The Influence of Television

The Influence of Television

This article should be regarded as advice specifically for the Munaafiq, Faajir, Faasiq RIJS (FILTH) molvis who are blatantly, brazenly and most flagrantly committing KUFR by selling their souls to Iblees who has urinated into their brains to become television actors. Furthermore, the arch mudhil, Taqi Usmaani is the prime Agent of Iblees in this Jahannami saga. Purely on the instruction and influence of Iblees did Mr.Taqi open up the door for this television fitnah with His stupid, haraam halaalizing of pictography.

by Hazrat Maulana Yunus Patel Saheb (rahmatullah alayh)

One of the many sunnats of the Ambiyaa (‘alaihimus Salaam) is that of Hayaa (shame and modesty), a quality which is sorely missing in the lives of the majority of Muslims today and which should otherwise be an outstanding characteristic and feature of all Muslims, whether married or un-married.

Television is such an evil that if our society only understood its reality, then they would find no excuse to watch. Its spiritual harm is that it takes away the hayaa and shame of our men, women and children.

The content of most television programmes is nothing but immodesty and indecency, which invites nothing but immodesty and indecency – into our homes, into our lives and the lives of our children.

However, this truth and reality seems to just pass over the understanding of even those Muslims who have some link with Deen.

Many are regular with Salaah, they are seen in the Musjid, they are wearing the garb of the pious and yet they will be the ones to present flimsy and feeble excuses to view television programmes.

Let us consider this situation of sin from the following view – which Alhamdulillah, has been a means of many getting rid of the television.

If a person has to knock on your door and tell you : ‘I would like to use your lounge to commit adultery.’

Or a group of some friends have to request you : ‘We would like to use your home to gamble and enjoy our liquor.’ Or a group of youngsters have to tell you : ‘We have chosen your home as a venue for our partying, dancing, drug-taking and fornicating.’ Or a Christian family has to request you : ‘We would like to use your home as a venue for our church ceremony : The marriage of our daughter as well as the baptism of our grandchild.

We have already obtained the consent of one of our priests.’ Or some idol-worshippers have to suggest : ‘We would like to carry out some of our religious rites in your home. We would like to bring our idols also. You are more than welcome to observe or participate in our rites. ’

Many Muslims, on hearing such requests, will get very angry; will express disgust – if not swear and curse such suggestions.

However, these very same Muslims who will even resort to swearing and cursing such proposals, invite into their homes all of the above by the switch of the television, by hiring English and Hindi films and DVDs and downloading porn and other films from the Internet. There is so much of adultery, partying and other filth that we seem to just welcome into our homes – least realizing the consequences.

Just to give you one example and this is but the tip of the iceberg – and it is said with the intention of removing the blindfold that most parents wear :

A father of four children mentioned to me that he had got rid of his television and he thereafter explained why.

He said that late one night he heard strange noises from his children’s room. On opening the door of their room, he found their television switched on.

This is our concept of modesty , parents must have their own television, to view all kinds of filthy programmes in their privacy, and children must have their own television to view all kinds of indecency in their privacy (Na-uzu Billah).

The father mentioned that there were dirty and obscene scenes of naked people on the television screen. He mentioned that it was filthy and that it shocked him; but what had him even more shaken was that his children were all undressed, engaging in the same kind of indecent acts.

They were imitating the pornography they were viewing. He said himself, that until then he had not considered the harm of television. It took this kind of incident to wake him up. This is just one example of so many. Do we wish to face something similar ?

Do we care to even know what our sons and daughters are doing in the secrecy of their rooms ? The fact that many demand that no one ‘invade’ their space and privacy to the extent of having ‘No Entry’ signs on their doors, should have parents a little more than worried especially if they are viewing television and are surfing the net or have free access with cell phones.

Many have written, that after watching certain films or programmes, the desire came strongly into their hearts to take drugs, drink liquor, murder their parents, indulge in homosexuality, engage in adulterous relationships, commit suicide, rape, and so much else – and many of them do so.

Moreover, with sins like television and evil, lustful glancing, Allah Ta’ala removes the love between husband and wife and even ones children become disobedient.

There are many husbands who entertain thoughts of and fantasize of other women when with their wives. And they will when they are watching different actresses and television presenters.

Many wives are guilty of the same infidelity having seen or socialized with ghair-mahareem. Many women are so infatuated and obsessed with some soccer player or cricket player that they become dissatisfied with their husbands, and spend their time fantasizing.

Had the person not viewed all those ghair-mahareem (impermissible women) on the television screen and computer screen, and had lowered his gaze in real life situations, then he would not have desired that which he cannot have, and there would not have been dissatisfaction with his (or her) spouse.

Moreover we complain that there is no barkat in our homes; there is no barkat in our wealth; there is no barkat in our time. Our children are rebellious. The husband is having an extra-marital relationship. The daughter has accepted Christianity. The son is on drugs and the list of complaints does not end.

Then who is to blame except the one who brought all of this Haraam into the home by purchasing the television and exposing the family to so much of sin.

Great ‘Ulama became Bay’at upon the hands of Maulana Hakeem Fakhrudeen (Rahmatullah ‘alaih). He mentioned that there was a time, that with the rising and setting of the sun, he saw nothing but noor in Surat.

The atmosphere was one of noor. The day commenced with Salaah, Tilawat, Zikrullah.

After the cinemas and television and videos flooded Surat, there was nothing but ‘zulmat’ (darkness).

With the distraction of such entertainment, Ibaadah becomes a forgotten duty.

One Wali of Allah Ta’ala, on visiting a home, mentioned that he perceived the sin of Zina (adultery) from the walls of that home. He was able to recognize this due to the purity of his heart. The residents of that home were not indulging in adultery but they were watching the sin on television.

When fire burns against a white wall, it blackens the wall. The Ahle-Dil (pious people), with their purified hearts, see the fire of sins which has burnt and blackened the white hearts of the Muslims.

Would that we take lesson and take measures to protect ourselves and our children.

22 Zul Qa’dh 1443 – 23 June 2022

SELLING TELEVISIONS

Question
What is the Fatwa on selling TV’s? We always understood it to be Haraam. Please comment on the following fatwa of a mufti:
“QUESTION Is it permissible for one to sell a TV?
ANSWER Televisions are mainly used for the purpose of viewing Haram content. The harms of television are known to all. However, a TV does not serve a singular purpose, rather it is a multi-purpose item. It has several permissible uses such as, displaying Salah times; Deeni advices; CCTV; education. In principle, if an item has both permissible and impermissible uses, it will be permissible for one to sell it. The income from such a sale will be Halal. If the buyer uses the item for sinful activities, the seller will not be responsible if he does not employ impermissible methods to sell the TV, for example, advertising the quality of the screen and sound through animate pictures and music.” (End of fatwa)
OUR COMMENT
The Mufti dwells in gross error. His zig-zag fatwa is baseless. The objective of a fatwa is guidance, not misguidance. With the zig-zag fatwa the mufti aids in the commission of sin and transgression in flagrant violation of the Qur’aanic prohibition: “Do not mutually aid one another in sin and transgression.”
Since this mufti has made selling televisions halaal, what is the purpose of his statement: “Televisions are mainly used for the purpose of viewing Haram content.”? It is a meaningless comment which highlights the zig-zag trajectory of today’s muftis. In view of the fact that the primary purpose of television is viewing zina, fisq and fujoor and its foundational principle is haraam pictography, the actual fatwa is that it is haraam to sell these satanic devices. It is an illustration of puerility for the mufti to introduce in his fatwa the principle pertaining to selling items which can be used for both permissible and impermissible acts. Mention of this principle is his zig-zag attempt to camouflage his egregious error. It is not like selling a knife or a gun which are primarily used for halaal purposes. Since television is primarily used for haraam, he was supposed to issue a short and crisp fatwa of hurmat (prohibition). The question pertains to television in general, and that implies television used in haraam ways for haraam purposes. The question does not pertain to monitors/screens. The questioner asks about television employed in haraam manner, that is with pictures, for haraam purposes, that is zina, porno, fisq and fujoor. No one is so stupid as to ask about permissibility of mere screens / monitors used for Salaat timetables. The mufti has degenerated into a moronic quagmire with his zig -zagging style of ‘fatwas’. Any moron can understand from the question that the person asks about pornotelevision — television displaying pictures and the deluge of filth and muck disseminated by television. While he acknowledges that television is mainly used for haraam, he issues his fatwa on something which is
totally unrelated to the haraam content. Since the questioner posed his question regarding the ‘content’ which
the mufti himself describes as ‘haraam content’, his fatwa of permissibility is satanically zig -zagging designed to mislead and misguide. If the device is required for a lawful purpose, the questioner would have posed the
question differently. The halaal usage is the exception. Television is used for “haraam content” in 99.9% of cases. The mufti who appears to be a victim of western liberalism, viewed the question with squint eyes or in an upside down manner which obscured the reality of the hurmat, hence the zig-zag ‘halaal’ consequence.
Selling television is HARAAM. The income is haraam. A glaring stupidity in the ‘fatwa’ is that the mufti has not answered the question posed to him. While the mustafti’s (the one who asked the question) question pertains to carrion, the mufti’s answer relates to halaal mutton. In other words, the mustafti’s question relates to the usual popular television depictions in which features pictures of animate objects, naked women, lewdness, immorality, fisq and fujoor. The reason why the mustafti seeks a fatwa on an issue which is conspicuously haraam, is because the ulama-e-soo’ who are stupidly understood to be ‘senior muftis’ or stupid ‘grand muftis’, have halaalized this device of Iblees. However, since the conscience of the mustafti is suffering
pangs of confusion, he posed the question in an endeavour to assuage his heart which by virtue of Imaan repels baatil. Regarding the heart of the Mu’min, Rasulullah ( S a l l a l l a h u a l a y h i wasallam) said: “Sin is
that which disturbs your heart.” In order to gain the correct fatwa, Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) instructed the true Mu’min: “Seek a fatwa from your heart.” In this age of fisq and fujoor in which the muftis are trading the Shariah for tuppence, one has to be extremely circumspect and not hasten to seek answers from muftis. They pave the pathway of Jahannam with their corrupt and convoluted fatwas of dhalaal.
The mustafti did not ask a fatwa regarding Salaat timetables or Qur’aanic Aayaat displayed on the screens of
such televisions which are used for only halaal purposes. The mustafti who has more brains than most muftis, is fully aware that it will be downright stupid to ask about Salaat timetables and the like. Any moron understands what exactly the mustafti’s question is all about. But the zig zagging mufti with his zig zagging
twaddle ‘daleels’, twiddles with the Deen with his silly and flaccid diversionary ‘proofs’ with which he diverts the attention from the actual question.

Ramadaan – TV Free Month

Ramadaan : Understanding Television
What Can Be Done?
By Khalid Baig

Television has spread like a wild fire in the world, including the Muslim world. It seems to have overcome the limitations of space and time.

Consider place. In Saudi Arabia, one can find the imprints of Hollywood only a few yards away from the Haram, the most sacred of all sanctuaries of Islam. Videocassettes are easily available at stores. A hotel attendant, at a walking distance from the Haram al-Sharif in Makkah can be found busy watching English movies on the television in his office even as the prayers are going on. At the Jeddah airport, the Umrah pilgrims can watch a European beauty contest courtesy of an Egyptian TV channel being broadcast to the airport television sets.

Consider time. Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar, a period of time that is to be devoted to direct acts of worship of Allah. Yet, during Ramadan, believers around the world can be found glued to their television sets when they should be busy making dua, doing dhikr and tilawa or offering nafl prayers.

Or consider the time of suffering. Hardly a day goes by when we do not get the news of pain and suffering from Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan, or a dozen other hot spots around the globe. Yet, between all the suffering and grieving that accompanies the tragedy, the dish antennas on the rooftops have been flourishing. In the past at times of catastrophes people would turn to Allah, would stop going to the cinema houses, and would repent from sins, even though temporarily. Today, there is an ever-increasing appetite for the television fun. This is also true in the lands closest to the areas of suffering. On days when a strike is called to protest Indian atrocities in Kashmir, the video stores in Karachi run out of videos of Indian movies.

Throughout the world religious, moral and social values have been drastically undermined by this great “technological gift” of the century. And entire nations seem to be helplessly “enjoying” the invasion. When people are doing nothing, they watch television. When they are doing something else, they still have television in the background. The device has contributed to the addition of a new space in the architecture of the private home: the TV lounge. It is a space where perfect strangers come to pedal nudity, immorality, and hedonism. This is the space, which increasingly controls the entire house.

It is fashionable to complain about “excessive” sex and violence on television. Even those who make money from this enterprise willingly do that. CNN tycoon Ted Turner said in July 93 before a U.S Congressional subcommittee: “I don’t need experts to tell me that the amount of violence on television today and its increasingly graphic portrayal can be harmful to children. Television violence is the single most significant factor contributing to violence in America.” And a poll released in February 95 in the U.S. by Children Now, whose directors include TV producers and Warner Brothers Chairman, reported that most children believe that what they see on television encourages fornication, disrespect for parents, telling lies, and aggressive behavior.

The most significant thing here is that what the TV industry wants us to discuss (and we willingly follow) is what is ON television, not television itself. Everyone will wholeheartedly agree with the problems with TV programs and offer all kinds of advice. (Watch the programs with your children. Tell them what is wrong. Be critical. Be creative.) Irrational and meaningless as it is, this exercise will nonetheless soothe your irritation. In the meantime, keep on watching. It is fun. It is also unavoidable.

In about two decades, this “wonderful” technical development has played havoc with societies around the globe. But what is even more unprecedented is the ambivalence with which these societies face this greatest of all invasions. Underlying this is a strongly held belief that television is a neutral tool that can be used with equal facility for good or evil. Unfortunately, this position has been taken without any critical examination of the facts. It is about time that we approached the subject with an open mind.

Neutral Tool?

Is technology ever neutral? “[Every technology] has within its physical form a predisposition toward being used in certain ways and not others,” writes Niel Postman, chair of the department of Communication Arts at New York University. “Only those who know nothing of the history of technology believe that a technology is entirely neutral.” (Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985).

What about television? It reflects the idea that serious discourse can be carried out through pictures instead of words. As Postman explains: “The single most important fact about television is that people watch it, which is why it is called ‘television.’ And what they watch, and like to watch, are moving pictures?? millions of them, of short duration and dynamic variety. It is in the nature of the medium that it must suppress the content of ideas in order to accommodate the requirements of visual interest.”

Words and pictures do not occupy the same universe of discourse. A piece of writing requires one to go beyond the shape of the letters to read them. It requires thought to understand what is being said. Television does not require reflection, in fact it does not even permit it. That is why little children can spend hours in front of the mini screen. Television can titillate, it cannot teach. It can bring images into our heart, not ideas into our mind. It appeals to the emotions, not the intellect.

But isn’t a picture worth a thousand words? Is it? It is important to note that this claim itself is made in words. A picture cannot make any claims. For reason, arguments, claims, and judgment belong in the universe of words not pictures. That is why advertisers love pictures. Consider an ad for, say, Coca-Cola, that just shows young people singing, dancing, having fun, and enjoying the drink. The audiences make the connection between happiness and Coke. This ad cannot be refuted. It makes no claim, so there is nothing to refute.

Medium Is The Message

The above explains Marshal McLuhan’s famous aphorism. The inherent, built in biases of a medium allow certain types of messages and not others. The communication is conditioned by the medium. It is enhanced or distorted by it. The medium is the message. And when the medium is TV, the message is Entertainment. As Postman notes: “Entertainment is the supra ideology of all discourse on television.” Whether it is news, science, religion, or education, if it is happening on TV, it must follow the dictates of entertainment.

In fact, a new term has been coined indicating a blend of education and entertainment:Edutainment. It smells like the language problem of a TV baby. But remember that it is already being used by the serious press. Which suggests that edutainment will produce even more edutainment!

Like A Drug

Actually, TV is not just another kind of entertainment either. As a project by the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S. involving 1200 subjects in nine studies over a 13 year period found in 1990, television is like a drug. The researchers asked the subjects, ages 10 to 82, to note down their activities and moods every time a beeper was activated, which was done randomly. The researchers found that when people sit down to watch TV, particularly for long periods, they tend to be in low moods. The longer they watch, the less able they are to concentrate. As time goes on, they grow sadder, lonelier, more irritable, and more hostile. Although people are relaxed when the television set is on, when they turn it off, they are less relaxed than before they began, “much like a drug that makes people feel better while they are doing it but worse afterward.” And just like a drug the weaker segments of the society are its greatest target. Thus in the U.S. blacks tend to watch more TV than whites. And now thanks to satellite TV transmissions over which the poor countries have no control, the rest of the world is being turned into the U.S. black under class

Islamic Work And Television

Can this dangerous drug be somehow converted into a medicine? Not too long ago, a young professional in the U.S. approached prominent Muslim scholar and Deputy Cairman of the Jeddah based Islamic Fiqh Council of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Justice Taqi Usmani to inquire about his profession. He produced computer graphics for the television and motion picture industry. This is the age of the media, and the only effective way to spread Islam today is through television and movies, he argued. If we do not learn the trade how shall we be able to produce such programs and if we don’t who will, he inquired. Yet, some people had told him that it was not a good profession.

“I have given a lot of anxious thought to this issue,” replied Justice Usmani in his characteristic measured tone, weighing every word. “And I have reached the conclusion that the cause of Islam cannot be served through television, especially under the current circumstances. You should seek another line of work.”

Frankly, there are lot of enthusiasts who may be totally bewildered by this answer for it challenges both conventional wisdom as well as some dearly held dreams. They may even consider anyone making this suggestion as belonging to the Flat Earth Society: backward, anti-progress, ignorant of today’s realities. Let us grant them their day in court and look at their case objectively.

The enthusiasts have shown interest in three primary areas. The first deals with propagation of Islam. There are lots of sincere Muslims putting lot of hope in a yet-to-be-released video that will attract the people of the world to Islam by the thousands. They are simply confusing Dawah with propaganda! Dawah means inviting people to the Straight Path by relaying the True Message to them without any distortion. It is a very serious message and requires a serious medium to deliver it. The message is for their own benefit and what they do with it is their own business. Our job is done once we have communicated the message correctly. Our job is not to manipulate people into submission to Allah any more than it is to coerce them into it. A Dawah worker is a teacher, a propagandist is a manipulator. Television is a good tool for manipulating, not for teaching.

The second area deals with the education (“edutainment”) of children. Many videos have already been produced for this purpose. In one program from a popular series of such videos, a puppet named Adam drives a skateboard to the mosque. Scenes of Adam doing his antics are mixed with the videos of real children praying. But there is no doubt that Adam is the hero of this story. Here is a clear case of the medium distorting the message. The children who learn to pray this way may learn the mechanics of Salat, but they would have paid a terrible price for it. The idea of Salat will be associated in their mind with the images of puppets, skateboards, and the idea of fun. Missing will be the spiritual dimension of prayer, the solemnness and grace of this pillar of Islam. Such videos are very popular as they help assuage the guilt feelings of parents over their failure to control the TV in the first place.

To be fair there is a useful role for these videos but it is not normally perceived. Doctors use nicotine patches to help their patients stop smoking. Nicotine is not a medicine, but it becomes therapeutic under the circumstances. Similarly, the TV addicts may be helped by such videos to get over their addiction. It might work if that is the goal. But this is very different from the view that here is a Brave New Way of teaching Islam. The children and their parents must realize that ultimately they have to learn their religion the old fashioned way: read books, listen to lectures, work hard.

The third type of videos are used by relief organizations showing the terrible situation of Muslims in Kashmir, Bosnia, Palestine and elsewhere. The intentions are noble, the results look great. But someone must ask the hard question: Why should the Muslims need disaster pornography before they can come to the help of their brothers and sisters? What are the implications of this practice for both present and future?

There are, of course, cases where the TV is being used against its grain, where the only video is that of a talking head. Such Islamic programs in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, as elsewhere, may not contain all the dangers cited above, solely because there the TV is being used just as an expensive radio. The problem is such programs will not be able to withstand the onslaught of CNN or MTV, of dazzling colors and dynamic pictures. The question remains how long can you use a tool against its grain?

The simple fact is that no one buys a TV and VCR because they desperately wanted to learn about Islam and it was the best way of doing it. The TV lounge is not a study room and all the Islamic videos in the world are not going to make it one. It is a peace of Hollywood. The rest is camouflage or self-deception. The earlier we get out of it, the better.

What Can Be Done?

Television is powerful. It is everywhere. Is there anything that us mortals can do about it? The answer is yes.

Things can be done at individual, as well as collective levels. At the individual level, try using the ON/OFF switch. It takes some effort and will power, but the device can be turned off. The key is to involve the entire family. Those nervous about the idea may rest assured that there is no known disease linked to lack of exposure to TV! Also those who have tried it know that it becomes easier with time. Community Organizations and Islamic Schools can help by educating the people about the perils of watching TV, countering the social pressures, and providing healthy alternatives.

Ramadan: The TV Free Month.

Our best chance of kicking the television habit comes in Ramadan every year. It is the time of year when every Muslim who has any trace of Iman in his or her heart, is naturally inclined toward doing good and staying away from evil. And it should be like that. Did not the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, curse the Muslim who finds Ramadan but does not use it to seek forgiveness for his previous sins? If we cannot leave sins or vain activities during Ramadan, when can we? We not only have the strongest moral and religious reasons to do so, it is also easy because the regular activities of Ramadan leave little time to be wasted in front of television.

Muslim organizations and communities will do a great service by launching a campaign to declare Ramadan as the TV free month. Urge all the Muslims in your community to turn it off for at least one month. And who knows, after one month many may decide to stay away from it because of the personal insights they got through the experience.

Of course, if you are convinced, do not wait until the next Ramadan. Start today.

By Khalid Baig

THE HARAAM TELEVISION SHOW

THE HARAAM AR TUGHRUL TELEVISION SHOW

Question
There is a Turkish drama, ‘Ar Tughrul’ being shown on television. The Muftis of Madrasah Jaamiatur Rasheed of Karachi have issued a fatwa of permissibility. The following is their fatwa.

Translation of the Fatwa
Among the contemporary Ulama-e-Kiraam there is difference of opinion pertaining to digital pictures. According to some, such pictures are permissible while others (other Ulama) say that it is not permissible. According to us, in the light of the dhuroorat (dire need) there is scope for making and viewing digital pictures. Hence, in our opinion there is scope for viewing and selling the Ar Tughrul drama because in this drama is shown the history and culture of Khilaafat-e-Uthmaaniyyah. In viewing it, there is the opportunity for the Muslim youth to become aware of Islamic history and culture which is a very important need of this age.

However, since in this drama the activities of some females are also shown, it is necessary to abstain from looking at these women. If it is difficult for any man to restrain his eyes from the women, then for him it will not be permissible to view this drama because it is a principle of Fiqh: Warding off harm has priority over deriving benefit. Therefore, if there is the fear of evil looking when viewing the drama, then it is incumbent to abstain from sin. In this instance it is not permissible to look at the drama. (End of the fatwa which is signed by three Muftis of the Madrasah).

Please comment in the light of the Shariah on this fatwa.

ANSWER AND COMMENT
The drivel (ghutha) which this fatwa contains is indeed surprising. It is surprising and lamentable that three Muftis from a well-known Islamic institution have acquitted themselves with such puerility and incompetency as illustrated in their fatwa. They have displayed lamentable ignorance regarding the application of the principles of Fiqh which they have referred to in their fatwa. Such incompetence is not expected of even students who have not as yet acquired qualification in the sphere of Iftaa’. Minus Taqwa, shaitaan exercises a strong influence of the muftis.

The objective of Fatwa is to bring Muslims closer to Allah Ta’ala, not to widen the chasm which transgressors have created with their fisq and fujoor.

In addition to portrayal of academic incompetence, the Muftis have displayed spiritual (Roohaani) bankruptcy. They appear to be bereft of Khauf-e-Ilaahi (Fear for Allah Ta’ala/Taqwa), hence they have so audaciously and stupidly legalized something (the drama/TV show) which consists of several major (Kabeeerah) sins. To soothe their conscience and to display expertise, the Muftis have cited Fiqhi principles without having correctly understood the import and the incumbent conditions for the applicability of the Fiqhi principle.

tv drama show_e-booklet

HARD FACTS ABOUT TELEVISION

Hard Facts About Television

POSTED: 21 RABI-U-THANI 1424, 21 JUNE 2003

The Council of Islamic Scholars (Majlisul Ulama) of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, have published a booklet on Islam and television in which they list the factors present in television that are unlawful or offensive, the existence of any one of which is sufficient to make watching it a violation of Sacred Law, including:
1) pictures of animate objects and picture making;
2) music;
3) immorality, nudity, illicit sex, pornography, etc;
4) obscene language;
5) incitement to fornication;
6) negation of haya (modesty);
7) scenes of violence, sadism, and crime in general portrayed;
8) the addictive influence exercised by TV;
9) it encourages the acceptance of aggression as a mode of behavior;
10) it encourages imitation of the crimes portrayed;
11) the brainwashing action of TV, especially on the young;
12) it stunts intellectual growth;
13) it wastes time;
14) it interferes with one’s religious duties and one’s necessary and important worldly duties;
15) it diverts one’s attention from the remembrance of Allah;
16) and it falls under the category described by Islam as lahw (pointless amusement). (Majlisul Ulama)

In the face of this formidable array pf evil factors and harmful effects no one can have any doubt of the illegality of television in Islam. Television, as has been seen, is an embodiment of sin and immorality. Islam can never condone or permit an institution that plays havoc with the spiritual, mental, and moral development of mankind. (Islam and Television, 20-21) [From Reliance of the Traveler, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, pp 964-965].

UNDERSTANDING TELEVISION

Understanding Television

By Khalid Baig

What Can Be Done?

(Author’s Request: Please turn off your television set as you read this article.)

Television has spread like a wild fire in the world, including the Muslim world. It seems to have overcome the limitations of space and time.

Consider place. In Saudi Arabia, one can find the imprints of Hollywood only a few yards away from the Haram, the most sacred of all sanctuaries of Islam. Videocassettes are easily available at stores. A hotel attendant, at a walking distance from the Haram al-Sharif in Makkah can be found busy watching English movies on the television in his office even as the prayers are going on. At the Jeddah airport, the Umrah pilgrims can watch a European beauty contest courtesy of an Egyptian TV channel being broadcast to the airport television sets.

Consider time. Ramadan is the most sacred month in the Islamic calendar, a period of time that is to be devoted to direct acts of worship of Allah. Yet, during Ramadan, believers around the world can be found glued to their television sets when they should be busy making dua, doing dhikr and tilawa or offering nafl prayers.

Or consider the time of suffering. Hardly a day goes by when we do not get the news of pain and suffering from Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Chechnya, Afghanistan, or a dozen other hot spots around the globe. Yet, between all the suffering and grieving that accompanies the tragedy, the dish antennas on the rooftops have been flourishing. In the past at times of catastrophes people would turn to Allah, would stop going to the cinema houses, and would repent from sins, even though temporarily. Today, there is an ever-increasing appetite for the television fun. This is also true in the lands closest to the areas of suffering. On days when a strike is called to protest Indian atrocities in Kashmir, the video stores in Karachi run out of videos of Indian movies.

Throughout the world religious, moral and social values have been drastically undermined by this great “technological gift” of the century. And entire nations seem to be helplessly “enjoying” the invasion. When people are doing nothing, they watch television. When they are doing something else, they still have television in the background. The device has contributed to the addition of a new space in the architecture of the private home: the TV lounge. It is a space where perfect strangers come to pedal nudity, immorality, and hedonism. This is the space, which increasingly controls the entire house.

It is fashionable to complain about “excessive” sex and violence on television. Even those who make money from this enterprise willingly do that. CNN tycoon Ted Turner said in July 93 before a U.S Congressional subcommittee: “I don’t need experts to tell me that the amount of violence on television today and its increasingly graphic portrayal can be harmful to children. Television violence is the single most significant factor contributing to violence in America.” And a poll released in February 95 in the U.S. by Children Now, whose directors include TV producers and Warner Brothers Chairman, reported that most children believe that what they see on television encourages fornication, disrespect for parents, telling lies, and aggressive behavior.

The most significant thing here is that what the TV industry wants us to discuss (and we willingly follow) is what is ON television, not television itself. Everyone will wholeheartedly agree with the problems with TV programs and offer all kinds of advice. (Watch the programs with your children. Tell them what is wrong. Be critical. Be creative.) Irrational and meaningless as it is, this exercise will nonetheless soothe your irritation. In the meantime, keep on watching. It is fun. It is also unavoidable.

In about two decades, this “wonderful” technical development has played havoc with societies around the globe. But what is even more unprecedented is the ambivalence with which these societies face this greatest of all invasions. Underlying this is a strongly held belief that television is a neutral tool that can be used with equal facility for good or evil. Unfortunately, this position has been taken without any critical examination of the facts. It is about time that we approached the subject with an open mind.

Neutral Tool?

Is technology ever neutral? “[Every technology] has within its physical form a predisposition toward being used in certain ways and not others,” writes Niel Postman, chair of the department of Communication Arts at New York University. “Only those who know nothing of the history of technology believe that a technology is entirely neutral.” (Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985).

What about television? It reflects the idea that serious discourse can be carried out through pictures instead of words. As Postman explains: “The single most important fact about television is that people watch it, which is why it is called ‘television.’ And what they watch, and like to watch, are moving pictures__ millions of them, of short duration and dynamic variety. It is in the nature of the medium that it must suppress the content of ideas in order to accommodate the requirements of visual interest.”

Words and pictures do not occupy the same universe of discourse. A piece of writing requires one to go beyond the shape of the letters to read them. It requires thought to understand what is being said. Television does not require reflection, in fact it does not even permit it. That is why little children can spend hours in front of the mini screen. Television can titillate, it cannot teach. It can bring images into our heart, not ideas into our mind. It appeals to the emotions, not the intellect.

But isn’t a picture worth a thousand words? Is it? It is important to note that this claim itself is made in words. A picture cannot make any claims. For reason, arguments, claims, and judgment belong in the universe of words not pictures. That is why advertisers love pictures. Consider an ad for, say, Coca-Cola, that just shows young people singing, dancing, having fun, and enjoying the drink. The audiences make the connection between happiness and Coke. This ad cannot be refuted. It makes no claim, so there is nothing to refute.

Medium Is The Message

The above explains Marshal McLuhan’s famous aphorism. The inherent, built in biases of a medium allow certain types of messages and not others. The communication is conditioned by the medium. It is enhanced or distorted by it. The medium is the message. And when the medium is TV, the message is Entertainment. As Postman notes: “Entertainment is the supra ideology of all discourse on television.” Whether it is news, science, religion, or education, if it is happening on TV, it must follow the dictates of entertainment.

In fact, a new term has been coined indicating a blend of education and entertainment: Edutainment. It smells like the language problem of a TV baby. But remember that it is already being used by the serious press. Which suggests that edutainment will produce even more edutainment!

Like A Drug

Actually, TV is not just another kind of entertainment either. As a project by the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S. involving 1200 subjects in nine studies over a 13 year period found in 1990, television is like a drug. The researchers asked the subjects, ages 10 to 82, to note down their activities and moods every time a beeper was activated, which was done randomly. The researchers found that when people sit down to watch TV, particularly for long periods, they tend to be in low moods. The longer they watch, the less able they are to concentrate. As time goes on, they grow sadder, lonelier, more irritable, and more hostile. Although people are relaxed when the television set is on, when they turn it off, they are less relaxed than before they began, “much like a drug that makes people feel better while they are doing it but worse afterward.” And just like a drug the weaker segments of the society are its greatest target. Thus in the U.S. blacks tend to watch more TV than whites. And now thanks to satellite TV transmissions over which the poor countries have no control, the rest of the world is being turned into the U.S. black under class.

Islamic Work And Television

Can this dangerous drug be somehow converted into a medicine? Not too long ago, a young professional in the U.S. approached prominent Muslim scholar and Deputy Cairman of the Jeddah based Islamic Fiqh Council of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Justice Taqi Usmani to inquire about his profession. He produced computer graphics for the television and motion picture industry. This is the age of the media, and the only effective way to spread Islam today is through television and movies, he argued. If we do not learn the trade how shall we be able to produce such programs and if we don’t who will, he inquired. Yet, some people had told him that it was not a good profession.

“I have given a lot of anxious thought to this issue,” replied Justice Usmani in his characteristic measured tone, weighing every word. “And I have reached the conclusion that the cause of Islam cannot be served through television, especially under the current circumstances. You should seek another line of work.”

Frankly, there are lot of enthusiasts who may be totally bewildered by this answer for it challenges both conventional wisdom as well as some dearly held dreams. They may even consider anyone making this suggestion as belonging to the Flat Earth Society: backward, anti-progress, ignorant of today’s realities. Let us grant them their day in court and look at their case objectively.

The enthusiasts have shown interest in three primary areas. The first deals with propagation of Islam. There are lots of sincere Muslims putting lot of hope in a yet-to-be-released video that will attract the people of the world to Islam by the thousands. They are simply confusing Dawah with propaganda! Dawah means inviting people to the Straight Path by relaying the True Message to them without any distortion. It is a very serious message and requires a serious medium to deliver it. The message is for their own benefit and what they do with it is their own business. Our job is done once we have communicated the message correctly. Our job is not to manipulate people into submission to Allah any more than it is to coerce them into it. A Dawah worker is a teacher, a propagandist is a manipulator. Television is a good tool for manipulating, not for teaching.

The second area deals with the education (“edutainment”) of children. Many videos have already been produced for this purpose. In one program from a popular series of such videos, a puppet named Adam drives a skateboard to the mosque. Scenes of Adam doing his antics are mixed with the videos of real children praying. But there is no doubt that Adam is the hero of this story. Here is a clear case of the medium distorting the message. The children who learn to pray this way may learn the mechanics of Salat, but they would have paid a terrible price for it. The idea of Salat will be associated in their mind with the images of puppets, skateboards, and the idea of fun. Missing will be the spiritual dimension of prayer, the solemnness and grace of this pillar of Islam. Such videos are very popular as they help assuage the guilt feelings of parents over their failure to control the TV in the first place.

To be fair there is a useful role for these videos but it is not normally perceived. Doctors use nicotine patches to help their patients stop smoking. Nicotine is not a medicine, but it becomes therapeutic under the circumstances. Similarly, the TV addicts may be helped by such videos to get over their addiction. It might work if that is the goal. But this is very different from the view that here is a Brave New Way of teaching Islam. The children and their parents must realize that ultimately they have to learn their religion the old fashioned way: read books, listen to lectures, work hard.

The third type of videos are used by relief organizations showing the terrible situation of Muslims in Kashmir, Bosnia, Palestine and elsewhere. The intentions are noble, the results look great. But someone must ask the hard question: Why should the Muslims need disaster pornography before they can come to the help of their brothers and sisters? What are the implications of this practice for both present and future?

There are, of course, cases where the TV is being used against its grain, where the only video is that of a talking head. Such Islamic programs in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, as elsewhere, may not contain all the dangers cited above, solely because there the TV is being used just as an expensive radio. The problem is such programs will not be able to withstand the onslaught of CNN or MTV, of dazzling colors and dynamic pictures. The question remains how long can you use a tool against its grain?

The simple fact is that no one buys a TV and VCR because they desperately wanted to learn about Islam and it was the best way of doing it. The TV lounge is not a study room and all the Islamic videos in the world are not going to make it one. It is a peace of Hollywood. The rest is camouflage or self-deception. The earlier we get out of it, the better.

What Can Be Done?

Television is powerful. It is everywhere. Is there anything that us mortals can do about it? The answer is yes. Things can be done at individual, as well as collective levels. At the individual level, try using the ON/OFF switch. It takes some effort and will power, but the device can be turned off. The key is to involve the entire family. Those nervous about the idea may rest assured that there is no known disease linked to lack of exposure to TV! Also those who have tried it know that it becomes easier with time. Community Organizations and Islamic Schools can help by educating the people about the perils of watching TV, countering the social pressures, and providing healthy alternatives.

Ramadan: The TV Free Month. Our best chance of kicking the television habit comes in Ramadan every year. It is the time of year when every Muslim who has any trace of Iman in his or her heart, is naturally inclined toward doing good and staying away from evil. And it should be like that. Did not the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, curse the Muslim who finds Ramadan but does not use it to seek forgiveness for his previous sins? If we cannot leave sins or vain activities during Ramadan, when can we? We not only have the strongest moral and religious reasons to do so, it is also easy because the regular activities of Ramadan leave little time to be wasted in front of television.

Muslim organizations and communities will do a great service by launching a campaign to declare Ramadan as the TV free month. Urge all the Muslims in your community to turn it off for at least one month. And who knows, after one month many may decide to stay away from it because of the personal insights they got through the experience.

Of course, if you are convinced, do not wait until the next Ramadan. Start today.