Jul 16, 2013

Resisting the temptation of TV this Ramadan


The wide spread availability of satellite TV in the Arab world and its diaspora has given birth to a particularly troubling new tradition which has changed how many of our brothers and sisters experience the most blessed month of the year. We all look forward to Ramadan as an opportunity to strengthen our connection with Allah.  However, for many, their anticipation is also for the torrent of soap operas, which air exclusively during this period. Screening from around maghrib to midnight, it has become a widespread tradition for families and friends to regularly gather together to enjoy their favorite Ramadan series. Perhaps to some, this may appear to be a harmless indulgence, however closer inspection of this phenomenon reveals it as one of the most significant trials facing Muslims during this month.

The harm in Ramadan television 
Although the bulk of television programs do not screen until maghrib, many of them are available for internet download. The flexibility this provides has been abused by some fans who download episodes to watch alone throughout the day in an effort to distract them from hunger and thirst. Many others simply spend the night and early hours of the morning watching TV and spend the entire day in sleep.

This leads us to addressing the most serious and obvious effect of Ramadan TV which is that it distracts the believer from taking advantage of the many blessings and mercies of Ramadan. It is easy for viewers to be 'sucked in' to such shows and as a result neglect their religious duties - the Qur'an’s pages are barely turned, our tongues are dry from lack of dhikr and visits with friends and family are cut short to fit our carefully thought out viewing schedules. Even for those who refrain from excessive viewership, the excitement which develops around these programs is such that it distracts them from the reality of the month. At a time when conversation should be dominated by matters pertaining to our deen and the troubling state of the ummah, it instead revolves around the drama (and there is plenty of it) which took place in last night's episode of Bab Al Hara.

It is also important to note that the content of the majority of these shows are rarely appropriate for Muslim viewers. The soap operas, which air in this time, thrive upon behaviour which is contrary to the shari'a whether it be lying, cheating, violence, or zina and uncovering of the awrah. For example, one particularly controversial and popular series tells the story of a nurse who has been married five times and sells drugs on the black market[1]. Ultimately, such programs are devoid of benefit both worldly and religious and should therefore be avoided not just during Ramadan, but all year round.

This is something which should be taken into serious consideration, especially by those with young families. Do you truly wish to encourage your children to watch these shows and partake in the behavior they exhibit? It does not make sense to teach your children that it is haram to lie and then, in the most holy of months, establish a family tradition of watching shows which glorify such forbidden activities. We have a responsibility to our children for which we will be held accountable. As such we should make it our mission this Ramadan to establish beneficial family traditions which encourage the observation of the true spirit of Ramadan.

How to avoid television 
Once you have made the intention to abandon non-beneficial television programs for the sake of Allah, there are some practical strategies we can observe to avoid falling back into bad habits:

1. Turn off the TV 
Unfortunately, even the few good, Islamic shows which are aired during Ramadan are wedged between soap operas, presenting a temptation too great for many lovers of Ramadan TV. In this case the best solution is to simply turn off the television during Ramadan and fill the new found silence with recitation of Qur’an.

2. Watch beneficial programs online 
To avoid missing out on the beneficial programs broadcasted during Ramadan, download or watch them online in moderation and in your own time. One fascinating show is a Saudi series called 'Khawatir' which examines how we can implement Islamic values in our contemporary Muslim societies to create positive change. It achieves this by looking at Islamic history as well as impressive aspects of modern day nations around the world such as Japan[2]. Another option is to watch online Islamic channels such as Mercy Mission’s Ramadan TV (http://mercymission.tv) or the year round Islamic channel Huda TV (www.huda.tv).

3. Busy yourself with good deeds 
(Allah says about the fasting person), 'He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times." [3]

During Ramadan we are rewarded tenfold for the good deeds that we do. How then can we justify wasting this incredible opportunity by spending our time watching television and sleeping excessively? Imagine if you utilised all the time you spent watching TV to engage in productive activities and acts of ibada. Imagine how much reward you would gain, how much your eeman would increase, how much knowledge you would attain and how much more benefit you could give to others as a result of that self improvement.

It is true that sometimes during Ramadan we can start to feel bored, 'burnt out' or overwhelmed from constant reading of Qur'an, praying etc and for this reason we may turn to TV for a ‘break’. However, we must remember that good deeds are not limited to these acts. Even something as simple as calling a relative or friend you haven't spoken to in a while to wish them a happy Ramadan can earn you reward.

A Christian journalist residing in Egypt noted that during Ramadan 'Muslims consume three times their regular amount of food, work less, and watch more TV.[4]' This is unfortunately a shamefully accurate description of the reality of how many Muslims around the world spend Ramadan.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an - "You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind.” However, this status is dependent upon us following our deen -“You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah" [5]. It is a responsibility which must be fulfilled. We know from our glorious history that, despite our current weakness, we as an ummah are capable of fulfilling this responsibility. But how can we expect to truly fulfill this obligation and in turn become stronger when so many of us spend Ramadan, the most important month of the year either sitting immobilized in front of our TV screens or spending the day sleeping? This Ramadan we must all ask ourselves - are we living up to the standards set by Allah?

I'd love to hear your views on this topic.  Please post in the comments section below! :)


Really enjoyed this piece. I lived in the Middle East for a while and I found it so strange that after maghrib everyone sat down to watch Bal al Harra! There wasn't a person on the streets. Luckily I didn't understand Arabic that well so I wasn't tempted to watch.
I haven't had a TV for the last decade and life is much better for it alhumdulilah. There are so many beautiful things to listen to I don't even notice the absence of a television in my life. I have a lot of friends who don't have TVs. But that's because I live in the UK, in the Middle East it is hard to find a home without Television. Best way to avoid watching TV is to get rid of it. You will be glad you did.
Um Taqwa
Twitter: @Raising_Mumins

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