Is It Sinful to Keep Exercising Despite the Pain?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question

My right leg is somewhat shorter than my left leg. Due to this imbalance, I get painful muscular trigger points. I am getting waswasa with regard to the hadith “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.” Whenever I feel some pain while exercising, I feel that I am going against this hadith. Can I continue being active such as weightlifting and cycling, even though I will get pain?

Answer

In the Name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate

Thank you for your question. May Allah grant you the best of states and guide you to what is pleasing to Him.

There Should Be Neither Harming nor Reciprocating Harm

The hadith ‘There should be neither harming, nor reciprocating harm’ is found in the Sunnan of Ibn Majah and Imam Malik’s al Muwatta.

The Scholars have offered different explanations for the hadith, but the common theme running through all these explanations is the impermissibility of harming another person, or each other, for no reason or for an unjust reason [Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Jami‘ al-‘Ulum wa al-Hikam]

The hadith is not referring to harming oneself, though the prohibition of harming oneself is evident elsewhere in the Qur’an and hadith.

Harming Oneself

Allah Most High tells us in the Quran, “And make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction’ [2:195], and ‘And do not kill yourselves.” [Quran, 4:29]

Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, ‘Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you, and your wife has a right over you.’ [Bukhari]

The above references, as well as being established in the sacred law, make it clear that we are not permitted to cause harm to ourselves. Our bodies, like everything else we make use of and enjoy in this life, do not belong to us, but belong to God, and are things entrusted to us to look after. On the Day of Judgment our limbs and body parts will either speak for us or against us, depending on what we did with them. For this reason, we should look after our bodies, faculties, and senses as best as we can.

Training Safely and Medical Advice

Given what you have said, it seems that you are training sensibly. However, you should seek professional medical advice. If the medical advisors say that the pain is normal and poses no long-term risk to your health, then you can take their advice and continue. If the minor passing pain continues, then there is no blame on you. Though you should stop and seek further medical advice if it worsens.

If, however, they tell you that continuing on your current training/sports activity will lead to further complications in the future and deterioration of your condition, or they suggest methods and techniques which can minimize any risk, then you should adapt your program and activity accordingly.

Seeking advice from Islamic scholars, as you have done, and from medical professionals will mean you have done all you can. Therefore, do not give the waswasa a second thought or think you are doing anything wrong. Good health and keeping active is encouraged in the religion, and as long as the experts say you are not causing harm to yourself, even with the minor pain you experience during training, then you are doing something praiseworthy. And Allah knows best.

I wish you all the best,

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.