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Is Leisure/Relaxing Haram?

Is Leisure/Relaxing Haram?


SalaamWaleikum. I’ve heard people say things like playing chess or any other leisurely activity, except from archery, horse-riding and swimming I think, is haraam as it’s a waste of time and they count this is idle talk/action which of course has been said to be wrong. Please correct me if I’m wrong about that, but if not then what are you meant to do in your free time? is it basically haraam to even have free time as you’re meant to spend it all doing activities that bring you closer to allah?

Wa alykum as-salaam,

An extremely famous Sheikh wrote the following:

“Islam is a practical religion, it does not float in the stratosphere of imaginary ideals but remains with the human being on the ground of realities and day-to-day concerns.

It does not regard people as angels but accepts them as mortals who eat food and walk in the marketplace. Islam does not require of Muslims that their speech should consist entirely of pious utterances, that their silence should be a meditation, that they should listen to nothing except the recitation of the Qur’an, nor that they should spend all their leisure time om the mosque.

Rather, it recognizes that Allah has created human beings with needs and desires, so that, as they need to eat and drink, they also need to relax, and to enjoy themselves.”

This Sheikh, who I’m sure many of you have heard of, I will not name, mostly because his name should not justify the correctness of his position, and his analysis is quite spot-on. However, let us go beyond the opinion of a Scholar, and let us dive into the literature.

In the Hadith Collection of Muslim we have the following in which Hanzalah al-Usaidi, narrated about himself:

“Abu Bakr met me and asked, ‘How are you, Hanzalah?’

I replied, ‘Hanzalah has becomea hypocrite.’

He said, ‘Subhanallah! What are you saying?’

I replied, ‘When we are with God’s Messenger (peace be on him), he mentions the Fire and the Garden until it is as if we can see them. But when we leave The Prophet’s company and play with our wives and children or busy ourselves with our properties, we forget much.’

Abu Bakr said, ‘By God, I have experienced the same thing.’

He and I then went to visit The Messenger of God (peace be on him), and I said, ‘O Messenger of God, Hanzalah has become a hypocrite.’

He asked, ‘And how is that?’

I replied, ‘O Messenger of God, when we are with you, you talk about the Fire and the Garden until it is as if we can see them. Then we go out and play with our wives and children and deal with
our properties, and we forget much.’

The Messenger of God (peace be on him) then said, ‘By Him in Whose Hand is my soul, if you were to continue at the same level at which you were when with me and in remembering God, the angels would shake hands with you when you are resting and when you walk about, but, O Hanzalah, there is a time (for this) and a time (for that).’ He repeated this phrase three times.”

Furthermore, Ali ibn Abu Talib, addressing the issue of leisure, said: “Minds get tired, as do bodies, so treat them with humor,” and “Refresh your minds from time to time, for a tired mind becomes blind.”

Those who limit the amount of leisurely activities to those specific activities that were present during the time of The Prophet are being disingenuous, in my opinion. The Prophet also engaged in the sport of wrestling, he also liked to have foot races. In fact, he was known to be a little competitive with the races, and this has ensured that some rather endearing anecdotes have emerged from this sport.

What is the point of saying all that? Well, The Prophet clearly did not disapprove of sports, quite the opposite. If soccer was around, perhaps he would have liked that? We do not know, but also, we cannot speculate that he would disapprove of our sports, while approve only of his.

The Prophet enjoyed laughing, joking, and relaxing with friends and family. Islam is not about creating robots, it is not about creating religious hermits, it’s about helping regular people, who live in the real world, deal with the mess that is our lives, and to give us a spiritual center, a “home base” that we can always touch base with.

As far as those who argue that The Prophet would make Chess be impermissible, those Hadith are clearly fabricated, and you don’t need to be a Hadith Science Expert to know that, you just have to realize that Chess was not known to the Arabs until after the death of The Prophet to realize that those who rule Chess (and games like that) to be Haram are basing that off of fabricated Hadith.

In fact, those companions (and their successors) of The Prophet who did come into contact with Chess (when the Muslims conquered Persia) ruled that it was permissible, including Ibn Abbas, Abu Hurairah, Ibn Sirin, Hisham bin Umrah, and Said bin al-Musayyib.

So, when you look at the Hadith and the Sira (biography of The Prophet) and just realize that these people were human beings and that The Message of Islam is meant for this earth and for us, who will have time when they are not praying, are not fasting, are not devoting themselves to God, and I think such a position is extreme, and frankly, rather contrary to the spirit of Islam.

I hope that this answered your question, and if not, please do not hesitate to ask me more questions, but please rest assured that you are allowed to relax, and that whatever activities that are not prohibited are to be considered Halal, as it is to your benefit because recreation is part of nature.

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