Indeed, Islam has encouraged exercise and called to practice different types of sports that can contribute to physical and mental growth and the type that would develop a healthy and strong generation. 

Regarding the legality of sport and its desirability, Dr. Abdulfatah Idris, a professor of comparative religion in Al-Azhar University said: practicing different types of sport is permissible, for the messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessing be upon him) practiced it and encouraged its. In fact, he made teaching the children sports their rights upon their guardians.

Some sports that the messenger of Allah practiced:

  1. The Prophet engaged in several sports for which he became our role model. He practiced race with our mother Aisha – may Allah be leased with her – it was reported that she said: “I was on a journey along with the Prophet (May the peace and blessing be upon him) while I was young, and he told his companions to go forward and they did. He then said to me: come let me engage you in a race. I had the race with him on my feet and I outstripped him. Years later, I was on a journey along with him again, and he told his companions to go forward after which he said: come, let me engage you in a race, then I forgot the earlier race and I was then fleshy. I said, how can I compete with you and I am in this situation? He insisted on me to do that, and I had the race with him and he outstripped me. He then said: this is for that outstripping.
  2. The prophet wrestled with Rukanah bn Yazeed in. It was reported by Said bn Jubair “that the Messenger of Allah (may the peace and blessing be upon him) was in Bathah (one of the valleys of Mecca while Rukana bn Yazeen came to him with a flock of sheep. He said O Muhammad: can you wrestle with me? The Prophet said: what would you give if I defeat you? He said: a sheep from my flock. Then, the Messenger of Allah wrestle with him in march and he threw him down and collected the sheep.     Rukanah asked for another round and the prophet asked for we he would give if he wins. He said: another sheep. This was done repeatedly and at every round he was defeated by the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). Afterwards, Rukanah said: O, Muhammad, I swear to God, no one has ever thrown me done and you are not the first to wrestle with. Upon this, Rukanah embraced Islam, and the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) returned his sheep.
  3. The Prophet also practiced shooting with a group from the tribe of Aslam. It was reported the Salamah bn al-Akwa’ said: the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) passed by a group from Aslam practicing archery. He said, “O children of Ishmael! Throw (arrows), for your father was an archer. I am on the side of Bani so-and so,” meaning one of the two teams. The other team stopped throwing, whereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “What has happened to them?” They replied, “How shall we throw while you are with Bani so-and so?” He said, “Throw for I am with all of you.”
  • The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) exercised and ran with a horse. It was reported by Talha bn Zayd: “that the polytheists attacked Madinah upon which a caller shouted: a terrible morning! The Prophet heard the caller and he immediately ride his horse while he went searching for the enemies. On his way, Abu Qatadah met him on his horse and he also searched for the enemies but could not find any of them. Horses were following each other. Afterwards, Abu Qatadah said O, Messenger of Allah, the enemies have turned their back, would you be interested in a match competition and responded in affirmation. They had the competition and the prophet came first. Afterwards, the messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) turned to them and said: I am the son of attackers from the Quraish. Indeed, he was an ocean of generosity”

Did the prophet encourage sport practice?

With regard to the prophet’s (peace be upon him) encouraging the practice of sport and its motivation, it is very clear from the hadith of Salamah bn al-Akwa’ and also in the hadith of ‘Aisha – May Allah be pleased with her – where she said: 

“It was the day of `Id and the black men were playing with shields and spears. (I do not remember) whether I asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) or whether he said to me if I desired to see (that sport). I said: Yes. I stood behind him with his face parallel to my face, and he said: O Banu Arfada, be busy (in your sports). Hence, he encouraged them to practice the sport of playing with spears and defending with shields, or throwing up spears while they receive it with hands. He also stopped Umar – may Allah be pleased with him – from inflicting harm on them when he wanted to throw them with stoned them by saying: “leave them O Umar, for the Jews to know that we have free time in our religion and that I was sent with the tolerant religion.

The prophet also commanded the parents and guardians to teach the wards to teach them different types of sports, and he made it their rights over their parents. It was reported that Ibn Umar – may Allah be pleased with him that the messenger of Allah said: “teach your children swimming and throwing”. It was reported that Abi Rafi’ said: “I said O messenger of Allah, do children have rights over us as we have rights over them?” he said: yes, the right of a child over his parent is to teach him writing, swimming and throwing. He should also leave a good share of inheritance”

This and many other are proofs that the Islamic law is not a static law that is described with narrowness and rigidity as some ignorant people who do not understand the use of Islamic proofs depict it.