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Aqeedah and Fiqh

Breathe In, Breathe Out… Ohmmm…

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yoga.jpgDisclaimer: The author of this post is not a faqeeh nor claims to be. However, this post was reviewed by someone qualified in the field. Please do not inundate the author with hate mail or requests for fataawah.

To yoga or not to yoga, that is the question… a fatwa issued in Malaysia, suggesting that yoga be banned in the country, has sparked discussion, debate, and exasperation with people making life more complicated than it is.

But before we dive into the juicy halaal-haraam stuff, let’s get an idea of what we’re talking about anyway.

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What Is Yoga?

An overview of this Wikipedia article, as well as a quick reference with Shaykh Google, will show that “yoga” is a term with various definitions.

  • The word yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where yoga originated. We can think of the union occurring between the mind, body and spirit. What is commonly referred to as “yoga” can be more accurately described by the Sanskrit word asana, which refers to the practice of physical postures or poses. Asana is only one of the eight “limbs” of yoga, the majority of which are more concerned with mental and spiritual well being than physical activity. In the West, however, the words asana and yoga are often used interchangeably. (Source)
  • Yoga: A Hindu discipline aimed at achieving a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. In the West, the term is most commonly understood as the physical exercises that are practiced as part of this discipline. (Source)
  • 1) A mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline by which one seeks to achieve liberation of the self and union with the supreme spirit or universal soul through intense concentration, deep meditation, and practices involving prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.
    2) A system of exercising involving the postures, breathing, etc. practiced in this discipline (Source)

Halaal, Haraam, or Makrooh?

It should be made clear from the outset that the second definition of yoga – the physical exercises – and not the first, is what the difference of opinion is about. Without a doubt, the original form of yoga as a Hindu religious practice is clearly haraam.

That being said, there are two opinions regarding the permissibility of this physical manifestation of yoga: that it is haraam, and that it is halaal.

Those of the former opinion base it on the fact that it comes from shirki origins (Hinduism) and that the entire practice is built upon this foundation of shirk – that is, concentrating one’s thoughts and actions on a metaphysical being and attempting to ‘unite’ with it.

In this case, they follow the opinion that if the origins of any action or custom are from religions other than Islam, then that matter becomes haraam as it resembles the acts of another religion. This opinion is drawn from ahadeeth in which the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) expressed disapproval for customs or practices which were well-known in the Days of Jaahiliyyah.

One such hadeeth is that of Thabit ibn Adh-Dhahhak  that he said: “A man vowed to sacrifice a camel at a place called Buwanah, and he asked the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) about it. He  said to him: “Does the place contain any of the idols from the time of the Jahiliyyah?” They said: “No.” He  then asked: “Did the disbelievers hold any of their (religious) festivals there?” They replied: “No.” So the Messenger of Allah (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “Then fulfill your vow, for verily, vows which entail disobedience to Allah or that which is beyond the capacity of the son of Adam should not be fulfilled.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood, with a Sanad that meets the conditions of acceptance laid down by Bukhari and Muslim)

As well, it is more than just an issue of fiqh for followers of this opinion; indeed, it is an issue of ‘aqeedah. There is a concern that involvement in something which has even a minimal relationship with kufr will lead to interest and possibly even acceptance/ practice of shirki acts. Great care is placed on emphasizing and retaining the purity of tawheed, and this is certainly a commendable and praiseworthy thing. Hence, forbidding the practice of yoga also falls into the category of blocking the means to evil – in this case, preventing any chance that a Muslim’s emaan may be negatively affected.

It should be noted also that in the fataawah which believe that yoga is haraam, the emphasis is not on the physical exercise itself but the manner in which it is done (e.g. following the exact patterns and so on). What is most disliked is the imitation of that which is considered to be the “acts of worship” present in yoga (the chanting and order of certain motions). However, once these things are eliminated and only the exercise remains, the respected shuyookh have concluded that it can no longer be called yoga and is reduced to the category of physical activity in general. Again, this shows that the main concern is regarding anything which could be considered as a form of ‘ebaadah which contradicts the Shari’ah (i.e. shirk).

Those who consider yoga to be permissible point out that there are now literally tens of forms of yoga, which range from the overtly religious/ spiritual to the entirely secular (only physical exercises, no intoning of Sanskrit chants and such). The most common form is the physical, where the focus is on breathing patterns, flexibility, and general health.

In this case, yoga is placed under the category of mu’aamalaat (general actions) rather than that of ‘ebaadah (worship). Thus, the principle of everything is permissible until proven otherwise kicks into play.

It is argued that even if it began as something with haraam origins, the removal of any type of action or acknowledgement related to shirk renders the action as permissible. Comparisons are drawn towards the ruling on various martial arts, where the forbidden or doubtful elements are omitted and the entire activity revolves around permissible themes of physical exercise,discipline, respect, and so on.

Thus, it is concluded that the type of yoga which is permissible is that which does not include any of the shirki actions.

Careful analysis of the two opinions reveal several things of note:

• Both opinions base their rulings on accepted and valid principles. Differences of opinion will exist no matter what, and is something which has existed throughout the history of fiqh. We should respect this, not denigrate it, even if we disagree withthe other opinions.
• Both opinions show concern for the well-being of this Ummah: the first with regards to our strength of emaan and purity of tawheed, and the latter with regards to facilitating ease in our affairs. Contrary to what many may think, the first group is not out to “make everything wrong” and “stop us from doing anything even remotely fun;” nor are those of the second opinion “trying to make everything, even kufr, halaal.”

And Just to Make Things More Complicated…

Since the current buzz about yoga revolves around the specific incident in Malaysia, there is something else to note regarding the permissibility of the activity. Cultural issues, amongst other things, also play a major role in deciding such matters. One of those factors is the environment and society within which the issue in question is based. By this token, an action which may be halaal in one society may be considered haraam in another. Indeed, a fiqh principle which deals with the issue of cultural practices and their effect on legal rulings is that of “custom shall be given the status of law.”

Thus, before anyone jumps to criticize the Malaysian shuyookh who suggested banning yoga, we need to realize that in their social context, there may well be a serious concern about the method of its practice and subsequent effect on Muslims. For example, the link to Hinduism might be significantly pronounced in Malaysia and other Asian countries, to such a point that it also becomes a problem of “imitating the kuffaar” – which, it must be noted, is a relative matter dependant upon time, place, and situation. The Malaysian ‘ulamaa may have concluded that several such factors combined strongly suggest the impermissibility of yoga in their particular circumstance.

So What’s The Answer?!

The truth is, both rulings have great strength in them and it’s not easy to dismiss either of them. We know what they base their rulings on; it is now up to us as individuals to decide what we find closest to the truth. Rather than just asking, “Is it halaal or haraam?” we should instead ask ourselves, “Will this bring me closer to Allah? What benefit is there for me?” Certainly we will come to different conclusions. Some of us may still be wary of the potential ‘aqeedah issues; others amongst us may find that it’ll help in losing those pounds and thus contribute towards ease in doing more good deeds (e.g. more qiyaam al-layl!).

In the end, as with many other fiqhi issues, it’s ultimately up to us as individuals to go with what we believe is most correct and in line with the Qur’an and Sunnah. Let us also remember that in such grey areas many times we just have to agree to disagree, and not shove our opinions down others’ throats no matter how wrong (we think) they are.

May Allah guide us to that which is most correct and beloved to Him and make us of those who live our lives in a manner pleasing to Him, ameen.

Fatawaah on Yoga

Islamweb, IslamOnline, SunniPath, Dar al-Iftah

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Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of MuslimMatters.org.

55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    December 24, 2008 at 3:37 AM

    bismillah. inshaAllah, you will not perceive my comment as a criticism.

    it was my qadr that before i became strong in my faith, i used to practice yoga. may Allah Forgive me for the sin of it, and may He have accepted my repentance at Arafat for that and other sins and excesses.

    i do not doubt that there was sin in my practice of yoga:
    (1) i went for yoga at upscale yoga studios in so.cal. these were co-ed, and the word fitnah does not convey enough about what was haraam in that environment.
    (2) even in these studios, many instructors used hindu devotional music — and i’ve seen the lyrics. there is no doubt the music was religious in nature.
    (3) while a handful of instructors i recall did act like yoga was just an exercise routine, some instructors distributed hindu prayers to read during meditative post-workout cooling down periods.
    (4) i visited a hindu temple once, in houston, and found that the worshipers all were performing yoga. you could not hear what they were saying, and they went through the positions much more quickly than we did in most of my classes, but i recognized each and every movement i saw.

    i don’t attend yoga classes now because of those experiences, and i offer the account of them that others may avoid anything similar. there are many other methods of exercise which do not derive from any religious origin, and i pray Allah will increase my benefit from them.

  2. abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    December 24, 2008 at 3:46 AM

    bismillah. and for anyone who wants to see just how much religion permeates yoga, i recommend flipping through the Encyclopedia of Yoga by Georg Feuerstein.

    by the way, if you do get your hands on a full copy, look at the entry about the Indian yogi named Akbar. according to the book, he was born hundreds of years ago (i do not remember the date from when i skimmed the book), was a Muslim in a poor family, studied yoga, became a renowned guru, and converted, though he was reputed to have spoken out against devotions to physical/stone idols.

  3. Becky

    December 24, 2008 at 5:01 AM

    Between Yoga and the techniques pointed out in Dr. Sha’s “Soul Power Series,” books, I have been feeling cleansed and energized! Dr. Sha’s books point out that Soul Power can heal, prevent illness, rejuvenate, prolong life and transform every aspect of life, including relationships and finances. I am so excited to read Dr. Sha’s newest book scheduled to come out in January titled, “The Power of Soul!”

  4. usman

    December 24, 2008 at 7:00 AM

    Salaam, i had no idea that muslims were into yoga…both opinions make much sense…sonce i have no interest in yoga therefore i will remain side-less. Thanks for the interesting post

  5. iMuslim

    December 24, 2008 at 9:06 AM

    IMO, It seems that both opinions have a lot in common… that is, as long as the shirky elements are removed, it is permissible. The first says that once these elements are removed, it is no longer “yoga”, and just a series of exercises. The second says that not all “yoga” is the same, and the forms where the haram elements are removed are permissible.

    So really, it’s all in the name! If someone designed an exercise based on the same movements, without any of the shirk, and called it something completely different, then it seems no-one would have issue with it (especially if the word ‘yoga’ was never brought up). Allahu ‘alam.

  6. SaqibSaab

    December 24, 2008 at 9:56 AM

    This same discussion goes for a number of various mu‘amalat we find in our lives today. For example, one fatawa website made wearing Nike shoes haram because the name Nike is that of the Greek goddess of victory and triumph. Does the removal of the shirky background of the name make the shoes permissible to wear?

    I also feel the same can go for celebrations. If we say that the removal of shirky origins of certain celebrations such as birthdays or anniversaries makes them permissible, doesn’t that open the door for the consideration of having Christmas dinner next to the tree and presents? There’s no shirk in those acts by themselves, right?

    Interesting issues. JazakAllah khair for the thorough article.

  7. imran

    December 24, 2008 at 11:14 AM

    well it has worked for our “Giggsy” http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/men/article5252086.ece

    And most import thing in this article is “we just have to agree to disagree, and not shove our opinions down others’ throats no matter how wrong (we think) they are.”

  8. MR

    December 24, 2008 at 12:41 PM

    Yoga is for losers. Go hit the gym and lift weights.

  9. Al-Madrasi

    December 24, 2008 at 1:21 PM

    @ Author and other MM readers

    Bismillah,

    I just would like to point out few historical distortions which presented here, though author quoted the source and it is nothing to do with the author, its just that to keep the article academically honest

    Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where yoga originated.

    This is one of the distorted fact, sanskrit was not a language of ancient india, it was indeed the language of arians who came to india through kaiber-bolen canal, its being used only among supposedly ‘upper cast’ of indians (brahmins and similar casts).

    one could come to conclusion from the wiki, say ‘sanskrit, the ancient language present in india’. Most of the hindu in india don’t even know a sentence in sanskrit.

    Yoga: A Hindu discipline aimed at achieving a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility.

    A mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline by which one seeks to achieve

    It is not a hindu discipline, its a minority section of the hindu disciplie, or its fair to say, its a braminian discipline…

    I do not by any means to criticize the author, I just want to point out the repeated historical distortion (even in our school books in india) about a false claim that india is a hindu country (essentially claiming muslims invaded india and forced the conversions on supposedly hindus – which is not true, islam came to india about 1400 hrs years ago). At the least I hate to see such distortions in our beloved MM.

    By the way, these minority section of hindus even trying hard to change the school history books in US too, a good read here: Controversial Modifications to California’s History Textbooks: Details of Proposed Textbook Edits

    jazakallahu khairan for the article, I enjoyed reading the both the aspects of fatawah than about the yoga itself.

    Barakillahu Feek.

  10. Al-Madrasi

    December 24, 2008 at 1:26 PM

    Salam, what happened to my post???…

  11. Al Madrasi Al Hindee

    December 24, 2008 at 2:15 PM

    excellent article!

  12. umm sakeenah

    December 24, 2008 at 2:59 PM

    Bismillah.

    Jazaki Allahu Khaire Anonymouse for this article. You listed all the points very concisely and I agree that we should just agree to disagree.

    I would also like to say that I agree with Br. Abu Abdullah and SaqibSaab’s points. With so many different alternatives, why not just avoid the gray areas and go along with something that is clear of all shadiness.

    Has anyone heard of pilates? That’s a fine alternative to yoga and the origins are pretty clear as a man named Joseph Pilates came up with it in the 1920’s for the purpose of rehabilitation. There really is a whole world of fitness out there to the point that one doesn’t really have to rely on yoga alone!

    As for me, I’ll just stick to the Hadith of the Prophet (saws): “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt” And that dear readers, will help you live a peaceful life and allow your mind and heart to be “one” :) (well, in the sense that they both don’t have to keep fighting or convincing each other that what you’re doing is ok or not!!!) :)

  13. h. ahmed

    December 24, 2008 at 4:17 PM

    I find the Malaysian ulema’s ruling very disturbing.

    Yoga has been practiced under various forms (Im talking about the physical aspects, breathing exercises, stretching, poses, etc.) for centuries, long before the Prophet Muhammad (saw). It has probably even preceded hinduism. The very fact that it has taken on hindu language and customs in India should not be surprising because that was the predominant culture and language over there.

    Yoga has immense benefits regarding discipline, stress-relief, and helps improve ones breathing, posture, flexibility, and more. In fact having a supple flexible body is far superior and healthier than having a large buffed up body as modern pop culture likes to adulate.

    Yoga – in terms of its physical nature – should not be something whose legality should be debated – but in fact should be a praiseworthy action by Muslims due to its positive effects on one body, stress relief, and inculcation of patience and discipline. Of course if you are taking a yoga class which you are not comfortable with (i.e. hindu chants) – then enroll in another class, or buy a DVD and do it at home.

    Maybe some Muslims who are already Yoga experts should establish Muslim-friendly Yoga classes in our communities void of all Hindu-elements. That would surely eliminate this debate.

    And Allah (swt) knows best.

    • Manju Pandey

      November 10, 2015 at 6:28 AM

      very nice conclusion and really helpful

  14. Al-Madrasi

    December 24, 2008 at 4:23 PM

    It seems like two of my post has dissappeared, so third attempt again (thrice is sunnah :) isn’t it ) without hypertext links.

    I just would like to point few historical distortions in the article, though it is nothing to do with the author, indeed author quoted the sources.

    Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where yoga originated.

    Sanskrit, is not the language of ancient india, it was the language of Aryans, and still today, exclusively used in vedas and among brahmins. It might only be safer to say, ‘one of the ancient language present in india’ (sanskrit on wiki).

    Yoga: A Hindu discipline aimed at achieving…

    A mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline by which…

    This is not a hindu discipline, its might be actually, ‘a brahmin discipline’ or its safer to say ‘a minority section of hindu discipline’. Even today most (its fair to say that about 90% of the hindus) do not know a single paragraph if not a single sentence in sanskrit (may be they might know a word or two from the movies etc).

    These right wing hindu elements of india repeated these historical distortions mainly to claim, a false claim, that hindu is the actual religion of india and muslims invaded india and forced the conversations on supposedly hindus (which is quiet false, islam came to india, in particular to kerala by a king Cheraman about 1400 years ago). Indian history has been repeatedly changed including in our books.

    By the way, these right wing elements even trying hard to change the books in US too. A good read here: Controversial Modifications to California’s History Textbooks: Details of Proposed Textbook Edits

    Some of you might think,though i do not think so, this might be off the topic, but this is something at the least I hate to see such thing in our beloved MM. Again, by any means, I do not criticize the author, jazakallah for bringing the issue, I am just pointing out few things to keep the article academically honest ( and I do not doubt the author’s honesty in anyway).

    Barakumullahu Feek.

  15. Muslimah

    December 24, 2008 at 5:32 PM

    Fatwa of Grand Mufti:I
    n Sept 2004, a mufti in Egypt has ruled that the practice of yoga is a sin. The ruling by the Grand mufti Ali Gomoa, the highest authority on Islamic law, stipulates that yoga “is considered one of the ways of practicing Hinduism.”
    The edict, published in the pan-Arab daily newspaper Al-Hayat, called the practice of yoga “an aberration” and said it is “forbidden religiously.” It continued: “Even if Muslims do not know the link with Hinduism, it is a sin.”

    Also read the following on the dangers of Yoga:
    “Yoga is a special physical exercise peculiar to India. Its characteristics are suffering and perseverance. Yoga practitioners are unbelievably restrained. Of course, when it is spread out over the world, Yoga has already lost its essence and become simply a health-improving method like gymnastics.

    The methods of the practice of Yoga involve treating human body cruelly, putting the body in almost untenable postures, suffering hunger, swallowing strings in order to clean the intestines, keeping the same posture for a long time, holding the breath for a long time, or even cutting the tie under the tongue to stretch it long enough to reach the part that is between the nose and the mouth because in this way the practitioner can practice having the ability to breath little. Some Yoga practitioners are able to lie in hibernation underground for a month, depending on only the air in the coffin in which they lie, which is sufficient for them. Usually, the hibernators will need many Yoga practitioners to wake them up through meditation.

    The background of Yoga is the activity of Jinns (Demons). After torturing a human body painfully for a long time and rendering the soul near collapse and very weak, Jinns (Demons) then easily capture and take control of the human soul. Then this person will have supernormal capabilities. The hibernation is actually what happens when the soul has left the body or when the soul is so completely controlled by Jinns (Demons) that it suffers from shock. This is why there have to be many Yoga practitioners to meditate (engaging in acts or chants that appease the jinns thus rendering to their request) in order to manoeuvre the evil spirits to have that person’s soul returned and that person awakened. Generally speaking, this kind of training is hard for people to keep, yet those who do succeed usually have shocking capabilities.”
    [dangerofchi.org]

  16. umm sakeenah

    December 24, 2008 at 5:56 PM

    Bismillah.

    @Muslimah-Now that is something I’ve never heard or come across before in regards to Yoga!! Seems like there’s a “mystical” side in every religion then huh?? :P

    btw are Tai-Chi and Yoga related and/or have the same origins? People, just stick to Pilates!! Trust me, it’s great! :)

  17. umm sakeenah

    December 24, 2008 at 6:41 PM

    Bismillah.

    I was just remembering what one of my assistants at Sunday school was telling our class of 1st graders:

    She was demonstrating how to perform Salah to the students and as she was going through the movements she said “Salah is the best form of stretching, exercising, relaxing and discipline…..see, you’re standing in Salah for a while, then you bend down in Ruku with a straight back and — don’t forget to breathe while you’re doing this!– and then you stand back up again and then the best part of all….SUJOOD!” The kids were so excited to hear this and she did such a great job with the analogy!

    Soooo, in conclusion, Salah is a million times better than Yoga! :)

    Allahu Alim

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  20. AnonyMouse

    December 24, 2008 at 7:54 PM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

    JazaakumAllahu khairan for the feedback.

    I started writing this article as an attempt to clarify the issue of yoga, because it’s surprisingly popular within the Muslim community, and the source of more than a few arguments.

    However, I discovered something more – a deeper insight into, and a stronge appreciation for, the principles of fiqh and the incredible amount of thought, deliberation, and concern that goes into the issuing of fataawah. So subhanAllah, more than anything else, writing this became not so much an issue of deciding what was right or wrong wrt to yoga itself, as it became a way of deepening my respect and love for the scholars of this Ummah.

    @ AbuAbdallah
    Thank you for your comment – it’s good to get some feedback from someone who’s actually done it before.

    @ iMuslim
    Yes, that’s very much the conclusion I came to personally as well. Initially I questioned whether I should even write about yoga when the answer seemed so obvious to me, but unfortunately many people continue to be confused about it. Even though it would be a lot more practical if we could just drop the word “yoga,” people aren’t willing to let it go simply because the term is used so consistently… thus I figured that we may as well just work with the people if we’re going to try and sort this out.

    @ SaqibSaab
    Fiqh is an incredibly complex and detailed field, which is both what I love about it and what makes it so frustrating at the same time!

    For example, w/ the scenarios you gave (and I’m sure you know this already, but I’ll say this for the benefit of others), there are other conditions and principles which have to be taken into consideration. E.g. Nike shoes are simply shoes with a name of shirki origin, but doesn’t affect any of your actions/ deeds. Christmas trees, on the other hand, not only have shirki origins but are also a blatant manner of imitating the kuffaar (amongst other things).

    When considering such issues, it simply highlights the importance of seeking the knowledge and understanding needed to correctly deal with these matters. May Allah forgive us all for what we say in haste and without correct knowledge or understanding, ameen.

    @ alMadrasi
    JazakAllahu khairan for pointing that out – it’s a reminder to me to double-check my sources and accuracy of info!

    @ h.ahmed
    Actually, you shouldn’t find it disturbing. As I pointed out in one section, there are no doubt many reasons and wisdoms for which they declared it haraam, and we as laymen should not be so quick to jump on the scholars for their rulings.

  21. amirah

    December 24, 2008 at 8:16 PM

    yeah i heard about this and i though it was interesting… personally i think it depends on the type of yoga since as the author said there are many types…. i take prenatal yoga to get exercise and strengthening my muscles and i use the breathing and focusing to prepare for the wonderful joys of childbirth……. the movement is super limited since your pregnant and cant do that much and there is no chanting or anyhting they tell you to focus on your breath and teach you how to breath through a contraction. i focus on Allah as well so this type of yoga i think is ok but i totally get it

  22. Al-Madrasi

    December 24, 2008 at 9:17 PM

    Mods, could someone delete my first post, its embarrassing to see as the post appear to be spamming… actually I posted thrice and the second one was with more links and that seemed to have disappeared :( , could somebody explain why that happened…

    jazakallahu khairan….

    Usually comments with more than 3 links get held up, and sometimes comments go into spam for no apparent reason. So if you see something missing, usually we’ll fish it out eventually. Many of us are travelling or at texas dawah, so pls bear with us on comment-edit requests. -MM

  23. Al-Madrasi

    December 24, 2008 at 9:36 PM

    Here are the links that was missed in my post about King Cheraman, who is believed to be first muslim from india

    king Cheraman)

    First Masjid in India built 629 AD

    Recent day interview with a descendant of King Cheraman Perumal

  24. Juraij Boosh at-Tiksaasee

    December 25, 2008 at 1:20 AM

    Regardless of which ruling you incline toward, it’s a never good idea to chant the mantra ‘Om’ to oneself. This is in fact an invocation, that is uttered before beginning the reading of Hindu texts and is also chanted before the Hindus begin their prayer.

  25. Al-Madrasi

    December 25, 2008 at 1:59 AM

    “Usually comments with more than 3 links get held up, and sometimes comments go into spam for no apparent reason. So if you see something missing, usually we’ll fish it out eventually. Many of us are travelling or at texas dawah, so pls bear with us on comment-edit requests. -MM”

    jazakallah khairan for your response, I wish I could attend TDC as well, I’m jealous about those who attend TDC (haha, such a jealousy is allowed in islam)… its too long drive for me though i’m in holidays… inshaAllah will try some other time…. looking forward to read gems of TDC as well as videos… :)

    Remember the ummah in your Duas while you travel.

    Barakumullahu Feek.

  26. Siraaj

    December 25, 2008 at 2:35 AM

    I’ve tried yoga, and it hurts :(

    I think this comedian sums it up well:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSztExIa0uk

    Siraaj

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  28. Sarah

    December 25, 2008 at 11:21 AM

    I don’t get it. If you say that you only believe in Allah, and your heart is true to that statement, then why would chanting Hindu prayers (which to you would be meaningless) make any difference? I mean, isn’t your belief that Allah is Omniscient? Wouldn’t he be able to see that you are still loyal to him/her?

    • Manju Pandey

      November 10, 2015 at 6:40 AM

      very nice conclusion and really helpful

  29. Ibn Fellah

    December 25, 2008 at 1:16 PM

    Fatwa shopping at its best? Also, since when did you start giving fataawa anonymouse. Wasn’t it enough that vast majority of scholars declare it haraam, yet you had to add that ‘twist’ (just like people do with various other issues such as music…) to make it seem, oh it’s ok to do yoga (scholars don’t understand anything anyway)…

    Allahul musta’an.

  30. h. ahmed

    December 25, 2008 at 1:27 PM

    the vast majority of scholars do NOT declare yoga haraam. In fact, the most populous Muslim nation in the world – Indonesia explicitly did not follow Malaysia’s ruling – and yoga is prominent there as well!

    Check this out: South African prisoners embrace yoga [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7777912.stm]

  31. Ibn Fellah

    December 25, 2008 at 1:36 PM

    H.Ahmed do you even know how indenosian law defines “muslim”, wait not even muslim but someone who believes in a ‘diety’. Strength is not in numbers of laity but what the body of scholars say.

  32. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    December 25, 2008 at 1:39 PM

    Sarah,

    Thanks for your comment. First, I recently understood that this was one of the perspectives used by early Christians when they were asked to sacrifice to the pagan Roman deities. Some would say, since we know these deities are not real, sacrificing to them is meaningless. Of course, others held a different opinion and some preferred death to sacrificing to the pagan deities.

    Of course, in our time, no one is being forced to chant these things, so why would one do it and then say “Oh, but I don’t really mean it”?

    Your comment about Allaah knowing what is in your heart is true and might be applicable if one was being forced to do something. But since you are not being forced it doesn’t make sense. It’s as if one was disrespecting their mother in their words and actions but saying In my heart I still love you mom. Why would you willingly be engaging in actions contrary to what is in your heart?

    Finally, if you study (at least the Islamic understanding of) how idolatry and false religion come to be practiced, it often starts with people who don’t have the intention to commit shirk (the worship of other than God) but have some other intention. For example, since we can’t see God, they say let’s make a statue or image to concentrate our attention on when we pray — but we are still praying to God, not that idol. Or, let’s make a statue or image of this righteous person because he used to remind us of God, but now he’s dead and his statue will remind us of God. But over time people, and especially as generations pas, people forget about the origin of things and just follow what their parents did. Eventually, someone is saying, I don’t know why but if I ever need something I go to this statue and ask for it and people begin to think that the statue has supernatural power and they engage in other acts of worship to the statue or to the grave or the dead saint or whatever.

    Now, you might think wow you don’t know that’s going to happen in this case and aren’t you being a little too cautious about such a thing happening? The answer would be it all depends how big of a deal you think worshipping someone or something other than God is….God has taught in all the revealed books that it is the worst thing there is and that it is the only sin if one dies practicing it, that cannot be forgiven. So in that light, wouldn’t it make sense to be as careful about it as one could?

    But you are absolutely right that intention and what is in the heart is key to understanding the nature of idolatry.

    Allaah knows best.

  33. Abu Fellah

    December 25, 2008 at 1:43 PM

    @ Ibn Fellah

    Mockery of other Muslims at its best? Its very brave of you to attack Sr. Anonymouse while remaining quote anonymous yourself.

    There is no fatwa shopping here, she did not lean towards any verdict. There are god-fearing scholars on both sides of the equation (contrary to your black-and-white view of the world), and the article very nicely illustrated why there is a difference of opinion.

    Grow up.

    Mods: I ask that you leave both of these comments as I’m sure there are a handful of other ‘internet warriors’ like Ibn Fellah who need to thump their chests and yell out loud to show how brave they are, and I wish that they display their manhood elsewhere.

  34. Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

    December 25, 2008 at 1:44 PM

    Ibn Fellah,

    Anonymouse explicitly said at the beginning of the piece that she was not a faqeeh and she was not giving a fatwa. Did you read it?

    However, she did say that her piece was reviewed by a scholar so if that scholar was okay with what she wrote, who are you to criticize?

    As she said you are free to follow the opinion of the jamhoor of scholars, May Allaah reward you for that she explicitly linked to various fatwa for your and our edification.

    Allaah knows best.

  35. Shawna

    December 25, 2008 at 2:28 PM

    I’m happy to see a post on this topic! I love practicing yoga as a form of exercise. One of the first benefits I experienced was a more focused and fluid (physically perfected) prayer. I was surprised to hear that there are fatawa against it, but I can understand why if it is practiced in the religious capacity. Maybe because I took my first course in college and it was a secular setting with an American teacher–I just was never exposed to it as something truly religious. Actually, I’ll still use yoga-derived stretches to focus myself if I’m particularly distracted and need to pray.

    Wonderfully informative–thanks!

  36. Muslimah

    December 25, 2008 at 6:04 PM

    @ Umm Sakeenah

    “btw are Tai-Chi and Yoga related and/or have the same origins?”

    We need to be very very cautious about anything that includes ‘Chi’ or ‘Ki’. It literally means ‘energy’ & is found in eastern & oriental arts and practices. The origin or reality of this invisible energy is, at the very least, dubious, & at worst, possiblly shirk for involving jinns(invisible energy).

    I found out this info when i was researching the basis of this new age alternative ‘healing’ method called ‘Reiki’. (notice the ‘ki’ in the word?)
    For more info on these, read the indepth analysis of ‘Chi’ & its dangers to mind, body & Islamic Aqeedah on http://www.dangerofchi.org

    • Suad Sabur

      December 3, 2015 at 8:04 PM

      Chi and/or ki have nothing to do with shirk. They are very real physical properties of the human body. You can use an ohm meter (device used to measure electrical current commonly used by electricians, and in the field of electronics) and measure your body’s electrical current.

  37. mudsir

    December 25, 2008 at 9:51 PM

    Yoga is chanting praises of idols + physical exercises.

    Now if you want to do just the exercise part then call it something else, but don’t call it yoga.

    Stay away from Hinduism, its the worst form of idolatory, if fact as someone said that even the pagan Arabs were not as idolatorous as the present Hindus.

  38. J

    December 25, 2008 at 11:09 PM

    As-Salam Alaykum,

    I think that the attacks on sister Anonymouse are uncalled for. However, I do agree with the idea that oftentimes people who deem some matters as halal will say “it’s a difference of opinion” (such as with music), and this is their way of saying “it’s halal” without facing a flame war.

    Anyways, I really have to side with those who deem yoga to be haram. I mean, it really DOES fall under the category of imitating the kufaar. Imagine if Christians started to do the motions for our Muslim salah but just got rid of the words we use…! You would still find it to be imitation of the highest order!

    Fi Aman Allah

  39. Khan

    December 26, 2008 at 2:21 AM

    Asslamo alaikum…

    Article is so interesting and informative too for a person like me who did not know about Yoga type things concepts practices bla bla.. so first of all thank you for sharing.

    I personally believe that Islam is a pro-active religion in all its practices as the author said that Yoga make union between mind body and spirit…. if we muslims completely follow the teachings of Islam and adopt the Sunaah is our way of life and make the Sunnah habit in our all practices of daily life then I think then there is no need that we barrow such type of ideas and practices from other religions or nations and practice them in our daily life for mental or physical comfort ness because all the Ebadah of Islam if we follow them with pure heart and Head resulted in true mental and heart satisfaction .

    May Allah give us true understanding of our Deen .. ameen

    Regards

  40. fairuza

    December 26, 2008 at 12:37 PM

    You can do yoga exercises without any chanting….or any words at all. The exercises in yoga are very beneficial for ones body. Beyond the issues of idolatry, I think fear of yoga might also stem from a fear of Muslim women becoming physically strong, fit and aware of their bodies. Many Muslims seem to have some weird issues with women and physical fitness. Just my observation.

  41. Qas

    December 26, 2008 at 8:44 PM

    aware of their bodies

    I thought everyone was aware of their bodies…

  42. Islamist

    December 27, 2008 at 12:54 AM

    Assalammou’alaikum.. Masha’Allah its a beautiful article,we rarely hear about such topics. My opinion is that if in doing yoga we are imitating or doing a hindu principle,then its completelt haraam,we are forbidden to practice others customs.. Futhermore the acts of yoga are somewat leading us to an attitude of hindu imitation.. And anyway if we muslims have our own spiritual exercise which is swalaat.. So why consider their yogas?? If you do your swalaat with full concentration, then it is the best spiritual exercise linking the body and the mind…

  43. fairuza

    December 27, 2008 at 10:40 AM

    Qas

    No, you’d be surprised how disattached people can be from their own bodies. In fact, I would say that most people (talking about Americans here) are very UNAWARE of their bodies.

    By “awareness” I mean a deeper awareness of the inner workings and the power of our bodies (Ironically the yoga center that I went to back then was called “Body Awareness”). When I started yoga I learned about (and felt working for the first time) different muscles that I didn’t even know that I had. Physical strength aside, my breathing improved; my emotions improved. A comment here mentioned something about improvement in prayer, and I can vouch for that also.

    I would say give yoga a try. The non-chanting, secular kind, of course.

    Islamist

    There are benefits to be found in excercises outside of salat. If you do those they can enhance your prayer experience. Can someone tell be what is inherently “hindu” about the simple postures and stretches of yoga….? I am just curious. I am also teaching martial arts to my children….which did not come from Islam, but could potential save their life some day. If Muslims had their own indigenous for of M.A. though, you could bet that I would be teaching it to them.

  44. Faraz Omar

    December 28, 2008 at 1:24 AM

    I’ve probed into this topic a lot some couple of years back. I come from India, and the wave of Yoga taking on as a “secular” “nothing -to-do-with-religion” was taking on everybody there.
    Doctors were recommending it to Muslims!

    1. I do not have links stored, but here is what I found. Hindu religious groups criticize Yoga masters like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of Art of Living, that he is using the core of Hinduism without calling it Hinduism. So he is getting personal fame, while he should refer it back to Hinduism. He should not be calling it “spiritualism” and nothing to do with religion. He should openly say that its Hinduism. They call Yoga as Hinduism and Hinduism as Yoga.

    2. Art of Living, though it claims to be distant from religion, it is a set of beliefs they spread. Their website shows the info they spread about soul, life after death etc. Art of living is just an example.

    3. MORE IMPORTANTLY: The Hindus who have been practicing Yoga for years, said Yoga was not suitable for today’s lifestyle. After 4-5 years of the breathing exercises they face severe back problems, other health issues, which I did not understand.
    The famous Yogi masters today are all known to have different health complications.
    According to them, and what they found from their pandits, Yoga was developed by masters suitable for the life on mountains and the secluded lifestyle. The environment, the diet etc mattered. And this is not the case with us living in a metropolitan lifestyle.

    4. ON SALAH: My uncle, in the 1980s i suppose, in Bangalore went with his friends to join Yoga. In those days, there wasn’t much communal stuff. The Yoga master asked him why my uncle wanted to join Yoga when he had something better, the Salah? Yes he really did ask this!

    5. My Personal experience: When I visited a neurospecialist in one of the most famous hospitals in India (Apollo if anyone has heard), Dr. Panneerselvam, because I would black out without reason at rare times without any pattern, The first think he asked me, after testing, was: Are you a pakka Musalman (Are you a true Muslim?) Do you pray five times a day?
    (BTW I did used to pray, but I had a disordered lifestyle, sleeping extremely late, getting up in an hour for Fajr and then sleeping after Fajr till Zuhr. My health got back well alhamdulillaah when i changed that).

    I hope that benefitted. It all came from my memory. But I’m sure the sincere researcher will find more.
    Yea I wanted to add the Fatwa of the Mufti of Egypt, but Muslimah has already posted that. JAzaak Allah khair

  45. Faraz Omar

    December 28, 2008 at 2:13 AM

    And finally, you didn’t mention who the scholars were, whose opinions u were quoting.

  46. Khan.

    December 29, 2008 at 5:38 AM

    fairuza said:
    You can do yoga exercises without any chanting….or any words at all. The exercises in yoga are very beneficial for ones body. Beyond the issues of idolatry, I think fear of yoga might also stem from a fear of Muslim women becoming physically strong, fit and aware of their bodies. Many Muslims seem to have some weird issues with women and physical fitness. Just my observation….
    ______________________________________________________

    lol.. thanx thats only ur observation but i think muslims women are physically and mentally are very strong we cannot underestimate them or their abilities as women.. .. ..

    Regards

  47. Farhan

    December 29, 2008 at 2:49 PM

    hm…I don’t really do Yoga anyways, nor do I have a desire to engage in it. I agree with MR’s comments.
    But, Its definitely becoming a fad amongst women nowadays, including Muslim women.

  48. Abd- Allah

    January 15, 2009 at 5:34 PM

    What is the point of this?
    How many Muslims do you know that do yoga?
    I don’t know anyone that does yoga.

  49. Hanif Abdulkareem

    July 10, 2014 at 3:47 AM

    Interesting read. After reading through the article and all the comments, all I have to say is that Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) says in chapter 5, verse 3 of the holy Qur’an, “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion”. Islam includes three Qur’an and sunnah (our perfect example). The prophet learnt how to fight (it is even encouraged) – martial arts. I don’t recall him performing weird stretches originating from other religions. He was healthier than we are. This is just unnecessary. Leave the grey areas. May Allah continue to strengthen us

  50. iqbal

    April 20, 2015 at 3:40 AM

    yoga is a sin.why having ambivalent on such issues.prophet(PBUH)himseld did never perform yoga.beware of yoga ,otherwise you will burn in hell

    • Aly Balagamwala

      April 20, 2015 at 9:14 AM

      Dear Iqbal

      I will not comment on whether Yoga is halal or haram as that is best left to the fuquha, rulings of some have been posted at bottom of the article. However, my comment is regards to the below comment:

      >prophet(PBUH)himseld did never perform yoga.
      The fact that the Prophet (SAW) never played basketball or cricket or was not known to lift weights do not make those haram. The author has covered the various points why Yoga would be considered haram by fuquha and those are valid concerns regarding it. This statement however, does not fall in line with those concerns.

      Let the fuquha make decisons on what is halal or haram in light of Quran and Sunnah.

      -Aly

      *Comment above is posted in a personal capacity and may not reflect the official views of MuslimMatters or its staff*

  51. Nayab Siddiqui

    May 7, 2020 at 2:36 AM

    I disagree.

    Yoga has nothing to do with religion or gods. If you study Hinduism, it is not even a religion. It is the ignorants in Hinduism who worship idols. A Hindu scholar will tell you that their idols are nothing but mere story characters that were created to explain how life and the human system works. The ignorants turned them into gods.

    This is like saying studying psychology or biology is haram. Because yoga is exactly that, but the difference is only tht in Yoga, the lab is your own being and the tools are your observation and attention.

    As for enlightenment, it is the state when you have clearly understood the being you are. That’s when you become one with the higher intelligence behind creation. That is Allah. And I don’t see how connecting to Allah is haraam or shirk? Hazrat Ali’s connection to Allah was such that he said if Allah became visible to him there would be no difference in how he feels. That’s Yoga in a different language, eeman in a different, connection in a different.

    Yoga is the best thing a human being and especially a Muslim can do. The prophets couldn’t teach such deep aspects of a human being because they make no sense to 90 – 99% of the world. Allah has kept Islam such that the simplest to the most complicated human being could understand it. If everyone understood the complexest levels of life, undoubtedly such a practice would have been taught to all Muslims.

    If you want to have a conversation about this topic and change your article, I am more than willing to do that.

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