Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick
I have a question regarding the video game “SpongeBob” and its potential influence on perceptions of masculinity and femininity. The game features characters like SpongeBob, a boy who often cries, and Sandy, a girl who is depicted as strong and helpful to SpongeBob.
Some have criticized this portrayal as conveying a negative message that men are not masculine enough and women are superior in strength. Additionally, there are episodes where characters dress as females. Given these factors, does the entire show and game become impermissible (haram), even though the game itself doesn’t contain explicit haram elements aside from music (which I do not listen to) and the concerns I mentioned about masculinity and femininity? I should note that I spend little time on gaming.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to what pleases Him. Amin.
Based on the description you have provided, there are undoubtedly problematic elements. and messages within the game (and most contemporary games and media). Still, these elements do not change the ruling on playing games in general, or this game specifically, and Allah knows best.
Problematic Messages and Elements in Games
Regarding the question you’ve raised about the video game “SpongeBob” and its potential impact on perceptions of masculinity and femininity, considering Islamic teachings, it’s important to approach such matters carefully.
Firstly, depicting gender roles in media, including cartoons and video games, can influence perceptions and attitudes, especially in younger audiences. Islam encourages a balanced and respectful understanding of gender roles, highlighting the complementary nature of men and women. Both genders possess unique strengths and qualities, and Islam promotes mutual support and cooperation with modesty and dignity.
If the message you described contradicts clear Islamic values and forms a vital theme of the game, it is best to avoid it and opt for games free from such doubtful matters, and Allah knows best.
As for the episodes where characters dress as females, cross-dressing is generally unlawful in Islam due to the precise guidelines regarding modesty and appropriate attire for each gender. This may raise concerns about the appropriateness of certain content in the show.
Determining the Permissibility of Games
In determining whether the show or game is permissible (halal) or impermissible (haram), several factors should be considered:
Intent and Message: If the show or game intends to promote values contrary to Islamic principles or if its messages consistently undermine Islamic ethics, it might raise concerns about its permissibility.
Impact on Beliefs and Values: If the content of the show or game leads to misconceptions about Islamic values or distorts perceptions of gender roles, it could be problematic.
Amount of Time Spent: While you mentioned not spending much time on gaming, it’s vital to ensure that entertainment, including video games, consumes only a little bit of time that could be better utilized for beneficial activities.
Music: You mentioned that the game includes music you don’t listen to. This is a commendable approach, as avoiding prohibited elements is crucial.
Assessing the permissibility of a show or game depends on factors such as its intent, message, impact, and the extent to which it aligns with Islamic values. Suppose you are concerned about the messages conveyed through the show. In that case, it might be wise to seek alternatives that promote positive values and do not contradict Islamic teachings, and Allah knows best.
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Leave what makes you doubt for what does not make you doubt. Verily, truth brings peace of mind, and falsehood sows doubt.” [Tirmidhi]
I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.
[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar Shaykh Taha Karaan.
Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.
He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.
Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and has completed his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.