Is Netflix halal or haram?
This is one of the big questions across the Muslim world in this modern era we live in. But it’s not just about Netflix. It’s also about many other forms of subscription television and movie networks, such as Alchemiya, Disney, and Amazon Prime.
In the wake of Covid19, subscriptions for these services have absolutely skyrocketed. Many more people are spending time at home with fewer activities that they can do outdoors.
Experts say that the rise in the use of streaming services is unlikely to be temporary. This makes it all the more important to consider its morality.
So, does watching Netflix and these other services accord with the principles of Islam? These platforms were not available during the periods in which the holy scriptures of the Quran and the hadiths were written.
But there is much in these texts that provides guidance on whether they should be considered halal or haram. In this article, we offer an unbiased view of the issue. We try to present arguments for both sides of the debate, as well as for an opinion that is a little bit more in the middle.
So, if you are interested in forming your own answer to this fascinating question, read on!
Reasons Why Subscription Services Might Be Considered Haram
There are four main reasons why Netflix and other streaming platforms might be considered Haram within Islam.
The first of these relates to the content of the services themselves, which can be morally upright or degraded. The second relates to our intention in using streaming services, whether for good or bad purposes.
The next concerns how much we use streaming platforms, and particularly how much we use them. The third relates to the companies that operate these services and what they do with the money we give them through our subscriptions.
These are very distinct topics, so we should deal with them separately.
The Content of Streaming Platforms
Put simply, there is no scriptural basis for streaming services to be haram. However, there is some content that may very well be considered haram.
Although streaming networks like Netflix, Alchemiya, Disney, and Amazon Prime have been developing a lot recently, the question of whether their content is halal or haram is not new. Films and television have been around for much longer and have already raised the question.
The major question is whether the content we consume is in accordance with the moral system of Islam. This system fundamentally concerns having love and respect for God and also God’s creatures.
So, if the content of streaming services promotes attitudes that are degrading of others, then these are most likely haram. However, this is not to say that the depiction of degrading behaviour is itself haram.
In particular, it may be necessary or useful if we intend to educate ourselves about certain topics. The prophet Mohammed said: ‘Whosoever follows a path to seek knowledge therein, God will make easy for him a path to paradise’.
There are also many practices that Islamic teaching does not approve of, such as lust, gambling, and drinking alcohol. As a rule, these themes should be avoided in the shows and movies we watch, unless there is a good reason.
So, streaming platforms offer content that is both enriching and useful. But they may also offer content that is contrary to the moral principles of Islam.
Why We Use Streaming Platforms
It is not just what we watch on platforms like Netflix, but also why and how we watch them.
There are many good reasons why we may want to access streaming platforms. In particular, we may seek streaming platforms for recreation or education.
We have covered education above, but rest and recreation are also not contrary to the teachings of Islam. In fact, rest is viewed as something that believers themselves find in God. For example, the Quran states that: ‘Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!’ (13:28).
But God also created people to be curious and fun-loving, which is why children have a natural disposition to play and why adults are inclined to forms of recreation. These features form part of the concept of the fitrah, which is the natural way that God created humans, including all of their inclinations.
So, if we come to streaming platforms with good intentions of learning or recreating, then this is completely halal within Islam.
How We Use Streaming Platforms
The next question is how much we use streaming services.
From a health perspective, it is important we take the time to relax and recreate. Doing so can ultimately provide us with greater energy to fulfil our obligations to God and others.
But this points us to the other side of the coin: We cannot only seek rest and recreation. We are also called to be industrious, to do things for others, and to be steadfast in our worship (particularly through prayer).
For example, the hadith says: ‘Verily, Allah loves that when anyone of you does something he does it perfectly’ (Al Bukhari). So, we are compelled to show commitment and work hard at our endeavours.
We must remember also the obligation of the salah to pray to God each day. If we seek out our own satisfaction at the expense of showing praise to God, then this is haram.
So too are Muslims called to take time and effort to help others. In the hadith, the authority Abu Huraira states: ‘Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the Hereafter’.
From this perspective, it is easy to see how using streaming services purely for our own satisfaction may come at the expense of our call to help others.
In sum, then, we should use streaming services as much as we need them for our proper rest and relaxation, but not abuse this and forsake our other obligations to work, worship, and helping our fellows.
The Actions of Streaming Service Providers
The last aspect to consider is whether we should give our money to streaming service providers like Netflix, Alchemiya, Disney, and Amazon Prime.
One issue may be that, when we give our money to these companies, we may inadvertently be paying for the production of content that may be haram. Even if we do not consume this content ourselves, we should be aware that others may watch it and be negatively influenced by it.
However, there is no explicit teaching that suggests we should avoid these companies for this reason. Also, it is very difficult to exist in the modern world while being certain that all of the money we spend is then used for righteous purposes.
A further issue is that some of the companies that provide these streaming services may be engaged in other activities that are not morally upright. For example, Amazon has been accused of treating its employees in its factories very poorly and unduly benefitting from their suffering.
But, once again, this is not always something we can control.
At the very least, Muslims should make themselves aware of the actions of the companies they deal with. This will allow them to make better decisions about not only whether they are engaging in halal or haram behaviour, but also whether they are indirectly contributing to such behaviour.
So, Are Streaming Services Halal or Haram in Islam?
As stated, Islam provides no absolute guidance on whether streaming services are halal or haram. Muslims must be guided by their understanding of the more general principles of the religion and then apply these principles wisely to their choices.
This isn’t just the case for streaming services, but also for many of the other things we do day to day without thinking.
When using streaming services like Netflix, Alchemiya, Disney, and Amazon Prime, we first need to make sure that what we are watching adheres to values of love and respect. We should also be sure that we have a good and honest reason for watching this content. This may be for recreation, rest, and education.
Next, we should ensure that we do not use these platforms excessively, avoiding our duties to God and our community. Added to this, we should stay aware of where our money goes when we subscribe to these services.
If we follow these steps, there is no reason why using streaming platforms should not be considered halal.
Everything in Balance and Consideration
Hopefully, you now have a good understanding of whether streaming services like Netflix, Alchemiya, Disney, and Amazon Prime are halal or haram. It all comes down to being considerate about what we watch and why. It’s also about keeping our recreational activities in balance with the other aspects of our lives.
Islam provides a place for everything, and leaving time for rest and recreation is certainly included within that. So, there is no reason to feel guilty when taking a little bit of time for yourself and watching a show!
As with everything, it is always worthwhile to take the time to ask—just like you have done now—whether our actions accord with the values of our belief. If you would like to learn more about how your financial decisions can better align with your Islamic beliefs, why not get in touch with us today?
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Digital Transformation and Growth Expert
Specialising in community engagement and digital product growth Nebras has over 15 years’ experience in designing and delivering executable audience growth and content strategies across a range of leading industries and countries. Nebras’s strategies are always focused on return on investments, customer retention and high brand value. He also plays a key role in ensuring research services business intelligence processes and operations are conducted in accordance with all audience measurement guidelines.