You may wonder why Muslim women do not take part in some sports. Are certain types of sports forbidden (Haram) for women in Islam? Are women in Islam not allowed to enjoy themselves doing such recreational activities? Well, actually the question whether women in Islam can play sports is somehow same as the question if Muslims can eat or drink!!
And the answer is like, of course we can eat and drink! But, Islam always wants us to observe some rulings for our personal or social benefit. For example, drugs or alcoholic drinks that could lead to intoxication are forbidden in Islam, since they are far more harmful to the people and the society than they are beneficial [i]. So we can enjoy all the tasty foods and drink that God has kindly given to us [ii], and we should always be careful not to go further than such limits.
In the same way, we can say that generally speaking; there is nothing wrong with playing sports in Islam, both for men and women. Conversely, Islam encourages us all to do what makes us strong and healthy!  Still, there are things to keep in mind since according to Islam, we are not supposed to receive harm, nor to harm others .
Take gambling for example, which has become a part of many games and sports today, and which walks many people on the road to their ruin! When playing sports, then, we should take care that it doesn’t include any kind of gambling. The same is with sports which might lead to serious injuries to oneself or another person.
And how about women in Islam? Is there any special rule for them? Well, women are asked so much to observe Hijab and modesty, both in their covering and manners –as much as men are asked to take care of their sight, and maybe as much as both genders fail to do so! [iii]
Certainly, we know that it’s not really easy to conform to these rules. Women have extremely beautiful and charming bodies, which makes it the more trying for them to hold back the inclination (maybe the same applies to some male bodybuilders who tend to expose their bodies much more than cover it!).
Of course, it is all fine if you can take part in your favorite kind of sport in segregated places where there are no male spectators, or if there can be a special and verified covering for women in Islam, as we see many women doing martial arts, for example, with a headscarf, in order to be safe from sickly looks [iv] and to cherish what God has bidden them at all times.
Still, you may be interested in a type of sport which finds no way to go along with the Islamic tips on covering and modesty. You think to yourself, “Why can’t I go swimming at mixed pools? I’m not doing anything wrong, just wearing a comfortable suit for swimming! It’s men’s duty not to look at me in a bad way?” Well, quite so.
But what if some of them may fail to do so? Had you not better protect yourself from that? If you go to an outdoor swimming pool in the winter, YOU are not doing anything wrong. But the weather is cold! And regardless of your real intentions, it will harm you anyway! Unless you protect yourself from catching it with a jacket [v].
Think of how women’s body has become a, so to say, cheap commodity today, due to the lack of such considerations in some women. Think of how we could experience less abusive behaviors and more enduring families if all women preserved a certain level of covering and modesty and if all men protected their sight from what they shouldn’t look at [vi] Not to mention the heavenly reward that God has kept in store for those who listen to His instructions, and that is surely greater than the worldly benefit!
If you have made up your mind to live as a practicing Muslim, you be sure that you are doing the right thing, no matter what others say, and no matter what the circumstances. You can also be sure that God loves you very much for taking the trouble! And it never means that a Muslim woman who fails to do so is excluded from the Islamic Community (Ummah) and God’s mercy.
So, to sum up, what we said, Islam has no opposition to women’s sport. It just asks them to be modest before everyone and covered before non-Mahram men. If they think that the kind of sport they are to take up conforms to these suggestions, which a good many sports does, they can go for it without any restriction.
And if it doesn’t, they can find a way which goes closest to what God requires of them, or maybe they can think again and pick another type of sport for themselves.
[i] Quran, 2:219
[ii] Quran, 7:32
[iii] Quran, 24:30,31
[iv] Quran, 33:32
[v] You can read more about “the Islamic Etiquette of Looking” here.
[vi] You can have a look at our article about “Hijab” here.
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 78, p. 174, Sahih al-Muslim, vol. 4, no. 2052
- Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol. 26, p. 14, Al-Mu’jam al-Awsat, vol. 1, p. 90
Contrary to popular belief, women in Islam has been empowered and respected. An excellent example of that is the first Muslim woman, Khadijah, Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wife, whose influence and support was crucial to the success of Islam. Through many articles, we have discussed the Islamic view on women, their social position, their rights and responsibilities, and the rulings and regulations concerning women. Considering all those details, we will see here how fair Islam is to women in comparison to men.
It is clear that men and women are different from each other in many aspects. They are physically and biologically different. Their emotional and spiritual specifications are not the same. This means that men and women are of distinct capacities, which implies that they should be charged with different responsibilities regarding their innate capabilities. And since the rights of each individual depend on the burden of responsibility that he\she takes on, women in Islam and men won’t have “the same” rights. However, this does not mean that they do not have “equal” rights, either.
Let’s consider an example; a father who would like to leave his children an inheritance. He has a farm, a piece of land and a business company. These three possessions are of equal value, but they are not alike. The father knows his children’s characteristics, talents and interests very well. He, therefore, gives each child one of his belongings based on his knowledge of their potentials. This is an example to demonstrate that, although what every child receives from the father is not the same as the others, they are worth equally. So, the father has divided the inheritance equally among the children.
This is also true about the rights of women and men. As an example, although women might work and earn money, supplying for the family is not at all a responsibility for women; neither is defending Islam and country in case of war. Hence, women are given some rights in certain conditions where men are not given. Moreover, Islam has prevented imposing harsh and heavy tasks on women, as they are known to be as delicate as a flower . It can be concluded that women and men do not have “the same” rights because of having different talents, potentials, and biological features, but their rights are “equal”.
According to the Quran, “Men are the managers of women” (4:34); but this does not imply that men are superior to women in Islam. Firstly, it should be noted that this verse is only about wives and husbands and not women and men in general. Secondly, being the manager here means having the “responsibility” of the family. Family like every social unit requires a supervisor or manager. Being physically stronger than women to protect the family against risks and to carry out heavy works, and being less affected by the emotions, men have been given the duty of protecting and managing the family affairs. In this regard, men have been assigned the heavy responsibility of providing for the family needs from which women are exempted.
From another side, from the Islamic point of view, women and men are of the same spirit, the whole world is created to serve both of them, they both can reach the spiritual excellence, and women can attain the superior social status they deserve . All these demonstrate that men have not been given any more privilege compared to women, but have been charged with a different responsibility.
From what has been discussed above, we can see that the Islamic regulations consider both women and men, and the rights of both are equal as it should be but not necessarily similar in every circumstance.
- “Nahj al-Balaqa”, Letter 31.
The issue of women in Islam has always been a topic prone to misunderstanding and distortion, partly due to propaganda and media that misrepresent Islam and partly due to misbehavior of some Muslims or pseudo-Muslims, like ISIS and al-Qaeda, which are taken to represent the real visage of Islam.
Those who accuse Islam of considering a lower rank or status for women, mostly forget in their debates the differences between women and men which are necessitated by order of creation. Contrary to the popular myth, Islam has never acknowledged the superiority of men over women but has taken into account their differences and set appropriate regulations and guidelines based on them .
One of the issues addressed in the holy Quran is the creation of woman and man. Unlike some sacred books saying that: “woman was created out of an inferior stock to that of man or Adam's wife was created from one of his left-side parts of the body”, the Quran explicitly states in several verses that woman was created from nature of man, and from the same essence: “who created you from a single soul, and created its mate from it” (4:1), (7:189).
This demonstrates that women in Islam and men are of the same origin; hence, neither of them is superior to the other in the first place. Besides, men and women in Islam are each created for the other: “they are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (2:187), and a woman is designated as the source of solace and comfort for man’s heart (30:21) which highlights her importance.
It is directly and clearly stated in the Quran that the earth and the sky, the clouds and the winds, plants, and animals, all have been created for “mankind” [i]. It means that everything in the universe is there to serve every single human being and not only men.
A woman is created to pave the way for improvement, like a man, and to reach the perfection that a human being deserves. The Quran has firmly declared that the afterlife reward and nearness of God do not depend upon one’s gender, but on his/her faith and deeds.
In verses (3:195) and (4:124), it is specified that whoever does acts of blessing and is a believer “whether male or female," God will give them an abundant reward.
The Quran also demonstrates the women’s role by emphasizing the importance of the company of a great and pious woman alongside every great and pious man (11-12: 66), (28: 7). The wives of Adam and Abraham, and the mothers of Moses and Jesus (PBUH) are the examples of great women mentioned in the Quran. There is, therefore, no superiority between men and women in Islam in the spiritual sense.
Among the Jews and Arabs of the pre-Islamic age, there was a belief that a woman is filthy and weak during her menstrual period, so, she was isolated and avoided until she became clean. The Quran says: “They ask you concerning [intercourse during] menses. Say, ‘It is hurtful.’ So keep away from wives during the menses...”(2:222).
It means that menstruation is harm leaving the woman’s body, but it is not deplorable at all. Instead, menstruation is a preliminary to receive a blessing from God, a miracle that takes place inside a woman’s womb and places paradise at the feet of mothers .
Men and women have undoubtedly “equal” rights in Islamic ideology, but the point is that their rights are not “similar”; in some conditions, women are given more rights while in other cases men have more rights. Every Muslim, female or male, is encouraged in Islam to seek knowledge.
The Prophet (PBUH&HP) said, “The acquisition of knowledge is compulsory for every Muslim, whether male or female” . Education, learning and gaining knowledge are therefore duties assigned to every woman as much as to every man.
Regarding economic rights also, men are not superior to women unlike what is reported in the media and many beliefs. The misunderstanding about the inheritance, for example, is caused by ignoring the whole rights and duties each of men and women have and the balance between those rights.
That is why in the Quran, people are told: "Do not covet the advantage, which Allah has given some of you over others. To men belongs a share of what they have earned and to women a share of what they have earned." (4:32) .
Contrary to the false impression that says Islam has restricted women to stay at home and does not permit them to appear in the society, in a truly Islamic society, there must be women in many social positions. There must be, for instance, women physicians and women nurses for some special treatments that women need; or, women teachers as girls require some teachings and guidance when they reach the age of puberty.
In Surah Nisa, it is said that: “Men are the managers of women, because of the advantage Allah has granted some of them over others, and by virtue of their spending out of their wealth” (4:34). Some use this verse to argue that Islam has given superiority to men, but the interpretation of these words will clarify the wisdom behind:
A family is known to be the smallest social unit. It requires, therefore, a supervisor or manager like any other social unit. This duty is generally attributed to the man in the family, mostly because men are physically stronger than women and they are less affected by their emotions [ii].
Moreover, the woman might also be given this responsibility after her husband’s death. Knowing the man as the supervisor of the family does not prove any inherent superiority in men, but assigns him the heavy responsibility of providing for his family needs from which women are exempted .
It is now clear that Islam has never inhibited women nor given them an inferior position to men; instead, it has undoubtedly caused the status of women to be improved by firstly recognizing their full personhood, and then describing the goal of their creation and the capacities and rights they have.
[i] (2 :29), (24:32-33), (45:13)
[ii] Exceptions might exist, but, the general case is always considered to set the regulations and guidelines.