In 2001, Saudi Arabia banned the Pokemon throughout the Kingdom. Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an authoritative cleric close to the Fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, well-known for his lectures on al-Jazeera and for his participation in inter-religious dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, has now joined the fight with a fatwa dated December 30, 2003, whose translation follows.
Saeedah - Malaysia Title Pokemon Games
Question As-Salamu `alaykum! Please I would like to know the stance of Islam on the children's cartoon known as "Pokemon" which has sparked off frenzied controversy, to the extent that it has been banned by the Saudi government. Some people misconstrue the word "Pokemon" as implying polytheism, while others say that it is Latin in origin, referring to certain animals. Please kindly enlighten us on this issue.
Mufti Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
Answer Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear sister in Islam, thanks a lot for your question which reflects your care to have a clear view of the teachings of Islam. Allah commands Muslims to refer to people of knowledge to get themselves well-acquainted with the teachings of Islam as well as all aspects of life.
In response to your question, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states:
"Pokemon is a cartoon film series, a Japanese production and specially made for kids. It has recently gained a wide acclaim throughout the world, including the Arab world where most of the kids are fascinated with it. Also, it has been translated into Arabic and articulately presented in classical Arabic: this is one of its positive aspects. Moreover, this cartoon is devised in a form of game, which necessarily means that there will be winners and losers.
However, recently, it has caused an uproar and fiery debate as to its legality in the Islamic point of view, and I personally have been bombarded with questions from here and there, especially from parents whose main concern is to give their children a very pure Islamic upbringing.
As for giving a fatwa on such a sensitive issue, it is incumbent upon the mufti to first of all have a clear vision on a given issue before he can utter a word as to its legality. What I mean is that, before condemning an act or anything as unlawful or sanctioning it as lawful, one has a duty to have first hand awareness of it, know its nature and all that it relates to. In doing so, it should be set aside from any unsubstantiated information, which may, in one way or the other, be somehow prejudicial to the whole issue. The fatwa to be given in such case must rest on a cogent and convincing proof, and when it comes to a cartoon series like this, we have to consult people of more experience and expertise among believers, males and females, as Allah says: 'None can Inform you like Him Who is Aware.' (Fatir: 14) And He also says: 'Ask any one informed concerning Him!' (Al-Furqan: 59) He, further, says: 'If ye realize this not, ask of those who possess the Message.' (An-Nahl: 43)
Upon consulting these people, who have clear information on this cartoon, watched it, and digested all its contents, we came to the conclusion that the cartoon contains some items that call for its urgent ban and condemnation as being unfit for our children's taste, especially at this precious age where they become wild about everything. They need special attention, and this is pursuant to the Prophet's words: 'All of you are guardians, and all of you will be questioned as regards things under your guard.' (Reported by Ibn `Umar, and it is an agreed-upon hadith), and Almighty Allah says in this regard: 'O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones.' (At-Tahreem: 6)
Basis of the unlawfulness of Pokemon:
1- The cartoon contains items that run counter to the Muslim's creed, as it indirectly tries to give support to the controversial Darwin's theory of evolution, which indicates that every living species undergoes a gradual development, in the sense that the existing species produces new ones through adaptation to new surroundings. According to this theory, man, before reaching his present form, has undergone a series of evolutionary changes, from simpler forms up to the stages of being in the form of an ape, deemed to be closely related to man. This cartoon tries to enhance this theory, by instilling in children's minds, Darwin's idea on the gradual development of characteristics of insects.
2- It distorts the pure minds of children by presenting to them things that have no basis in human reasoning, and that are just the product of the authors' imagination, totally opposed to Almighty Allah's Scheme regarding nature. It diverts the child's attention from his surrounding nature by presenting fictitious animals to him. This is totally against Allah's Order mentioned in the following verse: 'Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made?' (Al-Ghaashiyya: 17)
The camel is mentioned in this verse for it is the animal common in the Arab world, and, thus, easy to be understood by people living in the region. So the best thing for us is to inculcate in our children's full awareness what exists in their surroundings.
3- The cartoon poses a great risk to the child's mental development and his conduct, for it presents images full of action and violence, trying to make him believe that life is always a scene of battles where survival is for the fittest: another of Darwin's dogma.
No doubt, all of us have seen the negative effects of horror movies, which have posed as a disadvantage to most Western countries. It is no wonder that serial killings take place on a daily basis among children at school.
4- Pokemon is also a game supporting gambling which is totally forbidden in Islam, as it is considered part of Satan's abomination.
The cartoon game involves playing with cards, which are sometimes purchased at high prices. A competition exists between the winning card and the losing cards; this is governed with rules known to those who play this game. In the course of this game the possessor of a winning card (Joker) has an upper hand in totally subduing his counterpart, who is left with no option but to comply with unfair rules. It completely resembles the old practices of pre-Islamic era; of course they have been rendered forbidden, thanks to the just rules of Islam.
5- This game 'Pokemon' also contains some signs that have their meanings and known to their proponents, like 'The Hexa Star', which has something to do with the Zionists and Masons, and it has become an emblem for the cancerous and usurping state known as Israel. There are other signs, also like 'The Triangles', which relate to the Masons, as well as other symbols of atheism and the Japanese religion. All these signs and symbols have many side effects on our children in the long run.
Given all these facts, I consider that this cartoon game or movie is forbidden, as this prohibition will save the intellect and conduct of our children being jeopardized, and allow us to redirect and guide rightly to spend their money in a better way.
As for some words which people claim that the program contains, like a statement 'I'm a Jew' or 'Be a Jew', and so on, this still remains controversial, as some Japanese have denied that, so we cannot make any judgment on something as controversial as this.
What we Muslims should do is produce our own materials that portray our creed, ideology, heritage and civilization; all hands should be on deck in accomplishing this noble task of producing healthy and good games and media for our children. In fact, we have to admit that a lot have been done in this area, and most of them have been translated into classical Arabic, but still we need to upgrade it in order to preserve the minds and manners of our children.
May Almighty Allah help us!"
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