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Muslims attending gym


Good intentions don’t negate Haraam conditions


Bint Assalaam –  Opinion | 27 January 2014

The question was asked whether it was ok for Muslims to frequent gyms the other night. The conclusion made was that secular gyms are not necessarily inappropriate for Muslims and there was not necessarily a need for us to find another way to keep fit. We should exercise the option of attending male and female only gyms if they are available to us.

Remember the amateur boxer we mentioned once? Being shy and quiet, taken out of her sheltered life and exposed to different cultures, she felt she was thrown into the deep end of her university’s social waters.

The ‘best’ way for her to build self esteem was to join a gym or learn a sport. During her initial years training at the “stable”, she made sure she dressed appropriately and didn’t mingle with anyone more than was necessary. The gym didn’t allow music during training and she trained as hard as anyone else.

As time went by she had achieved what she had intended to and built her confidence. But because she was standing toe to toe – in skill and fitness – with the guys, she wanted to step into the ring. Her intention and objectives had changed. After earning trophies and “titles” and a ring name also she even began to coach the men and women at the gym. She became a “legend”.

But through her attendance at the gym she never completely felt comfortable with what she was doing. She was always reminded that it wasn’t right. And it wasn’t.

But whether it was a boxing gym or any other “secular” gym, according to Ulama, attending a gym is not encouraged because of the Haraams – intermingling, bathroom facilities where open nudity is common and acceptable, and music – that is associated with the place. Dressing appropriately, lowering your gaze, not listening to music, and limiting intermingling still would not make it acceptable, especially since women – and men – have a code called Hayaa and Hijab to adhere to.

While these codes are put into practice differently by men and women, in essence they are to achieve the same objective. Muslim men and women, not only frequenting a gym, but training members of the opposite sex go against the grain of these codes and isn’t just discouraged but impermissible.

Attendance for men, while also not advisable is probably less frowned upon than for women. A husband giving his wife permission to go to the gym doesn’t necessarily make it acceptable either. All things deemed unacceptable according Shariah is allowed at a gym and an environment like this would unnecessarily test one’s reserve.

Good intentions don’t negate Haraam conditions. If your intention for going to the gym is just to train, get fit, to look good for yourself or whatever other personal reason that would deem it a good intention, it still doesn’t make it A-ok. While intention is very important and counts a lot when it comes to our actions, we can’t enter the questionable with pure intentions and then declare it acceptable or appropriate.

This is how intention can be understood. Good actions with bad intentions are pointless. Good actions coupled with good intentions are excellent. But good intentions and Haraam actions?

That’s part of the issue. We’ve become an Ummah that looks at action and intention as separate entities. When they really aren’t. Good intention, pure belief and love for Allah SWT and our beloved Nabi Muhammad SAW is not just meant for the heart. They are meant to be expressed and exercised through real action and abstention.

We use good intentions to justify the Haraam and questionable but people generally only find a need to justify in a case when fault exists.

Nabi Muhammad SAW said, “When a thing disturbs the peace of your heart, give it up.”Our Imaan is a guiding light that alerts our heart to what’s right. When we choose to ignore it we risk extinguishing that light.

Some might question why our hearts are inclined to wrong. We’re surrounded by so many temptations, fame, success, TV portraying action heroes and images of perfect bodies. These influence our desires making us forget our priorities as a result.

Our hearts have become inclined to this world and its offerings. So we have given only a piece of it to Allah, declaring faith and good intent, and we’ve given a piece to Shaytaan with our Haraam actions and approving of what’s not recommended.

While it’s ok to want to look good, it shouldn’t become such a priority that we use impermissible means to achieve it. Our number one priority and life’s purpose is to worship Allah SWT and do that which pleases Him, and reject that which doesn’t.

A gym isn’t a necessity to lose weight or get fit. Willpower and dedication are. With these, the desire to lose weight and get fit can be attained in the confines of one’s home or at ladies or men’s only gyms also. Using a jump rope, running in your back yard, jogging on the spot, and being creative can easily formulate a decent workout to be implemented during the week.

When one wants to indulge in a wrong, all sorts of justifications are created to achieve it. The same kind of fervour needs to be put in achieving a goal in the right way. When choosing right over wrong surely Allah SWT’s help is guaranteed.

We are the authors of the books that determine our fate. None of us want to stand as world boxing champions, personal trainers to men and women or pop-stars in the court of Allah SWT. When our meeting with All Mighty Allah takes place we want the Angels to usher us in as a friend of Allah, an upholder of the Sunnah of Allah’s beloved Messenger, Muhammad SAW and an ambassador of His Deen.

And Allah knows Best.

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