Since time unknown the human being has always been conscious of their image; be it their physical image or how they are perceived by others. Some are more cautious of the character they project and others more concerned with their appearance, and few are unmoved by either. Nonetheless in the 21st century that we live in, body image is a major area of concern. Health experts, make-up gurus, skincare advisors, and gym trainers are a few of the many careers that deal with this issue.
Today our focus is on women and fitness, and more particularly their use of gym facilities and the like.
Let’s begin with the clothing women wear as they head to gym facilities. Firstly, as we know, women must cover their entire bodies when leaving the house, hence, no matter her destination, she should ensure that she covers herself well, and her adornments are not revealed or made apparent. She should observe full hijab, covering her hair, neck, chest and the remainder of her body, in loose, opaque clothing.
Next up, gym-wear. Whilst crop tops and short-shorts are in fashion and may seem the best option to help you ventilate when you’re all sweaty, as muslims we have a level of modesty to maintain at all times. Whilst the minimum awrah of a woman in front of another woman is from the navel to the knee, we should not misunderstand this and only cover these areas. Rather, we should dress in a modest manner exposing only what is necessary, such as the hands, face, forearms and feet so as to prevent indecency and other evils.
“The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: ‘A man is not to look at the ‘Awrah of a man, and a woman is not to look at the ‘Awrah of a woman.” (Tirmidhi, Sahih)
-What if one works out alone? Is it permitted in such a case to wear such items of clothing?
It was narrated that Bahz ibn Hakeem said: my father told me from my grandfather, who said: “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, with regard to our ‘awrah, from whom should we cover it?’ He said, ‘Cover your ‘awrah from everyone except your wife or (the slave woman) whom your right hand possesses.’ He asked, ‘What if a man is with another man?’ He said, ‘If you can avoid letting anyone see that, then do that.’ He asked, ‘What if a man is on his own?’ He said, ‘Allah is more deserving that he should be modest before Him.’” (Tirmidhi, al-Adab, 2693; Hasan by Sh Al-Albaani in Saheeh Sunan al-Tirmidhi)
-One may question, if the sister is fully covered, is she permitted to use mixed gyms? How about for women to work-out in environments where men can see her, in open parks, or in schools where men are the trainers, instructors or care-takers?
The answer is no, rather a muslim woman should seek to exercise in areas removed from male view, whether men are spectators, cleaners, trainers, teachers, or otherwise. Reason being, a woman’s awrah is her entire body. When one works out, the shape of the body is made apparent, even if her clothing is well covering.
-Are women-only gyms allowed?
As for women-only gyms, one must ensure there is no male presence, it does not distract one from religious duties, one’s awrah and the awrah of others are covered, there is no music or imitation of the disbelievers. (You may read more here.
However, for a woman to work-out in her own home is better, and you may read the fatwa of Sh Al Uthaymeen here.
-Is it permissible to use music when exercising to motivate oneself?
No, music is prohibited in all circumstances. It is insufficient to ignore the music, or block it out with headphones, rather one should use an area where there is no music.
In conclusion, physical exercise has many benefits and can even help one to perform their ‘ibadah better. The muslim woman is urged to look after her body, for it has rights over her. However, she should also take care of her modesty at all times. She should follow all Islamic guidelines when working out and pair it with a good intention, so as to make her session beneficial for her in this life and the next. We ask Allah to accept our efforts, and help us to abide by His laws, and forgive us for any shortcomings.
You may read more on the subject of women and gyms here.