Comment: Dear Shaykh Allie
Hope that you are well and may Allah preserve you and your family.
I have a question. Is it permissible to wear a shorts when particpating in sports like running, cycling, swimming, etc.?
Time: Monday February 25, 2013 at 8:13 am
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wa alaykum salamu alaykum
Shukran for the question and interest in this fiqhi point. My reply is based on classical texts within the Maliki Madhab. Bear in mind that this is not a new question and dates back a thousand years. Besides the texts I will quote below, I advise the reader to consult the work Fiqh al-Madhahib al-‘Arba’a by Imam Al-Jaziri.
Shaykh Muhammad al-Ta’wil, Scholar and Teacher at Al-Qarawiyyin Central Mosque Fes, Morocco says regarding the Madhab of Malik, “Its guides in that matter are the Kitab, the Sunna, and the foundational axioms and juristic principles extrapolated from them that have helped it to take the simplest of solutions, the lightest of judgments, and those that are easiest, like His (Allah’s) saying _, “Allah desires ease with you and He does not desire with you difficulty” (2: 185). [It is also like] His saying, “Allah burdens a soul only with what it can bear” (2: 286), His saying, “And He has made no difficulty upon you in religion” (22: 78), his saying _, “Make things easy, and do not make them difficult,” his saying _, “Beware to go to extremes in religion,” the axioms, “Difficulty is to be lifted,” “Hardship attracts facility,” “Harm is to be removed,” “Necessities makes unlawful things lawful,” “The presumed state of things is one of purity and permissibility,” and other axioms that have had a positive reflection on the various chapters of law regarding customs, rituals, interpersonal relations, disputes, family matters, and other chapters of fiqh wherein the Maliki fiqh has appeared more facilitating, allowing, and more responsive to the needs of people in their rituals and interpersonal dealings. This can also be said about [cases] wherein it is gentler to them and more fitting for them in their religious and worldly matters. These are some of the things that led Al- Ghazali—may Allah show him mercy—to say, fretfully, after comparing the legal schools in the chapter of water, “I wish the school of Shafi’i in the area of water was like the school of Malik.”
Sports are highly encouraged in Islam as the Prophet [peace be upon him] has ordered us to teach our children swimming, wrestling, archery and horseback riding. Sports are a means of social exercise and a means of knowing one another outside of classes and work, all of these criteria are essential in Islam to strengthen our brotherhood, so in regards to such sports, although not all the sports are necessary, it is still highly encouraged to play some form of sport.
Sport could also become a need like divers who specialize in life saving. A surf life saver may be required to wear such gear, but he saves lives and we can relate this back to the ayah in surat al-Anfal ‘who ever saves an innocent life is as though he has saved all of mankind’, so even though the means is debatable (due to uniform) the ends is highly justified.
Proofs from classical Maliki texts
In this short section, I will use several classical Maliki texts to indicate the permissibility of exposing the thigh if the need arises. I encourage readers to acquire these works so as to embrace the diversity of opinions within the four schools of thought.
Text #1 The Risala: A Treatise on Maliki Fiqh by ‘Abdullah ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (310/922 – 386/996) Translated by Alhaj Bello Mohammad Daura, MA page 40 and 132
The thigh is a private part, but not an intrinsic private part.
[ What is between the thigh and the hip is a private part. This means it is not an actual private part, and the strictest position that it is disliked to show it with other than close friends and relations is unlikely because the Prophet, had his thigh uncovered with Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. In Muslim, ‘A’isha reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was reclining in his house with thighs and calves uncovered. Abu Bakr asked for permission to enter and he gave him permission while he was like that. He spoke and then ‘Umar asked for permission and he gave him permission while he was like that and he talked with him. Then ‘Uthman asked for permission and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, sat up and straightened his garment. He entered and spoke with him and then left. ‘A’isha said, “Abu Bakr entered and you were not concerned. ‘Umar entered and you were not concerned, (meaning you did not worry and cover your thighs). Then ‘Uthman entered and you sat up and straightened your garment.” He said, “Should I not be modest before a man before whom the angels are modest?” Modesty is a virtue.]
Awrah during prayer for a male
The least which is acceptable for a man is a single garment,
[Without dislike if it is thick and conceals all his body. If it only covers his private parts, then his prayer is allowed but there is dislike.]
The least clothing a man can do the prayer in is something which covers his ‘awra (everything between his navel and his knees) such as a long shirt or a piece of cloth he can wrap round him.
[This minimum of what does not involve sin and is adequate for what is desired of the one who prays is a garment is that which covers the private parts, be it a long shirt, cloak or trousers. A precondition for the cloak is that it is thick and not thin or transparent, i.e the private parts should not be outlined or encompassed.
Commentary [Muhammad Allie Khalfe]: It is important to note that Imam Malik distinguishes between Awrah Mughalladha [heavy awrah] and Awrah Muhakhaffafa [lighter awrah]. For a male the mughalladha are the private parts while the rest of the body is considered as mukhaffafa. It is forbidden for a man to expose his heavy awra before the public while it is Ja-iz [permissible] to expose the remaining lighter awrah if a need arises. Some hold the opinion that it is Makru [disliked] to expose the lighter awarah in public [like in the sport of football as mentioned in the question]. If we consider the Madhab of Imam Malik then participating in football wearing a shorts with the thigh exposed is permissible or at most disliked but not prohibited. The remaining schools of thought, namely the Shafi’iyya, Ahnaf/Hanafiya and Hanabila/Hanbali might differ with Imam Malik on the point of heavy and lighter awrah but it is an opinion within the four sunni schools of the thought, which has been mentioned and considered for over a thousand years.
Text #2 The guiding helper by Abu Qanit al-Sharif al-Hasani pg 93-94
The heavy nakedness of a man includes the penis, testicles, and anal opening.
The light nakedness of the man runs from the bottom of his belly (from about where the pubic hair usually begins, a couple of inches below the bellybutton) to the end of the lower thigh (right before the knees). Both the front and back of this region (besides the penis, testicles, and anal opening) is part of his light nakedness. Thus, the pubic hair, buttocks, and thighs are all part of the light nakedness of a man.
Text #3 Fiqh Summary of the School of the Maliki Masters (Muhammad al-‘Arabi al-Qarawi) http://bewley.virtualave.net/times.html#preconditions
165. For the purpose of performing the prayer, what is the heavy ‘awra and light ‘awra of a man…
The heavy ‘awra of a man is his private parts, namely: his penis, testicles and the area between his two buttocks (i.e. his anus). The light ‘awra of a man is all the other parts of his body lying between his navel and knees (excluding the knees themselves), such as his pubic area, buttocks and upper legs.
These then are some basic texts from the Maliki works regarding the Awra of the male. There are many more works with more detail on the awra with some supporting this view and others opposing it with the correct Adab.
Allah knows best, Muhammad Allie Khalfe.