When you ask Muslims the definition of Islam, most of them will tell you that “Islam is the complete way of life” and yet most of us are quite oblivious of the fact that indeed Islam covers all aspects of life. Islam is a religion that is in touch with all walks of life including exercise and even if you look at some of the acts of worship like Prayer, Fasting and Hajj, you would come to see that all of these can’t be done in the absence of health and fitness.
The Prophet SAW said “The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, while there is good in both.” (Sahih Muslim). This further emphasizes the need for exercise and fitness in Islam and life altogether. Like mentioned before, 3 of the 5 pillars of Islam require the person to be of the right health and fitness, so it is imperative that a Muslim keeps himself in shape to fulfil his obligations. Prayer requires movement of the muscles and the joint and concentration of the mind; Fasting requires health to cope with the rigours of hunger and Hajj requires strength and endurance to complete its tasks.
The Prophet SAW advised us to be healthy and hardworking and other means that maintain and improve our health, he said “O God, make the early morning hours blessed for my nation.” Waking up early is one of the ways of keeping yourself healthy and the Prophet has urged us to do so. Indeed physical activities has been around since the time of the Prophet SAW and has virtues attached to it.
“Any action without the remembrance of God is either a diversion or heedlessness excepting four acts: Walking from target to target [during archery practice], training a horse, playing with one’s family, and learning to swim.”
Keeping in shape is not only a precursor for worshiping but for also the day to day activities of life. An obese or lazy person has less quality of life than the one involved in exercise. Some of the benefits of exercise is increased endurance, strength, flexibility and can also fight depression. Imam Ibnul-Qayyem, a respected Islamic scholar sated that movement aids the body in getting rid of waste products and also strengthens the immune system.
The Prophet SAW even engaged in physical exercise with his wife Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) as narrated by Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her);
“I raced with the Prophet and I beat him. Later when I had put on some weight, we raced again and he won. Then he said, ‘this cancels that (referring to the previous race).’”
Muslims should realize good health is a gift from Allah SWT and we shouldn’t take it lightly. We will indeed be asked about it on the day of judgement so we should make sure we live a healthy life. That being said, one should make sure he strikes a balance between exercise and fulfilling his religious obligation because Allah SWT does not like those who over do things.