As a Egyptian bodybuilder, 2020 and 2021 Mr. Olympia Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay, has brought a lot of glory to his home country. While many of his fellow countrymen are extremely proud of Big Ramy, not all Egyptians have received his acclaim openly. Recently, Abdullah Rushdy, a prominent Imam and religious influencer, has issued a fatwa against bodybuilding, condemning the sport.

Big Ramy is the first Egyptian ever to win an Olympia contest. Beginning pro bodybuilding in 2012, he worked his way up to being the literal best in the world. Not only did he win the 2020 Olympia, cementing his status as an incredible bodybuilder, but he managed to uphold his title during the 2021 Olympia against some of the most intense competition to date. 

For the most part, his achievements have been received very fondly in his home country of Egypt. Returning to Egypt after his 2021 victory, he was practically mobbed by supporters at the airport, showing his massive popularity amongst the general public. Even the government seemed to support Big Ramy, renaming the biggest square in his home town of Kafr El Sheikh after him. 

Yet, not all are in favor of Big Ramy and his accomplishments. Abdullah Rushdy is an Egyptian Imam, an influential Muslim religious leader similar to a priest, and scholar from the Al Azhar University in Cairo. Rushdy is also incredibly popular on social media, but not without his fair share of controversy amongst non-Muslims and Muslims alike. 

Upon hearing about Big Ramy, Rushdy took to his twitter account to condemn his actions. He issued a fatwa, which is basically a new rule based on interpreting scripture. He said: 

It is not permissible for a man to participate in bodybuilding championships in which it is stipulated that he should show some of the private parts that the Shariah commanded him to cover.

Do whatever sport you want without violating the rules of the Shari’a.”

Rushdy elaborated on this statement, claiming that bodybuilding, both the exercises required to maintain a physique and the spectacle of the competition, is awrah, or religiously indecent, because it reveals body parts considered sacred. 

However, his opinion is not uniform amongst Islamic experts. Ahmed Karima, a professor and fellow researcher at Al-Azhar University, rejected Rushdy’s fatwa, claiming:

“ “God did not make the body of men a means of sedition,”

“Farmers lift their pants above their knees while watering the land or feeding the animals. It is also common in some industries. Sportswear is a custom and not a form of worship, so men won’t end up in hell to wear them.”

As of this moment, it is unclear what Big Ramy will do but chances are he will continue his career with the support of both the Egyptian people and many religious leaders.

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