Answered by Shaykh Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
Is it permissible to bow to your partner whilst doing martial arts? The martial arts form of Hapkido requires students to sit down on their knees and meditate for 1 minute before beginning the class in order to psychologically prepare oneself for the lesson and practise breathing techniques. This is followed by bowing to your partner whereby sitting on your knees you bow like sajdah but not pas low as putting your head on the ground. I spoke to the instructor and he told me that the bowing had absolutely no religious significance or meaning – it was just a form of showing humility before beginning the class. Is this permissible? If it is not is it ok to place on hand on the other and bow with your head only such as in karate?
In the name of Allah the Inspirer of truth.
It is not permissible to bow in these circumstances. Although it may not have any religious significance to the art, however, as a Muslim it is an empathetically prohibited act for you. It is an act reserved for Allah alone, and doing it for other than Allah is either unlawful, or can leads one to kufr if done with intention to worship. If it had been permissible, even as to honor someone, it would have been permissible to do it for the Prophet (upon him be peace) or one’s elders, which is not the case.
The Messenger (upon him be peace said) “If I were to command anyone to prostrate before anyone I would command the wife to prostrate before the husband” (Mishkat al-Masabih).
My son is in a karate class and his teachers respects the fact that as a Muslim he is not allowed to bow, and hence makes sure that he does not bow. Perform two rak’ats prayer and then go and discuss the issue with your instructor, and it is hoped that he will be understanding of your situation.