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

Muslims may write fantasy and romance novels (except for erotic ones)

Salam, I am an English literature major and I really want to write fictional novels one day. With any novels you would hope to speak about an important message, with fiction these ideas are offered like a reflection of reality and in a way that it will connect to a reader. Is it wrong to want to write in a fantasy genre? I also want to write romance within these stories. Is this wrong?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

A novel is just a developed form of telling a fictional story. There is nothing in Islam to forbid telling fictional stories, for entertainment for example, even if they contain no moral teachings. So there is no reason to justify them through arguing that they are educational or beneficial. Arabs continued composing poetry after Islam and no one argued that they should stop. Poetry might be justified on the grounds that it helps with the learning and retention of language. But we can make the same argument for good novels.

Besides that, a good novel, that is, one written from the heart by its author, gives us an honest picture of another human’s view of the world. That is extremely valuable, because it helps us see the world in new ways and helps us develop empathy for humans who differ from us.

There is no issue with fantasy or romance novels. Arab culture is full of romance stories that mainstream scholars have no problem with. The exception is erotic novels (as I explain here). Jane Austen’s novels are good examples of romance novels that do not contain anything obscene.

I once saw a fatwa on the Saudi-funded IslamQA.info that said the Harry Potter books are forbidden to read for Muslims because they depict magic. Their view is rather narrow-minded because people can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. The Wahhabi worldview is that cultural products (novels, poetry, architecture) have no worth, culture has to be wiped out and replaced by their ideology, hence their destruction of almost all of Arabia’s historical architecture. Thankfully that is not mainstream Islam’s view. Our view is that what humans value should be respected, so if a person really likes a poem or novel even though it has no strictly religious worth, then that is their business. Islam respects their humanity and does not try to stamp it out.

And God knows best.

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