Editor’s note: Today’s guest post is by Mathilde Aarseth, a summer intern at FFI.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the soccer World Cup is on. To mark the occasion Minbar al-Tawhid wa’l-Jihad prominently displays a fatwa tackling the issue of the legality of watching the World Cup. Like every religious edict, it is introduced by a question, in this case from a presumed jihadi football fan. The tormented soul is not worried about the game in itself, but rather its sinful surroundings. Is it really OK for a good Muslim to watch lightly dressed women cheering from the grandstands while music is being played over the loudspeakers?
No is the answer of Sharia council member Abu al-Walid al-Maqdisi. Since the football players are paid according to the number of goals they score, this amounts to a form of gambling, which is forbidden in Islam: “The Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) said that money rewards in competitions are only allowed under three circumstances: Horse races, camel races and archery, because these are activities that are useful in war”.
Unless all the players are paid evenly, it is forbidden to participate in these football matches, as well as watching them on TV or reading about them in the news. Al-Maqdisi also reminds his readers that the soccer matches encourages loyalty to the sport teams rather than to God, as well as “unnecessary fun” and inattention to the religion:
“These matches are invented by our enemies, and through the matches they seek to distract us from jihad towards them. They want to weaken the Islamic umma and make them waste their time on trivial things instead of religion.”
He also denounces the fact that women are shown on TV, the sinful behavior among the players, as well as the cursing and fighting between the supporters. Not to forget that the matches can make one forget his prayer times.
Al-Maqdisi continues “I remind you of how the infidels have waged war against our religion, distorted our dogmas, ripped apart our people and cut off its limbs (…) After all this, how can any of us watch these matches that distract us from God and the duties of our religion and jihad against our enemies? Like a butterfly that sees the fire and then flies right into it.”