What Is the Ruling on Playing and Watching Football?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick


Please clarify the stance of the Shafi‘i School on playing and watching football (soccer) and the reasons behind it (i.e., ‘awra thighs, etc.)


In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.

May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to what pleases Him. Amin.

Playing soccer is permissible within reasonable limits (wherein it does not distract one from obligatory duties).

The ruling on consuming various forms of media content is based on the nature of the contents of the intended material. Suppose no impermissible elements (such as lewd behavior or exposed nakedness (awra)) are involved. In that case, watching within the reasonable limits of Sacred Law is lawful. If, however, there are unlawful elements contained in the intended material, then it is unlawful to consume such content, and Allah knows best.

Rulings Concerning Games

Other than games involving prize money, every game played by two or more people that relies on luck, conjecture, and guessing is unlawful (whether money is stipulated or not). Every game not in the above category is permissible if there is no money therein. Any things mentioned above that are permissible become unlawful if they prevent one from performing a religious or this-worldly duty. [Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]

Watching Sports

No specific texts within the Quran or the Prophet’s teachings prohibit watching sports matches, but it must be done within the confines of Shari‘a. It would be considered unlawful if the match includes any prohibited actions, such as watching immodestly dressed players or if it leads to neglecting religious obligations. However, if one spends a reasonable amount of time engaging in lawful means of entertainment, it is not considered a sin. Allah knows best.

Watching Television – Looking at the Opposite Gender

It is unlawful to look at the opposite sex with lust, whether they are properly clothed (including wearing hijab) or not. If, for example, a man sees a woman, or the image of a woman, and felt attracted to her, he would have to look away. The same applies to a woman, and there is no difference of opinion about this. [Nawawi, Minhaj al-Talibin]

It is permissible to look at the face or hands of the opposite sex without lust. One may not actively look at uncovered parts of the nakedness (‘awra) of the opposite sex (in the case of women, this includes their hair). That said, unintentionally seeing something is not one’s fault. Furthermore, it would also be challenging to ask people to lower their gaze all the time because, in Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike, we frequently have to work with people who do not cover their nakedness according to Sacred Law.

Simultaneously, one should be honest regarding whether one looks with lust and the difference between looking and seeing. Allah Most High says, “Allah knows the sly glances of the eyes and whatever the hearts conceal.” [Quran, 40: 19]

Refrain from the Precursors to Avoid the Major Sin

Instead of the expected form of prohibition, such as “don’t fornicate,” Allah commands that we avoid even the precursors of fornication. Allah says: “And do not approach unlawful sexual intercourse. Indeed, it is ever an immorality (fahisha) and is evil as a way.” [Quran 17:32]

Allah also says: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things) and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All‑Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts).” [Quran 24:30-31]

The Prophet (may Allah bless him and give peace) said: “Allah has recorded the choices every son of Adam makes for his share of zina, which he will inevitably commit. The zina of the eyes is looking. The zina of the tongue is speaking. A person would wish and desire, and the private parts either confirm or deny it.” [Bukhari; Muslim]

Watching Television – With and Without Sexual Innuendos

In all forms of media, sex is one of the world’s biggest sellers. Actors and presenters are usually chosen for their looks and sex appeal. The imagery and stories of most movies, novels, and television shows are designed to pique your desire and interests. Therefore, most of the time, watching your average film or TV series is usually sinful because you know there will be sexually enticing images.

If the above limitations are observed, watching a documentary of genuine benefit with no sexually attractive images of the opposite sex is okay.

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.