The Qur’an (31:17) requires us not only to stay away from evil, but also to prevent others from being involved in it. Evil can take different forms, and unless it is properly understood, it cannot be effectively checked. One form of evil is simple: it is the one which is blatant and is, therefore, unlikely to go unnoticed. A morally alert society would normally not allow evil in its obvious form to be promoted. However, it is the other form of evil – the one that creeps into the society slowly, hiding its devilish threat under the apparent garb of innocuity -- that can have a more devastating effect on an otherwise morally sound society because of its slow-poisoning effect. It is the responsibility of the religious leadership of a society to warn people against the grave consequences of the indirect evil. As in the case of virtue and goodness, evil too prospers if it is introduced gradually in an indirect manner. The reason why the strategy of gradual introduction of evil meets with more success is that it overcomes the immediate resistance of the conscience of the society so cleverly, that collective piety gets confused on the question whether there is anything wrong at all with the practice in question. Even religious people become doubtful. ‘If it was really an evil why did God not condemn it clearly in His shari‘ah?’ might be an argument presented by some scholars. Thus, by intelligently mixing good with evil and creating confusion amongst the defenders of faith, the devil is able to find cracks in the society that enables it to threaten its moral fabric in a manner that was not possible through a more direct way.

One of the most striking examples of the ‘success’ of this devilish strategy in recent times can be seen in the proliferation of obscenity through the media of film and drama in Muslim societies. The whole idea of fiction-based characterizing of has been introduced in such a manner that people are given to view stories with men and women playing different roles. If properly produced, the presentation is so gripping for the viewers that they are glued to their screens until the very end of the show. Since in many of the ‘clean’ films and dramas, the entire story is seemingly acceptable and, in some cases, reform-oriented, many good people find hardly anything bad in enjoying this ‘innocuous’ family entertainment. The truth, however, is that there have been few other more effective ways contrived by the devil than this to deprive our society of the true sense of morality. Indeed, there is no clear mention in the Qur’an that drama and film are prohibited in Islam. However, that is how the entire scheme of shari‘ah is: the basic principles have been mentioned and believers are encouraged to use their God-given intellect to apply the understanding of those principles in all those areas of application where the spirit of those principles is being violated. The intent of the shari‘ah is after all not to just require believers to sheepishly follow the apparent form of a few injunctions. The real purpose is to plug all possible holes that Satan can exploit within us to lead us astray. The Qur’an mentions this purpose thus:

 

And Allah wishes to turn to you in mercy, but those who follow their low desires wish that you should incline wholly towards evil. (4:27)

 

Thus, in order to look at the possibility of whether the above-mentioned means of entertainment should be viewed favourably in Islam, we should look at the injunctions of the Qur’an where there is clear mention of the fact that the institution of marriage has to be respected (4:24 and 24:32), that there are close relatives specified with whom marriage cannot take place at all, (4:23) and that in case of the possibility of intermingling of opposite genders outside the circle of very close relatives, certain norms of decency have to be maintained (24:27-31). Moreover, the Qur’an expects all believers to stay away from even the least possibility of extra-marital sex, (17:32) and wants to make sure that there should be no mention of an extra-marital affair in a Muslim society at all (24:4). Given the spirit of these teachings, how could it ever be imagined that Islam would allow men and women, strangers to each other, to come into contact, playing the roles of lovers and beloveds, husbands and wives, and thousands of believing men and women to view them without entertaining any thought whatsoever that this practice could be unacceptable in the eyes of their Creator?

(Dr Khalid Zaheer)

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