The Importance of learning Grappling and Self-Defense according to the Sunnah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

 No one can deny nor even ignore the obvious importance for how to protect yourself and keep your loved ones from being physically harmed at any given moment in the street, in the mall, in the restaurant, or even while you are just chilling in the park. It is always better to know how to defend yourself and not need to than to need to defend yourself and not know how to. In this article we will study wrestling and grappling as a self-defense art practiced by the Prophet (ﷺ) and his companions, and the importance he (ﷺ) placed on it for measuring one’s courage and manhood.

Today the art of BJJ (Brazilian Ju Jit Su) has been globally recognized as the most effective art of self-defense. Part of its effectiveness comes from the fact that it has a mixture of American Free-Style Wrestling, Sambo, and Japanese Wrestling for ground fighting.[1]  

Now I am not downplaying any other martial art or trying say that it isn’t effective. In fact, Master Lloyd Irving said. “Every martial art is effective for what it was created for.” That’s a whole other discussion, but sticking to topic about grappling is what is important for this article in hopes that the Muslims will engage and join some type of self-defense classes; even if they decide to do MMA.

The Prophet (ﷺ) himself had strength and wrestled. Imam As-Suyuti complied a book of narrations which mentioned some reports about He() and his companions (radi Allahu Anhum) wrestling. The reports about the Prophet (ﷺ) downplaying wrestling and grappling aren’t authentic. They have been collected by At-Tirmithi,Abu Dawud and others. For instance, one of those narrations are, Abu Ja’far bin Muhammad bin Rukanah narrated from his father that Rukanah wrestled the Prophet (ﷺ) and the Prophet (ﷺ) won the match. Rukanah said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying: ‘Indeed what distinguishes between us and between the idolater is the turban over the cap.'”[2]

However, Rukanah did wrestle the Prophet as proven by an authentic report. The Prophet (ﷺ) loved the self-defense of grappling and it wasn’t enough for him to do practice it alone, rather whenever two young men showed up to join the ranks for the battle of Uhud he(ﷺ) would test their strength, endurance and patience by having them spar . Following this he would acknowledge the winner as having the ability to fight, defend Islam, and being an adult. In other instances, the Prophet (ﷺ) placed Hasan and Hussain in sparring matches, stood by coached and cheered them on; as reported by their parents and Aisha (Radi Allahu anhum).

كَانَ الْحَسَنُ وَالْحُسَيْنُ عَلَيْهِمَا السَّلَامُ يَصْطَرِعَانِ بَيْنَ يَدَيْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فَكَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ: «هَيَّ حَسَنُ» ، فَقَالَتْ فَاطِمَةُ عَلَيْهَا السَّلَامُ: يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، لِمَ تَقُولُ: «هَيَّ حَسَنُ» ؟ فَقَالَ: ” إِنَّ جِبْرِيلَ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامُ يَقُولُ: هَيَّ حُسَيْنُ “

Al-Hasan and Al-Hussain were wrestling in front of the Prophet (ﷺ) one day and he was chanting, “come on let’s go Hasan.” Then Fatimah asked the Prophet (ﷺ) why aren’t you cheering for Hussain. He replied, “Jibril is cheering for Hussain to win.”[3]

From this hadith we can take the benefit that it’s allowed for the Muslims to join the current day grappling competitions, where striking in the face isn’t permitted. Moreover, we learn the important role the parents play having their children train in a self-defense; as Hasan and Hussain were experienced when rolling on ground. Being able to defend yourself from being pinned or submitted doesn’t just require strength, but also technique.

There are other examples as well in the Seerah which mention young men grappling as a challenge put forth from the Prophet (ﷺ) himself. For instance, Samurah ibn Jundab wrestled and pinned down Rafee ibn Khudage so that he could fight in the Battle of Uhud. It’s worth noting here that the Rafee was granted permission prior to their match to participate, so Samurah went to his stepfather and told him that he was rejected by the Prophet (ﷺ) to go out fight in the battle. After this Murayy ibn Sinan ibn Tha’laba(the stepfather )went to the Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) and asked if his stepson could have a match against Rafee. The Prophet (ﷺ) agreed and the Muslims stood by watching them grappling.[4]

The lessons we can learn from this story are a person’s test of valor should be tried in sparring matches which give the martial artist real life and real time encounters. This is something you find in the art of BJJ, when a practitioner spars regularly to earn his promotion, and doesn’t just learn the Katas. This is why some people disrespect other martial arts where you have the teacher joint locking and beating up his own students. Bottom line, the criterion set by the Prophet (ﷺ) for those who wanted to go out with him in wars was they had to prove their skillset in the ring first. Therefore, this is what we should be doing today, for the security of our Masjids and conferences.

In another strange occurrence that further proves the Muslims should be prepared to defend themselves against an attack, even when going to corner store to buy water is in the story of Ammar ibn Yasir (Radi Allahu anhu). He said, “I have fought against humans and Jinn beside the Prophet (ﷺ). The companions (Radi Allahu anhum) asked how did you fight against the Jinn? Ammar said, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and I went to resting place one day, so I took my waterskin and pail with me to go out and fetch some water. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: be careful as someone might prevent you from getting water.” To my surprise when I reached the well there was a strong muscular black man who attacked me. He said, “I swear by Allah no one will get one bucket of water from this well today.” Thus, he grabbed me and I grabbed him and we both locked up; and then we fell to ground and began to grapple. While on the ground I grabbed a rock hit his nose breaking it and then struck his face knocking him out. Following this I got up ,filled my containers with water and then returned. The Prophet (ﷺ ) asked me if I encountered anyone while getting some water ?” I informed him what happened and he (ﷺ ) told me that was Satan.”[5]

The lessons learned from this story are;

  • A person at times won’t pick a fight, but instead the fight will pick him.
  • Ammar ibn Yasir was trained and in shape.
  • Ammar was able to size his opponent up from his physique.
  •  Ammar not only knew grappling but striking. He knew where to hit his attacker to knock him out.
  • Ammar knew how to gain control over his attacker while on the ground and maintain a position of dominance.
  • Sometimes your opponent will be bigger and stronger than you, but once you are trained you will able to subdue him either on the ground, or while standing.
  • If you are properly trained it is easier to defend yourself against an untrained attacker.
  • The importance of observing potential dangers prior to possible encounters.
  • Being aware of your surroundings while in the midst of defending oneself

With these examples and lessons learned from the stories we can’t forget to include women as well. BJJ offers us the ability to fight from our backs, which is the most vulnerable position that women may find themselves in during a sexual assault of attack.

BJJ is a national sport in UAE

Prepared by Abu Aaliyah Abdullah Battle (BJJ 2 stripe, blue belt )

Doha,Qatar 1442©

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[1][1] Fast track secrets, by Prof Ismail Bass, Jamil Taylor, pg 1.

[2] [Abu ‘Eisa said:] This Hadith is Hasan Gharib. Its chain is not established, and we do not know of Abu Al-Hasan Al-‘Asqalani, nor Ibn Rukanah.

[3] Ibn Abi Shaybah in Al-Musanaf (7/514) isnad graded as being Hasan by Shiekh Mashoor Hasan Salman

[4] المسارعة الى المصارعة  by Imam as-suyuti, hadith number 11

[5] الطبقات الكبرى  vol 3/251, by Ibn Sa’d

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