The Third Parent
by Muhammad Alshareef
A close friend of mine went overseas to study Islam, and before he left he visited a family he knew. He said that as he left, he noticed the son – who was seven years old at the time – slacked out on his stomach, chin locked in his two hands, staring deathly at the TV. When he returned after four full years, he visited the same family and found the same boy slacked out on his stomach, chin locked in his two hands, staring deathly at the TV - only now he was four years older.
This khutbah looks at the dark side of television. It is not intended to make you throw your television set off the balcony – although that would be nice. It is hoped that this khutbah will give you a better understanding of the destructive nature TV has on a person’s life, in this world and in the hereafter, not only on his own life, but also the lives of his family members.
In Qawaa’id Fiqhiyyaah there is a principle which states, "Al Waasaa’il ta’khudhu Hukm al-Ghaayaat," meaning, "The means takes the same ruling as the intention of what is trying to be attained." A television set, with its wires, screen, box, and plug is nothing more than a means. It is what is trying to be attained by that box that makes it haram or halaal. Another example is that of a gun; it can be used for noble purposes, such as defending one’s land from aggression, or it can serve as a means of considerable harm, especially when given to a child.
In an Arab ESL class, the teacher, in his opening lesson asked the students what English words were taken from the Arabic language. A few hands went up and students said things like, "Chemistry from keemiyaa," "Algebra from al-gebr," "Physics from feesiyaa," etc. Then he asked them what Arabic words were taken from the English language and answers came quickly. "Raadiyo from radio, " "Dosh from satellite dish, "and of course "Tilfaaz from television."
What did the West take from us, and what did we take from them?
With regards to television, Shaykh Ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Al-Fataawa (3/227):
"…it is a dangerous device and its harmful effects are very great, like those of the cinema, or even worse. We know from the research that has been written about it and from the words of experts in Arab countries and elsewhere that it is dangerous and very harmful to Islamic beliefs (aqeedah), morals and the state of society. This is because it includes the presentation of bad morals, tempting scenes, immoral pictures, semi-nakedness, destructive speech and kufr. 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 by portraying them in an off-putting manner that makes people despise them and ignore them. It shows people how to cheat, steal, hatch plots and commit acts of violence against others."
He continued, "Without doubt, anything that produces so many bad results should be stopped and shunned, and we have to close all the doors that could lead to it. If some of our brothers denounce it and speak out against it, we cannot blame them, because this is a part of sincerity towards Allah and towards other people."
In Sahih Al-Bukhari, when Guraayj was praying and his mother called him, he said to himself, "O Allah, my salah or my mother?" He did not know whether to continue his prayer or discontinue it and reply to his mother. Because he did not reply to this mother’s call, she cursed him. She said, "May you see a prostitute!" She did not say, "May there be a relationship between you and a prostitute." She just said, "May you see [one]." And her curse is one that we may inadvertently be inflicting on our children the day we sanctioned the introduction of the third parent called TV. How many times has the main theme of prime time TV revolved around prostitutes? How many times have our children witnessed it? How many times have they been cursed to be in such a situation?
Abdullah ibn 'Umar radi Allahu anhu once passed by some people killing time by playing chess. He was shocked at this and angrily said to them, quoting the verse of the Qur’an: What are these IDOLS that you are standing in vigilance over?
What would he think if he saw the television set and the welcoming hug it receives in most Muslim homes? When a Muslim nation plays in the World Cup, over three million Muslims from that one country tune in to television to watch the game. Multiply that by the duration of the match, and you have almost five million hours of the ummah’s time wasted on a football game, in one sweeping night. If Karl Marx said in 1844 that "Religion is the opium of people," then what about TV?
RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:
"The person shall be (on the day of Judgment) with those that he loves."
Tell a Muslim child that if he loves Michael Jackson so much, then on the Day of Judgment he will get to be with him. It’s sad, but most Muslim children would get happy and excited about the prospect. Isn’t that enough to strike fear into our hearts? Who are the Muslim children really going to be with on the Day of Repayment? Most of them cannot tell you the names, even just the names, of those people that we hope them to be with!
Let’s ask ourselves, if we allowed our sons or daughters to put up a poster of their hero, the one whom they think is the 'coolest,' would their hero be their father or mother? Would it be the Prophet or his companions? Or would it be a basketball player that he saw on TV? Or an actor (even a cartoon character) that he saw on TV? Or a model that she saw on TV? Or a musician that he/she saw on TV? Who would it be?
Some argue that TV time is monitored in the house by the parent. However, 95% of parents with children aged 8 and over don’t monitor the viewing material. Besides, what happens if the parent dies on the way to work one day and the children inherit the TV? RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam said:
"There is not a single shepherd (Ameer) that Allah entrusted with a flock – who if he dies in a state where he cheated them – Allah shall forbid him from entering paradise!" The 'ulama would quote this hadith in regard to the father in a Muslim country that would allow a satellite dish to enter into the home of his family which Allah entrusted him with.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are not here on earth to entertain ourselves to death. We are an ummah with a risaalah (message)! When Rib’ee ibn 'Aamir radi Allahu anhu stood at the hands of the king of Persia, he announced the message as proudly and as clearly as every Muslim should. "Allah sent us to rescue humanity from slavery to slaves - to the slavery of the Lord of all slaves; and to rescue them from the choke of the material life to the expanse of this life and the next, and from the corruption of the cults to the justice of Islam!"
Allah subhaanahu wa ta ‘aala states in the Qur’an:
Verily! Hearing, sight, and the heart, all will be questioned (by Allah) (Al-Israa 17/36).
And RasulAllah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam informed us that on the Day of Repayment, no one will move until they are asked about three things, one of which will be their youth and how they spent it.
How are we spending our time? Why do we waste it watching TV? What do our eyes see, what do our ears hear on TV and how is our heart affected by this?
If we don’t know how to recite Qur’an, why aren’t we registering for a tajweed course at a Qur’an institute? If we don’t know the language of the Qur’an and Sunnah, why aren’t we registering for an Arabic program? If we don’t know about the life of RasulAllah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and his companions radi Allahu anhum why aren’t we attending the seerah and fiqh classes in our localities?
Also, with regards to TV, we should remember that Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts). That is purer for them. Verily, Allah is all-aware of what they do (An-Noor 24/30).
How do reconcile these verses with the television that assaults our eyes with haram almost every second that it is on?
Who hasn’t heard of Cupid? They portray him in cartoons and comedies as a chubby child with wings who is supposed to be the Angel of Love, shooting arrows of 'love' when the male looks at the female. Rather dear brothers and sisters, it is Iblees! For RasulAllah sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam told us, "Verily the ‘look’ is a poisoned arrow from the arrows of Iblees!"
Shaykh At-Tahhaan once narrated an incident to his students:
It was late at night when Shaykh At-Tahhaan’s phone rang. This Muslimah whispered into the phone, 'Is this Shaykh At-Tahhaan?'
He said, 'Yes it is me.'
She kept saying, 'Is it really you?'
And he said, 'Yes, what is wrong?'
At that she just started sobbing and sobbing into the phone. After some time, she explained, 'The children’s father bought a TV and video machine two days ago. Tonight I found my young son practicing the haram that he saw on his younger sister! ' Then she collapsed sobbing again.
Everything starts with a look. Big fires start with a little spark.
PART II: Turn Off TV, Turn On Life
After a grueling first year in the Faculty of Shari’ah at the Islamic University in Madinah, I came home to Canada where I spoke to a friend whom I hadn’t spoken to for over a year. In the conversation he said, "Last night on TV Seinfeld said... " I was puzzled and realized that for an entire year I had not heard anything other than "Imam Shaafi’ee said…" and "Imam Abu Hanifah said…" It was this ignorance that Shaykh Abdul Muhsin 'Al-Abbaad referred to when he would say "We ask Allah ta’aala to increase us in it’s ignorance."
Some people argue that TV is just a harmless avenue of entertainment and that no one should make a big deal about it. It is interesting however that we see in Shari’ah that what is more deadly than haram is bid’ah. Why you ask? Because when someone does something haram like eating pork, he knows it is haram and that one day it is hoped that knowledge will lead him to fear Allah and refrain. Bid’ah, on the other hand, is something a person does with the hope of reward from Allah, something that the person considers to be 'harmless.' It is deadlier because the chances of this person correcting the situation are less due to the ignorance which causes a lack of motivation.
Other people say that they have a TV for the news and Islamic or educational programs. But we have to honestly ask ourselves – is there no other avenue to get the news? Is there no other means by which a child can be educated and stimulated to learn?
Didn’t anyone ask why we get all this 'free' TV? What does the TV sell? No it doesn’t sell Coke or Nike or McDonalds burgers; it sells the audience, it sells you to advertising companies! Why do you think they charge $1 million for 30 seconds of advertising in a Superbowl game?
Consider these facts:
Brand loyalty starts at age 2. They can snatch a child into a lifetime of allegiance to their product from that tender age. How old were you when you started loving Coke or Pepsi?
On average, a viewer watches 20,000 commercials each year. If we repeated a page of Qur’an to you that many times, do you think you would memorize it?
This is just regarding the products. But what about the aqeedah that we are being exposed to on TV. A whole stack of beliefs gets fed to us every time our children sit to watch and listen to their third parent. Where are the horrific stats for that?
Go to a lecture where the imam is talking about women’s rights in Islam. Listen to the Muslim males and females debate with the imam. Where do they get their points? Why do they become so hostile towards anything that contradicts the western view of women’s rights? Why is there no hostility towards the western view? Most of it was learned on TV, the rest was learned in the public school curriculum.
If this is the programming, the brain washing of our youth, then how can they be reprogrammed when they prefer the TV over anyone else. It is a fact that more than half of American children would rather watch TV than spend time with their mother or father.
In a survey which asked children what the one thing is which they would sacrifice their favorite TV shows for, many replied that if there was some sort of outside activity they would give preference to that. Meaning, if someone took them by the hand and organized some after school activities, they would embrace the idea.
Here is a list of other things that you can do instead of being shackled to the TV:
- Play outdoor games and exercise outdoors or at home.
- Build extra curricular skills, such as martial arts or calligraphy or sewing.
- Visit the library.
- Take on a job, which will ensure that you become serious about life and work.
- Do acts of worship like dhikr, salah, reciting Qur’an, fasting, and reflecting on the signs of Allah and His creation.
- Adopt an Islamic cause in the place where you live, and take part in it, such as teaching Muslim girls.
- Support an Islamic magazine by writing and sending articles, statistics and useful information of interest concerning Muslims in the west.
- Take part in charitable projects to help Muslim orphans, widows, divorcees and the elderly, or join a committee to help organize social programs and celebrations for Muslims on Eid.
- Find righteous friends to meet with and good neighbors to visit.
- Read Islamic books in particular and useful stories in general.
- Take part in da’wah activities and preschool programs in Islamic centers.
- Listen to tapes and lectures, write summaries of them, and distribute the summaries to anyone who could benefit from them.
- Cook items to be sold to raise funds for the Islamic center.
- Take an interest in computers and computer programs. This is a vast field that can fill a lot of time, and the computer can be used to do a lot of good things as well as providing entertainment in the form of permissible games.
Today is the beginning of a new day. Allah gave us this day to use as we will. We can waste it or use it for something good and beneficial.
But let us know that what we do today is important because we are exchanging a day of our life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever and in its place shall be something that we left behind; let that be something good and beneficial.