Role of the Media

By Huma Imam


What is the first thing Allah (swt) created? Pen. (Abu Dawood)

What did Allah (swt) say to the pen? Write. (The decree of creation)

What is the first word revealed in the Quran? Read (i.e. Iqra, Al-Alaq 96:1)

Congratulations! We should be proud to be a civilization of the pen. Pen, to this day, remains a potent instrument of communication, giving life to today’s influential modern media, i.e., TV, the Internet, and the print media.

How significant and effective are these mediums of communication? Phenomenal! People like you and I have the power, by Allah’s (swt) Will, to bring about great changes. The motivation to bring about changes is fueled by awareness. This is where the might of the news media plays a vital part. History has witnessed well-informed ordinary people, with the indispensable support of their media, managing to pressurize their leaders into ending futile wars. The initial coverage of the Vietnam War supported the US involvement, but following the Tet offensive, it changed its frame. The bold and uncensored TV coverage helped to turn the public opinion against the war. The ensuing anti-war movements were also given wide media support and eventually led to success.

Another reason for the media’s significance in our lives is its power on influencing social ideals and values, thereby shaping individuals and societies. Today, in the name of globalization, Muslims are threatened by cultural and intellectual invasion through media. As intangible and harmless as it sounds, in the long run, this war and enforcement of ideas is far more deadly than any war in the battlefield. Such invasion leads to the enslavement of a free mind, rendering it aimless, robbing it of its identity, and instilling inferiority complexes. The desperation Pakistani public exhibited at the ban on Indian entertainment channels is a sad but stark example of our society’s enslavement and defeat through media’s control.

Does this mean that we, as Muslims, should shun the media? No.

“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Maruf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam orders one to do) and forbidding Al-Munkar (polytheism and disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden). And it is they who are the successful.” (Al-Imran 3:104)

Since the modern media has a far reaching power and a great potential to influence, so why not use them to enjoin Al-Maruf and forbid Al-Munkar? Why not use it to put the correct Islam on the forefront? Why not use it for the wellbeing of Muslims? Why not use it to spread the word of Allah (swt)? Why not use it to wage intellectual Jihad?

“So obey not the disbelievers, but strive against them (by preaching) with the utmost endeavour with it (the Quran).” (Al-Furqan 25:52)

This verse orders us to wage Jihad by proclaiming the truth. We can use media to do just that, i.e., proclaim the truth, defend Islam and Muslims from criticisms and insults of the disbelievers. If Islam and Muslims are attacked physically, then we should also respond through physical might in the battlefields. But if we are attacked on an intellectual level, then it is wise to retaliate with mighty but similarly intellectual defense.

A book, blasphemous to Islam, was recently published. As a result, people went out on the streets protesting with swords in their hands. Did they accomplish anything? The swords were useless there. The attack was with the pen, thus, the defense should also have been with a pen – pen of Muslim intellectuals that would have rebutted their baseless writings.

Thanks to the media, we daily witness the atrocities committed against our brothers and sisters in Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Darfur, Chechnya, etc. By default, we become participants of this violence, as we simply cannot take the position of oblivious viewers.

“The believers, men and women, are Auliya (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of one another.” (At-Taubah 9:71)

The least we can do for them is voice our condemnation and repulsion through our media. It is better to protest than to accept injustice.

Pen is mightier than the sword

This saying holds true, if the user fulfills the following conditions: good and sincere intention; correct knowledge; training and proper organization on a community level. Alhumdullilah, TV channels, the Internet and the print media are all open to our comments and feedback. Whenever we come across an evil action within these mediums or in society in general, we are duty bound to denounce it. This can be done by contacting the newspaper/channel or writing directly to the author of the offending article/program.

This direct technique becomes most effective, if a number of people take a collective stand. An example of this was BBC’s sacking of a former MP and a popular talk show host Robert Kilroy Silk, who was guilty of racist and Islamophobic comments. His censure was a direct result of active protests and condemnations by Muslims.

Newspapers and magazines

Did you know that after the front page headlines, the ‘Letter to Editor’ column is the most widely read section in a newspaper? You don’t need to be a journalist to write to them. This is a forum that we should read and write to regularly. Why? To show that Muslims have a voice. We need to be heard rather than just be talked about. To be effective and successful in writing to papers you need to:

  • be informed Muslims;
  • hold opinions based on correct knowledge;
  • keep abreast with current affairs and changing political scenarios.
  • This way, you will be able to:
  • bring the Islamic perspective on current affairs to the forefront;
  • persistently challenge the stereotypes of Islam;
  • show that there is a clear difference between Islamic culture and cultural Islam;
  • point out any wrong or injustice you see or experience in your society.
  • When penning your opinions, it is important to stay calm and polite, no matter how provoked, but communicate your feelings firmly.


TV elicits two extreme views from most Muslims. It is either a total and outright rejection by some, terming it as Haram or an unreserved acceptance by others, in the name of freedom of expression. However, the correct perspective is to be aware of TV’s pros and cons and make use of this avenue.

Some scholar has said:

“Every means that helps to achieve the goals of Dawah may be used, so long as it is not Haram.”

Prophet (sa) used to visit the market places of Kaafirs for this purpose. Just because TV has been used for a lot of vice, the knowledgeable people should not shy away from it. The scope of benefit any Dawah school or program offers is limited to the few, who are able to go out and attend it. But if such programs are telecasted, they will reach a million homes. Presented in attractive and modern formats, TV Dawah has an extensive potential to influence a diverse audience.

The Internet

According to Internet World Stats, there are approximately 1,094 million Internet users worldwide. Like TV, its potential for good and bad is unparalleled; however, unlike TV, this medium enjoys the benefit of instantaneous and two-way communication for all. The following are some of the ways that you can enjoin good and forbid evil on the Internet:


  • Report offending sites to your Internet service provider, asking them to block or censor them.
  • Do not forward chain letters that promise you some worldly benefit or miracles.
  • Never forward Islamic info emails without reference sources. Verify the authenticity of information.
  • Reply to chain letters and senders of wrong information asking for evidence or enlightening them about the dangers of spreading hype or legends that aim to take advantage of people’s gullibility.
  • Prepare and send short mails to acquaintances reminding them of Allah’s (swt) commands and timely good deeds.
  • Read and write letters and opinion pieces to local and international media.
  • Do not waste time and energy on debating on forums, which slyly aim to provoke Muslims in the guise of discussing religion and politics.
  • Set up and manage websites for social and religious benefit.


Primary Means of Communication

The spoken word or language is the most primitive form of communication. Contrary to the popular perception of the primary means of communication being only gestures and body movements, the first human beings Adam (as) and Hawwa (as) were taught language by Allah (swt) – they were taught the words of repentance and were given guidance from Allah (swt) to follow. As the human race grew, more languages evolved and Allah’s (swt) guidance continued to the different nations and tribes in their respective languages.

(Contributed by Naureen Aqueel)

Target: Family

Hafsa Ahsan speaks out on what television dramas and soaps directly aim at

The last couple of years have witnessed a sudden spurt in the number of private channels, which broadcast a wide range of content for a diverse audience. There are drama serials, soaps, sitcoms, talk shows, satires and what not. Of these, drama serials and soaps are not only the staple diet of an average media consumer – they are also the main constituent of prime time transmission, when the entire family is watching television.

However, these drama serials and soaps have undergone a huge metamorphosis. Following are some of their fallouts, which are a direct attack on the family system.

Conflict Resolution – A Distant Dream

The stories, which once focused on conflict resolution within the family, have now begun to thrive on breeding conflict and propagating new and innovative methods of creating discord between the most sacred of relationships.

This trend has set in, because most private channels telecast soap operas rather than drama serials. Soaps have to have at least a hundred episodes. The only means of stretching the soap opera to infinite proportions is never to solve any conflict – in fact, the key is to keep the members of a family in a constant state of war with each other.

Conspiracies Abound

Domestic politics has taken a completely new dimension with the drama serials on air. Previously, characters of daughter-in-law, mother-in-law and sister-in-law merely shouted at each other or complained vocally to their friends about what they had to go through. Today, these same characters go ten steps further – plotting to get each other killed, they hire professional assassins and feel no shame in pushing their pregnant female relatives down a staircase. One wonders, what sort of message is going out to the vulnerable audience?

Dating Culture

A direct assault to the family system is the portrayal of a dating culture. The difference between Mehrum and non-Mehrum relatives was never there in the first place, but now things have worsened as couples are portrayed hanging out in popular hangouts, sometimes encouraged by their own parents. It may be mentioned here that there are times, when the story is such that an air of sympathy is created for the ‘poor couple’ which ‘cannot date because of the undue pressure of the parents.’

A soap on a private channel showed three girls were shown so desperate to get married that they kept going on dates with one guy after another and then rejecting them for the silliest reasons possible.

Hurdles to Marriage 

Where there are absolutely no obstacles in ‘going out and having a good time’, there are an infinite number of hurdles in getting married – again related to the need of the drama serial to extend itself to hundred plus episodes. If two people get married and start a peaceful life, where’s the drama? So, to create ‘drama’ and ‘action’, evil relatives cause problems, friends of the bride-to-be try to steal away her husband-to-be for themselves, and at times, the couple is married off to other people and then must sneak out to meet each other.

Sanctity of Relationships Gone Downhill

There are certain relationships the sanctity of which we take for granted. The mother-daughter relationship is one example. Father-son relationship is another. Unfortunately, certain drama serials and soaps have directly attacked these very relationships. A while back, a drama serial depicted a mother and daughter as eager to marry the same man. If that wasn’t enough, another serial showed a father marrying the girl his son was interested in. Such portrayals violate the strong bond of trust within these relationships. Unfortunately, our playwrights see this as some staple way to increase viewership.

Wrong Islamic Concepts

The Islamic method of giving a divorce may be familiar to some, but for many it is still vague. Drama serials and soaps could have played some role here, but since the story has to be fast, who is going to wait for the prescribed period and give three divorces over that period of time? The worse case scenario is when they regret their hastiness and conclude that since no one was around when they said it, they can continue living as a husband and a wife.

In the light of all the above examples, one can see how drama serials and soaps directly attack the family system. There is a dire need for playwrights to research and write on concepts, which are relevant and constructive to the society. The challenge is to show how despite all troubles, families survive and cope.

Information Warfare

Absar H. Kazmi exposes the new tactics of 21st century warfare and suggests the ways of curtailing its effects on Muslim society

In approximately 653 Hijri, Halaku Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, attacked Iraq. He deposed and killed the Khalifah, plundered the vast resources of the Islamic State, massacred the citizens, and took complete control. For any common observer it was clear that a ruthless and powerful leader had taken advantage of his strength to conquer and oppress a weaker people. Halaku Khan himself would probably not have denied this.

A few years ago, Iraq was attacked again. The leader was deposed and recently killed; the vast resources are being plundered; the citizens are daily being massacred and raped. However, this time, strangely enough, the conquerors are claiming that they are not oppressing the people at all; rather, they are liberating them.

In these strange days, when the so-called ‘civilized’ nations have united in war against ‘terror’ (all those, who would dare to oppose their system), we see a conflict – both physical and verbal. Many of us fail to see that contrary to the days of old, today the greater war is not the physical war with guns, tanks, and cluster bombs, and it is not limited to any particular geographic location. Rather, the greater war of today is an intellectual war – a battle to win the hearts and minds, a war, in which the weapon is information. The true winner in this war of information is the one, who manages to control the public opinion. The physical battles we witness are merely symptoms of this deeper and much more sinister conflict.

Why things have changed? The ‘Halaku Khans’ of today have realized something very important – it is much more effective to enslave a people psychologically than physically. A people enslaved only physically may not be ready for an immediate revolt, but hatred for their conquerors would always remain in their hearts. However, a psychologically enslaved people will come to regard the ideology and culture of their conquerors with awe and admiration, while beginning to perceive their own religion, culture, and even race as inadequate and inferior. Thus, they will willingly accept subjugation.

Living in the age of information, we may feel that we are somehow more aware of what is going on around us. We must realize, however, that often it doesn’t really matter how much information we can access but how that information is presented. Information presented incorrectly or selectively can literally make the good seem evil and portray the oppressor as the oppressed. The following are some of the manipulation methods used for achieving this:


If two unrelated objects are shown together enough times, eventually, people will begin to associate them. In the 19th and early 20th century, black people were often illustrated and described in the American media as ugly and stupid; therefore, they came to be regarded as such by the common public. Over the past few decades, the same media has helped to change this image by portraying the blacks as attractive, intelligent, and creative.

Outright Deception

An example of outright deception by the media is the recent uproar in Pakistan waged against the Hudood Ordinance. According to numerous local newspapers, many hundreds of women are currently serving time in prison, because they claimed they were raped but were not able to produce witnesses, as was supposedly stipulated within the Hudood Ordinance. The truth is that the Hudood Ordinance does not require any witnesses in the case of rape. Also, according to Mufti Taqi Usmani, a former chief justice, not a single woman was sent to prison for lack of witnesses, while he presided.

Playing with Words

In the media, people practicing Islam in its totality are often referred to as extremists, whereas those, who practice only selectively or do not practice at all, are referred to as moderates. The implication of this, of course, is that the Messenger of Allah (sa) himself was an extremist, because he brought these commandments and ordered all Muslims to follow them.

Another example is the recent war between Lebanon and Israel. For gaining public sympathy, the western media was constantly claiming that Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped by Hezbollah and Hamas. Soldiers do not get kidnapped – they are held as prisoners of war.

Selective Sharing of Information

There are numerous examples of half truths being used by the current American and British administrations in order to gain approval for their attack on Iraq.

The sudden exposure to western media coupled with such other factors as general lack of critical thinking, ignorance of Islamic ideology and history, as well as lack of Muslim role models, has had a devastating effect on Muslim societies. The Muslim youth have developed a major inferiority complex and have blindly begun to ape western culture. Many have also started calling for changes in Islam, in order to bring it more in line with western ideals. At the same time, these youth have begun viewing those working on promoting Islamic teachings as backward, naïve, and out of touch with reality.

It needs to be clarified that information, specifically the media, is a tool, which can be used for both constructive and destructive purposes. However, the way it is presently used, especially by the western powers, is clearly not in favour of Muslims or Islam. There are a number of things we can do to protect ourselves and our families from becoming casualties in this ideological war:

Learn History

Specifically, Islamic history. Attacks are already being waged against the character of our Holy Prophet (sa) as well as other personalities from Islamic history. We must arm ourselves with information, in order to defend our faith.

Think Critically

Don’t just take information for granted. Question what you hear, if it doesn’t make sense to you. Question this article! Learn to ponder and think about what has been said to you. Do not place teachers and scholars on such high pedestals that you are afraid to question them (respectfully of course). Imam Malik was once sitting near the grave of Rasool Allah (sa). He pointed to the grave and said: “You can accept or reject from anyone, except the owner of this grave.”

Verify Information

Allah (swt) has commanded us in the Quran to verify information, when it reaches us. Don’t just sit in front of CNN or FOX news, accepting everything you hear; rather, verify it against other media sources, such as Al Jazeerah and even Haaretz.

Minimize Television Viewing

Television is not a very interactive form of media, as we really cannot control, what we are viewing. Therefore, we must try to narrow down television viewing only to educational content and always accompany our children, while they are watching television.

Become a Role Model

There are very few Muslim role models in the world today. Thus, if we do not take the responsibility for becoming a source of guidance and inspiration to our own children, they will probably find some other source, which, most likely, will not be a source we approve of.

Finally, we must constantly pray to Allah (swt) as our beloved Prophet (sa) taught us: “O Allah, help us to see the truth as truth and give us the ability to follow it; and help us to see the falsehood as falsehood and grant us the ability to abstain from it.”


Vol 4- Issue 2 Sinsational copyWhile discussing the trials of a lewd sight, our teacher once questioned the class: “Do you know of any animal that invites other animals of its kind to group and watch the love making of a couple?” Crimson red, most of us shook our heads. “Well, I know,” she continued, “it’s us, human beings. How many of you have not watched pornography on TV, in movies or magazines deliberately alone or with friends?”

Feeling very uneasy, the class remained silent. Then, she recited from the Quran: “Verily, We created man in the best stature (mould). Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low. Save those who believe and do righteous deeds…” (At-Tin 95:4-6)

Truly, only human beings can stoop so low. Having said that sexual desire has been implanted by Allah (swt) in mankind for pleasure and pro-creation. Although natural, just like other desires it needs to be disciplined, too. Uwaymir Anjum, a writer, states the reasons: “Mainly because this is the greatest power of all other human instincts to sabotage and undermine the very purpose of human creation: the worship of Allah, profound realization of His presence, cultivation of His love and moral conduct on its basis.”

Some argue that we are merely viewers. How do we compare to those directly involved in the moral degeneration or the business of promoting it? They are the merchants of obscenity. Allah (swt) will surely question them! But it is consumer trends that create demand. If buyers of vulgarity boycott all these products (lewd websites, immoral books and magazines, porn movies and TV shows), there will be no market to float such products or services. The buyer is as guilty as the seller.

Even if you do muster the courage to stop viewing, buying or sponsoring lewdness, will it disappear? Unfortunately, it won’t. We live in a world, where soft porn is almost universal. It’s in your newspaper, e-mail account, the supermarket you shop at, on the billboard you drive by, etc. You just can’t escape it! So what do you do? Ask the expert – follow the Quran and stick to the Sunnah.

Is there really a means to restrain ones sexual desires? Yes, there is. Those, who strive to preserve their modesty, obey Allah (swt): “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 (swt) is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts)…And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.” (An-Nur 24:30-31)

Kimberly Ben, another writer, calls lowering the gaze as dodging the Satan’s arrow. She explains: “The concept of lowering the gaze is a very important characteristic of Islam. It represents discipline and restraint. It is an effective method of halting the stirrings of certain urges and desires that may manifest into even more sinful acts. As human beings, we are visual by nature. Certain sights can evoke very powerful emotions.”

The Prophet (sa) said: “And the eyes commit Zina (adultery). Their Zina is gazing.” (Bukhari)

Now, when we are told to lower our gaze, it does not mean that we go around keeping our eyes glued to the ground. What it actually entails is that upon viewing any explicit scene or image, whether in person, on TV, on a website, in print or on any other media outlet, we should consciously turn our faces away. We underestimate the power of a simple glance. The Prophet (sa) has stated in another Hadeeth: “…the adultery of the eyes is looking at (that), which is not allowed…” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Along with lowering our gaze, we must learn to condition our heart and mind. Following are a few practical tips that can help to guard our purity:

Take a detour

There are some places, where you are expected to run into questionable images, such as music shops, video shops, lingerie outlets (opened up most recently), magazine racks, TV (both on shows and advertisements) and while surfing the web (porn website are flashed before you). Be selective to avoid sexual imagery. Allah’s (swt) advice is to stay as far away as possible from Fawahish (sexual indecency) and if encountered, to turn away right then and there.

Pray earnestly

In times of great difficulty, seek Allah’s (swt) refuge. You will be amazed, how He protects you. But you need to initiate that process. Allah (swt) states in the Quran: “And your Lord said: ‘Invoke Me, [i.e. believe in My Oneness (Islamic Monotheism) and as Me of anything] I will respond to your (invocation).’” (Ghafir 40:60) But remember – your prayers can only make a difference, if you truly resent obscenity and wish to keep yourself chaste.

Don’t give up

Determination is the key word. You will be pushed by peer pressure, enticed when the latest movie of your favourite actor is released, tempted to flip through beauty and fashion magazines. Just remember, what the Prophet (sa) said: “Who ever seeks to be chaste, Allah will make him chaste, and who ever seeks to be independent of means, Allah will make him independent of means, and who ever strives to be patient, Allah will make him patient.” (Bukhari)

Consider marriage

Kimberly Ben puts it nicely: “Many frown on the idea of couples marrying too young in our society. You are expected to live an independent life full of adventures, before finally settling down.” Addressing the assembly of youth, the Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever can afford it, let him get married, for it is more effective in lowering the gaze and in guarding one’s chastity. And whoever cannot afford it, let him fast, for it will be a shield for him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Know that Allah (swt) is watching

You can steal a quick peek or a lingering glance at the opposite gender. Nobody might even notice it, but can you hide anything from Allah (swt)? The Creator states: “Allah knows the fraud of the eyes, and all that the breasts conceal.” (Ghafir 40:19)

A sage once said that looking is the start of sinning – the source of all evil. However, looking for the first time – the unintentional first look – can be forgiven; repeating it evokes rebuke. The Prophet (sa) stated: “The first gaze is forgiven, but the second is counted against you.” (Baihaqi)

On another occasion, he said: “Looking is one of Satan’s poisonous arrows. He, who abandons it out of fear of Allah, Allah will grant him faith, the sweetness of which he finds in his own heart.” (Tabarani)

Lastly, all those are dear to Allah (swt), who fight the whispers of Satan. He states: “Verily, those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious), when an evil thought comes to them from Shaitan (Satan), they remember (Allah) and (indeed) they then see (aright).” (Al-Araf 7:201)

The question is – do you have the guts to do it?

From the Pen of a Woman on the Other Side

closeup of fountain ink pen over white pages spiral notebookSome of you may be surprised by the kind of comments you get to hear, when people find out you’ve worked for television.

I’ve been working for television for about ten years. My first programme was when I was in class six, in which I recited a group of riddles in a children’s programme that aired on Pakistan Television. Back then it meant something to me, my friends and every child viewer. Maybe it was because there was no Nickelodeon, nor was there the overwhelming number of TV channels bamboozling the poor child. Or simply because watching TV was as much of a novelty then, as the latest version of play station is today.

I worked with Geo, ARY and FM 100 at a time, when debates about television being the greatest tool of Satan surfaced. Wars erupted among family, friends and teachers regarding the pros and cons. Those ‘pro-television’ thought nothing wrong with it whatsoever and saw it as a new feat of technology. People couldn’t travel on camels in today’s world now, could they? The ones against it argued from the stand point that pictures were prohibited in Islam, and that the West was using television as a medium to brainwash Muslims against the true and honest principles of Islam.

It was too much to bear at eighteen, when I was suffering from acute identity crises, worrying about what headgear would do to my permanent image and about brainwashing debates based on classical Aristotelian logic. But I did as much as I could. I turned down offers for music videos, dramas and soaps. I refused to let male make-up artists apply makeup before I went on-air. I refused to work with people, who did not have purely academic or knowledgeable programmes. Perhaps that is why I have somewhat stereotyped myself as a woman, who covers her head, and can only appear on Independence Day or Ramadan programmes, even though I have done a series on psychology (in which I am a post graduate student).

After watching constructive efforts of many authentic Islamic scholars, especially such as Dr. Zakir Naik, I have become confident. I have resolved the debate of right or wrong by coming to terms with a plain and simple logic of keeping it simple. Nudity, obscenity, profanity and useless programmes were out. Shows that spread awareness, appreciate

Islam and its wisdom, celebrate peace and good will, promote good and forbid all that is evil in the eyes of Islam, propagate a message that needs to spread faster in the world today than any other time, are agreed upon.

I have been stereotyped negatively so many times, in spite of the headgear and my strict policy on no-commercialism and no-pop-culture. It often makes me wonder, why we still have not resolved this issue, even though we all welcomed the famous singer, who gave up his pop career to recite Hamds and Duroods and appeared for Dawah on television channels.

Somehow I still find Pakistani society trapped in the question of what is good and what is bad. Once we grow out of this harassingly old dispute, may be we can move on to what is important and needed. It is not compromise; we cannot call science or media evil. It is what is inside that makes us Muslims.

So what do you think?

Is media good or bad?

The question is wrong altogether. Rather, we should say: “Media. What’s good in it? What’s not?”