As Muslims we have a lot to be proud of with the noble marial art of boxing. First to capture the imagination of Muslims was Muhammad Ali who single-handedly changed the face of boxing into the commercial success and carnival it is to today. He was the Muslim gladiator of his time, even though he was aligned with the heretical Nation of Islam. Not knowing his relgious leanings, the sense of pride felt by the Muslims when he defeated a non-Muslim opponent was universal. More recently we have Mike Tyson, Chris Eubank, Prince Nassem Hameed and much more recently the young Amir Khan; who continue to give Muslims a sense of pride in this sport.
But as Muslims should we really be enjoying and participate in boxing? I must admit up until recently I loved the sport, I enjoyed watching my favourite boxer knock out his opponent and used to get into the atmosphere created by the pre-match hype. I used to pour scorn on those who wanted boxing banned, what right did they have in banning such an exciting and exhilarating sport?
I remember watching the Chris Eubank and Michael Watson fight in which Michael Watson lost not only the fight but his quality of life, for he was left a vegetable confined to a wheelchair and with severe brain damage. This upset me greatly, here before my very eyes a healthy and able bodied man who could stand against anyone was now reduced to someone incapable of fending for himself physically and mentally. This would not be the only time I would see a good man reduced to a vegatative state as sometime later the boxer Gerald McClennan suffered a similar fate. Infact he was in a coma and it was feared that he would not survive. Fortunately he did survive, but was it really living, as he was brain damaged for life? It was after this incident that I started to think about boxing and its validity, not only as a sport, but as a sport sanctioned by Shari’ah. I am no scholar but given the evidence boxing must be a sport that the Shari’ah cannot justify.
Some time ago, with the Bruno-Tyson fight I noticed a lot of interest by friends and family in the fight. During the pre-match hype my mind went into overdrive thinking about boxing and Islam and increasingly I was abhorred by boxing. Looking at the evidence against boxing, it is not hard to realise that boxing must be considered haraam (forbidden) or undesirable to the point of being haraam (Makruh al-Tahrim). The object of boxing is knocking an opponent unconscious by physically hitting him with excessive force about the head, the intent is physical damage to your opponent. At the end of all fights that I have seen, the face is left severely damaged and scarred, we know from ahadith that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) forbade hitting the face:
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “If somebody fights (or beats somebody) then he should avoid the face.” [Sahih al-Bukhari Vol III Hadith 734.]
Narrated Salim: Ibn ‘Umar said, “The Prophet forbade beating (animals) on the face.” [Sahih al-Bukhari Vol VII Hadith 449]
So we know that the word “forbade” here seems to indicate that this action is haraam when done to animals and humans are above animals in all respects. When the damage to a person is so severe such as brain damage or worse, fatal, then this has to be considered haraam, for there is no reason to suffer such injuries. Our bodies and lives are an amanah (trust) from Allah ta’ala given to us for safe keeping, they do not belong to us to do as we choose, so we have no right to participate in a sport or any other activity that violates the amanah and whose objective is intense physical damage.
It is sad to see such people as Muhammad Ali, who once “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee” now a shadow of his former self (although still has a remarkable dignity about him), Muhammad Ali once one of the finest examples of masculinity coupled with charisma, physical beauty and elegance, an object of pride for the entire Muslim Ummah, now an object of pity and a distant memory of bygone glory. Ironic isn’t it considering the current downtrodden predicament of our Ummah? Should a man have to be reduced to this through his own doing?
As for Muhammad Ali I have a lot of love and respect for him as a Muslim, and recently there was a documentary about him on BBC2 in a series called “Reputations”, it occured to me that here was a man who had so much more than boxing to offer the world and the Ummah, a man principled enough to stand by his beliefs no matter what the consequences, a spokesperson for the oppressed, a voice that would always be heard. As a Muslim one cannot help but feel drawn to such a remarkable and likeable personality and, alhamdulillah, he entered the fold of orthodoxy in the early 80s. If anyone wishes to read about Muhammad Ali then his biography has been available for quite sometime, it is called “Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times” by Thomas Hauser and is well worth reading.
Any parent whose child takes an interest in boxing should bear in mind the severe dangers and consider answering for their decision on the Day of Judgement, since our children are also an amanah from Allah ta’ala. The physical training and discipline offered by boxing is excellent and children should be encouraged into physical exercise. Rather than encourage them to do boxing, parents should encourage children to learn semi-contact Karate or Kung-Fu, since the object of semi-contact is not physical damage but to score points by minimum contact, anyone one using excessive force is penalised. Semi-contact Kung-Fu and Karate also teach vital self-defence techniques that are needed in an increasingly violent society and parents should instill discipline and good adab (manners) in their children not to show off the skills they may have learned.
May Allah forgive any incorrect assumptions I may have made, success is only through Him.