السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon you.
One Thing the television promotes is individualism, which many Muslims in the western society have adapted to their lifestyles – forgetting that it is not best or us to live as individuals, but as a community. Our identity becomes vulnerable to others, because we begin to lose ourselves to the qualities which are accepted by the mainstream. For example, a child will grow up adopting a lifestyle of not respecting their elders and doing whatever they want, which may be accepted by society.
These days, the role models of the youth are celebrities and stars. It is their faces which are literally glued everywhere we go. It is true that the environment we live in plays an important role of the way we live our lives, which shapes the way we behave. It is important for us to try to surround ourselves with areas and people who will make it easier for us to focus on our Deen and following the ways of the prophets (may peace be upon them all).
Ever since the invention of the television, it has become more and more popular. Before rarely anyone had a television, and now rarely anyone has one. It is true that at first the television was made for escapism reasons so the audience could relax and feel entertained. However institutions then realised that the television actually had a great influence globally. Television soon became the main source of escapism so people could forget about their daily stress and make themselves feel like they are in a completely different world, “intoxicating them from reality”.
Family time has also been ruined because of the television. Before, families used to sit together and talk for hours. But now they sit in front of the television and barely talk to each other – each and every one of their eyes are glued to the television and if anyone makes a single comment then the others get annoyed. Is that what Muslim families are going to have to live by? On top of that, more people are talking to their friends via whatsapp or texting whilst watching TV. People are becoming so anti-social that it seems as though they have forgotten to speak orally.
The advertisement for “sprite” a couple of years ago had a tagline “Image is everything.” This phrase describes our society exactly the way it is today – everything seems to be about image and perfection. The television is a selling platform for ideals of the western society to do what you want and dress how you like. It promotes buying the latest car and latest perfume to stand out from everyone else. Did you know that money isn’t earned most from the shows but in fact from the 30 second commercials of which companies invest billions of pounds into? As we wait for the next part of the programme to come on after the advertisements, we notice all the products companies are trying to sell to us. We’ve all noticed the latest clothes trends, the latest phone as well as different food brands. Now I’m not saying it is a bad thing for us to watch advertisements of food, clothes, etc, neither am I saying that it is Haram to watch TV at all. However it is the influence we get from certain things we watch which is not spiritually good for us.
One of the authors of “The war within our hearts” Habeeb wanted to have a wristband and knee band because Michael Jordan wore them. He got influenced by Michael Jordan’s dress code and became interested in him even more. Although this does not seem much of a big deal, it has come to the point where individuals in our community have begun to dress like their favourite celebrities as well as trying to act like them too. People then begin to copy these stars so much that they live a lifestyle which is completely un-Islamic. It is saddening that not many people are willing to live the lifestyle of the Prophet Muhammad (May peace be upon him) who is the greatest person to ever walk on this earth, greater than all the celebrities put together. (I will discuss this matter in another post)
Well now you are probably wondering “what are you talking about?” “You’re just trying to say anything against the television, there is nothing wrong with watching TV.” Well first of all, it is obvious to all of us that over the years, the content on TV has gradually become more and more inappropriate. Scenes which are shown on TV today definitely would have not been shown 10 years ago, for example the acceptance of nudity and adult content. Dressing with barely anything on has become normal and accepted in society today because it appears as though dressing that way will cause individuals to look more attractive and make them stand out. Even if families do not allow these to be watched at home, whilst they are work they may watch things which they are not allowed watching. It is unlawful and un-Islamic for people (especially children and teenagers) to watch content which go against the teachings of Islam by promoting that which Allah dislikes.
For example, Muslim men are supposed to cover themselves from their navels and knees (including their navels and knees) and Muslim women to only expose their hands, face and feet. If we want to better ourselves then what excuse do we have when we watch people of the opposite gender and also the same gender dressed inappropriately?
“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty.” (24:30)
Say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty and they should not display their ornaments except what appears of them.” (24:31)
When we look at the opposite gender we should try to lower our gaze instead of constantly staring at the person in order to fulfil the desires we have or for any other reason. This standard is also applied for those who are related to us as well as those who are not related to us, of the opposite gender. Since this is the case in reality then how can we justify staring at someone on the TV and start to desire?
Directors and producers know that the audience would rather watch a programme which has a celebrity which is pleasing to the eye and apparently “attractive” according to what society values. It may seem a bit unusual for now but we need to question ourselves whether we are watching the programme because of what is going on or because we like the appearance of a particular character and like to watch them more instead. It is true without doubt that it is very hard to lower our gaze especially when it comes to watching TV. Also, the Allah does not specifically tell us to not look at attractive individuals; rather he gives us a general statement to lower our gaze when it comes to the opposite gender. If we try our best to do so then it can be one of the strongest “tools” to help attain us to Jannah.
It is important to do so as whatever we hear, see, taste and smell it gets “captured” as an image and instilled in our hearts. Habeeb and Sa’ad use the example that the heart acts as a hard drive. If the computer’s input has been affected by a virus then it means the hard drive will start suffering and the computer will not be able to function properly. Similarly, if our input (our heart) is corrupted then it will be negatively affected, making it harder for our bodies and souls to meet their full potential of pleasing Allah. As it will be affected no matter how many times we try to repair other parts of the computer the virus will still be there in the hard drive and it will be hard for us to accept Allah’s guidance of lowering our gaze in order to avoid desiring things which will not be beneficial for us.
One of the harms of not lowering our gaze is our heart becoming blackened from constant sinning.
“Verily on their hearts there is rust from what they used to do” (83:14)
This may eventually lead our hearts to become sealed to other things we must do in order to please Allah.
“Allah put a seal over their hearts and on their hearing, and on their sight as a veil.” (2:7)
If our heart is sealed then it prevents the light of Allah’s guidance from entering our heart which is dangerous for the soul. The Prophet Muhammad (May peace be upon him) told his companions that when the heart rusts, it rusts like iron. The only way to polish the rust is by reciting Quran as well as remembering death. If we polish and clean the heart then the heart will eventually be ready for Allah’s guidance and allow light to enter it.
“Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth” (24:35)
There is a famous story of Imaam Shafi’i which explains this:
He was gifted with a great memory. During his studies he noticed that there was a deficiency in his memory and went to seek help to his teacher (Waki). His teacher asked him to deeply think of whether he may have done something which Allah disliked which may have affected his memory. After a while he realised that one day whilst walking he was watching the heel of a woman and began to feel lust in his heart, which affected his memory of other things since his heart was focused on something else. Upon telling his teacher, he was told to immediately repent, which he did and his memory was restored. Imaam Shafi’i later on described this event in one of his poems:
“I complained to Waki’ about the weakness of my memory,
so he advised me to abandon sin.
and he informed me that knowledge is a light,
and the light of Allah is not given to a sinner.”
Although this example is unusual because it was only a heel which led him to desire things which he did not used to before, we should take it into account that similar things may happen to us.
Sometimes we literally beat up our souls by sinning so much that when we continue to sin we do not feel guilty anymore because it does not feel like we are being affected anymore. For example when we keep looking at things which are Haram, eat things which are Haram, or missing Fajr Salah then when we sin more we do not feel the affect on our souls anymore because it has been affected to deeply. However if we try to be amongst the righteous people such as Imaam Shafi’i then we will be more concerned to preserve the purity of our souls and we will realise the effects of even the smallest mistakes we make.
The companions of the Prophet (may peace be upon him and them) were so careful of abstaining from sins that if they ever felt a loss of memory or were not able to wake up for Tahajjud then they would immediately recognise and repent for their sin in order to remove it from their lives. But if people today, including us are committing hundreds of sins on a daily basis then how will we ever be able to decide which one is affecting us the most?
“Abstain from sin, be it open or secret.” (6:120)
Therefore, when we have realised that we have committed a sin then we should repent strait away and ask Allah to not only forgive us but to remove the effect s of that sin as well as to guide us to something better so that we do not do it again.
It is human nature for our eyes to wander and look at what we desire and yet remain unsatisfied. A famous scholar, Ashraf Ali Thanwi mentions that when people start to misdirect their gaze then their heart begins to grow hunger for the thing they are looking at, as well as the attempts to satisfy their hunger. What usually happens in marriages these days is that when the husband and wife first have an intimate relationship then one or both of them feel disappointed because they were expecting things which they used to witness on TV. They had images kept in their memory of the opposite gender with the “perfect body” and begin to compare their spouses. This may even lead to the husband and/or the wife having a backlog of images of the opposite gender and thinking about how a celebrity has better eyes and better lips than their spouse. These fabricated personalities of celebrities soon become the basis of our expectations of our spouse’s looks and personality which leads us to not appreciating them well enough. They begin to realise that their spouse are nothing like the celebrities which they used to idolise and stare at, which may lead to marriages failing due to too many differences between the two.
The ideals which are portrayed through the media are mainly through sexualised vocabulary and images which are accepted in today’s society. Society is now used to content which Islam would abhor, making it seem like it’s normal and likeable by others. It is the main reason why Muslims find it to be no problem when people curse and swear at each other, violence, and partying as well as pre-marital relations. We as the audience start to feel less disgust that we would have felt if it was not common in our society which makes our ignorance of these matters grow even more. It is also arguable that these influences have led a lot of our brothers and sisters astray by getting themselves involved in pre-marital relations.
Jerry Mander argues in his book “Four arguments for the elimination of Television” that ideals are presented by a minority and accepted by a majority of people who think it is acceptable and normal to behave the way the minority of people do.
He also argues that “being in essence of passive action puts the viewer into a passive state. The constant signals that are absorbed by the viewer lead to pacifying of the active mind. The mind then accepts these images and dialogue, storing them in memory which are later on ingrained in our minds, often without adequate self-reflection.” He believes that this has led people to believe the ideologies of others, accepting them without thinking of what effect it may have upon us.
Neil Potsman also argues that all sacred and important things have now been “integrated with entertainment.” When watching programmes we find that family and other social problems are resolved within a couple of moments. It has led to a lot of people thinking that having problems are not a big deal because they will get solved on their own; however this is not the case as there are no happy endings in this Dunya. When this “reality drops upon them”, many people start panicking and all into depression by thinking that nothing will ever be resolved and they will have no hope because of all the beliefs they have valued from these programmes.
However there are also positive things to learn from television if we watch programmes wisely, such as educational programmes which we can benefit from. For example for those who admire nature and find it interesting, there are many documentaries about nature and wildlife which will In sha Allah help us get closer to Allah as we will begin to appreciate His greatness and ability to create such beautiful creations. At the same time we must remember not to fool ourselves by thinking that just by watching these educational programmes we will automatically become loser to Allah. “Unwinding and relaxing is a part of life, but excess in anything is not from the path of those who are successful.”
What can I learn/do from this?
- Make Dua to Allah that He protects your gaze (remember you are still responsible for the action you take)
- Offer Duas of reciting the Beautiful names of Allah such as al-Muhaymin (The Protector) so that He may protect you from watching things on TV which are not good for you. Another is al-Barr (The Righteous) when you want to ask Him to guide you to be a righteous believer.
- Try to limit the hours of television and movies that you watch, exchange the time for reading books or playing sport it is more beneficial.
- If and when you do watch television, watch with family members and not alone so you are at less risk of watching things you should not be watching.
If I have made any mistakes, please forgive me and comment on the mistakes I have made.
May you be accompanied by safety.