Please note: The answers on constitute friendly advice rather than fatwas. Where relevant, we translate the opinions and fatwas of respected scholars and present them in our answers.

Being Muslim and a fangirl/fanboy of a fictional world

Assalamualaikum brother, as you in Tumblr platform I think you've heard things called as 'fangirl/fanboy' or any person that loves some fictional works so much. How Islam treat people like them (actually I'm also one of them)? Honestly I have lots of question about this topic but I haven't found any 'Islamic specialist' in this field, although I came from muslim-majority country.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I am a big fan of the Lord of the Rings books, the Harry Potter books, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books and Frank Herbert’s Dune books. The majority of mainstream scholars will have no issue with reading fiction and being a fan of fictional worlds as long as it does not lead to neglecting one’s religious duties (archived link to a fatwa by the popular Saudi scholar Sheikh Salman al-Ouda, who says that reading fiction is permissible but that it depends on a person’s knowledge and maturity whether this may have harms for them or not).

There is a minority of Muslims that will speak against enjoying fiction (and many other things), saying that it is a form of fraternizing with non-Muslims and copying them. To understand where they are coming from, and why the majority rejects their thinking, you have to understand the two major currents within mainstream Sunni Islam: the mainstream Islam of the majority of Muslims is about following the principles and teachings of the Quran with hadith narrations acting as helpers toward this, for this reason their Islam leaves great room for a person to be human and to enjoy the things humans enjoy.

A minority, however, envisions Islam as being about the re-enactment of history; their religion is made up of thousands of separate compartments without interesting itself in the greater whole. They believe that the best Muslim is the one who almost gives up their humanity so that every single detail of their lives is controlled by the hadith texts. The best type of life in their view is one that is like living in a 19th century boarding school, where every detail of your life is defined for you by others above you. This is not the Islam of the majority of Muslims and it is not better or more “authentic”, it comes from considering the Quran as not superior to hadith. The books of hadith are lifted up to the status of the Quran, and since the hadith books are so much larger (10,000 pages or longer) they end up overshadowing the Quran. For them Islam is about following each hadith individually without bothering to think about the principles and purposes behind the Prophet’s teachings . It is this minority that constantly issues absurd fatwas about forbidding the Harry Potter books, forbidding sitting on chairs, forbidding women from using the Internet, forbidding women from leaving the house, forbidding taking photos, and so on and so forth.

The majority (the 99% or so of the world’s Sunni Muslims that are ignored by the West’s media) follows an Islam that is best represented by Imam al-Ghazali’s teachings, for whom Islam was meant as a program for reforming both the spiritual and material circumstances of society, rather than being about maintaining appearances and performing rituals devoid of meaning. Imam al-Ghazali’s Islam follows the Quran to the maximum extent possible, but places hadith narrations beneath the Quran, considering them an explanation and illustration for it rather than considering them a massive second Quran that overshadows the actual Quran.

In general, and to simplify greatly, if you talk to a Muslim who believes in common sense, they are following Imam al-Ghazali’s Quran-centered version of Islam whether they know it or not (taught in places like al-Azhar University), while if you talk to a Muslim who does not believe in common sense, they are following a hadith-centered version of Islam (taught in Saudi Arabia and Saudi-funded madrasas around the world, the Taliban are a product of such madrasas). The West’s media gives you the impression that this tiny minority, making up perhaps less than 1% of the world’s Muslims, is representative of the majority.

And God knows best.

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