What does entertainment mean? What should be considered in games and entertainment?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

What first comes to mind when the word entertainment is used is games, races and music, which are fun and enable people to have a good time. When we classify entertainment as legitimate and illegitimate, ‘legitimate entertainment’ includes the things that are naturally enjoyed by both the soul, and the heart as well as the spirit; “illegitimate entertainment” includes the entertainment that is contrary to the commands of our Lord and that only the soul enjoys despite the heart and spirit; i.e., the entertainment that loses its legitimate feature and turns into haram.

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi divides entertainment into two in a way that explains this classification. The first one encourages sensual desires (lustful feelings); the second entertainment silences the soul, and directs the spirit, heart, mind and secret to loftiness, to their true places.”

When we view the Sunnah, we see that legitimate games and entertainment are described in three main parts. The first one includes the entertainment for a purpose, benefit, and need. The second one is the ceremonial entertainment that exists in the custom and traditions. The third one satisfies, refreshes and exhilarates people in a legitimate circle who feel tired, bored and fed up.

The following examples from the sunnah can be given as examples to the first part, the type of game and entertainment for a purpose:

- The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would organize separate races among horses specially prepared for races and packhorses and reward the victorious ones.

- The Prophet’s (pbuh) camel would also participate in the races among camels from time to time and would often rank first.

- - Archery and spear throwing competitions were among important races of the Madinah period. According to what is reported in a hadith, shooting (throwing) competitions and horse races are a type of entertainment that angels watch.

- Entertainment such as jogging, racing and wrestling were also included in the private life of the Prophet (pbuh).

- Swimming is a kind of sport and entertainment encouraged by our Prophet (pbuh).

- Shooting (throwing) is a useful pastime in terms of hunting and preparing for war. Hunting with hunting tools such as hunting dogs, falcons, arrows and spears is regarded as legitimate.

It is possible to give more examples in this regard.

The following can be mentioned as examples of ceremonies that exist within the boundaries of the Sunnah and within the legal framework of custom and traditions:

- Before Islam, the people of Madinah used to organize entertainment on Nawruz and Mihrijan days. After the Migration, they were replaced by Eid al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha.

- The Prophet (pbuh) allowed the female slaves to play the tambourine and recite poems on the day of Eid, and he watched the show made by Abyssinians with spears with Aisha.

We quote the following hadith as it is a living example. Hz. Aisha narrates:

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) came to me while two female slaves were singing folk songs about Buath (epical songs about the battle of Buath). He lay down on the side and turned his face to the other side. Then, Abu Bakr (my father) came. He immediately scolded me and said:

“Musical instruments of Satan in the house of the Messenger of Allah?” Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) turned toward him and said:

He said, “Let them (let them sing)”. When the Prophet and my father started to talk and did not look at us, I signaled to the female slaves and they left.”

Hz. Aisha continues:

“It was an eid day. Some black people were playing with swords and shields in the mosque. I do not remember whether I asked the Messenger of Allah or he said,

“Would you like to watch?” I said,

“Yes, of course!” He got up; he made me stand behind him and my cheek was touching his cheek. He said,

“O sons of Arfida! Go on playing!” We continued like this until I got bored. When he noticed that I got bored, he said,

“Is it enough?” I said,

“Yes!” He said,

“Then, you can leave!” (Bukhari, Iydayn: 2, 3; Muslim, Iydayn: 19)

A similar form of entertainment occurred at a Companion’s wedding. The Prophet (pbuh) was present at the wedding. He allowed the ceremony and even corrected a form of praise uttered about him by interfering.

Khalid bin Zakwan narrates:

“Rubayya bint Muawwidh bin Afra narrated:

‘When I got married, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) came and sat on my bed like you are sitting now. Our female slaves played the tambourine and began to recite poems about our ancestors who were martyred on the Battle of Badr. At that moment, one of the female slaves recited a line meaning,

‘There is a prophet among us who knows what will happen tomorrow.’ Thereupon, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said:

‘No! Do not say so.  Say, ‘It is Allah who knows what will happen tomorrow.’” (Ibn Majah, Marriage: 21)

Afterwards, entertainment at weddings was probably neglected since Iyad al-As’ari said, “I wonder why you do not play games as they were played in the presence of the Messenger of Allah.” (Ibn Majah, Iqamah: 163)

Ibn Qutayba states that the desire for entertainment exists in the nature of man, and that nature and habits cannot be resisted; he quotes the following hadith as evidence:

“The Messenger of Allah joked so that ‘Muslims should also joke’ and said to those who were playing with swords and shields, ‘O Sons of Arfida! Play so that the Jews will understand that your religion has tolerance.’“ (Musnad, VI/116)

While As’ad bin Zarara married his daughter off, the Prophet (pbuh) asked if mughanniyas (female singers) who played the tambourine and sang were sent, thinking that Ansar loved entertainment.

In addition, in the sunnah, there is another type of entertainment that is practiced in the form of throwing candies and dates on the people at weddings and people trying to catch them. (Usdul-Ghaba, III/488)

Abdullah bin Abbas organized entertainment for his son to be circumcised and hired male actors for it. (DİA, Dr. Nebi Bozkurt, “Eğlence” item)

The tradition of entertainment by playing the tambourine at weddings continued in the period of the Four Caliphs. It is known that when Umar (ra) learned that a song and a tambourine sound he heard belonged to a marriage or circumcision ceremony, he did not forbid it. (Abdurrazzaq as-San’ani, al-Musannaf, 11:5)

The practice of some Companions, especially two of the Companions of Badr, who did not hesitate to use the permission and tolerance given by the Prophet (pbuh) to have fun at weddings, draws the final boundaries of this issue, so to speak.

Amir bin Sa’d narrates:

“I went to see Qaraza b. Ka’b and Abu Mas’ud al-Ansari during a wedding reception. Some female slaves were singing. I could not put up with it and said,

 ‘You are the Badr Companions of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). How do you allow this to be done in your presence?”

Thereupon, they said,

“You can stay with us here or you can leave if you wish. We were allowed to have fun at weddings.” (Nasai, Nikah: 80)

The third form of entertainment in the Sunnah is the way of satisfying, refreshing and exhilarating man in a legitimate circle who feels are tired, bored and fed up.

For example, the Prophet (pbuh) organized races among the young people to relieve the boredom caused by monotony during the tiring journeys that lasted for days; thus, he introduced comfort and refreshment to the convoy. (Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, III/311)

Abud-Darda, the hadith scholar who was educated by the Prophet (pbuh), said:

“I make my heart rest with the things that are not appropriate in order to be more enthusiastic to demand appropriate things.” (Canan, Kütübü Sitte Muhtasarı, Trnsl., 1/514.)

When Abu Dujana, who was famous for his piety (taqwa), was busy with a pleasant pastime in the legitimate circle, someone reminded him that he was busy with the meaningless things that are considered unnecessary in a sense, he replied as follows: “I make my spirit rest with unnecessary things in order to attain lofty things.”

While making important explanations regarding the issue in Ihya, Imam Ghazali states that games and entertainment will relieve the heart, eliminate heaviness and distress:

“When the heart becomes heavy, it becomes blind and lazy. Calming the heart and restoring it reactivates it. For example, studying every day of the week makes one tired and fed up but a holiday on Friday will give him enthusiasm again. Constant worship makes man lazy; rest increases his joy and determination in such cases. Therefore, games and entertainment also help serious work. Only prophets can put up with being always serious and dealing with bitter facts.”

Ghazali regards entertainment as a cure for the heart against fatigue and laziness and states the following:

“However, all jokes, games and entertainment should be in moderation and permissible, and should not go to extremes. If too much medicine is used to cure a disease it becomes are harmful; similarly, playing games too much is harmful; so is too much entertainment. Moderate entertainment is regarded as nafilah worship since it will give the body strength and give the spirit enthusiasm to perform fard worship.” (Ihya Trnsl., II/710).

Knowing and observing today’s conditions, especially in the first half of the last century, when communication technology was just beginning to become widespread, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, who saw that people were attracted by means of entertainment through radio, made a statement that comforted large masses:

“It is true that human beings need some enjoyable entertainments, as they need true facts and reality, but amusements should be only one in five. It is otherwise contrary to the air’s purpose, Moreover, while being a vast bounty for humankind, it is the cause of laziness and vice and the neglect of necessary duties, thus becoming a serious calamity. For it destroys people’s enthusiasm for work and effort, which they need.“ (RNK, Emirdağ Lâhikası, p. 1837)

In another letter, Nursi introduces the criteria of one-fifth for legitimate entertainment and states that two-tenths of some means of communication that should be used for man’s benefits should be allocated to entertainment but eight out of ten are used for pleasure and amusement and that they cause man to be lazy, (see ibid, p. 1851)

The “pleasant amusements” that Nursi mentions are legitimate and permissible forms of entertainment. Understanding these expressions beyond its purpose and opening the door to entertainments that lead to haram is nothing but a misconception. For, according to Nursi, “The limits of the permissible are quite adequate for man’s desire; there is no need to trespass on the forbidden.” Entertainment to be enjoyed must also remain within the framework of halal, legitimate and permissible.

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