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Readers Opinions: What’s a “Balanced” Lifestyle?


So if you hadn’t noticed, there was this little ruckus a couple of weeks ago about some Cricket World Cup, specifically the India vs Pakistan match.  My fellow co-workers stayed up all night watching the game, as did many of my fellow MM compatriots.  I had a good friend who remotely (from the US) manages a team in India tell me that 15 of his team members called in Friday to inform him that they all would be having a family emergency…on Monday.

Much can be said about the antics, hysteria, and dare I say it, fanaticism that surrounds sporting events like cricket and football (either version).  Pakistan’s state-sponsored nawafil prayers for the team is easily fodder for condemnation and ridicule.

Yet, I must admit I was disappointed less in the cricket fans and more in some of the posts, tweets, and facebook messages from the religious class, if you will, calling out cricket fans and I say this as someone who cannot sit through sporting events easily any longer and didn’t watch even a minute of the cricket tournament.

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I was disappointed because very honestly, as difficult as life has become for Muslims around the world, and as spiritually bankrupt as we are often pronounced to be, we still need to relax from the day-to-day grind of life when we can.  While I don’t think sitting through many days worth of matches is worth my time, I think the fun and excitement others get from it is important for their own life, and helps to recharge their batteries to get back up and take care of their other daily obligations.

But then that begs the question, where’s the balance?  What’s the balance between too much time having fun and unwinding vs too little?  In my mind, if you’re doing well with your life’s highest priorities (taking care of your responsibilities, and doing it well) then your free time is yours to do with as you please (within reason).

What are your thoughts on balance?  What truly is a balanced lifestyle, and where do you see other recreational activities like sports fitting into the whole equation?


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Siraaj is the Executive Director of MuslimMatters. He's spent over two decades working in dawah organizations, starting with his university MSA and going on to lead efforts with AlMaghrib Institute, MuslimMatters, and AlJumuah magazine. He's very married with wonderful children



  1. abu Rumay-s.a.

    April 14, 2011 at 5:32 AM

    Good point and a timely reminder, spiritual bankruptcy. Jazak Allahu khairun.

    Just recently, my wife returned from her Qur`an class and brought back a bunch of food and when I asked what the occasion was, she said that the Indian/Pakistani sisters had arranged a party after the cricket match finals. They did that inspite of a rule not allowing students to bring food without prior arrangements with the school administration (Smile :) They sisters had mentioned that they were influenced by their husbands !! The fever is catching on!!

    I’d say balance is relative depending on the stage of one’s life. As a father of 6 young ones masha`Allah, I don’t have the time I used to have at an earlier stage of life where I was out in a basketball/volleyball court 4-5 days a week. Now, my leisure is dedicated to the kids in outings, picnics, barbecues, swimming, etc..

    there is typically a moral compass that nodes us when we are being excessive in leisure, i think this is innate, although we like to ignore it at times.

    • Siraaj

      April 14, 2011 at 12:57 PM

      Agreed, life circumstances often change what it means to be balanced in certain matters. Still, others have to be maintained regardless, like the priority of prayer, and there may be others in a worldly sense (like in one’s job, part of doing it right is keeping up and upgrading skills, health consciousness, community service as much as possible, and so on).


  2. Bushra

    April 14, 2011 at 5:42 AM

    A heartwarming story from the life of Imam Ahmad:

    In this life of poverty, hardship and trials, Abdullah asked his father [Imam Ahmad] one day, “Abi when will we ever relax?” His father, one of the greatest revivers of the Sunnah, a role model for all Muslims, looked him in the eye and said, “With the first step we take into Jannah.”

    I love this story as it shows us that we won’t really relax until we get into Jannah and therefore we should make every single second in our life count…but this is not to mean that we shouldn’t relax and have a bit of ‘downtime’. I think it’s necessary, but it shouldn’t be in excess.

    Surah al’Asr sums it up quite nicely for us as to how valuable our time is.

    Here’s my definition of a balanced lifestyle (you may have heard of this elsewhere, too):

    This life and dunya is like a honey pot, and the flies that are attracted to it are us, mankind. Most of the flies dive straight into the honey, mesmerised by its sweetness and overcome by its smell, but they soon realise that they have gone in too deep as they begin to drown and suffocate in the honey.
    But there are some flies who stay on the rim of the honey pot, enjoying its sweetness from a distance, just a little at a time, because they know that there is a better place waiting for them, with more than just honey.

    So we should take what we can with caution from our time in the dunya, enjoying some of the good and refraining from the bad. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a cricket match, or other sporting activities, if it’s only for one day and obligatory acts of worship are not left out because of the match. After all, the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wasallam) allowed A’isha (radiallahu anha) to watch men play with spears and he stood there for as long as she was watching it. So really, nothing wrong with a few fun and games….but just as long as we’re not forgetting our true purpose in life.

    • Ameera Khan

      April 14, 2011 at 8:27 AM

      The honeypot analogy is wonderful… Masha’Allah! :) And of course, the incident you mentioned from Imam Ahmed! :)

      • Mariam Anwer

        April 15, 2011 at 4:47 PM

        Jazakillah Khair…lovely analogy of the honey pot & bees!! :)

    • Siraaj

      April 14, 2011 at 12:58 PM

      Great quotes in there, jzk for sharing =)


  3. DiscoMaulvi

    April 14, 2011 at 6:15 AM

    I had a good friend who remotely (from the US) manages a team in India tell me that 15 of his team members called in Friday to inform him that they all would be having a family emergency…on Monday

    ROFL! Yeah I can relate to that disappearance of staff! We had almost no work done on the day of the semi-final (official half day by government) or the final (unofficial half day).

    This World cup was the first I watched partially mainly since my wife complained that since I don’t watch sports she also has no clue what is going on. Her father (may Allah have mercy on him and forgive him) used to watch sports with the kids and she missed those moments of her childhood. So in the interest of being an outstanding husband (which i unfortunately am no where near), I watched cricket! :)

    Balance is something I struggle with a lot. Whether it is work-life balance or something more serious, balance of the religion. I find that routines help a lot in maintaining the balance. Prayer by jama’at at the masjid is one automatically provided by Islam. 5 prayers in the masjid (easier for us in Pakistan over those in the west) gives a great framework to your day and things automatically get scheduled around this framework. Sort of like filling the “big rocks” in the jar before the gravel and sand.

    However, it is indeed a struggle to get a balanced lifestyle. May Allah guide us and make it easy on us.


    • Bushra

      April 14, 2011 at 6:24 AM

      Hold up…I thought the match was on a Wednesday??

  4. Amad

    April 14, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    I didn’t stay up all night… fortunately, it was daytime in Qatar :)

    I only get this excited about cricket once every 4 yrs or whenever Pak is playing India… I used to do the “nafal mannat” in the past, but I keep reminding myself that once all is over, the lives of 99% of people following the game will remain exactly the same. I am also humbled by how many Muslims support the “dark side” too ;) My point is that it reminds me that this isn’t Islam vs. Hinduism on the game field, it is merely two teams composed of people who we don’t even know. Once you get your emotions a bit more dis-invested and recognize that the end-game won’t effect you in any tangible way, then you might feel less inclined to do special tahajjud for a match.

    The balance issue is important… I remember the religious folks up in arms over the soccer world cup. Okay, there is an interpretation that the shorts might be too high, but there is another that it isn’t. And really, is soccer or cricket the worst thing that youth can watch?? I mean relatively speaking, the more playing/watching soccer, the more not in clubs…

    I think the balance for individuals gets seriously disrupted (in a wrong way) when prayers are missed and/or when celebrations include wild music and parties.

    Chill out…. it’s just a game.

    • Bushra

      April 14, 2011 at 9:46 AM

      Aaaarrghh…back to talking about cricket. What’s your definition of a balanced lifestyle, Amad bhai?

      Also, just to clarify…I, too, was wide awake as it was bright daylight here and I was at work. Working :D

  5. Abeer Khan

    April 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    True. Very true. Everyone needs a bit of fun time to unwind and enjoy with your family. I usually don’t watch sports – specially long test matches- because I feel they’re a waste of time (although I wish I made better use of the time I did end up saving while not watching those matches). Instead of watching the game all the way through, why not just watch the highlights later on or catch up on the latest developments in the news? An India/ Pakistan match is not one to miss though! :)

  6. Bint A

    April 14, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    I think it’s important to really judge oneself and one’s situation in this.
    br. Siraaj, you mentioned that as long as we keep “within reason” and take care of our obligations, there is nothing really wrong with a bit of relaxation and entertainment. The problem is though that many people do not recognize this balance and often do compromise on limits and obligations in the name of a “bit of fun” -even those who normally do adhere to those limits and obligations.

    I mean if these type of things have the potential to cause slackness in terms of our Islamic values and essentials, why indulge in them?

    Also another point is that if those around us see us indulging in these type of activities (though it may be a rare outlet for us) will they not get the impression that this is the value we give our time and give them a go-ahead to make this a norm?

    I have myself wondered about where to draw the line in this issue: be it on expensive cruises, all-night cricket matches, etc. I would really appreciate a scholarly response (perhaps from one of our shuyookh) on this.

    BarakAllahu feekum.

    • Siraaj

      April 14, 2011 at 4:24 PM

      But is it that they compromise religious duties and obligations because of fun, or that they just outright ignore those? For example, some people will work long hours, come home exhausted, sleep, wake, and start the cycle again, and skip prayers.

      Now, we wouldn’t say, well you have to stop working, working is bad, or some other such thing – we would instead tell the person to keep doing their work, but to set aside some time for prayer. I think the same occurs with the way we spend our time (or even money).

      And this is where I find myself on the other side of the fence with the more religious folks who chose to condemn all the cricket-watching that occurred. The problem, I believe, is neither in cricket nor cricket watching, but the manner in which the priority of Islam is taught to people.

      In particular, I don’t like crossing up these discussions with one another – its almost like sporting events are haraam, go back and pray – is that really an invitation, or an arrogant, self-righteous, “Look at these foolish impious people wasting their time!”. Not the best daw’ah tactic, imho.

      What I would prefer to see is, go out and enjoy yourselves, and pray and thank Allah for the privilege and enjoyment you’re having.


      • Uthman

        April 15, 2011 at 1:47 AM

        Assalam o alaykum Siraaj, This is Uthman from Islamabad, Pakistan(formerly in Santa Clara).

        As a lecturer, the class suffered because of this cricket match. Does cricket take priority over learning?(especially when classes cannot be rescheduled because of time conflicts)? More importantly, does cricket take precedence over the fard salawat? Does cricket take precedence over using your time wisely? i.e. watching cricket for 10 hours straight! neglecting all the important functions of deen and dunya? That was a weeks worth of class gone. And the preceding week the entire country was again given a holiday for Pakistan Day.

        The problem is not cricket, the problem is the hype and what happened here on that day. IF there was a chakka(6 runs) girls would come and dance in front of the crowd. Mind you not they were not dancing girls. Girls who come from good familes would come and dance in the name of happiness. Music, women badly dressed etc. I saw a van that was open from the back and they had the radio on, listening to the match, and every time something would happen the driver would drive erratically and the entire car audience would go crazy chanting “Pakistan zindabad” (Long live Pakistan). Their faces painted green and white. What situation would they be in if they passed away in this state? need I say more? The Imam of the masjid here gave a small hadith “Part of a man’s perfection of his Islam is that he leaves that which is not of concern to him.” The Imam also said that on one ball here in Pakistan there are 13 different types of gambles. And people are indulging in this evil. In Pakistan. Which happens to be a Muslim country!

        Also I remember in Shaykh Jamal’s class on Purification of the soul, he said that, “when a game becomes more then just a game and there is energy, resources spent for the game, then this game has become more then just a game and has now left the realm of just a game. It has now become a goal. What is the goal of this life?” This is exactly what happened that day. People spent untold amounts on this game. The entire economy of Pakistan was at a standstill because of this match. The Prime Minister announced a half day holiday. A holiday! For what? For a game! That was just a game and will always remain a game.

        A place where majority of the people are very poor. If they dont work for a day they end up going home hungry to their wife and children. I read that a worker passed away on the street in Islamabad waiting for work. HE was a labourer who has his shovel and sits on the road that someone will see him and call him for work. He passed away waiting and he hadn’t eaten anything. While people were busy watching this match. The entire nation forgot about Raymond Davis case, Dr Afia’s case just because this match was their life.

        People coming to the Imam and asking him to make dua for the Pakistani team so they may win. What is this non-sense? Shouldn’t they be more worried about Dr. Afia Siddiqui? Shouldn’t we be careful how we are spending our time? Yes have fun. There must be a time for fun. But extravagant preparation for the event before and after the game was just mind boggling.

        Is this the balance? A balanced approach would be to engage in your duties i.e. work etc. and just follow the match every two hours or so imho. In a country where electricity is a problem. A place where load shedding happens daily. That day no load shedding. Why? because a match has become more important for the nation. Imagine if a foreign enemy wanted to take down this country! All they had to do was setup such a match and the armed forces, civilians etc. all levels of soceity would be engaged in this match and they would just walk in and take over.

        This also begs the question, isn’t this imitation of the kuffar? Isn’t this the way the kuffar are crazy about sports? Isn’t this their way of life? What are we doing as a muslim ummah? Where are our priorities?

        So how can one stay silent and not say this is jahiliyya and when they are invited to be moderate in their approach, the response is “Oh this match comes after centuries. Let us enjoy it and dont spoil the fun.”

        I really had to get that off my chest.

        The hadith of the Prophet(sallAllah u alayhi wasallam) comes to mind:

        Take advantage of five before five
        1. your youth, before you become old; and
        2. your health, before you fall sick; and
        3. your richness, before you become poor; and
        4. your free time before you become busy; and
        5. your life, before your death.”

        • Siraaj

          April 15, 2011 at 5:31 PM

          Salaam alaykum Uthman,

          I don’t doubt there was a lot of behavior worthy of condemnation, but bro, those are specific behaviors, whereas you’ll have religious people in the community condemning it as though people should be ashamed of spending some extra time keeping up with it.

          My point is, you don’t condemn the pastime, and that the pastime is part of passing time and unwinding (which we all need). Bring it back down to practical reality – how can I enjoy this pastime (or others) and simultaneously be a practicing Muslim? Can’t I do both?

          This is my point – I think balance can be achieved in both enjoying sports, and in practicing the deen, it’s not an either / or proposition, as some often make it look.


          • Uthman

            April 16, 2011 at 7:55 AM

            walaykum salam Siraaj,

            if this behavior was confined to a group of people I would agree. This behavior is not confined to a specific group. All across Pakistan you could see the madness. And as I said, the amount of resources spent on it just shows how much this game has polluted the minds of individuals (at a national level) and made it more then just a ‘game’ so we can unwind.

            Western Muslims may just be looking at it as a past time. On the Eastern side,it was apparent that it was not just a past time and what happened that day is a testament to that.

            Unfortunately, when one extreme takes place in a society, another opposite extreme is born. And that is why there is condemnation of the sport by the religious clergy.

  7. Umm Reem

    April 14, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    I remember reading a few interesting answers about this issue on islamqa.

    My son wants to be the first “shaikh” with a beard who plays for real Madrid/Barcelona!! :)

    • Bushra

      April 15, 2011 at 5:58 AM

      Well, it’s not like that’s unattainable. Just look at Br. Hashim Amla for inspiration…masha’Allah, he’s one of the best batsmen in the world!

  8. Enosh

    April 14, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    balance is when each part adds to everything else and doesnt take away from it, and each gets their right.

  9. Dreamlife

    April 15, 2011 at 4:38 AM

    This is a rather appropriate topic, given that here in Cape Town, we’re about to have a Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference under the theme “Striking the Balance” (see for more info).

    Essentially, balance means moderation – doesn’t it?

    Sports has become an industry – and moderation doesn’t make money.

    Sport – in itself – is not a bad thing. But in these times, sports events have become so commercialised and part of popular culture that it is, pretty much, a form of idolatry.

    Some people’s devotion to their sports teams is clearly far out of balance with reality…it’s something that’s epitomised in the statement that football (soccer) is like a religion in some places.

    Visiting their favourite team’s stadium is like a pilgrimage; and World Cups are like Hajj – in this distorted religion of sports fanaticism.

    The thing is – modern secularism is pretty much anti-religion. And as people turn their hearts away from faith, there’s a void. That void can be filled by sports (or entertainment, or lots of other things) – and people take the passion that should be for their faith, and place it in these artificial substitutes.

    So you’ll have such high emotions over sports events; and you even get sports-related violence – which goes to show how extreme it’s gotten.

    We absolutely should try to find that balance when it comes to sport (or anything else).

    But the reality is, that quest is made very difficult by the modern system which places so much marketing, time, and effort into making sports a profitable industry that people are addicted to.

    Like, last year when the soccer World Cup was on, matches would sometimes finish at Maghrib time here in South Africa. You can guess that some Muslims would either be at the stadiums, or stay glued to their TV sets – and only make Maghrib after the match was finished.

    We know what our priorities SHOULD be – but many of our hearts have become so corrupted by worldly pleasures or pasttimes that we simply don’t want to, or even can’t, live according to the correct priorities.

    Balance is the ideal – but it takes a very strong person to actively seek out, and CONTINUOUSLY work for that balance.

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  11. Dawud Israel

    April 15, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    I think sports are cool but I think the fanaticism around soccer and cricket are too much. Personally, I unwind with the following things:

    -radio programs (not music but like talk radio documentaries)
    -outdoor sports (hiking, biking, fishing, etc.)

    I think those things are important, if only, to help you contemplate, make shukr and strengthen bonds of brotherhood and family. One thing I can’t get over is the gheebah and slandering habits people have.

  12. Olivia

    April 17, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    Husband, I like what you mentioned about thanking Allah for the good time you’re having. Even relaxing and having fun can be connected with our religion, not simply a hiatus for it. Whenever we all go out and have fun, we always as a family say Alhamdulillah and thank Allah for our fun time and remember our brothers and sisters who don’t have the same luxuries and make dua’ for them, and while we have a good time we retain a feeling of thankfulness to Allah in our hearts.

    From a Screamfree perspective, recharging the batteries is not just optional, it’s essential, to performing at your best in other facets of your life, whether it be your deen, relationships, or job. Everyone needs a little time away and studies show that people who regularly reward themselves or take breaks, sustain successful levels of performance better than those who go full-throttle until they hit burn-out levels.

    I think if there’s a special event like cricket, superbowl, Eid, or a party, we should go ALL OUT. if you’re going to do something, do it right. we should always do our best and try to have ihsan, so let’s do it for both work and play, as long as we mind obedience to Allah =) As an analogy consider how the Prophet S told the Companions that they get rewarded for being intimate with their wives, which is sheer pleasure, because by default when they did so they stayed away from the haraam. All around us non-Muslims are indulging in the haraam to have fun, so perhaps inshaAllah we will get rewarded for our halal fun.

    • Olivia

      April 17, 2011 at 11:21 AM

      by the way, when i say ALL OUT i don’t mean to an insane level like telling people to pray nawafil salah and acting like an animal or spending thousands of dollars. but i do think something like having a party at your house for the cricket match and wearing a jersey and inviting people over and making a “day” of it, with of course breaks for salah.

  13. Leo

    April 18, 2011 at 3:31 AM

    I’m gathering all the cricket fans here are Pakistan supporters?

  14. someone

    April 18, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    Has anyone ever seen that movie “big fan” with that actor Patton Oswalt, that movie basically sums up the consequences when you fall into that pit of honey. The movie is about this huge football fan that gets beat up by his football idol and decides not to press any charges because he still idolizes him in some way. The movie was great because it showed you, that kind of fanaticism and complete devotion becomes toxic at the end. Balancing your life really does equal happiness.

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