World Cup Fatwa

Posted: 17th June 2010 by Mathilde Aarseth in Sport and recreation

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.”

  1. alle says:

    Horse races, camel races and archery, because these are activities that are useful in war

    Come on, the tiniest bit of creative qiyas would expand that list considerably: how about biathlon, fencing, javelin, car racing, clay pigeon shooting, boxing and martial arts? Good thing for the rest of us that the al-Qaida theologists aren’t smart enough to use their own ideology effectively, or we’d soon have some fierce spear-throwing, karate-chopping Jihadis coming our way.

    (Also, I firmly believe that given the choice between paradise and football, 90% of young Arab men will choose the latter.)

  2. Ibn Siqilli says:

    I think 90% of them believe there is football/soccer in Paradise.

  3. Mark Stout says:

    We are fortunate to have enemies who are trying to build a mass movement while at the same time opposing fun.

  4. a very successful site. Also very revealing article. Thanks to the contributors.

  5. The butterfly analogy is misplaced. Manteq-ut-tair by Farid-ud-Din Attar comes to mind. I have visited with a scholar who has physically handled the ancient manuscript.

    Tammy Swofford

    Tammy Swofford

  6. Addendum beyond posting my name twice: Omar Khayyam was also born in Nishapur, Persia – the birthplace of Attar- and his quatrains and additional poetic works are quite readable.

    The fatwa in question has a root system tied to the concept of Bi’dah. As an aside, Sunni accept Qiyaas, but Shi’a do not accept Qiyaas as part of Usool-al-Fiqh.

    Tammy

  7. Mohamed says:

    “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”

    THIS IS NOT TRUE. PLAYERS DO NOT GET PAID BY THE AMOUNT OF GOALS THEY SCORE. IN FACT MOST OF THEM PLAY IN THE WORLD CUP FOR VERY LITTLE OR NO MONEY. THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE WORLD CUP TEAMS ARE PAID BY THEIR CLUB TEAMS WHEN THEY PLAY FOR CLUBS. NO MANAGER IS STUPID ENOUGH TO TELL A TEAM THAT THEIR PLAYERS WILL BE COMPENSATED FOR INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE. BUT THIS HAPPENS ONLY OF COURSE IN PLACES LIKE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA.

  8. pfc private says:

    I know I’m a little late to the party here, but I only just stumbled on this blog.

    I think you’re missing the underlying issue. There are enough Islamic writings that the fatwa really could have gone either way. The author though is trying to create an isolated environment. If young men watch sports (or listen to music, watch TV, etc.), they may come to see value in the non-extremist-Islamic world, and the extremist Islamists can’t stand that. They need their followers to stay in a bubble with no knowledge of the outside world so that it will be easier for their leaders to demonize it. This is just another in a long line of culturally protective measures.