Entertainment in Islam – Impossible?

Board games can be lots of fun!It’s very important that we entertain ourselves by following Islamic guidelines. We should try to be flexible and innovative in choosing activities. An intelligent person maintains a well balanced life.

Board games can be lots of fun!If there is a religion that addresses every minute need within man, it can be none other than Islam! One of the most significant yet misunderstood Islamic concepts is the role of entertainment towards reaching the desired spiritual harmony and perfection.

Islam not only permits entertainment, it in fact recommends it! Imam Ali (peace be upon him) says in Nahjul Balagha: “The believer’s time has three periods: the period when he is in communion with Allah, the period when he manages for his livelihood, and the period when he is free to enjoy what is lawful and pleasant. And the last part is a tonic and refreshing for the other parts.

Every day of a believer’s life must have some sort of lawful entertainment. Why has Islam given so much weight to entertainment? A man once came to Imam Ali and said that he has molded his nature in such a way that he does not feel the need for lawful pleasures in life. The Imam replied to him: “For now you do not know. Satan flows in man like bloodstream; you won’t even realize when he attacks you.” Even the best of pious or religious people lose interest in religion and become astray if they don’t reserve a break for entertainment.

Involvement in legal pleasures is an outlet for man’s natural instincts, and serves as a balance between the soul and body. Our Nafs (carnal self) can be compared to a pressure cooker which will explode if its steam is not allowed to escape. Every person needs a break from his/her daily regular routine, and if this break is not taken in form of entertainment, then our Nafs revolts. The need for entertainment is more significant in young children. Islam advises parents to explain entertainment guidelines for their children based on the present time. Parents cannot expect their children to have fun in the same manner in which they themselves had in their childhood. Imam Ali has advised parents, “Do not force your children to behave like you, for surely they have been created for a time which is different to your time.” Restrictions should be made based on Islamic laws and not on cultural habits.

In selecting the appropriate source of entertainment, we should always keep in mind that it is something that will help our mind and body relax, not something that might be physically, spiritually, or emotionally destructive for us.

So, is it next to impossible to find good lawful entertainment? Not quite. Playing sports can be fun! In fact, it is highly recommended in Islam that a father should teach his son swimming, archery, and horse-riding. It is well-known that gambling, music, and wine are forbidden in Islam, but there are many other diversions or alternatives to these. Except chess and cards, most games are permitted in Islam. Music that is suitable for corrupt gatherings is forbidden, but who doesn’t love a sweet melodious voice? Prophet Dawood had a melodious voice, and it is said that people in Paradise will hear him only. So the alternatives are Islamic poetry, like Nasheeds, Qasidas, etc. However, one has to make sure that the type of poetry they choose is not Ghina, and does not contain Haram music. (Please consult your respective Religious Authority for jurisprudential clarification in this matter.) Fine arts can be fun, like, painting, drawing, poetry, but not sculpturing!

You can watch movies or read books that do not have indecent words or images and do not have a misleading message. It should be emphasized here that a drama, movie, or story that is permissible for one person might be forbidden for the other, depending on the mental maturity of the person.

(Did we miss anything? Feel free to share your own suggestions in the Comments below!)

It’s very important that we entertain ourselves by following Islamic guidelines. We should try to be flexible and innovative in choosing activities. An intelligent person maintains a well balanced life.

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  • azadeh

    excellent article

    • mop harrison


  • Ali A.

    Nice article! I liked how your framed this whole debate. The issue is not about entertainment, but what kind, and to what extent. Are there any indicators and guidelines to determine the right from the wrong, and to determine what is excess?

    A couple of quick thoughts:

    One, of course, if anything is explicitly forbidden in Islam, that is not allowed. That not only includes the obvious explicit and vulgar content on TV, internet, and video games, but also the negative cultural messages and values they promote. Grand Theft Auto, for instance, is problematic not for its highly graphic content but also for the kind of sensory/emotional experience and values it promotes. The documentaries “Consuming Kids” and “Insert Coin” provide many more illustrations.

    Next is the akhlaaqi dimension. Here things may be determined based on the overall framework or spirit of Islamic teachings. An activity may be ‘technically’ permitted but may not looked at very favorably within that overall framework.

    Watching TV or spending hours on internet for the (sole) purpose of entertainment may be allowed by some in a very technical-legal sense. But what if that becomes the only source of entertainment for someone? And what if one spends 4-5 hours daily on these medium-s?

    On one level we may want to ask how many of our kids can really protect their imaan and values from the messages of a multi-billion dollar marketing industry? Can they really fight the psychologists, anthropologists, and MBAs of this industry?

    On another level, we may also want to ask if these medium-s are really good for the imaginative and social faculties of our children? Can they ever be a substitute for physical activities, peer interactions, and closeness to nature and its beauties?

  • Sabira A.

    I liked the overall message of this article–balancing your life and finding a good outlet for your energy/ need for creativity and fun

    I think this is very crucial b/c when there are enough healthy options for entertainment, there is less reason and chance that people will go to the other extreme for some fun.

  • Abbas
  • Moeen Khan

    This is best article.

    Very Nice




    love is the best entertainment

  • Hur Syed

    Can you please quote the reference of the quote from Nahjul Balagha. Which sermon?

    • The Author

      Salaam Alaikum,
      The hadith is from aphorism # 390 in Nahjul Balagha. It has also been quoted in Ayatullah Makarem Shirazi’s book “Life Under the Grace of Ethics” (chapter 1) which can be read here:
      I hope that helps Inshallah.


    Thanks for the article, very good ^^
    but are you shia?
    because Nahjul Balagha is a shia book
    if so, I make dua for you to be guided ^^