The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer while there is good in both.” (Muslim)
He was talking in terms of faith and character but also showing us that physical strength, health and fitness are recommended. Muslims must take care of their spiritual, emotional and physical health. Our bodies are given to us by Allah as a trust, and they should not be abused or neglected but maintained in a proper way. Exercise, along with a healthy diet or food habits, plays a big role in maintaining our bodies for best possible health.
Unhealthy lifestyles and bad choices may lead to obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes, to name just a few medical problems. Even though preventing illness or injury is not completely in our control, there are many conditions that these lifestyles bring on or are make worse through our own lack of attention to diet and fitness.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Any action without remembrance of Allah is either a diversion or heedlessness excepting four acts: walking from target to target (during archery practice), training a horse, playing with one’s family, and learning to swim.” (At Tabarani)
Activities such as watching television, playing video games, etc. have been proven to cause obesity in children and this can increase more depending on how often they do such activities. And neither is it healthy for adults to just sit for hours or indulge in the activities just mentioned.
Benefits of exercise are many, including increased muscle tone, improved flexibility, enhanced endurance, increases bone density, strengthening the heart and fighting depression and stress, balancing blood pressure, and reducing the risk of many other diseases. Weight training increases muscle strength and reduces fat, fights back pain and arthritis and improve overall mental health.
One activity that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his Companions used to enjoy was that of wrestling. Living in a time when people were more physically fit, this was an enjoyable way to pass time.
“Verily Rukaanah wrestled with the Prophet (SAW), and the Prophet (SAW) took him down.” (Abu Dawood)
Exercise and fitness play an integral part in the life of a Muslim. However, it shouldn’t come at the expense of religious obligations, nor should it infringe upon the time spent with family members. In accordance with the Islamic approach to life, everything must be done in moderation. There is no allowance for extreme or fanatical behavior. Letting an exercise regime or a sport take over your life is against the teachings of Islam that call for a middle path and a balanced approach.
Islam encourages anything that promotes refreshing the mind or revitalizing the body, provided it does not lead to, or involve any wrongdoing, cause harm, or delay religious obligations. The traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) undoubtedly encourage involvement in sporting activities as a way to promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage brotherly/sisterly love and family togetherness.
A true believer recognizes the wonder of the human body and is grateful to Allah. This gratitude is shown in the care and attention given to maintaining optimum health. Islam’s approach to health covers all aspect of the mind, body and soul. A truly health conscious person blends healthy eating habits and exercise with the remembrance of Allah and an intention to fulfill all their religious obligations.
Islam is a code of life, organized in a spiritual and moral way, taking into account humankind’s needs and desires. The tenets of Islam are derived from the Qur’an and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), known as the Sunnah. These two sources of revelation are a guide, or a manual, for the life of a Muslim.
Resource: Fitness in Islam, by FANAR Qatar Islamic Cultural Center