faysal Mawlawi, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Fatwa and European Research states there is no Quranic or hadith evidence that prohibits it. The claim that ruled it is prohibited for it is a waste of time is rejected, for the Prophet PBUH himself encouraged us to entertain ourselves with things that are permitted.

Watching sports can be prohibited if it involves what is prohibited such as the athletes wear impolite clothing, wasting too much time and neglecting the commandments in Islam. (See https://archive.islamonline.net/?p=1414 )

  1. Dr Jamaluddin ‘Athiyyah, member of Fiqh Islamiy Academy under the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), there’s no inhibition to watch any sports with the condition that not too much time is wasted for that purpose. The earnings for the athletes are also permitted as long as they are paid for their energy and effort. (See https://archive.islamonline.net/?p=1414).
  2. Syeikh Muhammad bin al-Hassan ad-Dedew, a member of the World Ulama Union states, watching sports or play is not prohibited as long as it does not involve anything that is prohibited.

However, in the issue of players exposing their knees or thighs, he said that aurah is divided into two; mughallazah (heavy) aurah, that is obligatory to be covered and mukhaffafah (light) aurah that is not obligatory to be covered. (Refer to his explanation through the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YbcJTFoCDU  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkyuAM6OAJw ).

  1. Dr Majdi ‘Asyour, advisor to Egypt’s Great Mufti affirms that watching soccer is permissible from Islamic law, as long as there is no negligence in religious commandments and obligations or work obligations. Furthermore, the sin of neglecting religious and work obligations is on the negligence, not on watching sports. Are we going to prohibit it, when there are no Islamic evidences that prohibit it? (See https://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/2473962)
  2. Dr Ahmad ‘Umar Hasyim, rector of University al-Azhar also said that watching soccer is permitted as long as there is no negligence towards worship and work obligations. (See https://fatwa.islamonline.net/5861)

Fatwa Discussion and Conclusion

From the fatwa stated, we find that the scholars’ opinions are generally divided into three; a blanket prohibition, prohibition when there is an element of sin and permissibility with a little relaxation or flexibility.

According to the fatwa from Islamic scholars, we are of the opinion that it is permitted to watch sports that does not cover the aurah, on the condition that the players wear acceptable and respectful clothing. This includes sports such as soccer, hockey, badminton, ping-pong, silat, sepak takraw and netball.

However, sports such as gymnastics, diving and swimming is prohibited because the attire is inappropriate, disrespectful and does not cover the aurah or anything much at all.

The reasons for our conclusion are as follows:

  1. According to one of Islamic legal maxim, a ruling is based on the generality of the situation:

الحُكْمُ عَلَى الغَالِبِ

A ruling is based on the generality and custom.

In general, and customarily, sporting events are watched for entertainment purposes from the point of gameplay, strategy, and the spirit of supporting statehood or support to the club. It's awkward and bizarre if anyone watches sports events such as soccer, hockey and badminton with the aim of looking at the players' aurah and to fulfil one’s lust.

 

  1. Facilitating human’s affairs

There is a hadith where the Prophet PBUH chooses a lighter option among two things, as long as it is not sinful:

مَا خُيِّرَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم بَيْنَ أَمْرَيْنِ إِلاَّ اخْتَارَ أَيْسَرَهُمَا، مَا لَمْ يَأْثَمْ، فَإِذَا كَانَ الإِثْمُ كَانَ أَبْعَدَهُمَا مِنْهُ

“Whenever the Prophet PBUH was given a choice between two matters, he would (always) choose the easier as long as it was not sinful to do so; but if it was sinful he was most strict in avoiding it”.

Sahih al-Bukhari (8786)

Watching sports is one of the most popular medium for society to entertain themselves following the Islamic law. Totally prohibiting it would be troublesome for them for most sports does not cover the aurah.

In this case, choosing the opinion that permits watching sports that does not cover the aurah as long as the attire is acceptable and respectful is the manifestation of facilitating human’s affairs that is encouraged in Islam.

  1. Widen a narrow situation as stated in an Islamic legal maxim:

إِذا ضَاقَ الْأَمر اتَّسَع

“Certain things when it is too narrow then widen it.”

 

Total prohibition of watching sports that does not cover the aurah would give a huge effect to the players, coaches, managers and everyone involved in the broadcasting of the sporting events. This is due to the fact that they rely on the sports industry for their livelihood. If there are no viewers then their income would be affected.

In this situation, a wider fiqh ruling is used to prevent a huge effect towards an industry where a huge number of Muslims are involved in it.

  1. Celebrating wishes to a necessary extent, according to an Islamic legal maxim:

الْحَاجة تنزل منزلَة الضَّرُورَة

“Certain desires or wishes are celebrated to a necessary extent”

 

In this situation, viewers and players can taqlid to mazhab that states that thighs are not even considered as aurah. This is the opinion of Imam Malik and Jarir at-Thabari, or the mazhab that states knees and thighs are mukaffafah aurah and it is not obligatory to cover them, as stated by Imam Bukhari and Imam Ibnul Qayyim.

However, players are encouraged to try to the best of their ability to cover their aurah completely in accordance to the opinion of the majority of scholars that states that knees and thighs are aurah and it is obligatory to cover them.

 

Conclusion

One thing that we need to analyse is that Islam is a religion for everyone, regardless of race, national boundaries, backgrounds and levels of thought. Islam comes to ease and removes the hardships of people, not to burden them. The Prophet PBUH said:

إِنَّ الدِّينَ يُسْرٌ، وَلَنْ يُشَادَّ الدِّينَ أَحَدٌ إِلاَّ غَلَبَهُ، فَسَدِّدُوا وَقَارِبُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا

"Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So, you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings…."

Sahih al-Bukhari (39)

The Prophet PBUH also said:

يَسِّرُوا وَلاَ تُعَسِّرُوا، وَبَشِّرُوا وَلاَ تُنَفِّرُوا

“And make things easy (for them), teach (them), give good tidings to the (people), and do not repel (them) from Islam,”

Sahih Bukhari (69)

It is the responsibility of each of us to carry out an inclusive dakwah that embraces all levels of society. In the era of globalization that we face now, any external elements must be handled wisely and prudently. Attempting to prohibit everything without giving a flexible solution will keep the society away from Islam.

The late Muhammad Ali (world boxing legend) and Mohamad Salah (Egyptian footballer / Liverpool star) are among the big names that have become icons in the sports world that brought the name of Islam in the West. They now know that Muslims are also able to compete at the highest level in any area they are involved in.

In conclusion, though we permit watching sports that do not cover the aurah (but still acceptable and respectful), such as football and badminton, but moderation is obligatory. All the lawful things will be prohibited when there are excessive elements, even in worship. In addition, the Prophet PBUH also instructed us to leave things that were of no benefit to us:

مِنْ حُسْنِ إِسْلاَمِ الْمَرْءِ تَرْكُهُ مَا لاَ يَعْنِيهِ

"Indeed, among the excellence of a person's Islam is that he leaves what does not concern him."

Sunan al-Tirmizi (2317)

Some examples of things that are of no benefit to us are, watching sports events excessively that results in negligence of job demands, obligations to learn or increasing worships and to do welfare works to help the communities.

On this occasion, we would like to take the opportunity to call on our Muslim athletes to try their best to cover the aurah perfectly. The obligation of covering aurah remains applicable to every Muslim in whatever situation and wherever they may be.

Wallahu a'lam.


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