Discover more from Avdullah
Connecting to God through Fitness
Allah is beautiful and loves beauty.
Umar Bin Al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) once met a man with a protruding stomach. When he questioned the man about it, he answered that it was a blessing from Allah. Umar corrected him, saying that it was instead a punishment from Allah.
The question of “Why do you spend so much time lifting weights?” is simultaneously the most foolish yet most thought-provoking question I’m asked. The aesthetics of a muscular physique are so ingrained in the wiring of my brain that anything that strays from it is what’s ugly and perverted, not the other way around like many in this world see it. Still, their objections are not without their merits when you think about how the layperson to fitness lives and sees it portrayed nearly their entire lives. Muscularity and strength are shown as one of two stereotypes in popular media: the jacked comic book superhero, or the ridiculed “meathead” who is a bumbling idiot outside the gym. It’s a quality deemed only attained by celebrities preparing for movie roles or secluded morons who don’t have a life. Or in other words, it’s something many people find inaccessible as a journey and not compatible with their lifestyles.
My fitness journey started when I was 14 years old. I was always a quiet, extremely skinny child with a propensity to live in my head most of my life. In addition to being artistic I was very sensitive (I still am, though more tempered) and possessed by all sorts of neurotic fears. I didn’t have this in mind at the time, but something “shocked” me one day into learning how to properly do pushups. I had zero reasons to, I don’t remember watching a muscular physique in anime or a movie, I just had this natural impulse from nowhere to do pushups and sit-ups every day. It’s very strange, as when I think back most heroes in shows I watched as a kid were jacked to the gills. Yet somehow, their impressive levels of fitness just weren’t of immediate interest to me.
I got better at basic movements for a couple of months, then I moved back from Jordan to the United States where I continued my freshman year of high school. This was major, as I had just spent five years in a Middle-Eastern gender-segregated school and was for the first time going to school in the presence of other girls my age. As you can imagine, my motivation to get more in shape only intensified. One evening during the week I was doing sit-ups in my room and my dad walked in and asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with him. I realized at that point that I never even thought of lifting weights, the gym, let alone the world of bodybuilding that I’d be exposed to later. I was a giant computer nerd then too, yet haven’t even watched videos yet of gym workouts. I immediately said yes and went.
It was a pretty hardcore bodybuilding gym in a strip mall, not huge but loaded with equipment. I remember being so intimidated by the free weights that all I touched were the machines (I did everything wrong gleefully) and then, I experienced what Arnold describes as THE PUMP. That holy feeling of righteousness and the spirit of vitality coursing through my veins! I couldn’t possibly articulate it like that at the time, but in retrospect that’s what I felt during my first ever gym workout. I was in a dream-like state of catharsis, the feeling that I belonged in that iron church. I was hooked from day one.
For a variety of reasons though, I couldn’t go as much as I liked. My dad only went on weekends, and I had no license yet or a stable membership (we paid the $5 walk-in fee each time). As you can imagine after being teased like that and seeing what I could become in those gym mirrors, almost like a premonition, it was torturous not to be able to go yet. I wouldn’t be able to start my consistent bodybuilding journey until the day I turned 16 and drove straight to the nearest gym and signed up.
I was in heaven. All I did for the next four years of high school was draw, play video games, and lift weights. My diet was lackluster at the time, but man was I happy to be working out all the time. I’d sacrifice social outings often if it interfered with my gym time. I went from a soaking wet 135lbs to a decent 155 lbs. at a height of 5’10 by the time I was 18. Not even close to impressive, and actually extremely lackluster in retrospect considering all the brotarded mistakes I made. But I still looked good. If I wore the right clothes I looked nice and fit. The goal however didn’t change, to get so Goddamn big people would either fear or admire my presence. No in-between.
“The best desire one thing above all, eternal, ever-flowing fame among mortals. But the masses stuff themselves like cattle.” - Heraclitus
Like most guys, I kept going those first few years mostly for the attention of women. Every fit, muscular guy knows that euphoric feeling of catching a girl ‘miring or being complimented because of the size of your arms. It’s quite addicting and can raise your spirits on days you’re feeling off or lazy, but what I didn’t realize until years later is that lifting for girls is extremely fleeting. After a certain level of fitness, you’ve pretty much achieved what 90%+ of women would be excited to see on a man’s body. And it’s a ridiculous, pathetically low bar if you’re even a little serious about bodybuilding. RYAN GOSLING IN CRAZY STUPID LOVE IS YOUR DREAM BOD? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THAT’S IT?
After that point, you make a very tough choice. Most lifters don’t even realize they’re making this choice, but they make it over time anyway. Either you get lazy and maintain the same above-average physique you attained once your noob-gains stopped, or you find a better reason to dig deeper within yourself, to shine bright and surpass your limits! Like with every other hobby and profession, if you ask the best of the best about why they kept pushing they’ll always tell you some variation of the same thing: they couldn’t stand not being the best. Seeing competition that could beat them literally brings them mental and spiritual pain. It's what brings out that last inkling of effort that takes you to the next league. But why with lifting weights, you’ll hear. Over and over, you’ll get “nobody will notice your arms/chest/back getting a little bigger” or “just relax, you look great” at social gatherings where toxic waste is served as “food”.
What I realized that my goal was after transcending female attention was above all, self-perfection. I exercised because to be fat, skinny, or a rat fetus in between was disgraceful and dishonorable to the body God gave to me. My ancestors didn’t fight and die so I can be weak and stupid (both are intertwined), and my future children deserve to have my around for as long as I possibly can be. And with my standards, being stagnant with the already decent body I had was just as terrible as if I didn’t lift at all.
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying:
A strong believer is better and is more lovable to Allah than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone, (but) cherish that which gives you benefit (in the Hereafter) and seek help from Allah and do not lose heart, and if anything (in the form of trouble) comes to you, don't say: If I had not done that, it would not have happened so and so, but say: Allah did that what He had ordained to do and your" if" opens the (gate) for the Satan.
There was a great shift in how I saw working out when I connected it to my connection with God. How you see fitness changes when you realize that God wants you to take care of your body, to strengthen and beautify it to its greatest potential! I speak to both men and women when I say this, by the way. Sadly, fitness is still not a big thing amongst Muslim women (it actually isn’t amongst most women, but relative to all other cultures they’re far behind), even though the benefits are enormous. Ladies, healthier women have healthier and better-looking children. Your confidence will be through the roof and your marriage will improve exponentially (and if you’re single, your chances of finding a man will also go up). And no, unless you take anabolic steroids like a competitive athlete YOU WILL NOT BECOME “BULKY”. Do you know what happens when you train your upper body? You get defined, toned arms that are not grossly oversized and an aesthetic hourglass figure. Like every Instagram fitness girl you follow and fawn over. Get after it, and remember Allah will reward you for it if your intentions are noble!
An argument I also find extremely irritating is the “unnecessary” argument by useless, boring normies. You’ve all heard it. “Men don’t need to be strong and dangerous anymore in the modern world”, or something along those lines. Bullshit. Complete, utter bullshit. I’m constantly in shock at these people who genuinely believe that there’s no connection between the health of the mind and the health of the body, and vice versa. Both support and feed each other, if one gets damaged the other does too. A common bro-science claim (that I fully believe in) is that when you’re stressed out by life, your muscles look “flatter” and smaller. And on the opposite end, when you have a terrible day or week in the gym or realize you’re phoning in your workouts it can affect you mentally with everything else.
So if that connection is there, it stands to reason that those who exert positive stress on themselves physically will be more prepared for mental distress in other areas of life. As the saying goes, no one ever “rises to the occasion”, they sink to their level of training. I lift weights and torture myself every day so I’m better prepared to answer the calls of this trash world’s stresses and strains. I can confidently say I am a better writer, artist, and [insert profession I won’t reveal here] because of the discipline lifting weights taught me. So one must think, why shouldn’t it make me a better Muslim too? It’s not a direct result, but if you frame your fitness as a vehicle to improve your religious obedience, then it definitely should be.
Most of the time your troubles will be mental, but what if you run into a physical emergency as well? What if you’re hiking and fall, and because you’re so pathetically weak you can’t perform a single pull-up to get yourself out of a ditch? What if you have kids and something like that happens to them, leaving your flabby self to save them? Fitness isn’t a luxurious status to attain. In some cases, life literally demands it of you as a base need for survival. Strength conditioning is just as much of a survival skill as swimming or running, yet no parents are rushing to teach their young kids basic strength movements. Why is that?
In the meantime, tell your friends!