Egyptian Cleric Issues Fatwa on Bodybuilding

Abdullah Rushdy, an Egyptian Muslim preacher, issued a fatwa against bodybuilding and bodybuilding competitions. In an October 11 tweet, Rushdy explained that bodybuilding makes men display their “awrah.” Competitive bodybuilders are “showing intimate parts, which should be covered according to the Sharia,” Rushdy tweeted.



Rushdy, a controversial preacher who blamed victims of sexual harassment, was dismissed by the Egyptian Ministry of Endowments from his official preaching role. His fatwa order came after Mamdouh Elssbiay won the Mr. Olympia 2021 Championship in Orlando, Florida. Elssbiay, known popularly in Egypt as Big Ramy, won the competition for the second time in a row. 

In Islam, awrah refers to the parts of the body that should be covered. Their awrah is anything between the navel and the knees; for women, everything except their eyes and hands. Although Islamic teachers and scholars have different variations, most agree that men should only expose their awrah to their wives.

Claiming to be a religious researcher in Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, Rushdy followed up on his Twitter post. In a video posted on Facebook on October 12, Rushdy said that he is “not saying no to sports, but the rules of the Sharia ought to be respected when doing so.” “I advise young men not to practice bodybuilding because of this,” he added.

In the same video on Facebook, Rushdy also called for women “not to participate in any competition that requires them to show parts of their bodies.”

Bahey Eldin Morsi, an Egyptian writer, expressed his disagreement with Rushdy calling the preacher narrow-minded. “He chose to speak about awrah and ignored the fact that Big Ramy won a world championship, as well as he left out the importance of sports and a healthy body,” Morsi said. The writer also said that lust is not necessarily “in all parts and situations of life” and asked for everyone to ignore “fatwas that disturb Egyptian achievements.”

Ahmed Karima, a comparative jurisprudence professor at the Al-Azhar University, dismissed the fatwa saying that the rules Rushdy used only apply to worship. “God did not make men’s bodies a means to sedition,” Karima added.

The Sheikhdom of Al-Azhar also released a statement refuting Rushdy, saying that he does not represent the Al-Azhar and “has not previously worked within the Sheikhdom of Al-Azhar or any of its research centers.”

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