Bodybuilding

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Question: I have been going to the gym regularly in order to keep fit and healthy. Over time, due to the company, I have started competing in bodybuilding and weightlifting. Currently, the discussion among our group is about taking steroids to enhance the performance. Is it permissible to take steroids for this purpose?  

Answer: Health is a bounty from the side of Allah Ta‘ala and it is thus necessary for one to look after his body and health. That said, it is not permissible for us to break the laws of Allah Ta‘ala in order to become fit, nor is bodybuilding and exercising the purpose for which we have been created. In essence, there are two problems that need to be addressed.

Haraam and Sin

In almost all cases, the environment of the gym is one which is conducive to building the body - but at the price of severely damaging or even destroying one’s Islam and imaan. The majority of gyms cater for both males and females. Free intermingling, especially in the gym environment, where gym-goers are typically scantily clad, is a proven recipe for zina. Even if the gym is for males only, there is generally no regard for a person’s ‘aurah (area from the navel to below the knee) being covered, whereas it is haraam to expose this area in public. In fact, according to many who have previously frequented gyms, the shamelessness of the gym environment is such that those using the locker rooms or change rooms do so while their bodies are completely bare of clothing — Astaghfirullah!!! Even if a Muslim does not behave likewise, will any person with shame and imaan allow himself to be present in such a place???

Obsession

Exercising to maintain ones health, provided no law of Allah Ta‘ala is broken in the process, is commendable. However, the problems begin when exercising, sport, bodybuilding, weightlifting and other such activities develop into an obsession. According to some studies, the obsession with building bigger muscles, to the extent where one always feels that his muscles are never big enough, is actually a mental disorder that is termed ‘bigorexia’, the opposite of anorexia. This disorder often stems from a feeling of insecurity, inadequacy and lack of acceptance. The person feels that if he builds big muscles and becomes attractive, he will gain acceptance and popularity. It is often Hollywood movies and other such forms of media - in which heroes tend to be characters with rippling muscles - that serve to embed this impression in a person’s mind. This idea is further reinforced when his fellow gym-goers and friends begin to compliment him on his big muscles. As he suffers from insecurity, he thrives on such compliments, and it is this addiction to praise that causes these individuals to dress in ‘muscle tops’ and other tight clothing. The purpose of these garments is to showcase the wearer’s muscles so that all can recognize his “achievement”.

As the person perceives that he is achieving his goal and becoming successful, his obsession worsens. As a result, his commitment to the gym increases. Naturally, this has a direct effect on his family as well as work life. Recent surveys have proven that many bodybuilders have lost their jobs or suffered a divorce due to showing more importance to their gym routine than their family or work.

Unreasonable Irritation

The same obsession also drives a person to use steroids. This substance, apart from causing widely acknowledged health harms such as heart attacks, liver damage, sexual dysfunction, etc., also cause a behavioural change which has been aptly named ‘roid rage’. The user becomes prone to bouts of unreasonable irritation and anger which cause him to become very aggressive and often harm people. In fact, there are even cases of roid rage leading people to murder their close and loved ones. It is thus evident that this type of obsession with bodybuilding is not merely counterproductive, but actually destroys the body, life and soul of a person.

The Qiblah of a Muslim

Allah Ta‘ala created man for the sole purpose of recognizing Him and worshipping Him. Everything else in the world, be it one’s family, health or wealth are merely there to assist us to continue living and recognizing Him. Hence, the qiblah of a Muslim is pleasing Allah Ta‘ala. When the qiblah shifts, then cycling, bodybuilding, fishing and other hobbies and activities become the purpose of a person’s life. Going to the musjid for Fajr Salaah will be difficult, but departing at 4am for a fishing trip, cycle or for the gym will become second nature and something to eagerly anticipate. We need to realign our compasses so that our qiblah is correct once more – pleasing Allah Ta‘ala. If our goal is to please Allah Ta‘ala, we will not be in environments of haraam, hurt our wives and children with inconsiderate behaviour, show aggression to the creation of Allah Ta‘ala, dress in clothing that is displeasing to Him and spend all our time, wealth and energy in building something that will be lowered into a grave to rot after our demise.

May Allah Ta‘ala inspire us all to please Him – aameen.

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