#379: Matador in a Bullfight

Question:

Assalamualaikum ustaz. What is the ruling of working as a matador?

Answer:

Waalaikumussalam wrt. wbt.,

Alhamdulillah, praise and gratitude to Allah SWT for His countless blessings for us all. Praise and salutations to our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions, and all those who follow his footsteps until the Final day.

We start with the statement of Allah SWT:

وَلَا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ

“And do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction,” [1]

The above verse means you shouldn’t hand yourself to matters that lead to harm, however only do things that provide you safety. [2]

Definition of matador

According to the 4th Edition of Kamus Dewan matador is a person whose task is to kill the bull in a bullfight. [1] A matador is a player in bullfighting activities. This bullfighting activity is a classic and famous sport in Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Peru, France, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and other countries influenced by Portuguese and Spanish culture. Bullfighting is a violent sporting event because it involves the blood, injury and death of a bull or several bulls. The main and chief player in a bullfight, and the one who eventually kills the bull is called the maestro (master), or with the official title of matador de toros (bull killer).

Bullfight is increasingly becoming an issue and controversy in some countries such as Spain, Portugal, Peru, Mexico and Ecuador as it is a sport that kills animals. It was reinterpreted as torturing bulls and horses, and these animals died in agony. In Portugal, violent sports have been banned from being held in arenas. Yet it is still practised in its colonies such as on the island of Pemba, Tanzania. Usually, toreros become matadors i.e. people who become movers in bullfighting. Toreros will be considered victorious if they can defeat and kill cows at close range. Toreros or matadors are at risk of being beheaded and trampled, tossed to death by fighting bulls. The competition only ended after the cow was successfully overthrown and stabbed to death with a sharp weapon. [4]

The ruling of participating in extreme sports

Extreme sports involve rough and sometimes extreme activities. Among the examples of this sport are motor cross, mountain climbing, rafting in the rapids and others. [5] Extreme sports are also known as action sports, alternative sports or sports that involve high speed and high risks. [6] Whereas Cambridge Dictionary defined extreme sports as dangerous but at the same time exhilarating sports such as skydiving and bungee jumping. [7] Thus, it is clear bullfights are categorized as an extreme sport.

Scholars have discussed the ruling of participating or taking part in a dangerous sport or activity. Basically, Rasullullah PBUH once said:

لاَ ضَرَرَ وَلاَ ضِرَارَ

“There is no injury nor return of injury.” [8]

However, according to Ibn ‘Abidin, one of the scholars in madhhab Hanafi said:


يَحِلُّ كُلُّ لَعِبٍ خَطَرٍ لِحَاذِقٍ تَغْلِبُ سَلَامَتُهُ كَرَمْيٍ لِرَامٍ وَصَيْدٍ لِحَيَّةٍ وَيَحِلُّ التَّفَرُّجُ عَلَيْهِمْ حِينَئِذٍ

“Any dangerous game is permissible for skilled players whose safety is guaranteed such as an archer or snake hunter and it is also permissible to watch them at the time.” [9]

However, there are conditions set by scholars that must be fulfilled for those who want to participate in extreme and dangerous sports. Among them are:

  • Sufficient skill and competence. This cannot be achieved except with intensive training.
  • The player has a great chance to be safe according to a strong assumption. If he assumes that it wouldn’t be safe for him or there is doubt in his heart, then playing or participating in it at the time is prohibited for it’ll lead to harm. When we are prohibited from getting involved in anything that could lead to harm as stated in the above statement of Allah SWT. [10]

Furthermore, the Prophet PBUH also said:


مَنْ بَاتَ عَلَى إِنْجَارٍ فَوَقَعَ مِنْهُ فَمَاتَ، بَرِئَتْ مِنْهُ الذِّمَّةُ، وَمَنْ رَكِبَ الْبَحْرَ حِينَ يَرْتَجُّ، يَعْنِي‏:‏ يَغْتَلِمُ، فَهَلَكَ بَرِئَتْ مِنْهُ الذِّمَّةُ

“If anyone spends the night on a flat roof (without walls) and then falls off of it and dies, no one bears any responsibility for him. If anyone embarks on the sea when it is fierce (i.e. stormy) and is destroyed, no one bears any responsibility for him.” [11]

According to Ibn Battal, the person no longer has a right over the protection of syarak because he himself exposes and causes harm to him. He didn’t protect himself, hence, he isn’t protected by syarak. [12]

Regarding this matter, Dr Muzammil H. Siddiqi, the President of the North America Fiqh Committee stated:

  • Generally, the protection of life is crucial in Islam. Islam emphasizes on the protection of human life, but at the same time doesn’t prohibit us from participating in challenging activities such as going on adventures.
  • Thus, any sports that endanger a person’s life should be avoided. However, if a certain sport is considered challenging and there are precautionary steps that should be taken to protect the life of a person, then it isn’t an offence to participate in it but one must ensure that he is safe.
  • The idea of “dangerous sport” can be applied to a variety of sports; even horse riding can be dangerous, but if a person takes the necessary precautionary steps to protect himself then this activity is not wrong. [13]

Simply put, in his opinion, any sport that is deemed life-threatening should be avoided. However, if it is considered an extreme sport and there are safety steps that are taken to ensure the safety of its participants, then in this case it is permissible.

However, there are scholars who ruled it prohibited, such as Syeikh Muhammad bin Soleh al-‘Uthaimin. He argued by presenting several evidences, among them is the statement of Allah SWT:

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَنفُسَكُمْ ۚ

“And do not kill yourselves [or one another].” [14]

Hence, anything that could lead to death or harm is prohibited just as we are prohibited from harming others and harming ourselves. [15]

The ruling of getting involved in bullfights

Basically, Islam is a religion that emphasizes the matter of doing good to all creations including animals. So much so that even when we are slaughtering an animal, we are commanded to kill it in the best way possible as stated by Rasullullah PBUH:


إنَّ اللَّهَ كَتَبَ الإحْسانَ على كُلِّ شيءٍ، فَإِذا قَتَلْتُمْ فأحْسِنُوا القِتْلَةَ، وإذا ذَبَحْتُمْ فأحْسِنُوا الذَّبْحَ، وَلْيُحِدَّ أَحَدُكُمْ شَفْرَتَهُ، فَلْيُرِحْ ذَبِيحَتَهُ

“Verily, Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill in the least painful manner you can; and when you slaughter an animal, do it in the best possible way; and any of you should sharpen his blade so that the animal may be spared from the suffering of the slaughtering.” [16]

Furthermore, the lives of animals are protected and they shouldn’t be killed unnecessarily except if one intends to benefit from it from the permissible matters by syarak such as to eat it. Rasullullah PBUH once said:


ما من إنسانٍ قتلَ عُصفورًا فما فوقَها بغيرِ حقِّها إلّا سألَهُ اللَّهُ عزَّ وجلَّ عَنها قيلَ: يا رسولَ اللَّهِ ! وما حقُّها؟ قالَ : يذبحُها فيأكُلُها ولا يقطعُ رأسَها يرمي بِها

“There is no person who kills a small bird or anything larger for no just reason, but Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, will ask him about it.” It was said: “O Messenger of Allah, what does just reason;’ mean?” He said: “That you slaughter it and eat it, and do not cut off its head and throw it aside.” [17]

Likewise, hurting or harming an animal is prohibited. A woman was punished and placed in hell for her evil acts towards a cat. Rasullullah PBUH said:

عُذِّبَتِ امْرَأَةٌ فِي هِرَّةٍ حَبَسَتْهَا، حَتَّى مَاتَتْ جُوعًا، فَدَخَلَتْ فِيهَا النَّارَ

“A woman was tortured and was put in Hell because of a cat which she had kept locked till it died of hunger.”

Several of her evil acts towards the cat was described in the continuation of the above hadith:

لاَ أَنْتِ أَطْعَمْتِهَا وَلاَ سَقَيْتِهَا حِينَ حَبَسْتِيهَا، وَلاَ أَنْتِ أَرْسَلْتِيهَا فَأَكَلَتْ مِنْ خَشَاشِ الأَرْضِ

“You neither fed it nor watered when you locked it up, nor did you set it free to eat the vermin of the earth.” [18]

Moreover, we are prohibited from killing an inedible animal that is dying or is suffering from a disease with no hope of recovery to let it rest – from its sufferings. Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haitami, Syeikh al-Syabramalisi and Syeikh Abu Bakar al-Dimyati prohibit slaughtering animals that cannot be eaten with the purpose of letting them rest from pain such as a donkey that is suffering from an incurable disease. [19]

Hence, it can be understood from the above statement that if killing an animal that cannot be eaten to stop the pain and suffering its experiencing is impermissible, surely, killing and harming animals just for fun and entertainment is prohibited and not allowed.

Thus, it is prohibited and haram to be involved in the sport of bullfighting that involves the activity of hurting or killing bulls. However, if the sport is just dodging between matador and bull or wrestling between matador and bull not involving any sharp objects at all that can hurt or kill it, then it follows the ruling of other extreme sports.

Conclusion

According to the above arguments and discussion, we are inclined toward the opinion that extreme sports are permissible on the condition that all the safety steps are taken and the people involved are trained and competent with a strong assumption (Ghalib al-zhan) that the players are safe.

Likewise, it is also permissible to be a matador in bullfights, for it is included as an extreme sport on the condition that it doesn’t involve any activity that hurt or kills the bull. If not – if the bullfight involves activities that hurt or kill the bull – then it is prohibited for it is included as an evil act that harms and unnecessarily kills it.

May Allah SWT grant us all a clear understanding in this religion. Amin.

Wallahu a’lam.

[1] Surah al-Baqarah: 195

[2] See Zubdah al-Tafasir min Fath al-Qadir, pg. 38.

[3] See https://prpm.dbp.gov.my/cari1?keyword=matador.

[4] See https://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laga_lembu dan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullfighter.

[5] See https://prpm.dbp.gov.my/Cari1?keyword=sukan+lasak&d=175768&#SEESINI.

[6] See https://www.britannica.com/sports/extreme-sports.

[7] See https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/extreme-sport.

[8] Narrated by Ibn Majah (2341)

[9] See al-Dur al-Mukhtar, 6/404.

[10] See Bughyah al-Mushtaq fi Hukm al-Lahw wa al-La‘ib wa al-Sibaq, pg. 156-157.

[11] Narrated by al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad (1194) and Narrated by Abu Daud (5041)

[12] See Syarh al-Bukhari by Ibn Battal, 5/89.

[13] See https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-the-scholar/sports-games/what-does-islam-say-on-risky-sports/.

[14] Surah al-Nisa’ (29)

[15] See Fatawa Nur ‘ala al-Darb, 13/252.

[16] Narrated by Muslim (1955)

[17] Narrated by al-Nasa’i (4349)

[18] Narrated by al-Bukhari (2365)

[19] See Tuhfah al-Muhtaj, 9/322; Hasyiah al-Syabramalisi ‘ala Nihayah al-Muhtaj, 8/177 and I‘anah a-Talibin, 2/388.

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