Question # 500: What is the ruling on boxing and other combat sports?
bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,
Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,
All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).
First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.
Shorter Answer: Boxing is not permissible because it does not bring any benefit and at the same time, can cause much harm and many health problems (such as brain damage and deformity of the face) to those who perform it. The harm and danger to human life involved are also evidenced from the testimony of western specialists who are motivated by their humanitarian feelings to fight and strive to eliminate boxing from the international sporting lexicon. Hence from an Islamic perspective, any (combat or non-combat) sport which does not violate the Shari’ah principles, causes no physical harm to the person (such as through striking of the face) and does not itself contain anything forbidden, like exposing one’s awrah, is lawful to be learned and practiced for strength, combat, and self-defense.
Long Answer: Islam has made lawful all that is good and profitable and has forbidden all that is bad and corrupt. The rule concerning sport and games differs according to the sport or game itself and to the objective for performing that sport or playing that game. So, any good and profitable game, according to shari’ah, and which does not cause neglect of any Islamic duty and does not cause any physical or material harm to the person and does not itself contain anything forbidden, like exposing one’s awrah, any such game is lawful to be learned and practiced provided it is performed without exaggeration. But any game that does not comply with these rules is unlawful.
As for boxing, according to those who perform it, it is a game that does not bring any benefit to the person and it can cause much harm and many health problems to those who perform it. It can even cause death… So, it is unlawful to perform it or take it as a profession or get some benefit from it or give financial support to those who perform it.
The fatwa of the Standing Committee reads: “Boxing is not permissible because of the harm that it causes to the person, and Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says: ‘And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining].’ (Soorah al-Baqarah, 2:195) Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) also says: ‘And do not kill yourselves [or one another]. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful.’ (Soorah an-Nisa’a, 4:29) There is great harm in boxing, and there is no preponderant benefit in it. Since this is the case, boxing is forbidden…”
Among the principles that are violated as a result of boxing or any other similar combat sports that involves striking the face are as follows:
- Harm and Danger: Knocking a person unconscious or even causing a concussion may cause permanent brain damage. There is no clear division between the force required to knock a person out and the force likely to kill a person… From 1980 to 2007, more than 200 amateur boxers, professional boxers, and Toughman fighters died due to ring or training injuries. In 1983, editorials in the Journal of the American Medical Association called for a ban on boxing. The editor, Dr. George Lundberg, called boxing an “obscenity” that “should not be sanctioned by any civilized society.” Since then, the British, Canadian and Australian Medical Associations have called for bans on boxing… Dr. Bill O’Neill, the boxing spokesman for the British Medical Association, has supported the BMA’s proposed ban on boxing: “It is the only sport where the intention is to inflict serious injury on your opponent, and we feel that we must have a total ban on boxing.” (Wikipedia.org)
- Violating the sanctity of the face: Boxing is based on allowing punches to the face of one’s opponent using the maximum force that one possesses. Blows to the face earn more points than blows to any other part of the body. This clearly goes against the teaching of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم), as narrated by Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه): “When any one of you fights, let him avoid (striking) the face.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)
Al-Haafiz said: “This prohibition also includes all those who are struck for the purpose of hadd or ta’zeer punishments or discipline. According to the hadith narrated by Abu Bakrah and others, which was recorded by Abu Dawood and others, about the woman who had committed adultery, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) commanded that she should be stoned to death, and said, ‘Stone her, but avoid the face.’ (Narrated by Abu Dawood). If that is the command in the case of one who is being punished and is going to die anyway, then the rule is even more applicable in cases of lesser severity.” (al-Fath)
An-Nawawi, when interpreting Sharh Muslim, said, “This is an explicit statement about the prohibition of hitting the face because the face is delicate and carries all beauty; its parts are gentle and precious, and the face includes most of the senses. Hitting the face may cause defects to the senses or impair them, and it may even cause deformity to it. Deformity in the face is a significant matter because it is visible and cannot be concealed. When the face is hit, it is hardly spared from suffering deformity.”
In al-Fath, he says concerning the specific prohibition narrated in the hadith: “Al-Nawawi did not discuss the details of this prohibition. It is clear that it is haraam, and this is supported by the hadith of Suwayd ibn Maqran al-Sahaabi, that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) saw a man slap a slave (or a boy) in the face, and he said, “Do you not know that the face is inviolate?” (Muslim)
The book Al-Fiqh Al-Islaami wa-Adillatuh reads: “Freestyle wrestling, boxing, and similar sports are impermissible because of the physical harm they cause to human or animal life… If there is no harm incurred on either side in wrestling nor striking of the face, then it is permissible to practice it. It is also deemed permissible if it involves training for strength, combat, and self-defense. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) wrestled with Rukaanah and defeated him.”
- Striking other parts of the body: The Shari’ah violations that boxing involves are not limited to striking the opponent’s face, although it is the most emphasized prohibition in this sport, but also include striking any part of the body and the accompanying violence. Striking people without a shari’ah-acceptable reason is impermissible even if not in the face. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “A Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and a believer is the one from whom the people’s lives and wealth are safe.” (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, An-Nasa’i. This is the wording of An-Nasa’i) [Therefore,] it is impermissible to strike someone in the stomach, chest, or any other part of the body under the pretext of playing and practicing sports.
The Islamic shari’ah permits all things that are beneficial to the body and do not harm it, and it forbids all things that may cause damage or harm to the body. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Your body has rights over you.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, Kitaab al-Sawm) [Therefore,] if sports are free from things which are forbidden in shari’ah, then practicing those sports is beneficial.
(Unless stated otherwise, most part of the above reply is based on various answers provided by Islamweb.net, a web site belonging to the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in the State of Qatar and by Islamqa.info on the topic)
Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.