An Islamic Analysis of the Harry Potter Phenomenon
By Um Noah
Harry Potter and friends as characterised in the recent film.
Magic is an old human practice. It is sometimes defined as deception by showing something to an audience, which is contrary to reality. Magic is listed as the third major sin after Shirk and Murder, according to Adh-Dhahabi in his book 'Al-Kaba'ir' The Major Sins.
In the light of the above definition, Islam considers magic to be an act of blasphemy. Allah says:
They followed what the Shayâtin (devils) gave out (falsely of the magic) in the lifetime of Sulaimân (Solomon). Sulaimân did not disbelieve, but the Shayâtin (devils) disbelieved, teaching men magic and such things that came down at Babylon to the two angels, Hârût and Mârût, but neither of these two (angels) taught anyone (such things) till they had said, "We are only for trial, so disbelieve not (by learning this magic from us)." And from these (angels) people learn that by which they cause separation between man and his wife, but they could not thus harm anyone except by Allâh's Leave. And they learn that which harms them and profits them not. And indeed they knew that the buyers of it (magic) would have no share in the Hereafter. And how bad indeed was that for which they sold their own selves, if they but knew. (Qur'an 2:102)
In my quest to get a better understanding of those that read or watch things related to magic, I was quite surprised to find more Christians addressing this issue than Muslims. In fact I couldn't find one article regarding this issue. And with the recent release of the Harry Potter film, I'm even more driven to find a clear answer. Oh, I've heard the argument: "Harry Potter is wonderful, it encourages kids to read!"
Certainly, reading is important. Allah says:
Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)
Has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood).
Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous,
Who has taught (the writing) by the pen.
(Qur'an 96 1-4)
But do you really think that Harry Potter is the kind of reading Allah had in mind?
The Prophet tells us that witchcraft, sorcery, and magic are evil. He (peace be upon him) said, "There are three who will not enter paradise: one who is addicted to wine, one who breaks ties of relationship, and one who believes in magic." (Ahmad)
And Allah's Apostle said, "Avoid the Mubiqat, i.e., shirk and witchcraft." (Bukhari)
Imaginary (or virtual) experiences and well-written fantasies can affect the mind and memories as much, if not more, than actual experiences. Designed to stir feelings and produce strong emotional responses, a well-planned myth with likeable characters can be far more memorable than the less exciting daily reality, especially when reinforced through books, toys and games as well as movies. It is no wonder Harry Potter fans have been counting the days to see the sorcery, magic, potions and spells.
Our children need good, moral characters to identify with. When they have been accustomed to reading and now seeing this fantasy we must ask ourselves as their protectors and educators if these are the types of role models we want for them.
O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels stern (and) severe, who disobey not, (from executing) the Commands they receive from Allâh, but do that which they are commanded. (Qur'an 66:6)
Allah reminds us of our short existence in this life and the need to choose good over evil:
The life of this world is but play and pastime, but if you believe (in the Oneness of Allâh Islâmic Monotheism), and fear Allâh, and avoid evil, He will grant you your wages, and will not ask you your wealth. (Qur'an 47:36)
By overexposing our children to the Harry Potter kind of material we run the risk that they may lose their natural aversion for the devious spirits represented by the creatures and symbols in these stories. Caught up in the exciting story, they absorb the suggested values and store the fascinating images in their minds, making the forbidden world of the occult seem more normal.
Professor Snape, a teacher at Hogwarts Academy in the Harry Potter film.
Fun fantasies and strategic entertainment have a special way of altering values, compromising beliefs and changing behavior in adults as well as in children. This learning process has been named "edutainment" a favored way to educate and entertain at the same time, for example Sesame Street. Its power to influence beliefs and behavior is illustrated by today's marketing firms; which spend billions on entertaining ads that touch emotions, ignore the facts, and yet motivate people to buy the product.
This Harry Potter 'ideology' is a good example. It comes complete with trading cards, computer and other wizardly games, clothes, action figures and cuddly dolls as well as audio cassettes that could keep the child's minds focused on the occult all day and into night. What's next, a Ouiji Board?
Teach your children Allah's Truths and train them to see reality through the teachings of Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him) and not through the world's perspective. To succeed, we must be ever-conscious of their surroundings. Is it possible to shield them from contrary values, I'm sure it's not, however it is possible to offer them clear understandings of these things in light of the Qur'an and Sunnah. Once they have learned to love what Allah loves and hate what Allah hates, and to see life from His Words, they will demonstrate their wisdom by choosing to say "no" to Harry Potter and the like.
All right, so you've finished reading this editorial and you see things differently. All this time you've allowed your kids to read and view material related to magic, what do you do now to stop it?
Every family is different and therefore our approach to this matter will differ. You may need to cut it out completely and sit with your children to explain the situation in detail. We can only be accountable for what we know and our intentional acts. Being a Muslim means always learning. We are always growing and changing our views in order to meet the needs of our Faith at any age.
May Allah guide me and forgive me for anything that was said unintentionally, and in any respect not in accordance with Allah and His teachings. He is The All-Knower, and The Merciful.