There are other recommended forms of entertainment that are allowed, as we mentioned in the ḥadīth: swimming, archery, horse riding, wrestling, and other forms of physical martial arts. These types of things are recommended because they help keep the body fit.

Likewise, spending time with your wife and your children is all recommended in Islam and in fact it sometimes even becomes obligatory on a person to spend at least a minimal amount of time with their family members. Having fun together with your children and with your wife are things which Islam recommends.

Take them out. Go to a park. Go and eat out together.

These things are very much recommended as it helps to strengthen the unity of the family. Likewise, dealing with nature brings you closer to Allāh (subḥānahu wa ta’āla), so if you enjoy visiting zoos and parks and places where there is a lot of nature and animals, alḥamdulillāh this is something which is good. Islamic songs are also something that are recommended according to some and permissible according to others.

Listening to Halal Songs

In my view, it is something good which will take people  away from the prohibited forms of music. Likewise there are many other things when you study the Qur’ān and Sunnah. You will find  in the sīrah of the Prophet () (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) many ways in which he and his companions used to have fun which are completely ḥalāl. If the Prophet () (peace be upon him) recommended it, then it becomes something which is recommended as well.

When it comes to the issues of entertainment, there are two main areas where we have a lot of questions. The first is in the issue of animations and drawings and the second is the issue of music and musical instruments. I want to focus primarily on these two topics  for the remainder of the session.

Animation and Drawings

When it comes to animation, there are various opinions from the scholars. As ‘Ā’ishah (raḍyAllāhu ‘anha) narrates a ḥadīth, the Prophet () (peace be upon him) prohibited the drawing of living creatures. ‘Ā’ishah (raḍyAllāhu ‘anha) herself also narrates that she used to play with dolls in the presence of the Prophet () (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). One of these dolls was a horse with wings, and the Prophet Muḥammad () (ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not see anything wrong with her playing with these dolls.

So the scholars have differed on this issue. Some scholars looking only at the first ḥadīth have said that the drawing of living creatures is completely prohibited. Other scholars, trying to reconcile between both ḥadīths, have come to various opinions. The two most common opinions are that either drawings are permissible unless they lead to glorification or shirk or the more common, and the stronger opinion, is that drawings are prohibited unless they are for entertainment and education of children.

Any form of drawing or depiction of living creatures which is for the entertainment of children or for the educational purposes, many of the scholars have ruled that these are permissible. So children’s toys, animated movies, and these sorts of things based on this will be permissible.

Obviously then the issue comes about content. When it comes to animation, even these days many of the animated movies produced by non-Muslims have content which is questionable for Muslims to watch, so parents need to screen the type of animation they allow their children to watch, something they themselves have gone through first to make sure that there is nothing in it which will take the children away from Islam and that the content is clean and then allow them to watch it.

The Need for Animated Videos for Children

While this is going on, it is very important for Muslims who have access to making media and producing videos, such Muslims should focus on making animated movies for Muslim children, which have Islamic content. Alḥamdulillāh this is something which is happening nowadays and it is something where there is a lot of room for growth and expansion. This will become an alternative for the children so that they do not get involved in the types of movies and entertainment which are prohibited.

Some people might say that television in itself is prohibited, but this is not the correct opinion. The correct opinion is that it depends on the content. If somebody is watching this video, there is absolutely nothing wrong with watching such a video as the content is Islamic. If somebody is watching a video that has ḥarām elements in it, then that is not permissible. One has to look at the content of the specific video to declare if it is permissible or not. The television and videos are in themselves tools, and the tools are ḥalāl. What they are used for and what is viewed on them is what makes them ḥalāl or ḥarām. The same ruling applies to animated movies.

From the ḥadīth of ‘Ā’ishah (raḍyAllāhu ‘anha), scholars have deduced that children’s toys are permissible, animated movies for children are permissible, animated books for children are permissible. This is one of opinion of scholars. Some scholars do disagree with this, there is no doubt about it. This is the opinion that  I follow, and Allāh knows best.

The Prohibition of Music and Musical Instruments

The other issue which crops up most often when it comes to entertainment is the issue of music. We have one group of Muslims who are saying that music is completely prohibited and there is no two ways about it.

We have another group of Muslims saying that music is completely permissible and those who are saying it is prohibited are extremists. Both of these groups have not understood the nature of fiqh when it comes to the issue of music. Imām al-Shakwāni (raḥimahullāh) has written a very good book on this topic called Ibṭālu Da’wa’l-ijmā’ ‘Ala Taḥrīm Muṭluq’l-Samā’.  This book is available in Arabic and has not been translated into English yet.

He says, “I have never listened to music in my life. I believe that musical instruments are prohibited, but I am writing this book and showing all the different viewpoints with their arguments so people can understand that there is difference of opinion on this issue and so that we can tolerate each others’ opinions and not accuse our Muslim brother of kufr and deviation.”

This is a very important point when it comes to this issue. There is a difference of opinion here, and if somebody is convinced of a different opinion than you, it does not make them a disbeliever and it does not make them a deviant, rather this is an issue of fiqh which the scholars have differed over.

But you should try to be away from music as much as possible.

If you look at the madh-habs, the Ḥanafi madh-hab ruled that all musical instruments are prohibited. Even the tapping of your finger on the table or the desk to make noise is prohibited according to the Ḥanafi madh-hab. The  Ḥanbali madh-hab is of the view that the  hand drum, the duff, is permissible. They differ over whether it is only permissible for women and only for special occasions and whether it is permissible for everyone.

The Māliki madh-hab, if you study it carefully, is of the view that drums are permissible. In the Māliki book of fiqh which I have read, whenever it talks about the prohibition of music, it only mentions wind instruments, and from there scholars have mentioned that drums are permissible according to that madh-hab. The opinion of the Ẓāhiri madh-hab, the madhhab of Ibn Ḥazm (raḥimahullāh), is that all musical instruments are permissible.

These views all exist among the madh-habs, and nobody can deny that they have existed among the madh-habs. It is for the scholars to study the different evidences and to follow that which their study has led them to believe is the most correct conclusion. If that conclusion  is different from yours or mine, we must tolerate it and accept it as a difference of opinion.

Nonetheless, for the average Muslim who does not have knowledge of fiqh and the principles of fiqh and the ability to decide between the madh-habs, in these issues it is always better to stay on the safe side and to follow the majority opinion and to follow the strongest opinion. When it comes to the prohibition of musical  instruments, the majority of madh-habs agree that wind instruments are prohibited even though Ibn Ḥazm and Imām Ghazāli and a few others disagreed with them. The majority said that it is prohibited. To be on the safe side, the average Muslim who has not been able to research this issue should stay away from such instruments and songs which include such instruments for their own safety as this is now a grey area.

The other issue of the drums and the duff is something where there is a lot more difference of opinions among the scholars. There is a  much bigger difference of opinion amongst them. As a result, on  such issues there is a lot more room for differences. This is an area of difference of opinion amongst the scholars – musical instruments and whether they are prohibited or permissible – and accordingly every scholar and those who follow a specific scholar have the right to follow what their ijtihād has led them to even if it is a different conclusion from you or me.

Linking this to the issue of animation and movies: Somebody will ask, “I believe and follow the opinion that musical instruments are prohibited, but the animated movies and other movies have a lot of background music in them.

Can I watch these movies while ignoring the music?” We go back to a fatwa of Shaykh’l-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah who mentioned that just like hearing the Qur’ān is not rewarding (you have to listen to the Qur’ān to receive the reward), similarly hearing music is not sinful and you have to listen to the music for it to be sinful.  If you are in a place where there is music being played  in the background and you are not paying attention to it, you are not sinful for it. Likewise, if you are watching a program on television where there is music in the background and you are not paying attention to the music, then – and Allāh knows best – that would be in my opinion permissible.

For those Muslims who are involved in media and in producing animated movies or documentaries or any other type of Islamic media, my recommendation to you is that even if you are of the opinion that instruments are permissible, you should not include them in your videos. The reason for this is that you are trying to reach out to the Muslims. When you include music in your videos, the majority of Muslims or at least 50% of the Muslims are not going to watch that video because there is music in it, so you are now alienating a portion of the ummah from receiving your message.

If your purpose of making the video was as many Muslims as possible watch and benefit from it, it will be better to avoid those instruments which most Muslims regard as prohibited even if your personal opinion is that it is permissible. For the sake of benefiting  the  ummah in general, it is better even for those who view it as permissible to stay away from it.

These are some of the issues of entertainment which crop up. The issues of music and animation are perhaps two of the more common areas in which we have questions.

Playing Games

Another area where there are a lot of questions is when it comes to games and two types of games: board games and video games. The ruling for both is the same. The ruling for both is that the content would make it permissible or prohibited. Those board games which are generally for gambling will not be permissible. If you are playing those same games without any gambling involved, then too the scholars have ruled it to be makrūh (disliked) as it is one of those things that leads to gambling, so it is better to stay away from such games.

One of the games that crops up often is playing the game of chess. Many scholars have ruled chess to be ḥarām while others have ruled it to be permissible. From my study of the evidences and arguments used, I honestly believe that the playing of chess is permissible with the conditions I mentioned earlier that it does not constitute  too much of your time and it does not lead to other prohibited things, etc. and whatever I mentioned earlier as being the conditions for a form of entertainment to be permissible. In my view, this applies to chess as well. In itself, it seems to be a harmless game to  me.  The evidences I have seen against it are either weak or mistranslated or even at times misunderstood.

For example, in one of the books of fiqh, one of the scholars of the madh-habs said, “There is no good in chess,” so some scholars took this as a prohibition of chess. The wording of this statement is not saying it is ḥarām, but it is just saying that there is no reward in it. It doesn’t necessarily make it ḥarām, it is just saying there is no reward and no good in it. Allāh knows best. My opinion is that the game of chess is permissible.

When it comes to video games, again the content is what matters. It should not be addictive and should not consume too much of your time or too much of your wealth and resources or lead you to do anything ḥarām. All of this needs to apply. Such a video game which fulfills these conditions, and again which has clean content and you yourself do not play too much of so that it does not consume your time and you are not spending too much of your money on it, then Allāh knows best, but such games would be permissible with these conditions.

And Allāh knows best.