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Amusement and recreation in Islam

By: Fatema Makki

Assigning a definition to the word “youth” is a mission that has kept scholars, analysts, and sociologists busy. They ended up defining the youth as the most active, passionate, and energetic age category that is concerned with change and innovation by virtue of having creative and innovatory potentials.

This fact allows them to get involved in the social mainstream; and accordingly, move from the notion of unrealistic ambition into actually brining this notion to life and actuality through achievements infused with determined ambition and a will to change.

The issue has been tackled by His Eminence, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra), in his book World of Our Youth.

How can we address the youths who happen to believe that the stage of adolescence is to be spent engaging in idle and frivolous activities?

We ask our youths to reflect upon the concept of messing around or fooling away. Let us think about all sorts of man’s basic instincts and desires, such as food and sex.

 All such desires considered ephemeral. They have a temporal effect which fades away the moment they are satisfied. For instance, sexual desire is basically a matter of mere sensation, and the desire to eat is a matter of masticating, and the same applies to other desires.

Before actually acting upon his desires, man is more likely to magnify the limit of these desires beyond the limit of their truths. However, after satisfying them, he feels as if he had reached a dead end, for one simple reason: these instinctual desires are only needs not aspirations. Carrying sex to excess would lead to tedium and dullness, and even weariness. In the same breathe, overeating (or binge eating)and overdrinking would lead to glut and choking.

The aspirations and ambitions of our youths cannot be met by merely fulfilling his physical demands, which could add some savory and joy to adolescence. However, once he perceives them for what they are, he would realize their magnitude.

Thus, we address our youths: the energy of your youth is a responsibility and a fortune. We are not asking you to deny your needs; however, our plea is that you balance by satisfying your desires without wearing off your bodies. You must understand that the issue of the lives of the youth and the liveliness of your is one that demands responsibility rather than frivolity, self-indulgence, and aimlessness.

Life is not materialistic and carnal. Quite the contrary, life is a vast field of ambitions, aspirations and higher goals. Once we extend an outstretched hand towards God, that is the ultimate reality, and then we can attain glimpses of this infinite truth. Then nothing can stand in our way.

Once again we ask our youths to open up your hearts to God who is the sole reason for your existence and who enriched your youth with vitality and vigor. You will find that life of joy, beauty, and gratification is only where He is.

Some regard sports other than horseback riding, archery, and swimming, as a waste of time. What is your Eminence’s view regarding sports, which is very appealing and engaging to youths?

Some actually misinterpret some the Prophet’s hadith regarding issues of training during that period. The hadith “teach your children archery, swimming, and horseback riding” discusses teaching youth archery and horseback or camelback riding. Moreover, certain hadiths emphasize horseback riding and archery.

Once we study the used terminology and the needs that were common during that period, we conclude that they present exemplars of needs that were common during that time. While arches and horses were used in wartimes, they are replaces nowadays with guns, canons, airplanes, and tanks. Accordingly, swimming, archery, and horseback riding, which were common during that period, can be added to, or even replaced by, other modern or contemporary sports which strengthens one’s body, increases his stamina, and ultimately lead to other positive effects.

In conclusion, sports cannot be viewed as a means of spending time, but as a means of developing one’s physique. In addition, sportsmanship could be another means of cultivating one’s soul; through which one could accept defeat and deal with the psychological turmoil that follows.

In addition, we must consider the positive effect of sports and other recreational activities. Such activities would be more fruitful as a matter of time which brings about development and innovation.

Sports fans, who are interested in sports leagues and clubs, are sometimes viewed with disdain. What is your eminence’s view regarding this matter?

We tend to believe that as long as this interest or engagement does not grow into a state of preoccupation and obsession, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Sports is supposed to provide a positive recreational activity which benefits our youth; however, once it deviates from this function and grows into a preoccupation, then it is considered as negative.

Our youth should not be so engrossed in sports and other recreational activities that they neglect other major interests, responsibilities, and ambitions, or overlook other social, political, academic, and cultural interests. 

We have noticed that most of the political systems around the world, whose aim is to corrupt our youth, tend to make use of sports as a means of distraction in order to act upon their evil plan. What is your comment?

This would be a point of concern:  we have observed how certain developed countries, such as America and Europe, have exploited such means in order to achieve higher ends. People over there regard sports as a matter of great importance, which, compared to other political and social concerns, is viewed as superior.

In addition, lots of rulers and governors of undeveloped countries have exploited sports in the sense that they use it as means to diverting the youth’s attention and concern from other fundamental issues. 

In such a way, they would be protecting themselves from any possible harm that might arise as a result of the youth’s interest in politics and other important issues.

Is watching horse racing permissible, or not? It is known that horse races are used for betting and gambling. Is it impermissible to watch such races without participating in the betting?

Horse race is mainly considered an educational activity and is meant to develop one’s potentials and sharpen his war skills. However, it has been inextricably associated with gambling, and thus, it is considered impermissible and leads to the same negative consequences of other gambling and dice games. Undoubtedly, horse betting is one of the most common ways to express gambling addiction. Horse racing gambling compulsion is related to our emotional composition: predicting the result of a horse race and placing a wager on the outcome is indeed an immature and juvenile act.

Accordingly, attending such races, or watching them increases one’s tendency to participate in the act of horse betting. After some time, he would consider horse betting as a natural act in which he would take part. Thus, we ask our youth neither to attend such races and take parts in them nor to watch them.