Martial arts


As salamou alaikoum dears brothers, may Allah bless you and Sheikh Hicham and his family, and gives long to Mawlana Sheikh Nazim.

I want to know if traditional martial arts and their clothes come from Prophets?  What is the use of martial arts in our time? Where does “capoeira”( Brazilian martial arts ) come from? Because even capoiera masters don’t know where it comes from exactly.
Thank you so so much may Allah gives more ‘ilma, Allohuma zidni ‘ilma!


wa `alaykum salam,

The skill of the Seal of Prophets – peace be upon him – in various traditional martial arts is clearly established. In Islamic civilization, all arts – martial or otherwise – worthy of being practiced were understood to have an origin with the prophets or other noble originators; and even if a particular prophet was acknowledged as the originator of a certain art, it was important to recognize a source from among the Companions, may Allah be pleased with them. This was important because knowledge of an art is preserved through time within a lineage, and lines of transmission were renewed in the time of the Holy Prophet (s).

For example, archery in Islam is traced to the prophet Adam, peace be upon him; yet the Muslim archers trace their art directly to Pir Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas, may Allah be pleased with him. The value of archery as a martial art is well established in the Traditions; other martial arts less well. It is perhaps significant that in the Ottoman guild processions, the practitioners of other martial arts such as fencing and wrestling were grouped together with and followed the archers.

The guilds which protected these lines of transmission have for the most part vanished in the modern world. Martial arts schools, of course, are not rare. What is rare is any lineage connecting the particular practices (or clothes) of a martial art to a Companion of the Holy Prophet (s) or to those inheriting from them. To return to the example of archery: shooting arrows is practiced everywhere, but where is the school that dedicates its shooting to Pir Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas (r), and follows the teachings of the imams of archery who transmitted from him? When a martial art has such a lineage – and such things should be investigated and known –  then its practices may be understood to be an outward expression of an inner reality, and in accordance with the balance in Islam between the physical and spiritual. Without such a lineage, the practice of martial arts is without spiritual benefit, and takes our time away from acts which have benefit.

Mahmoud Shelton

About Ustadh Mahmoud Shelton

Mahmoud Shelton studied at the University of Edinburgh before taking a degree in Medieval Studies at Stanford University. Shelton is the author of Alchemy in Middle Earth: The Significance of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Balance of George Lucas' Star Wars, and numerous articles. He is also a contributor to The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry and The Sufi Science of Self-Realization. Contributions by Mahmoud Shelton * Chivalry of the Night and Day * Alchemy in Middle Earth * contributor, The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry
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