In the Name of Allah,
All praise is due to Allah, the creator and the sustainer.
I had many stories to tell from hajj, but I will do that some other time. Some thing that occupied my mind for a while, and I received many questions on this, when I sent the warning on Jadoo TV. The big question that many practicing muslims wonder is whether watching television Haram. (remember that non-practicing muslim would not care much either way, as they are done with Islam once walk out of Masjid)
Since I was a kid, we had a television set, and we watched the once a day program for kids, or once a day news cast, or once a day drama etc. It was usually a family affair, and the most we spent was 6 to 7 hours a week. In Pakistan, during those days, there was a fear of Allah, and programs were approved for modesty, and I don't recall anytime where my father would have got up and put his hand on my eyes and said that this is not for kids, or even close to it.
Unfortunately, last I visited Pakistan, some channels were so out of line that I had to look away from the screen as I was embarrassed. So, I don't think I need to mention the situation of TV channels in USA. Of course, there are channels and programs that are somewhat modest.
Now, if we are trying to follow Islam, how do we know if we can watch TV?
We have to look at several aspect of this act, and decide for each possibility of prohibition.
1. Is transmitting live video haram?
Making images is discouraged, if not prohibited in Islam, in general. This includes taking photographs for personal use. Exception have been given for picutres to identify someone. We should avoid as much as we can from taking pictures or let anyone take our pictures. Following hadith shows the sever punishment for that.
Hadith - Bukhari 3:428, Narrated Said bin Abu Al-Hasan
While I was with Ibn 'Abbas a man came and said, "O father of 'Abbas! My sustenance is from my manual profession and I make these pictures." Ibn 'Abbas said, "I will tell you only what I heard from Allah's Apostle . I heard him saying, 'Whoever makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, and he will never be able to put life in it.' " Hearing this, that man heaved a sigh and his face turned pale. Ibn 'Abbas said to him, "What a pity! If you insist on making pictures I advise you to make pictures of trees and any other unanimated objects."
Hadith - At-Tirmidhi
"On the Day of Resurrection a neck will stretch forth from Hell; it will have two eyes to see, two ears to hear, and a tongue to speak. It will say, "I have been appointed to take care of three types of people: every arrogant tyrant, every person who called on some deity other than Allaah (swt) and those who made pictures" [at-Tirmidhi stated that this hadith was saheeh - at-Takhweef min an-Naar, p.179, See also Jaami' al-Usool, 10/518, the editor said its isnaad is hasan]
Hadith - Muslim, Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib
AbulHayyaj al-Asadi told that Ali ibn AbuTalib said to him: Should I not send you on the same mission as Allah's Messenger sent me? Do not leave an image without obliterating it, or a high grave without levelling it. This hadith has been reported by Habib with the same chain of transmitters and he said: (do not leave) a picture without obliterating it.
On the other hand, video broadcast that we don't capture or keep for non-educational purposes is exempt from this, becuase once we see it, it has disappeared, which is very close to our eye sight. Within our eyes, images are formed that are transmitted at a certain speed to show us what we see. So, the technology of television braodcast is halal.
2. Are there some programs prohibited?
Every intelligent person should come to this conclusion that even if TV technology is halal, there could be transmissions that are prohibited to watch, as they are prohibited to see from our eyes.
I am not going to list all, but here are some.
a) Musical instruments are haram.
Hadith - Bukhari 7:494
Narrated Abu 'Amir or Abu Malik Al-Ash'ari that he heard the Prophet saying, "From among my followers there will be some people who will consider illegal sexual intercourse, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcoholic drinks, and the use of musical instruments as lawful.
b) Indecent or shameful acts are haram to watch or perform.
When they do aught that is shameful, they say: "We found our fathers doing so"; and "Allah commanded us thus": Say: "Nay, Allah never commands what is shameful: do ye say of Allah what ye know not?" (Quran 7:28 )
c) Watching after hearing Adhan, or missing salat due to TV is haram.
And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing, etc.) to mislead (men) from the Path of Allah without knowledge, and takes it (the Path of Allah, the Verses of the Qur'an) by way of mockery. For such there will be a humiliating torment (in the Hell-Fire). (Quran 31:6)
d) Anything on TV that leads to haram should be avoided as well.
3. Is it prohibited to entertain and pass time?
In general, Islam allows everything in our life, except a few, which means everything is halal, except which is explicitly prohibited. So, entertainment or passing time is an importann aspect of life, and it is allowable. However, some may find more closeness to Allah in reducing the pass time and devoting to zikr of Allah.
There is a big warning sign here, because the entertainment and pass time should not take us away from Salat, or our responsibilities. If that happens, then anything we are doing becomes haram.
Now, we know that watching TV, in general, is allowed but we need to be careful on how and what we watch. I have struggled alot with this, because I loved entertaining myself through TV. Slowly, I have started to reduce the time, and eliminate haram content.
My suggestion is to improve our TV habbits slowly but consistently, but stop watching musical, and indecent programs right away, and never let this habbit delay your salat. I have seen the difference it has made in my life, and avoiding haram content has created more interest in Allah, because anything we see affects our state of mind.
In the end, I have to mention that some people are confused due to fatwaas from some scholars advising not to watch TV or making it haram. I have not seen a single fatwaas yet, but I see the following.
I don't know if it is true about Deoband, but if it was, they are not prohibiting it but suggesting avoidance to prevent slipup. Also, the word "Fatwaa" means "legal opinion" not a law, which means if the evidence supporting that opinion is not sound we can reject it. Of course, if you lack knowledge to evaluate the evidences, you find trusted opinions until someone can provide stronger evidence refuting it and are easy to interpret.
Please don't make things haram for yourself that are halal, and make it easy on yourself to follow the beautiful religion of Islam. Balance is the key.
Salman al-Farsi reported that when the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) was asked about animal fat, cheese, and fur, he replied, "The halal is that which Allah has made lawful in His Book and the haram is that which He has forbidden, and that concerning which He is silent He has permitted as a favor to you." (Reported by al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.)
If you beleive in Allah, and the day of judgement, let us take an oath to not let television corrupt our minds or miss the duties toward Allah and his creation, but enjoy it if we wish in the proper way.
A struggling muslim