What Is the Proper Approach to Women Participating in Sports?

Answered by Mawlana Ilyas Patel


I am a Muslim from a Muslim country. An all-female football team was recently formed, and the team won a large tournament. People had mixed feelings about the issue.

Some took advantage of the opportunity to denigrate Islam and certain scholars. According to these people, if we follow Islam, we will not have educated or working women, let alone accomplished women. Scholars argue that education and employment are both prohibited. They use the West and single working mothers in the West as examples, claiming that these are men’s jobs and that education will make them unhappy. Others, on the other hand, criticized the football team issue in a way that made Islam appear to be about violence and force. Please address all concerns here.


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

I pray you are well. Thank you for your important question.

As believing men and women, we must take care of our health physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Islam has given us certain principles and guidelines to develop ourselves and has set a limit as this life is for a short time to prepare for a bigger and eternal purpose. So, it disapproves of anything that is of no benefit to the above. At the same time, it has mentioned more than sufficient activities to give us physical and emotional relaxation and comfort.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The strong believer is more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, but there is goodness in both of them. Be eager for what benefits you, seek help from Allah, and do not be frustrated. If something befalls you, then do not say: If only I had done something else. Rather say: Allah has decreed what he wills. Verily, the phrase ‘if only’ opens the way for the work of Satan.”  [Muslim]

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Everything by which a Muslim man entertains himself is in vain falsehood – except shooting his bow, training his horse, or playing around with his wife; for verily these are of the truth” [Tirmidhi] and in another narration, and learning to swim [Tabrani]

The purpose of the above sports is to keep fit, and any entertainment which benefits one personally, the family, and the community are good, and the above does well to fulfill this purpose. Other than celebrating festive occasions placed in our lives by Allah (Most High), entertainment in Islam should be understood in reference to these.

Men and women alike can play sports following the sharia guidelines, and this is how it should be. This is not taking place: modern-day sports have gripped women wanting to play every sport that a man plays. Instead, we have to continue to adopt, spread, and instill the proper sharia guidelines. However, this has to be done with wisdom–not on one’s own, but with the consultation of scholars in your country who have deep Islamic and worldly insight and wisdom.

I pray this helps with your question.
[Mawlana] Ilyas Patel
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Mawlana Ilyas Patel is a traditionally-trained scholar who has studied in the UK, India, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. He started his early education in the UK. He went on to complete the hifz of the Quran in India, then enrolled in an Islamic seminary in the UK, where he studied the secular and ‘Aalimiyya sciences. He then traveled to Karachi, Pakistan. He has been an Imam in Rep of Ireland for several years. He has taught hifz of the Quran, Tajwid, Fiqh, and many other Islamic sciences to children and adults onsite and online extensively in the UK and Ireland. He taught at a local Islamic seminary for 12 years in the UK, where he was a librarian and a teacher of Islamic sciences. He currently resides in the UK with his wife. His interest is a love of books and gardening.