Waving Goodbye to Disney

The Old Walt Disney Castle LogoMariam experienced a dilemma, after going through the most popular Disney videos: Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Rapunzel, Tangled and the like. Her daughter Hannah was a die-heart fan of the Disney movies. She was soon out of her ocean of thoughts, as she caught a glimpse of Hannah, who was flying with happiness after receiving a gift from her aunt – a dress that resembled the one worn by Cinderella, her favourite Disney character.

“Happily Ever After is Only in Jannah.” This expression, which she had recently read in an Islamic book, was banging on her level of consciousness and unconsciousness unceasingly.

“What am I teaching my girl? Am I myself pushing her in the world of deception and fiction? Will it not create a rift between the real and false? Would it not create a dissonance?” A series of questions flowed into her mind adding volume to her vulnerability.

Hannah, wearing that pretty Cinderella dress, was enjoying her meal with father, and for the first time, she did not seem to gain her mother’s warm look and praise.

“Daddy, see how pretty this dress is,” she was bouncing with delight.

Am I myself pushing her in the world of deception and fiction? Will it not create a rift between the real and false?

“My girl is the prettiest girl in the world!” Danial was overwhelmed to see her. “And she is fairer than snow white. And one day her prince will come and take her away from us to her palace, where there will be dwarves to serve my girl.”

“….and I will live happily ever after with my prince,” added Hannah.

Mariam used to be part of these discussions. She was the one who would always uplift and praise her daughter, show her hopeful dreams and a bright happy future ahead with her husband-to-be. It is a fact that mothers start to reflect on their daughter’s wedding the day they are born. They hope and pray for the unsurpassed, super perfect soul mate for their daughters.

After putting her daughter to sleep, she thought of sharing her recent thoughts with Danial. She tried her level best to phrase her words in such a way that they wouldn’t sound judgemental and cynical. “Dani, don’t you think we are communicating ample details of Disney stories to Mariam and thus leading her expectations to rise to a level of unmet fulfilments about her future marriage and husband?” she asked with a concerned look.

A widespread smile touched his lips. He said, “She is just seven years old; she does not know all this. It is just a story. Come on, you cannot be serious about it.” His statement caused her jaw to drop down in shock. Regaining composure, she said: “It is a serious matter. We are instilling falsehood in her perception and pushing her into the world of deception. We are making her believe that after getting married with her prince, she will have a happy life.”

“Do you remember Hijab, who was studying psychology?” she exclaimed anxiously.

He raised his eyebrow and paused for a while, as if he was sorting out her name from his long term memory. “Oh yes! That weird lady!” he exclaimed, with an outburst of laughter. He knew it very well that Mariam is very touchy about her friends, especially that one. He just wanted to make the situation lighter. But it did not make any change.

Ignoring his prank, she continued: “The other day, she was telling me about the subliminal cues these cartoons depict. She quoted that one cartoon named Lion King which was about a lion named Simba. According to a research, the wind that caused Simba’s hair to move had a message in disguise. With naked eye one cannot see, but mind being the master piece can absorb the meaning without any deliberate effort. When the wind was seen in slow motion, the word ‘sex’ was written.” She looked so stunned and worried communicating all this.

This information caught Danial’s attention, too. “Are you sure about it?” he exclaimed.

“She said so. Allah (swt) knows best. But we cannot deny the fact that cartoon nowadays are full of filth and sexuality. Apart from the ‘happily after notion’, they are also giving some really dangerous and unacceptable messages, which are gradually seeping into our culture and becoming a part of our norms.”

“And yes, how can we ignore that birthday party incident that took place in school, where kids kissed on lips after cake cutting ceremony. According to them, they were dating, and the Disney movies end by this kissing scene. We are making it so absorbent.”

“Hmm-mm,” he sighed. Lost in his thoughts, he uttered: “The discussion has reminded me of my mother. She used to say that this world is a prison for a believer. Life in this world will be full of pain, sorrows and tests, but the later life will be eternal, loaded with happiness, ease, laughter and tranquillity. It is we, who decide, which life to be treasured. If we keep our focus here then we are at a total loss as we are sacrificing permanent peace for temporary peace. We are so involved in this world’s deception that we don’t even consider the righteousness of our thoughts and actions, of our intention and preferences.”

Mariam was at ease now. It is an immense blessing, when both partners are on the same page.

We are so involved in this world’s deception that we don’t even consider the righteousness of our thoughts and actions, of our intention and preferences.

“So what can we do now? I mean, since we have induced so much love for Disney world in Hannah’s heart – how to detox it?” she asked him.

He said: “It will be difficult, but nothing is impossible, if we really intend to do it. First of all, together we should supplicate. Repent for our mistake and beg for Allah’s (swt) aid.”

“Divert her interest to such other activities as baking, for example,” Mariam added her suggestion. “Yes, this sounds good. In addition to this, we can talk to her about Jannah, its gardens and eternal life and will try to shift her idea of happiness to it. And make her greedy to do good deeds, in order to acquire Jannah,” he added. “Most importantly, we should tell her stories about the lives of Asiya (ra) and prophet Noah (as), who, despite their piety and spirituality, ended up getting bad spouses, which became a source of pain, not pleasure. This will make her realize that marriage is not all about ‘happily ever after’; likewise, that your goodness will not guarantee you the pleasures of life in this world.”

She concluded by saying: “So true! It is our trial period. Our real home is Jannah, and its pleasure and happiness should be our sole aim. In this world, bad things can happen with good people, too. This all has brought the negligence in us towards reality.

As the clock struck two at night, they finally retired to bed, having discussed their vision and formed a firm strategy to follow with the help of Allah (swt).

No Time to Waste

Photo credit: *USB* / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: *USB* / Foter / CC BY-SA

The Prophet (sa) said: “Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.” This Hadeeth teaches us the importance of time and its right use. Every day is a precious gift to us by Allah (swt) and we should make the best use of it- remembering the ultimate goal of pleasing Allah (swt) and not letting a minute to be wasted. This is not to say that we should constantly work and pray, because Islam teaches us to find the right balance and we have the right to rest. Rather, wastefulness is giving time to things and activities that take us further from Allah (swt) and lower our Iman. And some of the most common time thieves nowadays are- watching TV and listening to popular music.

TV – the vital or the virus?

One might ask, “What is wrong with the TV? Why to vilify it, when it’s so common it has practically become part of our lives?” The TV box may be on constantly, and we would hardly give it any thought – just letting it become the not-so-silent background to our day-to-day activities. Yet, if we have young children at home, we should certainly give it more than a fleeting thought, as TV has a profound effect on shaping the mind and it is rarely a positive effect. Even though there are some worthy channels with some content of benefit; the TV in general is full of violence, inappropriate images of genders and gender relations, foul language and un-Islamic ideology.

Also, the TV is addictive, especially for small children who may throw tantrums the moment someone changes their favourite cartoon channel; its content is beyond our control and by watching TV we simply become passive consumers of the broadcast. Getting used to this passive reception also leads to laziness and makes the traditional ways of acquiring knowledge such as reading, seem tiresome and difficult.

Some people may think that if they give up on TV, they would miss out on latest news, newest dramas, everything people might be talking about. But the truth is just the opposite for we miss out on real life, meaningful activities and authentic human interaction, because we spent too much time watching the telly. And same goes for children. Yes, they might learn their phonics and counting quicker from the TV cartoons, but they will miss out on learning good habits and socialising with other family members and guests. Considering all these arguments, I decided that my family would be better off without the TV, but how to make the switch off painless for children (and everybody else)?

Watching TV easily becomes an addiction and breaking off the habit may be more difficult than just turning off the set. It might be a little easier for the grown-ups, once they realize that spending time in front of TV or listening to useless songs really diverts our mind from worthy activities and thoughts and lowers our productivity.

It’s never too late to change

When trying to make a change, it’s always a good idea to replace a bad habit with a good one. For example- if we are used to watching the TV in the afternoon to relax and rest, we might instead reach out for a book or go for a walk. If we get into the habit of listening to music while doing kitchen work or any other household chore, we could instead turn on the CD with the Quran recitation or get busy with Dhikr. Just keeping in mind, why we want to make a change should be enough to keep us motivated through the difficult early stages.

Yet, the children may not be so easily persuaded. It might be much harder for them to understand why watching cartoon is bad and in the first stages they might express lots of negative feelings or even throw tantrums about not being allowed to turn on the TV. It is our role as parents to make the transition easier for them, while at the same time remaining firm about our goals. And this might be actually the hardest part for us as parents, because children occupied with watching TV shows makes the parenting job easier; giving mums a break from watching over kids when they are very busy.

Be there for your child

Yet, we should remind ourselves that the easiest option is not always the best; and bringing up children as good Muslims is our most important job and we should primarily focus our efforts and time on the right education. Once we switch off the TV, the children will turn to us to find them something to do and keep them busy. Expecting this, we should try to find for them activities that would be not only more meaningful, but also more fun for the kids. It would be perfect if we could manage to occupy our children’s time in a way that would be more attractive to them than watching TV. And if we put a little effort, they might not even demand for cartoons at all, preferring instead to spend time playing and learning with their parents and other family members.

Children who spend lots of time watching TV often have no contact with books and see reading as a boring activity. But, we should try to instil the love of reading in our kids from the early age; and that’s why, it is a good idea to build a family library and share stories together every day. Little children love listening to the stories told by their parents and looking at the colourful illustrations in children’s books. Little elder children are often interested in activity books and stories about other children. There is a lot of choice of good literature for children at all ages, and it doesn’t have to be very expensive to build the right collection for them with so many shops with good quality second-hand books available.

Sometimes, we do have a lot of work and we cannot give children our full attention, but there are lots of activities to keep them busy and entertained other than watching TV. Doing crafts, painting and colouring are some of the things all the kids love. Otherwise, we might try to engage the elder children in our own activities, teaching them to help in the kitchen or with any other household work.

I believe that with Allah’s (swt) help, the right intention and a bit of determination, we can give up the unproductive activities and make better use of every minute of our time. Insha’Allah.

Nouman Ali Khan: Persevere with Patience

o-PROPHET-MUHAMMAD-facebookIn regard to the recent crisis in France, I came across a talk by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan, in which he discusses the correct reaction a Muslim should have to such incidents. I found the video very profound and thought provoking, something that I believe every Muslim should hear. Therefore, I am typing it out it here to be able to share it with others:

“Anybody, who seriously studies the Quran knows that Allah (swt) records on multiple occasions, how prophets were insulted, made fun of and rejected in the most obscene ways. And how even the prophets themselves felt the pain of those disbelievers making fun of them.

Prophet Nuh complains about how people found him disgusting – they would plug their ears with their fingers and walk away from him; they would pull their clothes back as a show of insult to him. Our Prophet (sa) is no exception. This Quran that honors our Prophet (sa) also records the most hurtful words that were said about him – the Prophet (sa) would have to recite these words , thus reminding himself of the pain every time. For example: Sahir (magician), Majnoon (insane), Kazzab (a perpetual liar) – so many accusations were made against our Prophet (sa), all of which are recorded in the Quran. With this, Allah (swt) wants us to remember an important fact: although the prophets are the most noble of Allah’s (swt) creation, at the same time, they are the people, who will face the worst kind of insults, the worst kind of ridicule. But what is our reaction supposed to be like?

If anybody would be angry and overwhelmed with rage, when the Prophet is insulted, I would argue it would be his companions. Their faith cannot even be compared to yours and mine. But how come they don’t react the way we do? How come they never had any ‘protest’? How come they were not going out for yelling and screaming in rage? Because they understood that the Quran didn’t just come to give them a love for the Prophet (sa) but also to ‘guide’ that love and teach them, how to respond to these kinds of insults. How is it that we don’t know that the Prophet (sa) himself is told:

“And leave Me Alone to deal with the beliers (those who deny My Verses, etc.), and those who are in possession of good things of life. And give them respite for a little while.” (Az-Muzzamil 73:10)

Be patient over whatever they say. I am fascinated by this Ayah. Because the word ‘مَا’ means ‘whatever’ – ‘whatever’ they say. Not whatever they have said, but whatever they might even come up with. And the form of the word in the Arabic suggests ‘what they may have said in the past, in the present and even in the future till this day.’

The Prophet’s (sa) policy is to be patient himself. Where does the Quran justify such our anger? And even if our anger is justified, the one thing we should feel towards those, who hate us and make hateful speech towards us, is sorrow. We should feel sorry for these people. They can’t hurt the Prophet (sa). They can’t take away his honor. It was given from the sky. It was given by Allah (sa). Nothing on earth can take it away. No article, no cartoon, no film, no speaker and no hate speech – no form of art can take away the dignity of our Prophet (sa). All these their efforts are futile and wasteful attempts to undermine the message of Islam.

Do think also about the following: when we react in such emotional manner and engage in senseless violence, don’t we also misrepresent Islam? Aren’t we doing exactly what the enemies of Islam want? The only thing that makes me angry is the anger at our own selves, that we don’t understand the policy of the Quran about responding to insults:

“Repel evil with that which is better. We are Best-Acquainted with the things they utter.” (Al-Mu’minoon 23:96)

“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.” (Fussilat 41:34)

Respond with that which is best.

There also are some people, who think that this policy was only for the early times of Islam – the Mekkan time of the Prophet (sa), when he was supposed to be passive. But when he migrated to Madinah, battles began: Badr, Uhud, Ahzaab, Tabook, etc. Thus, according to claims of such people, the passivity policy was changed to that of action. Let’s look at Surah Aal-e-Imran, the battle of Uhud – what does Allah (saw) say to us?

“You shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and properties and in your personal selves, and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you (Jews and Christians) and from those who ascribe partners to Allah…” (Aal-e-Imran 3:186)

You will absolutely hear hurtful words from those, who were given the book before you, and from the people, who commit shirk (associate partners with Allah) and blasphemy with God. You will hear hurtful speech ‘absolutely’ coming from them. These kinds of things are a manifestation – a proof that Allah (swt) prepared us mentally for that. And in the very same Ayah, Allah (swt) himself tells us, what our reactions should be like:

“…but if you persevere patiently, and become Al-Muttaqun (the pious – see V.2:2) then verily, that will be a determining factor in all affairs, and that is from the great matters, [which you must hold on with all your efforts].” (Aal-e-Imran 3:186)

If you can be patient and maintain the consciousness of Allah (swt), then that is the most noble of the deeds and the highest of accomplishments that you can achieve. That is supposed to be the reaction of Muslims.

I would like to end with the following: at school, bullies tease the kid that they know gets teased and shows a reaction. The more we react, the more we encourage others to pursue even more hateful speech. We have to learn to respond in mature, civil and higher discourse – the way the Quran, the Sunnah and the legacy of our Prophet (sa) tells us.

I pray that this message reaches all of my young brothers and sisters, who are feeling the sadness, the rage because of this incident. And I do hope that we can turn that rage into something positive.”

I pray that this beautiful reminder from Ustadh enables us to reflect upon this matter and help us adopt the correct way for representing our religion. If there are people who with their actions dishonour Islam, it is our duty to carry the name of our religion so well that its beautiful teachings should be reflected in our personalities. May Allah (swt) give us the wisdom to bear such incidents with patience and to be able to repel the bad with good.

Symbolism in the Mass Media

Apr 11 - Mass Media

By Hooruneen Sheikh and Binte Aqueel

The first ten verses of Surah Al-Muminoon outline the defining characteristics of a true believer, who will make it to Jannah. Of these, one of the important characteristics is that “they stay away from Al-Laghw” – all those things, which waste time and give no benefit.

We have been cautioned against this weapon of Shaitan at another place in the Quran, where Allah (swt) tells him:

“‘And befool them gradually, those whom you can among them with your voice (i.e., songs, music, and any other call for Allah’s disobedience), make assaults on them with your cavalry and your infantry, mutually share with them wealth and children (by tempting them to earn money by illegal ways, usury, etc., or by committing illegal sexual intercourse, etc.), and make promises to them.’ But Shaitan promises them nothing but deceit.” (Al-Isra 17:64)

It is interesting to note that we do not directly hear Shaitan’s ‘voice’ or see attacks from his ‘cavalry and infantry’. Indeed, he employs more subtle ways to misguide humankind and fulfill his promise to Allah (swt). He does to through the mass media and popular culture.

Much has been written and discussed about the satanic messages and symbols in the mass media. A surge of articles, reports, documentaries and videos seeking to expose the satanic roots of the entertainment and media industry have taken the cyber world by storm. While one may not agree with all the theories purported by these documentaries and reports or the fact that it is part of a greater plan to implement a pre-Dajjal system before his actual appearance, some revelations of imagery used in popular culture, however, do give one the creeps.

To have a clearer understanding of this symbolism in the mass media, let us take a look at some examples of imagery in popular songs, movies and cartoons.

Pervasive, Overt and Subtle Sexual Imagery

The way the media seems to be evolving today, the presence of sexual imagery in its overt form is no longer surprising. It has become the norm. However, when such imagery is slipped into cartoons, movies and songs in a more covert manner, especially in places where one least expects them, there is a reason for alarm. Here are a few examples:

–          The word ‘sex’ appears to be written in the shape of the clouds in the popular cartoon “The Lion King”.

–          Another cartoon shows a portrait of a naked woman in the background of a regular scene.

–          One of Disney’s most praised pieces of work, “Fantasia”, shows a nude woman openly displaying her bosoms during one of the songs in the cartoon. In another scene, during the same song, flames shape-shift into naked dancing women. The imagery is vivid, yet it is so fleeting that one barely notices it, but it has its effect on the child’s mind.

Use of Occult and Masonic Symbols

Such images as the one-eyed Masonic symbol and the symbol of the checkered floor,, which is of pagan and Masonic origin, can be found in popular songs, movies and cartoons. Logos of products and media companies also carry similar symbols.

–          One advertisement of Nickelodeon carried a clear image of one eye.

–          In the popular children’s cartoon “Dumbo”, the elephant carried the one-eye symbol in one of its songs. The current popular cartoon “Ben 10” shows a character which transforms himself into a one-eyed creature.

–          Disney’s famed production “Fantasia” has one of its most popular characters adorned with the horns of Satan.

–          In the popular movie “Matrix”, the lead character Neo can only leave this world and visit Morpheus by walking on the checkered floor. Only then do ‘the doors’ open. They are the mode of transportation. The checkered pattern represents the merging of both worlds – of the Jinns and humans. All Masonic rituals have to take place on the checkered floor. Note that Cartoon Network’s emblem shows a checkered floor in the background.

  • The popular children’s cartoon “Aladdin” uses the concept of a blue genie, which grants all of Aladdin’s wishes. Among the gifts this ‘Jinn’ presents to Aladdin are the ‘ladies in red’, which represent the devilish allure of the world. (Notice how most of the female models of today wear red on the “red” carpet and in commercials). Then, the genie presents Aladdin with ‘the contract’ and lures him through worldly pleasure, implying that his worldly wishes can come true through such practice.
  • Popular singer Madonna’s song “Frozen” shows Madonna shape-shifting like Jinns into black crows.
  • Popular singer Britney Spears performs her song “I am a Slave for You” with a snake wrapped around her.

These are just some of the examples of imagery used in the mass media. The examples are endless, but what it all comes down to in the end is: how do we keep ourselves, our children and families safe from such explicit and implicit imagery in the popular media?

“No TV” Policy

There is no option better than eliminating TV from your family life. The void can be filled with interactive family sessions such as playing games, doing projects, visiting places, socializing with relatives, etc. This definitely entails more sacrifice and investment of time on the part of the parents as it will be difficult to separate kids from TV, especially if they are already addicted to it. However, once achieved, this feat will improve the quality of your family life immensely.

Exercise control

If the above doesn’t work, make it clear to yourself, your family and your kids that it is not okay to watch all sorts of media content. There should be a conscious control over what is being watched. While there are objectionable forms of content, there is other media content that can be enriching and educational, while being entertaining at the same time. We must learn where to draw the line.

Chaperoned Viewing

Most moms prefer using the television as a baby-sitter to get some relief, while their children get lost in the magical world of the idiot box. It is imperative to understand that handing over your kids to the TV is not safe. While you would never leave your kids alone on the street, leaving them alone with a media that is filled with imagery and concepts that pose a threat to their values and religion should not be an option either.

Sit down with your kids as they watch their favourite cartoons, control what these favourite cartoons are, discuss what aspects of the show they just watched are acceptable and what was wrong, how some parts conform to or go against their religious beliefs, etc. Eventually, you will realize that pure entertainment sessions become more educational for your child and the awareness they build will go a long way in keeping them wary of what influences they do or do not accept from the media in the future.

Cartoon Caution

Vol 4- Issue 2  Cartoon Caution

Over the years, whenever I‘d fallen prey to the temptation of allowing the TV to baby-sit my son, I have only regretted. You might find this absurd or even far fetched, but the following incidents are true:

It all started when I decided to accompany my very eager son to watch a myriad of cartoons on cable TV. Our first encounter was with ‘Dexter’s laboratory.’ It showed two boys flirting with one another. Gay relationships in cartoons? I thought I was imagining things. I forbade him to watch it, instantly.

Next I decided to stick to the remakes of ‘Scooby Doo’ and ‘Popeye the Sailorman,’ only to discover that they highlighted romantic liaisons to a great extent. Provocative love scenes catering to children? When did that start happening? ‘No you can’t watch that either!’ I passed my verdict.

I supposed ‘Tom and Jerry’ to be a safe bet, as my son is very gentle and according to his teachers could afford to watch some violence to make him more aggressive for self defense purposes . It wasn’t the violence that I was afraid of. Smooching and flirting was introduced to many of its remakes too. Sigh! ‘You can only watch it with me!’ I decided, wondering if that was any good at all.

Next, I had the displeasure to watch ‘Courage the cowardly dog.’ The only vocabulary that any kid could learn from this cartoon was ‘STUPID.’ I told that to my son.

‘Ed, Edd, and Eddie’ was another popular cartoon that proudly showed its characters, spitting, picking their nose, belching, drooling, punching, etc. No wonder this cartoon rocked among kids. It told them to do everything their mom ever asked them not to!

After strong denial, I finally gave in to ‘Beyblade’ and ‘Pokemon.’ So what if they showed super natural powers, cross dressers, flirts and scantly dressed girls. Isn’t that what all television channels are showing these days?

I still wickedly try to make my son forget his TV hour by offering to take him to the park, or play a game or read his favourite story books. Sometimes my plans work but sometimes my son’s memory outsmarts me. Then I tag along for his TV viewing and try to explain what is good and what isn’t, just to find out what he thinks of all the objectionable stuff only a parent can see.

Its almost tragic to see children being robbed of their innocence. I only wish it could have been some other way. I remember growing up thoroughly enjoying cartoons. My mother never had to worry about it. There was hardly any element of moral or social corruption. Kids were allowed to be kids.

Today the tables have turned. The idiot box has turned into a lewd carton of filth and evil. What is most disturbing is that it encourages children to unlearn all the morals and etiquettes that parents edify. This is probably the reason why kids enjoy its uncontrolled freedom and get addicted to their choice of cartoon.

So those mothers out there who think it is safe to hand over their kids to the cartoon network, should most definitely think twice. Hire help for your home chores and take care of your child personally. The age of innocence is long gone; cartoons are just short of infant porn!