TV in Islam: Harmless Entertainment or Haram Pastime?

Syed Bukhari

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Is Watching TV Prohibited in Islam?

The issue of watching films and television is not free from numerous reservations from an Islamic perspective, such as uncovering ‘Awrah (parts of the body that should be covered), listening to music, spreading corrupt beliefs, and promoting the imitation of disbelievers.

TV in Islam (Forbidden)?

Watching Television in Islam

Watching television is neither haram nor is looking at pictures of living creatures. In fact, it is strongly recommended to watch good programs and news on television. This is because television is a means that can be used for good as well as for bad.

Therefore, everything depends on the intention of the person watching. If their intention is to learn and be informed about what’s happening in the world, then it is strongly recommended to watch and look.

There is no single authentic text or order that prohibits watching television or looking at pictures, as some people believe.

Is Watching TV Prohibited in Islam?

Islam Welcomes Technology

Islam does not deprive Muslims from benefiting from good means and tools. Islam welcomes all new technology, such as television, planes, cars, trains, and the Internet, and urges Muslims to use them to spread noble teachings and values.

Therefore, the individual should not reject technology without an explicit text and order. Scholars agree that the means to good are good, and likewise, the means to bad are bad.

In this context, the prohibition or allowance will merely depend on the objectives of using or utilizing these means.

Is Watching TV Permitted in Islam and Under What Conditions?

The issue of watching films and television is not free from numerous reservations from an Islamic perspective. Factors like uncovering the ‘Awrah (parts of the body that should be covered), listening to music, spreading corrupt beliefs, and promoting the imitation of disbelievers are major concerns.

Allah has commanded believers to lower their gaze from forbidden things, as stated in the Quran: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their private parts. That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their private parts.” (24:30-31)

Lowering the gaze is the basis of protecting one’s private parts, and it is mentioned first. The eyes are a reflection of the heart – if a person lowers their gaze, the desire in their heart will be reduced, but if a person stares, the desire in their heart will be provoked.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) demonstrated this principle through his actions. It is narrated that when some women riding on camel-borne sedan chairs passed by, the Prophet turned Al-Fadl ibn ‘Abbas’s head away, as a prevention and denunciation through action, for if looking were permissible, he would have approved of what Al-Fadl did.

The Prophet also said, “Every son of Adam has his share of Zina (fornication/adultery) decreed for him, and he will undoubtedly get his share. The eye commits Zina, and its Zina is looking. The tongue commits Zina, and its Zina is speaking; the feet commit Zina, and their Zina is walking; the hands commit Zina, and their Zina is touching. The heart longs and desires for something, and the private parts confirm that or deny it.”

He began by mentioning the eye because this is how the Zina of the hand, foot, heart, and private parts begins. This hadith clearly indicates that the eye can sin by looking, and this is its Zina. It refutes those who say that looking is allowed in all circumstances.

The Prophet also said, “O ‘Ali, do not follow a look with a second, for the first [unintended] look is allowable, but not the second.”

A look has the same effect on the heart as an arrow has on its victim. If it does not kill him, it will wound him. It is like a spark of fire in dried grass; if it does not burn all of it, it will still burn some of it.

Scholars’ Views on Television

Shaykh Ibn Baz (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Al-Fatawa 3/227: “With regard to television, it is a dangerous device, and its harmful effects are very great, like those of the cinema, or even worse… It includes the presentation of bad morals, tempting scenes, immoral pictures, semi-nakedness, destructive speech, and disbelief. It encourages imitation of their conduct and ways of dressing, respect for their leaders, neglect of Islamic conduct and ways of dressing, and looking down on the scholars and heroes of Islam.”

He further states that anything that produces such bad results should be stopped and shunned, and all doors that could lead to it should be closed. He cautions against those who think that television can be free of these evils if it is censored properly, as the censor may miss things, and most people nowadays want to imitate foreigners.

If Image-Making Is Haram, How Come It Is Permissible to Watch TV and Videos?

Firstly:

What you say about it being haram to take photographs and keep them except in cases of necessity, and it being permissible to watch TV and videos if they are free of evils, is the view of a number of scholars, including Shaykh Ibn Baz (may Allah have mercy on him) and the scholars of the Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas, may Allah preserve them.

Secondly:

The confusion that you mentioned was answered by Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him), who explained that pictures contained on a video tape and the like are stored in the form of electro-magnetic waves, hence they were regarded as permissible by those who do not regard photographs as permissible.

Is It Permissible for Me to Have a TV in My House If the Majority of My Family Only Watch the News, Sports, and Islamic Channels?

There is great harm in watching TV. Even news and sports programs contain many things which are sinful and prohibited in Islam. Therefore, you should not keep a TV in your house. Let me share an insightful article on the harms of watching TV and movies:

Watching TV and Movies

Watching TV and movies is not permissible according to Islam because TV programs and movies constitute multiple sins, even one of which would be sufficient to render something impermissible. The heinous effect TV and movies have had globally is as apparent as daylight, and yet those intoxicated by the effects of TV and movies cannot see this. 

One of the specialties of TV and movies is that it makes even a sensible person deaf, dumb, and blind in that he deems permissible and acceptable the evils and sins displayed and promoted by TV and movies that he would normally, without hesitation, declare to be sinful and evil. He lets himself and his family watch and enjoy the evils that he would normally do everything to keep himself and his family away from. Such is the intoxicating effect of TV and movies that it causes all sense of morality and uprightness to go right down the drain.

And because of this:

– Families are breaking apart

– Immorality, lewdness, and promiscuity are becoming the order of the day

– The youngsters are becoming more disrespectful to their parents and elders

– The youngsters and adults alike are straying further away from the beautiful teachings of Islam and are instead adopting the ways and lifestyle of immoral people

– People are becoming more and more materialistic and harboring aversion to religion

– Many other heinous acts are taking place that one would feel ashamed to write about.

Sins Committed by Watching TV and Movies

Here are some sins that a person commits by watching TV and movies:

– Looking at people of the opposite gender without dire necessity and in a way prohibited by Islam. The Quran commands males and females alike to lower their gazes, and this is not feasible in the case of TV and movies.

– Looking at people who are considered nude in Islam.

– Listening to music. Music is a great sin in Islam.

– Displaying pictures in the house. According to the hadith, pictures prevent angels of mercy from entering the house. If there are no angels of mercy in the house, the house will be full of devils.

– Watching and listening to immoral people, thereby creating admiration for them and their ways. The hadith tells us that a person in the hereafter will be with the ones he loves and admires.

– Watching and listening to things that are forbidden according to Islam, thereby supporting such forbidden things.

– Wasting time. Time is very precious according to Islam.

– Putting oneself in a state of heedlessness. And because of this heedlessness, many prayers (salaats) are not offered on time or at all.

– Supporting the list of evils mentioned below that TV and movies promote.

– By letting one’s family watch TV and movies, he invites them to commit all of the evils above and below. Therefore, instead of inviting them to the teachings of Islam, he invites them to the wrath of Allah. Instead of guiding them to paradise, he guides them to the fire of Hell.

Evils Promoted by TV and Movies

Not only are TV and movies evil in themselves, but they quite boldly and openly promote evil in all its forms. The following are some evils that movies and TV promote indiscriminately that can be observed by any unbiased, sensible, and honest person:

– Nudity

– Promiscuity

– Intermingling of the genders

– Profanity

– Offensive language

– Taking alcohol and drugs

– Vulgarity

– Vanity and arrogance

– Violence

– Crime

– Greed

– Corruption

– Dishonesty

– Atheism

– Secularism

– Mockery of religion

– Disrespect

– Defiance of authority

– Disobedience of parents, teachers, and elders

– Following one’s whims and desires indiscriminately

Please remember that the list above is by no means exhaustive.

The gist of the above is that a Muslim who fears Allah the Almighty and believes in the Day of Judgment and life after death should stay far away from TV and movies. Instead, they should spend their free time in things that please Allah Ta’ala, such as listening to lectures of the Ulama (scholars), reading the Quran, hadith, and Islamic literature, taking part in ilmi and deeni gatherings, etc.

One should take the warnings contained in the following Quranic verses seriously:

> “O you who believe! Enter into Islam fully and do not follow the footsteps of Satan; surely he is your open enemy.” (Quran 2:208)

> “Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents that they may become companions of the Blazing Fire.” (Quran 35:6) 

> “And let not Satan turn you aside. Lo! he is an open enemy for you.” (Quran 43:62)

> “The reckoning has drawn near to men, and in heedlessness are they turning aside.” (Quran 21:1)  

> “O you who believe, save your souls, and those of your families, from the fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are set angels fierce and terrible; who disobey not Allah in what He has commanded them, but perform what they are commanded.” (Quran 66:6)

A poet has pertinently described the evil of letting loose and not controlling one’s gaze, and it aptly applies to watching TV and movies:

“All evil occurrences begin with one’s glance,

*And most fires are caught by (negligence of) those who deem sparks insignificant.*

*A man remains in danger as long as his eyes scrutinize the eyes of (beautiful) women with large (gorgeous) eyes,* 

*How many a glance has done to the heart the same as what an arrow would do — without any bow or string.*

*The one glancing is pleased with what harms his inner self.”*

Is Entertainment Haram in Islam?

The Muslim scholar al-Qaradawi states that singing and music in itself is permissible and pleasurable. He places several restrictions on them, though. The content of the song should not be against the morals and teachings of Islam or be accompanied by other forbidden things in Islam, like alcohol.

Is Watching TV Haram in Ramadan?

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Those who are fasting and other Muslims should fear Allah with regard to what they do and what they refrain from doing at all times, and they should beware of that which Allah has forbidden, like watching indecent movies which show things which Allah has forbidden, such as pictures of naked and semi-naked people.”

Can I Watch Netflix in Islam?

In Islam, a person is forbidden from looking at things that depict nudity, violence, and immoral actions or listening to things that have obscene language and themes. The general guidance is that if movies are free of these things, then you are allowed to watch them. However, if they feature any of these elements, then it is considered haram (forbidden).

When it comes to platforms like Netflix, caution is advised as they offer a wide range of content, some of which may contain haram elements. It’s crucial to research and ensure that what you’re watching does not violate Islamic principles. If a particular show or movie contains nudity, excessive violence, promotion of un-Islamic values, or other inappropriate content, then it should be avoided.

Is Music Okay for Muslims?

The permissibility of music in Islam is a matter of scholarly debate. Some Muslims believe that musical instruments are haram (forbidden), and only vocals are allowed, but the performer must be of the same gender as the audience. This belief has led to a rich tradition of devotional acapella singing in Islam.

Other scholars hold the view that music, including instrumental music, is permissible as long as it does not contain anything that goes against Islamic teachings, such as obscene or vulgar lyrics, promotion of un-Islamic values, or provocation of desires.

Ultimately, it’s essential for Muslims to exercise caution and be mindful of the content they engage with, whether it’s music, movies, or any other form of entertainment.

What Makes TV Watching Haram?

If you’re watching TV, there are some points to consider that might make the TV watching haram (forbidden):

– Avoid watching TV shows with immoral and foul language.

– Don’t watch anything that goes against Islamic teachings, such as gambling, drinking alcohol, or any kind of shirk (associating partners with Allah).

– Stay away from programs that promote gender mixing or other un-Islamic behavior.

– Don’t watch anything that encourages violence or crime.

– Avoid TV shows or movies where men and women are not appropriately dressed. Such as women not wearing hijab and men with improper clothing.

– Don’t watch anything that contains music or singing. Except for Duff (a type of hand-drum), every musical instrument is prohibited in Islam.

So, it’s important to be aware of the type of content you watch on television and ensure that it doesn’t contain anything haram. All these are the tools of Shaitaan (Satan), and they shall make us sinful if we don’t follow the above instructions.

How to Avoid Haram TV Content?

If you want to avoid haram content and still watch TV for benefits like gaming, news, and Islamic knowledge content, then the following tips can help you:

– Make sure always to watch TV with your family or trusted friends.

– Subscribe to only the TV channels you want, like news or Islamic knowledge channels.

– Always be aware of the content you’re watching and make sure it is not haram.

– Set a limit on TV watching time so that you don’t end up wasting your time on unproductive activities.

– Always be aware of what you’re watching, and if anything haram pops up, switch it off immediately.

– If you want to watch something, search for it online and watch streaming videos. This way, you have more control over the content that you watch.

FAQs

Q. Is TV haram?

A. No, TV itself is not haram, but the content you watch on TV can be haram. So, it is important to use your discretion and avoid watching anything against Islamic teachings.

Q. Is it haram to watch TV?

A. No, the act of watching TV is not haram as long as you don’t watch any prohibited content like foul language, gender mixing scenes, violence, or haram activities. However, it’s crucial to be mindful of the content you consume and ensure it aligns with Islamic principles.

Q. Is watching TV haram in Ramadan?

A. It depends on what you’re watching. If it is something that goes against Islamic teachings, then it is haram to watch in Ramadan or any other time. However, if the content is permissible and does not contain any forbidden elements, then it is allowed.

Q. Is watching serials haram in Islam?

A. Today, most serials contain immoral content. However, some serials don’t have haram elements, which can be watched without any objection. It’s essential to research and ensure that the serial you’re watching does not promote or depict anything that contradicts Islamic teachings.

In conclusion, while TV and movies themselves are not inherently haram in Islam, it’s crucial to be mindful of the content you consume and ensure it aligns with Islamic principles and values. Anything that promotes immorality, violence, or goes against the teachings of Islam should be avoided. Muslims should strive to engage with media that uplifts their faith and promotes positive values.