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Hitting the bare face of someone is considered to be haram based on the hadiths of the prophet (PBUH):

“When any one of you fights, let him avoid (striking) the face.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath, 5/215).

Stone her, but avoid the face.’ (Narrated by Abu Dawood, 4/152)

Of course, it is seen that Islam values and acknowledges the sanctity and nobleness of the face and hence forbids it from being struck. If one strikes to obliterate/ destroy the face, surely it transgresses the moral code of the face being valued and hence considered a sin.

However, when it comes to say war or self-defence. Should this rule still stand? Of course, it is safe to assume that during self defense and war it's about life and death and one surely can't help but strike the face. What can we say of such a situation? If such a situation is approved as an exception to the ruling, then would it be forbidden to practise one's combat skills (for either self-defence or war) which includes punching the face? Given, for certain techniques to be applied in the streets and war, they need to be practised and pressure tested.

In addition, to my question of whether striking the face is legal under certain situations. Could we argue that striking the face is halal, in combat sports training, as long as we make sure we don't harm our partner (i.e. wearing protective headgear and trading light punches)?

I hope, someone out there can clarify my concerns regarding this topic.

Jazzakallahu Khair

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The hadith you quoted is itself about fighting, including where the intention is to kill, i.e. warfare, qitaal:

وإذا قاتل أحدكم فليجتنب الوجه

"fa idha qaatil a7adukum fa'lyajtanib al wajh"

"when one of you fights, avoid the face"

Further explaining this, from islaqa.info:

Al-Haafiz said: “This prohibition also includes all those who are struck for the purpose of hadd or ta’zeer punishments or discipline. According to the hadeeth narrated by Abu Bakrah and others, which was recorded by Abu Dawood and others, about the woman who had committed adultery, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded that she should be stoned to death, and said, ‘Stone her, but avoid the face.’ (Narrated by Abu Dawood, 4/152). If that is the command in the case of one who is being punished and is going to die anyway, then the rule is even more applicable in cases of lesser severity.” See al-Fath, 5/216

So, striking the face is not allowed; whether in warfare or applying the hudud, which are obligatory; never mind striking the face in sports practice.

Turning to warfare; where you say:

Of course, it is safe to assume that during self defense and war it's about life and death and one surely can't help but strike the face. What can we say of such a situation? If such a situation is approved as an exception to the ruling, then would it be forbidden to practise one's combat skills (for either self-defence or war) which includes punching the face?

The rule about avoiding the face still applies. Bows and arrows, lances and the catapult (at Ta'if) were used at the time of the prophet saw without restricting them because they may have hit someone in the face; but this is not an exception, because what is aimed at isn't the face; if a rock thrown by a catapult hit someone in the face that doesn't contradict not aiming at the face, because aiming at the face or not is the choice of the one who aims; while where the blow lands is the fate of the one aimed at. So as long as the arrow or lance or catapult isn't aimed at the face then it's allowed and there is no exception to the rule, so your assumption isn't correct and the argument:

such a situation is approved as an exception to the ruling

isn't correct I'm afraid.

About the second part of your question:

Could we argue that striking the face is halal, in combat sports training, as long as we make sure we don't harm our partner (i.e. wearing protective headgear and trading light punches)?

As mentioned in the comment from @Medi1Saif, there are other posts here on this, and it seems boxing as a sport is unanimously and emphatically not allowed: see this post and this post.

In the last article, it is mentioned that the practice may be modified to not include hitting the face, which is actually what some clubs do; some street fighting and martial arts clubs run by muslims don't let people aim at the face or use shadow boxing or maintaining a distance; for proper boxing as a sport, even training for it, if sparring with a partner you are not allowed to hit the face regardless of whether a face protector is used or not. I have known brothers and family members who gave up boxing because of this, and they switched to other martial arts; equally there are clubs where they don't practice any actual hitting of the face, people do it for fitness (and the fact that body blows in street fighting are just as effective if not more so). But if you want to say, is it ever under any circumstances allowed to strike the face, then no, I never came accross anyone who ever said it was halal.

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  • Striking the face of a disbeliever in war is considered an exception by some. – UmH Jul 16 at 11:36
  • yeah, jazak Allah, the only reference I can find for an exception is what people say Mulla ‘Ali Qaari said in Mirqaat Al-Mafaateeh; where he (effectively) says it's allowed if there's no option and one's own life is in danger, in which case the hukm of darurah, life or death neccessity supercedes it, rather than there being an exception to the rule - as I understand it, at least. – secret squirrel Jul 16 at 12:44
  • @secretsquirrel Thanks for the answer. I now understand the weight of the situation as I see that striking the face whether in warfare or even in self-defence, regardless is haram. However, as a response to UmH, you seem to say that when it comes to life and death, hitting the face would only be allowed as an act of necessity, which is probably the only exception. Now I would just like to add a couple of follow up questions if you don't mind answering.... – EPIC Tube HD Jul 17 at 5:27
  • 1) Essentially you are saying, even using headgear or full-face covering, striking the face would be haram. But as we know using face covering, may protect against ure face being obliterated and the whole ruling behind why striking the face is not allowed is becuz Islamically the face is considered Nobel. But given u're using a face covering or a headgear, u're punched are barely or not even touching the face in the first place. So why should that be a problem? – EPIC Tube HD Jul 17 at 5:32
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    OK, insha Allah I'm going to ask brothers I know who run clubs and train and ill get back to you. – secret squirrel Jul 17 at 6:28

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