The Ill Effects of Television
Abu Mohammed Abdur-Rauf Shakir
Published by Message of Islaam
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In the name of Allâh the Beneficiary, the Merciful, all praise is due to Allâh. We seek his aid and ask him for guidance and ask his forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allâh from the evil of ourselves and our wicked actions.
Whoever Allâh guides, none can send astray and whoever Allâh sends astray, none can guide. We testify that there is no God but Allâh alone and that He has no partner, and I testify that Muhammed is His servant and messenger. May Allâh bless him, his family and his companions.
We ask Allâh, the Most High, to accept our efforts, overlook our shortcomings and cover us all with his mercy in this world and in the next.
Muharram 1417 AH
- The Definition of Television
- The Working of Television
- The Image
- Picture-Making - the Mother of Television
- Music and Television
- The Female Voice
- Serials, Romances and Stories on Television
- Nudity, Immorality and Television
- Television as an Agent of Zinâ' (Fornication)
- TV in Stride - Terror of Copy Rapes
- Television and Crime in General
- Television Encourages Acceptance of Aggression
- Television Encourages Imitation of Crime
- The Brainwashing Action of Television
- Television Stunts Intellectual Growth
- The Addictive Influence of Television
- Research on Television has Shown
- What They Say About Television
- Television and Time
TELEVISION [This appendix is a summary, with slight changes, of an excellent and enlightening book entitled Television and the Institution of Photography or Picture-Making, published by the Majlis al-Ulama, of South Africa.]
The great need for discussion of the Islamic perspective concerning the issue of television is clear to us all. Since television has entered the homes of people in every corner of the earth, the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated, Muslim and non-Muslim - it has become a necessity to address the issue and explain the problems and dangers of television in a clear and concise manner for the benefit of every Muslim who is seeking to please Allâh, the Most High, and earn His reward.
The Definition of Television
The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines television as follows: The electrical transmission of pictures in motion and the simultaneous electrical transmission of the accompanying sounds. The Encyclopaedia International explains television as: The unique feature that distinguishes television from radio is the conversion of an image into an electrical current which is later reconverted to the original image ...
The Working of Television
The equipment consists of a camera which convex the image into electrical impulses; these are transmitted by radio to a receiver which converts the impulses by means of a cathode-ray tube into a corresponding image on a screen.
The illusion of motion in television is produced by showing 30 still pictures, or frames, each second. Through persistence of vision the brain retains each picture until the next comes along. We are not aware of the fact that our eyes are really seeing a rapidly changing sequence of a large number of slightly different still pictures. Each still picture consists of about 250,000 picture dots of varying brightness which appear as if painted on the screen. This process is called scanning (Encyclopaedia International). (For an interesting and comprehensive discussion of the technical functioning of Television, refer to the original book: Television and the Institution of Photography or Picture-making.)
It should at this juncture be said that the undesirability and the Islamic prohibition of this institution of television is not based solely on the stand that photography (picture-making) of animate objects is employed. Without minimizing the importance and the decisiveness of the prohibitive factor of picture-making it has to be said that a number of other evil and un-Islamic factors accompany the institution of television. It is this conglomeration of evil factors which make television illegal in Islâm although, in most cases, each single one of these factors is sufficient to secure the verdict of illegality of TV. Inshâ'Allâh (God Willing), we shall outline these asbâbul hurmat (prohibited factors) of television in the ensuing pages.
Picture-Making: The Mother of Television
Photography which is merely a method of picture-making is the actual basis of TV. Without the institution of photography television is not possible. Whether shows are "live" or otherwise, the institution of photography is employed. Now, according to the Law of Islâm picture-making of animate objects is severely criticized and banned.
Music and Television
We can consider music as an integral part of television programs. No TV show is complete without music. Islâm has forbidden music in no unmistaken terms (For further details and full discussion of the evidences concerning the prohibition of Music in Islâm, refer to: The Islamic Ruling of Music and Singing, by Abu Bilal Mustafah al-Kanadi). For the purposes of the present subject it will suffice to state that Islâm categorically forbids all types of music. Music in Islâm is regarded as a kabirah (great) sin. With regard to music our Prophet, may the prayers and blessings of Allâh be upon him, said:
''There will be men from among my ummah (Nation) who will consume alcohol, giving it another name (so as to deceive themselves and others). Singing girls and musical instruments will be playing to them. Allâh, the Most High, will cause the earth to swallow them. Allâh will transform them into apes and swine." (Ibn Mâjah, al-Bayhaqî 10/221, no. 20989. Shaykh al-Albânî declared it to be authentic in Silsilat Sahîhah 1/136-139, no. 90)
It is reported from Abdullâh ibn Mas'ûd, may Allâh be pleased with him: "Music sows hypocrisy in the heart like water causes seeds to grow in soil.'' (Ad-Durrul-Manthûr, by Imâm as-Suyootee 5/307-308, in his explanation of verse 31:6 of the Qur'ân)
Allâh says in the Qur'ân:
"And when they (the believers) hear idle talk they turn away from it saying: 'We have our deeds and you have yours. Peace be upon you! We have no desire for the ignorant.' " (Al-Qur'ân 28:55)
The Female Voice
The female voice, according to Islâm, is also included in the category of satar, i.e. it has to be 'concealed' and not 'revealed' . Since the female voice is an entity not to be displayed or advertised, it is not permissible for males to listen to women singing or even reciting the Qur'ân ...
When necessity demands that they have to speak to males then their speech should not be attractive, gentle and alluring like the deliberate allure put in speech by trained women of the disbelievers. Recognizing the danger of allurement in the female voice, the Qur'ân commands women thus:
"If you fear Allâh, be not soft of speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire to you, but speak honourably." (Al-Qur'ân 33:32)
Van de Velde in his book Ideal Marriage, states: "The tone-colour of a voice, and the intonation of a single word -- and it may be a word of no special meaning or association in itself - may excite incredible intensity of desire. The unique and precious significance that a woman's voice can give to to "you" can suffice to overwhelm man's power of endurance and control ... ''
Islâm has, hence, forbidden its women to speak in a soft or "sexually'' sweet tone. If anyone is aware of the springs of sex-psychology he will clearly see the justification for Islâm having restriction in this matter.
Islâm commands the concealment of the female voice and prohibits its display in public but television demands the contrary. Great use is made of the female voice on TV to advertise, to allure, to excite lust and female singing with the accompaniment of music is most popular ...
The importance of television programs, like the importance of all the mass media of the disbelievers, hinges on maximum exhibition of the female body and the female voice which have been subverted by the bestial culture of the unbelievers, to pamper the inordinate sexual desires of men who have no belief of Allâh in them - of men who have no fear of Allâh left in them.
Serials, Romances and Stories on Television
What is the attitude of Islâm to fiction, novels and romantic stories? Allâh, the Most High, says in the Qur'ân:
''And of mankind there are some who buy idle tales without knowledge, to mislead people from the path of Allah, and take it in jest. For such there is a humiliating torment. And when Our signs are recited to him he turns away in pride as if he hears them not, as if there were a deafness in his ears. So give him good news of a painful torment." (Al-Qur'ân 31:6-7)
These verses of the Qur'ân were revealed to prohibit, according to the mufassirîn (those who explain the Qur'ân) and Jurists, music and the stories of romances imported from Persia. Since these things divert man's attention from the remembrance of Allâh and transport one into the realm of illusion and imagination the Qur'ân outlaws them. Islâm strongly discourages fiction and encourages one to live in reality and not an illusion which has the tendency to make one negligent and forgetful of the prime purpose of man's creation which is to gain Allâh's Pleasure by fixing the gaze on the âkhirat (Hereafter) and not on the TV screen. Islâm, therefore forbids the wasting of time in listening to idle tales and fiction or false stories.
Nudity, Immorality and Television
The most glaring evil propagated by the television media of the world is the crime of nudity and sexual immorality. Commercialized nudity and sexual immorality under the camouflage of "educational" pictures are accepted and necessary features of world television. The Western world is haunted by the obsession of illicit sex, and it is this carnal obsession of illicit sex coupled with the unbeliever's god of materialism which makes capital of the female body on TV as well as all other mass media.
The Islamic concept of morality and modesty is the very antithesis of the immorality and passivity dished out to the world via TV. Islâm demands the concealment of the female body. The Messenger of Allâh, may the prayers and blessings of Allâh be upon him, said: "A woman is an object of concealment." (At-Tirmidhî. It was declared authentic by Shaykh al-Albânî in Sahîh Sunan at-Tirmidhî 1/343 no. 1189)
TV is an institution which is widely used to exhibit the female body. Islâm has banned all forms of immorality and immodesty, but TV exhibits immodesty and immorality in their crudest forms by depicting the actual sex acts and, above all, it audaciously and shamelessly passes these off as "educational". Television as a prime agent of immorality is very well known ...
The Messenger of Allâh, may the prayers and blessings of Allâh be upon him, said: "Shamelessness (immodesty) is vice, and vice will be in the fire." (Muslim 4/1375, no. 6309)
Television as an Agent of Zinâ' (Fornication)
Allâh, the Most High, says in the Qur'ân: ''Keep away from zinâ', for it is an indecent thing and an evil way." (Al-Qur'ân 17:32)
The terms, keep away, mean: stay away from all such things and practice: which lead to zinâ' - which are stepping-stones to fornication.
All practices, things and institutions which aid and foster fornication and immodesty are forbidden by Islâm. There are different categories of this abominable crime of zinâ'. The Messenger of Allâh, may the prayers and blessings of Allâh be upon him, said:
''The zinâ' of the eyes is the gaze (at that which is unlawful, e.g. nudity); the zinâ' of the ears is to listen (to talks of nudity which excites the carnal desired); the zinâ' of the tongue is to speak (what is evil); the zinâ' of the hand is to touch (the female which is unlawful to you); the zinâ' of the feet is to walk (towards immorality); the zinâ' of the heart is to desire (what is unlawful), and it is the private parts which either commits or shuns the actual act of fornication." (Muslim 4/1397 no. 6421, 6422)
In this ststement, the Messenger of Allâh, may the prayers and blessings of Allâh be upon him, speaks of the zinâ' committed by the various parts of the human body. Thus, to look at the nudity and evil portrayed on the television screen constitutes the zinâ' of the eyes. To listen to the immodest and illicit sex elks of the television is zinâ' of the ears. Lust which is loused by the display, discussion of nudity and passivity and perversion on the TV screen constitutes the zinâ' of the heart.
Television, therefore, is without any doubt a powerful agent and a stepping-stone for fornication...
We find today the whole family - father, mother, sons and daughters - sitting huddled together around the TV screen. Together, in a display of stark shamelessness, the whole family is committing zinâ' of the eyes, zinâ' of the ears and zinâ' of the heart, and Allâh alone knows how many multitudes of men and women indulged in the final act of fornication as a result of watching and being aroused by the evil on the TV screen ...
Islâm lays great emphasis on modesty, so much so, that our Prophet, may the prayers and blessings of Allâh be upon him, said: ''Modesty is a part of îmân (faith)." (At-Tirmidhî. It was declared authentic by Shaykh al-Albânî in Sahîh Sunan at-Tirmidhî, 2/195, no. 2094 (1634))
But TV with its emphasis on illicit, depraved and bestial immorality is the very negation of the Islamic concept of modesty and shame. Mother, father and children together viewing the zinâ' -- the fornication and vice on the TV screen. What is now left of humanity? May Allâh, the Most High, protect us and our children from the filth and depravity of the Western world sunk in perversion and immorality.
Allâh, the Most High, says: ''This day We seal up their mouths, and their hands speak out; and their feet bear witness as to what they used to earn." (Al-Qur'ân 36:65)
TV in Stride - Terror of Copy Rapes
The horror of a TV rape came true for two women. They were attacked only days after the screening of a documentary "Cry Rape'' on British TV.
The maniac who broke into their homes at Reading, Berkshire, acted just like the TV rapist.
He struck by day, threatening his victims with a knife. He robbed them and stacked his loot in a neat pile ready for a quick getaway. The police chief leading the hunt for the rapist said: "He may have seen this program. It could have stimulated these attacks.'' Now police may ask ITV for a private screening of the film to seek possible new clues. (Sunday Times, 8th February, 1976)
Television and Crime in General
Television besides being a powerful agent of immorality, generally fosters various types of crime. Violence, aggression, robberies, murder, etc., are crimes which the young readily learn from TV shows. Much of the delinquency and youth crimes being perpetrated in the Western world could be traced to the TV.
In an article entitled: TV Shows Blamed For Crimes. Los Angeles judge, Mark Bridler, blasted a TV crime show recently as the cause of a "seven-hour nightmare'' in which two teenagers taped shotguns to the heads of hostages and extracted a huge ransom from a Californian bank.
Television Encourages Acceptance of Aggression
The regular and continuous shows of violence and aggression slowly, but most certainly, claim their victims. Viewers are 'brain-washed' by the perpetual scenes of violence to such an extent that violence and aggressiveness becomes accepted as a mode of behaviour.
Television Encourages Imitation of Crime
Research has established that TV exercises a very strong influence on the minds of people causig them to imitate and enact the crime shown on the TV screen. Dr. Robert Liebert, a child psychologist who was a leading researcher in the United States Surgeon General's investigation into TV and social behaviour, says: Violence on home screens encourages 'an acceptance of aggression as a mode of behaviour...Perfectly normal children will imitate anti-social behaviour they see on television, not out of malice, but curiosity ... in showing displays of violence and criminal acts, the media is 'teaching', people are 'learning', he says.
The Brainwashing Action of Television
Television is here and its biggest fans are children. Overnight they've become instant pundits, immediately recognizing personalities who are still just faces to the rest of us.
It's the kids who grab the TV guide and plot their viewing with military precision; the kids who know every cop and cowboy and exactly why it could not have been the butler who did it.
Will reading become a forgotten art only necessary to decipher the basic English of the TV guide or the secret message flashed on the screen by Agent X who has seconds to read the scrawl before it self-destructs? Researchers have established that the young minds of children are readily susceptible to being brainwashed by TV. In America organizations have been formed in scores of cities in order to tight the evil effect of TV on children. The President of the Organization , Action For Children's Television, a Boston-based parents' organization with branches in 60 cities says:
"At present from Monday to Friday, children are subjected to 16 minutes of commercials an hour, and 12 minutes an hour on weekends.''
"Television advertisers in America are pouring unprecedented millions of dollars into the child slots for the autumn season, despite a storm of public indignation over 'brainwashing' on children's shows.''
Television Stunts Intellectual Growth
An eminent American elocutionist, Professor Lowell Little, claims that TV raises ignorant students. At an education seminar in Florida he said:
"Today's youth are so used to plopping down in front of a television set and not having to put their brains to work that when they come to sit in a classroom of a university all they are capable of doing is day-dreaming and vacantly watching the clock.
"As the first generation of youngsters all but raised on television has now reached college age it is abundantly clear that the boob tube (i.e. television) has destroyed any curiosity they may ever have had.
"Their level of communication is just at the sixth grade level.
"The television has more influence on them than parents, teachers or clergy - and that is a disgrace.
"If I get through to four students out of 30 and arouse their interest that's the best I can expect.''
The Addictive Influence of Television
The addictive influence of TV over its viewers is a serious malady which has reached alarming proportions. Viewers become so addicted to TV that it becomes most difficult for most viewers to live without TV. Research in this field of the 'addictive influence of TV' has established that if these who are addicted to TV are deprived of television they become increasingly nervous, short-tempered and unhappy.
In an article captioned: Millions Addicted To The Box, the Eastern Province Herald of tile 23rd October, 1975, reports:
"Television's addictive grip was emphasized some months before when three socially varied 'guinea pig' families agreed to try a switch-off for a month. The lowest income family could stand the deprivation only a week; the other two lasted for four weeks, hating every minute of it. They said they felt as if they had lost a friend, were depressed and thought their work was suffering too.
"In an earlier psychological experiment 182 West Germans volunteered to try to give up television for a year, with the inducement of payment as long as they kept off. One brave family stood the strain for nearly six months - till they wanted to watch a crime serial. The first volunteer, a bachelor; failed after three weeks. Others became increasingly nervous, short-tempered and unhappy ... "
Television diverts man's attention from the remembrance of Allâh - The Prophet, may the prayers and blessings of Allâh be upon him, said:
''Every sport or amusement that a Muslim occupies himself with is bâtil (baseless, null and not permissible) - except three: (the three types beings his practicing with your bow (and arrow); his training horse and his playing with his family." (Ibn Mâjah. It was declared authentic by Shaykh al-Albânî in Sahîh Sunan Ibn Mâjah 2/132. no. 2267 . See also Silsilah Sahîhah 1/562, no. 315)
Allâh, the Most High, says in the Qur'ân:
''The life of the world is nothing but a pastime and a play. The Hereafter is better for those who fear [Allah]. Have you no sense?'' (Al-Qur'ân 6:32)
The above stated statement and verse of the Qur'ân, as well as many others of the Qur'ân and ahadîth (statements of the final Messenger) make it quite clear that Islâm does not tolerate futility, idle sport or amusement. This is so because amusement and entertainment divert one's attention from the Remembrance of Allâh, the Most High. It also interferes with one's worship causing neglect of salât (in general) and the congregational prayers (particularly for the men). Amusement and entertainment which Islâm describes as Lawh, it make a person indolent, negligent and irresponsible. Hence, we find the Messenger of Allâh may the prayers and blessings of Allâh be upon him, condemning very strongly even such play as chess and backgammon, etc., in the following statement: "Whosoever plays with chess and backgammon is like one who has dyed his hands with the flesh and blood of swine." (Muslim 4/1222 no. 5612)
Research on Television has shown ...
Research studies on the effects and influence of television on society has shown:
- That the average American child stares at more than 11,000 murders on television by the age of 14.
- That most American children spend more time before a set than with their teacher in any one year.
- That in a national survey many young viewers claimed to watch television for up to 46 hours a week.
- That Television takes one away from reality.
- That TV has created a vast tribe of mini-stars, pop-idols, schmaltzy gurus, talking-heads, telegogues and cardboard 'personalities' whose only achievement is to be on the box.
- That TV causes lethargy in children.
- That Television is responsible for the falling standard of literacy.
- That millions of dollars are spent by advertisers to 'brainwash' children by means of television to increase demand for consumer goods.
- That Television makes viewers insensitive to violence Numerated by others.
- That public apathy and failure to respond to a victim's cries for help is blamed on Television.
- That Television is detrimental to the physical and mental health of children ...
What They Say About Television
"The Church of England General Synod, in a report to a Government appointed committee deplores scenes of heavy drinking, chain smoking and casual use of obscene language and blasphemous language on TV." (Eastern Province Herald, 23rd October, 1975)
The psychiatrists, Dr. William Tompkins of the George Washington School of Medicine, and Dr. Paul Fink of the East Virginia Medical School, have been engaged in intensive research into the effect on people if television advertising. They say that TV commercials "encourage belief in mysticism by making viewers believe they can get what they want almost by magic."
Dr. Tompkins says: "Television advertising gets us to accept nonsense and leads us to go looking for a fantasy world. ''
"...the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) was ticked of by the House and Senate Appropriation Committee and told to report on fresh measures to curb video violence or face 'punitive action '. ''
Mr. Tindall, Director of the Audio-visual Center of Sydney Teachers' College said: "Children were learning that violence is not only rampant but frequently justified."
"For years, people had been saying the good thing about TV was that it brought news to the living room. But the survey indicated that few children, if given the option, watched the news or current affairs.''
"An almost unbelievable avalanche of sex, perversion, pornography, blue films, sadism, masochism, bestiality, murder, rape and brutality has flooded into the public view through the modern 'boob tube' of television, or the movies and lurid novels.''
"In British television, almost unbelievable references to lewdness, perverted sex and depravity are as open and unabashed as news reports.'' (Tomorrow's World, August 1971)
Television and Time
Television undoubtedly dominates the free time or leisure of millions who have become addicted to it. Hours of precious time are daily squandered in the presence of the TV set. This malady of wasting hours daily doing 'justice to the TV screen' is so serious that even necessary and important work and activities are neglected, especially when the TV program or serial clashes with the time when a particular work has to be done. The Eastern Province Herald dated 23rd October 1975, states in a report:
"Britons spend more time with television than with radio, books, theatre and newspaper combined."
"The average person watches television nine hours and six minutes a week in winter and seven hours 42 minutes in summer but these estimates seem conservative."
''Three-quarters of homes in one British Midlands industrial area found to have the 'telly' on the entire evening everyday and in one national survey many young viewers claimed to watch for up to 46 hours a week."
''When early in 1974 the Government put 10:30p.m. curfew on television to save electricity for several weeks the outcries were loud and long.''
A recent survey conducted by the Audio-visual Centre of Sydney Teachers' College (Australia) revealed that the average child watched over 21 hours of TV a week. Mr. Tindall, Director of the Centre asked: "What does TV offer the child in exchange for about 1,100 hours of almost undivided attention each year?"
Time in Islâm is of great importance. So important indeed is time that Almighty Allâh in the Qur'ân takes an Oath by Time, and says: "Wal-Asri" - By the Token of Time.
A Muslim is not permitted to waste time, even more so when the wasting of time is a result of an institution portraying vice and evil, and when the wasting of time on a practice or 'past-time' involves interference or neglect with ones duties to Allâh and man. The addictive grip of television over its viewers is so powerful that the viewer becomes a helpless victim wasting sacred hours glued to the TV screen, thus neglecting his salât, his family duties and his social duties. The student, undoubtedly neglects his studies and learning. In a survey, teachers have said that a direct link exists between television and the failing standard of literacy, particularly among lethargic children continually sitting up late in front of the "goggle box".
"By Time! Man is indeed in loss! Except those who believe and do good works, and exhort one another to truth, and exhort one another to patience." (Al-Qur'ân 103)
Should anyone be watching television?