The Importance of Recreation

by 'Abdul-Bârî ibn ‘Awad ath-Thubaytî

16 Rabee’ul-Awwal, 1422 (8 June, 2001)

All praise is due to Allah Who has made clear that which is lawful and that which is unlawful. I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad is His Slave and Messenger. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, his household, his companions, and all those who follow their path.

Fellow Muslims! Fear Allah the Exalted and always remember your ultimate, inevitable return to Him. Be aware of the deeds that you have sent forth and do not be deceived by the life of this world; for it is but an illusory enjoyment. Allah says,

 “O you who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared and die not except in a state of Islam.”(Aal-‘Imraan 3: 102)  

Brothers in faith! During holiday seasons, many parents and teachers are concerned about two important issues: recreation and what forms of it are beneficial and acceptable; and spare time and what to do with it.

When you read the story of Hanzalah Al-Usaydee, you will note the admirable method that Islam promotes. Hanzalah belonged to a generation that preferred to spend all its life in the highest possible state of Eemaan. They assumed that playing with one’s wife and having fun with one’s children negates the concept of worship and total submission to Allah.

Hanzalah

 said “(One day) Aboo Bakr told me, “How are you, Hanzalah?” and I said, “Hanzalah is a hypocrite!” Aboo Bakr then exclaimed, “May Allah be glorified, what are you saying?” I replied, “We stay with the Messenger of Allah and he reminds us of Paradise and Hell and it is as if we are looking at them and when we leave him, we attend to our wives, children and livelihood; hence, we forget much (of what we have learnt).” Aboo Bakr said, “By Allah! We also feel the same.” Then I, along with Aboo Bakr, went to the Prophet and I told him, “Hanzalah is a hypocrite!” The Prophet said, “What is that?” I replied, “We stay with you, and you remind us of Paradise and Hell as if we were looking at them, then when we leave you, we attend to our wives, children and livelihood, hence we have forgotten much.” The Messenger of Allah then said, “By He in Whose Hand is my soul, if you had remained upon the same state you were on when you were with me, in the remembrance of Allah, the angels would have shook your hands while you were on your beds or (walking) along your way. But, O Hanzalah, An hour and an hour! (i.e. everything has it’s proper time)” (Muslim)

Spending time alternatively between work and recreation removes tiredness and boredom, renews energy and increases one’s productivity. The Prophet’s statement quoted should not be taken to mean that a Muslim may spend all his time in amusement, playing, watching immoral films and reading immoral magazines that only arouse one’s desires.

Umar bin Abdul-Azeez said,

 “There is no harm for a Muslim to have some amusement and partake in some recreational activities so long as he does not make that his habit and lag behind during the time of seriousness, and play during the time of work.”

Abdullah bin Mas’ood used to say,

 “I will give you sermons only when you are eager to have them, as the Prophet used to do with us fearing that we might get bored.”

However, people of weak understanding use these texts to straiten the hours of remembrance of Allah and seriousness and broaden the period of amusement thereby making places of knowledge and admonition deserted but for a little while.

Further, some people wrongly assume that recreation and amusement is an unrestrained matter in which one is free to overstep the limits of Sharee’ah and partake in it through whatever means without having regard for halaal or haraam. Here we have to know how our righteous predecessors amused themselves.

Ibn Mas’ood, while explaining the importance of recreation said,

 “Refresh your hearts; for when the heart is coerced (to do something) it becomes blind.”

Alee also said,

 “Make your heart relaxed and seek for it (entertainment in) light insightful conversation, for it gets bored as your bodies get bored.”

Aboo Dardaa said,

 “I make my heart relaxed through lawful amusement; that it may be strong enough to assist me on the Truth.”

Since we have concluded that recreational activities were part of the life of the first generation of Muslims, we have to know how they used to amuse themselves. Was their recreation a result of having nothing to do with their time, or to fight boredom? No, not at all! Their recreation was rather to train their souls and to get more energy and higher aims to achieve the goal for which mankind was created which is to worship Allah.

To them, amusement was a definite means to an end, and not an end in its own right in which to spend all of one’s money and time.

Brothers in Islam! It is unfortunate that nowadays participation in recreational activities has become a way to waste away one’s character and show disregard for the Law of Allah. This is a result of the present-day misconception of recreation, for the people nowadays regard recreation as the goal in itself and not as a means to achieve a higher goal.

As for the first generation of Muslims, they partook in amusements in order to strengthen their bodies, refine their manners, train themselves in the qualities of real manhood and seriousness and to open new horizons of knowledge and action. It was for these noble purposes that they raced, wrestled and encouraged one another to learn spear throwing. The Prophet raced with Aa’ishah and wrestled with Rukaanah and defeated him and that was what caused Rukaanah to embrace Islam.

The Messenger of Allah saw some of the tribe of Aslam taking part in a combative competition in the market-place and told them,

 “Throw it (i.e. their spears), O children of Isma’eel, for your father was a (spear-)thrower.” (Bukhaaree)

Umar bin Abdul-Azeez said,

 “Discuss the Book of Allah and gather together (for the purpose of learning and discussing) it and when you get bored, then telling stories of (the deeds) of men is agreeable.”

The amusement done by the first generation was not a vain one. It was full of benefits. It did not contain making jest of others, backbiting, lying or blackmailing.

Dear brothers! Roaming about market places, pursuing other peoples faults and sitting in the cafés and roadsides are not lawful amusements. Entertainment in Islam should be free of un-Islamic manners, mingling of the two sexes and any means that could lead to violation of the greater Islamic injunctions.

The Salaf confirmed that the human soul does have its ups and downs, but they did not allow it to exceed the limits of Allah during the time of Salah, for that is a transgression over the rights of Allah; nor did they partake of amusement during the hours of work, for that is transgression over people’s rights.

There is more to the life of a Muslim than just recreation. It is only allowed so that Muslims may not be negligent in their duties and obligations. That was why the companions used to amuse themselves. However whenever real issues came up they became real men. Salamah bin Abdur-Rahmaan said,

 “The companions of the Messenger of Allah were neither corrupt nor lazy, yet they used to recite some poetry in their meeting places and recollect some of the issues of their Jahiliyyah period; but when any one of them was offended on the matters of religion, he became enraged.”

The Prophet also used to make jokes. An old woman came to him and said,

 “Pray for me, O Messenger of Allah, that Allah may admit me to Paradise.” The Prophet then told her, “O mother of so-and-so, old women will not enter Paradise.” The woman became distraught and wept, thinking that she would not enter Paradise. The Prophet then told her what he meant: that an old woman would not enter Paradise as she was in this world, but that she would be raised up by Allah on the Day of Judgement as another creature and He would make her enter Paradise in the form of a maiden.

He then recited the word of Allah,

 “Verily, We have created them (maidens) of special creation. And made them virgins, Loving (their husbands only and) of equal age.”(Al-Waaqi’ah 56: 35-37)  

In another example of Prophets innocent and lawful joking; he asked a woman

 , “Who is your husband?” and she answered, “So-and-so.” He then said, “The one in whose eyes is a whiteness?” The woman hurriedly went to her husband and started examining his eyes. Being astonished, her husband asked her, “What is the matter with you?” She told him what the Prophet had said. He then said, “Don’t you see that the whiteness of my eyes is more than the darkness?”

This personality that made jokes is the same that prayed in the night, fasted in the day, fought in the way of Allah and spent generously for His sake. The Prophet – while advising his Ummah to maintain balance in matters of seriousness and amusement said,

 “Indeed, your Lord has a right upon you, your soul has a right upon you and your family has a right upon you; so give everyone his due right.” (Al-Bukhaaree)

Brothers in faith! During holidays, there is a problem that causes sleeplessness for both parents and teachers alike: the large amount of spare time that youths have in which they have nothing serious to do. In fact, youths’ corruption and perverseness is a direct consequence of this problem, while the present material civilisation widens the scope of this danger,

The more dangerous part of this problem is that this spare time must either be spent in something good or something bad. For whoever does not use his spare time in good deeds will spend it in evil acts. Yes, when one does not make proper use of his time it becomes a problem to him and it is well-known that having nothing to do makes one susceptible to corruption and leads to lustful desires that incapacitate the intellect and opens doors of devilish insinuations and other evils.

Specialists testify to the fact that crime and other social ills reach their highest point with unemployment and vacant hours and that the problem increases with the modern mass-media that entices youths and opens for them innumerable ways to waste their time.

Therefore, in order not to turn spare time into a demon, spending one’s time in useful things and moving from one work to another is a prevention against the disadvantages of spare time.

Among the useful means through which one can spend his free time is performing acts of worship and reading useful religious and moral books. That is why it was said,

 “There is nothing that has more impact on the mind, is more gladdening to the heart and makes one more eloquent … than a book which has many benefits in it and costs less…”

Abdullah bin Mubarak used to stay in his house, after he had sought knowledge and finished from his trade, reading the books of the Salaf and if he was asked,

 “Don’t you feel lonely?” He would answer, “How can I feel lonely while I am with the Prophet and his companions.”

Indeed, the people who spend their spare time in reading and learning books of useful knowledge rise in progress and civilisation and will be capable of understanding life, themselves and achieving their goals. As for those whose culture does not go beyond arenas of recreation, amusement and fashion they will ever remain subordinates and disgraced.

Among the useful things that one can do during the holiday is to attend lectures, symposia and scholarly lessons, to be kind to the kith and kin, partake in summer activities and amuse oneself following the aforementioned rules. Umar said,

 “These hands of yours must be employed to obey Allah before they employ you to disobey Him.”


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