Q. Every three times a week I train Judo, which is a Japanese martial art with about 20-25 other students; some are muslims and some are of other faiths. My trainer is from Japan and he is acustomed to the martial arts culture that he was raised in from a young age. My intention is to keep strong and fit and to learn the Judo art and this is the reason that I attend 3 times a week. At the start of class and at the end of class, our trainer makes us line up and bow to him out of respect and he also bows to us. I know that it is haram to bow to anyone besides Allah (SWT), so I do not bow myself at the beggining and at the end of the class. I only nod my head, but I do not bow. My question is it a sin on me if my trainer is bowing infront of me to me as well as other students? Am I sinning to be involved in this even though I do not bow myself? And if not is it permissible for me to continue training Judo here so long as I refrain from any bowing myself? Of course my trainer will understand why I am not bowing, but I cannot stop him from bowing himself to the students at the beginning and end of class, as well as for the other students; I can only refrain from bowing myself.
A. As a Muslim, it is essential for you to follow the guidelines of the shariah in this matter, by not bowing before your tutor (in the way you have described). However, you are not accountable for what the tutor may do by bending / bowing before you and the other students. As for one who is not a Muslim, he abides by the teachings he follows, and goes along with that which he sees to be okay in his estimation. Also, in his understanding, he sees that it is only a matter of respect and not a matter of worship, so for him it is just a formality. As for us, as Muslims, regardless of the intention a person has, there are certain actions that are totally prohibited, and we must refrain from them. Hence, you can continue the class and refrain from bowing. However, it is not your task to stop him from bowing when he chooses to do it. It will not be a sin upon you, when he bows before you and the other students.
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan